DIMAPUR, JULY 8: Against the backdrop of rising COVID-19 cases in Northeast States, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare held an online media interaction session with representatives of NE States on ‘community ownership of COVID-appropriate behaviour, evidence-based reporting and busting myths on COVID and vaccination’.
According to Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary of Health Ministry, there are currently around 4.6 lakh active cases in India, with NE States contributing most of the cases.
Assam alone accounts for 5.07% of the country’s active cases. Among NE states, Nagaland has the lowest active cases contribution percentage at 0.23%.
More worrying markers came in the form of some of the NE States’ numbers under the Cases Per Million (CPM) and Death Per Million (DPM) columns.
Against the national average of 293 deaths per million population, Sikkim stood high at 451, followed by Manipur with 398. Nagaland’s average DPM was 224.
Sikkim led in the CPM column too, with 31,254 cases per million population against the national mean of 22,253.
Both Manipur and Arunachal registered more than 24,000 cases per million population. The corresponding figure for Nagaland was 11,407.
Agarwal said that the spread of infection in the country was currently concentrated in limited geography: as of July 5, 80% of new cases reported were from 90 districts, out of which 14 were from NE States.
In the week from June 29 to July 5, 73 districts in the country had reported more than 10% weekly positivity rate, he informed.
Out of those 73 districts, 47 were from NE States. Arunachal Pradesh led with 18 districts; Nagaland was third lowest with 3.
Terming those figures “a cause of concern”, Agarwal said it has become “very, very critical to focus on COVID-safety behaviour” among the people of the region.
He said that vaccination and strict adherence to COVID-appropriate behaviours ~ wearing mask, keeping social distancing and maintaining hand hygiene ~ were the most important aspects of response towards dealing with the infection.
According to the Health Ministry’s data, Nagaland had vaccinated 5,64,970 persons as of July 8, the second lowest in NE region. Assam led with more than 77,000 persons vaccinated.
The Joint Secretary said that Government of India has supported the NE States by following a proactive, pre-emptive and graded approach for fighting the COVID pandemic.
Under this, a single-minded focus on communication has become the most important of all the graded approaches, he said.
“Because if we can cover this aspect, then half of the battle is won”, he added.
Citing various myths surrounding the COVID vaccines, Agarwal reminded that all the vaccines have undergone the requisite phases of clinical trials before being approved for use.
“Even now, the second wave is not over”, he said, adding that the Centre is aiming to vaccinate at least 70-80% of its total population “which will take time, maybe more than 2/3 months”.
In the meantime, the recommended approach is to maintain COVID-appropriate behaviours (even after vaccinating) and increase testing across the country.
According to him, the Union Ministry’s message to States is to increase testing.
“Keep on testing. Numbers are simply an indication for us to do better, a way for us to react”, he said, adding that regardless of various cumulative figures, States should not stop testing.
More than 130 journalists from the NE region attended the online interaction, which was held in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). (Page News Service)