Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat are among states facing critical challenges

The present plateauing of COVID cases should not be taken as a sign for complacency but as a breathing space to "expand, revamp and improve" health infrastructure, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has said.

He has advised state health administrators to increase ICU and oxygenated beds, undertake oxygen audits, take stock of availability of medicines in the state and strengthen their medical workforce.

The Union Health Minister was interacting with State Health Ministers and Principal Secretaries and Additional Chief Secretaries of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat states in the presence of Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey on Saturday.

According to the latest Covid-19 data, these states are depicting a higher growth rate in the number of daily cases, rise in positivity, high mortality and saturation of healthcare capacity.

During the review meeting, the Union Health Minister also highlighted the critical challenges faced by the states.

According to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Union Minister pointed out that Gujarat has displayed a gradual increase in the positivity since April; the recovery rate stands at 79%, lower than the national average.

Nearly 100% ICU beds in Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Mehsana and 97% and 96% of oxygenated beds in Ahmedabad and Vadodara stood occupied indicating saturation, Vardhan noted.

On Andhra Pradesh, he said the state has had an increasing positivity rate since early April 2021; the weekly growth rate was as high as 30.3%; Chittoor, East Godavari, Guntur, Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam were flagged as districts of concern.

Uttar Pradesh saw an exponential growth in cases in a six-week period, with a growth from about 5,500 to nearly 31,000 cases and 2% to 14% positivity. Lucknow and Meerut have more than 14,000 active cases with all categories of bed showing more than 90% occupancy.

In Madhya Pradesh, 10 districts have more than 20% positivity with over 1 lakh active cases all over the State; Indore, Bhopal, Gwalior and Jabalpur were flagged as districts of concern.

Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat were cautioned for having a high proportion of deaths in the age group 18-45 years.

During the meeting, National Centre for disease Control (NCDC) Director Sujeet K Singh suggested continuing focus on the health infrastructure in small cities as people from nearby towns and villages would rush there in case of surge.

He also requested the States to keep a tab on the variants of COVID through the INSACOG consortium.