New Delhi:
Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Tuesday said the next three weeks are crucial with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic situation in the country. "Centre working closely with States and UTs on public health measures to contain COVID-19. Next three weeks crucial!

At a meeting held today, UTs advised augmenting hospital infrastructure, ramping up testing, creating containment zones and strictly enforcing COVID appropriate behaviour," tweeted Dr Harsh Vardhan.

Earlier on Tuesday, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan along with Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla chaired a high-level meeting to review and discuss the COVID status, the management and response strategy. The meeting was held via video conferencing and attended by Dr V K Paul, Member (Health) NITI Aayog, Dr Balram Bhargava, Secretary, DHR and DG ICMR, the chief secretaries and DGPs of all the Union Territories of India.

The Home Secretary pointed out the steep growth in the number of cases across the country. He advised the UTs to increase RT-PCR testing along with the use of RAT (Rapid Antigen Test) for screening in clusters. The UTs shared their present efforts for containment and management of the positive cases. Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir and Lakshadweep pointed to the rise in cases due to a large number of inbound travellers.

The Chandigarh administration informed about the door-to-door counselling for increasing vaccination. 90 per cent of the patients in the UT are in home isolation who are being monitored by mobile teams.Union Territory of Delhi discussed the shortage of beds and the efforts to augment this through central government;s infrastructure and support through the DRDO's newly operationalised COVID Hospital, read the release.

Dr V K Paul pointed out the criticality of the next three weeks for COVID response measures. The UT administrators were advised to plan in advance for three weeks.

Meanwhile,amid complaints of oxygen scarcity in hospitals throughout the country owing to the massive spike in coronavirus infections, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday appealed to the Centre to "urgently" provide oxygen to the national capital, saying that hospitals are facing acute shortage due to an unprecedented surge in cases.

"Serious oxygen crisis persists in Delhi. I again urge centre to urgently provide oxygen to Delhi. Some hospitals are left with just a few hours of oxygen," Kejriwal tweeted.

He had earlier made a similar appeal to the central government, saying that hospitals in the national capital are running low on oxygen as well as ICU beds. In the last 24 hours, Delhi reported 240 deaths — the highest-ever registered in a single day fatalities in the city – and 23,686 fresh coronavirus infections. There are currently 76,887 active cases in the national capital.