Covid-19: PM Modi Urges People to Wear Masks, Cautions Against Complacency; States Ramp Up Vigil | Key Points

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Last Updated: December 22, 2022, 22:31 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chairs a high-level meeting to review the status and preparedness of public health response to Covid-19 on Dec 22. (Image: PTI)

PM Modi also urged that precaution dose may be encouraged especially for vulnerable and elderly groups

Amid a surge in coronavirus cases in China and some other countries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday chaired a high-level meeting to review the situation related to Covid-19 in the country where he directed officials to strengthen surveillance measures, ramp up testing, and also genomic sequencing efforts. He also cautioned people against complacency and urged them to wear masks in crowded places.

Reiterating that “Covid is not over yet”, PM Modi advised states to audit Covid-specific facilities to ensure operational readiness of hospital infrastructure, including oxygen cylinders, PSA plants, ventilators, and human resources.

The new variant BF.7 of the novel coronavirus, which is believed to be linked to the surge in Covid cases in China, has been detected in some parts of India.

Here are some key updates on the Covid-19 situation across the country:

  • According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), PM Modi also urged that precaution dose may be encouraged especially for vulnerable and elderly groups.
  • States have been asked to share a larger number of samples with the designated INSACOG Genome Sequencing Laboratories (lGSLs) for genome sequencing on a daily basis, the PMO said. PM Modi directed officials to strengthen the ongoing surveillance measures, especially at international airports.
  • The government today said that a certain number of passengers arriving in international flights will be subject to random coronavirus test from December 24. The Union health ministry has written to the civil aviation ministry in this regard. “A sub-section of 2 per cent of the total passengers in the flight shall undergo random post-arrival testing at the airport on arrival,” an official communication said, adding that such travellers in each flight shall be determined by the airlines concerned and preferably from different countries.
  • Earlier in the day, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya made a statement in Parliament and said India has started two per cent random sampling of international travellers coming to the country and may consider making it mandatory for all if necessary. In his statement, he said that in the recent days there have been reports of rise in Covid-19 cases in many countries such China, Japan, South Korea, the US, France, Greece and Italy.
  • Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the new Omicron sub-variant BF.7 of Covid-19 has not been detected in the national capital so far and his government is ready to tackle any eventuality if arises. Addressing a press conference, Kejriwal said the dominant sub-variant in Delhi is XBB that has been detected in 92 per cent of the samples till now.
  • In Delhi, at the moment, 2,500 tests are being conducted and these can be increased to one lakh if there is a surge in Covid cases. “We have 8,000 beds ready for Covid patients. At the time its peak, we had readied 25,000 beds but the bed capacity can be increased to 36,000. The government has also widened the scope of testing and those with SARS and breathing issues are being compulsorily tested using the RT-PCR method,” Kejriwal said.
  • Health authorities in Uttar Pradesh have begun screening visitors at the Taj Mahal and other monuments, focusing their efforts mainly on foreign tourists. The aim is to contain the new BF.7 sub-variant, an official told news agency PTI. Mainly tourists from the US, China, Japan and Brazil and European countries are being screened and their samples collected at tourism sites, including the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Akbar’s Tomb.
  • The Kerala government has decided to conduct whole genome sequencing of more samples to identify different Covid-19 variants. “Genomic surveillance using whole-genome sequencing of viruses will be conducted to track different Covid variants”, it said in a statement. The health department directed the districts to send such samples for genetic testing at designated labs for each district and to report accurately if any new variants are identified so that prevention activities can be strengthened accordingly.
  • Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami has asked the health department to launch a drive to administer booster doses of the Covid vaccine for effectively controlling the pandemic. He asked officials of the department to start holding camps to administer booster doses to people from Friday. Awareness about the importance of the booster dose should be created and people should be encouraged to get themselves vaccinated. If fresh cases are reported, send the samples for genome sequencing, he said.
  • The Rajasthan Health department has directed Chief Medical and Health Officers of all districts to start screening, genome sampling, and identifying high-risk groups. Health Secretary Dr Prithvi has already issued orders to all collectors to ensure genome sequencing of all Covid positive samples to detect the new BF.7 sub-variant.
  • In Punjab, officials concerned have been asked to step up the number of daily Covid testing to 10,000 in the state. A senior official of the health department said directions have been issued to increase daily Covid-19 testings from around 3,000 at present to 10,000. He further said instructions have also been issued to all civil surgeons in the state to ensure that the samples of all positive cases should be sent for genome sequencing at a facility in Patiala.
  • The Karnataka government has decided to conduct mandatory testing of Influenza Like Illness (ILI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) in the state. The government also decided to make face masks mandatory in closed spaces and air-conditioned rooms. The two per cent random testing of international passengers arriving in the state will continue until revised directions from the Centre, state Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar said.
  • Meanwhile, Bharat Biotech’s intranasal vaccine will now be available as a booster dose for all adults, sources told News18. The Hyderabad-based Covaxin maker’s nasal vaccine BBV154 or Incovacc will be introduced on Co-WIN by next week, sources said, adding that the pricing is yet to be decided. Sources also said that the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has given its go-ahead to the completion of vaccine trials and the formal announcement regarding the development will be made in the coming days.

(with inputs from PTI)

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