Random sampling of international passengers will be done at the airports, Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya told the Parliament on Thursday amid renewed efforts to avoid a Covid outbreak in India. He said the government was monitoring the situation and taking necessary steps as he advised people to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour in view of the fresh Covid-19 wave in China and other countries like Japan, US, Brazil and South Korea.
The Indian government announced several measures to strengthen surveillance and keep the situation under control. While the Centre on Wednesday advised people to mask up in crowded places and take booster shots, the states have been directed to send samples for genome sequencing.
Here is all you need to know about the measures being taken by the Centre and states to ramp up surveillance and testing:
What has the Centre said?
Union health minister asked the states to ensure that people wear masks, use sanitisers and maintain social distancing. Mandaviya also emphasised on the need to increase awareness of precautionary doses while addressing the Lok Sabha.
On Wednesday, Mandaviya held a meeting with top health officials in view of the situation in China. "Covid is not over yet. I have directed all concerned to be on the alert, and strengthen surveillance. I also urge people to take COVID vaccination," Union Health Minister Dr Mansukh Mandaviya was quoted as saying by ANI.
The Centre has asked states to send samples of all Covid-19 positive cases to INSACOG labs to facilitate tracking of new variants.
The Covid-19 wave in China is reportedly driven by BF.7 sub-variant of Omicron. Three cases of this sub-variant have been reported from Gujarat, according to the Times of India. The cases were reported in July, September and November. The report quoted state health officials saying that none of the cases are active now and did not develop any major symptoms.
States hold meeting over Covid-19
Several states like Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu and Punjab held meetings to review the situation with the chief ministers of the respective states directing officials regarding Covid-19 protocol.
"We have equipped ourselves better in the previous three waves of Covid. We have RT-PCR testing facilities in all districts along with a sufficient supply of oxygen in plants. People shouldn't panic and must follow all guidelines," Haryana Home minister Anil Vij told ANI.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) also appealed to the public to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour. It also urged the government to upscale the preparedness to deal with any situation "as seen in 2021", referring to the devastating second wave of Covid-19 in India that exposed the fissures in the healthcare system. "IA appeals to the government to upscale the preparedness for any such situation as seen in 2021 by issuing necessary instructions to the concerned ministries and departments to ake available the emergency medicines, oxygen supply and ambulance services," the letter said.
While speaking to ANI, Dr Anil Goyal of the IMA said that lockdown like situation won't be needed in India since 95% of people are vaccinated. "The immunity system of Indians is stronger than that of the Chinese. India needs to go back to COVID basics - testing, treating, tracing," he said.
What has the WHO said?
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has expressed concern over the situation in China as it urged Beijing to speed up the vaccination for the vulnerable population. "WHO is very concerned over the evolving situation in China, with increasing reports of severe disease" WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press conference on Wednesday. On December 21, China reported 23,786 new cases, according to the WHO.
Tedros said that the WHO is supporting China to focus its efforts on vaccinating people at the highest risk across the country. "We continue to offer our support for clinical care and protecting its health system," he added.
China is currently facing a drastic Covid-19 wave after it eased the curbs under its "zero covid" policy early this month.
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