Covid: Restrictive curbs not needed yet, says govt
The Union health ministry, citing its data, said that eight states and four Union territories currently had no active case.
There are no plans yet to impose strict Covid-related restrictions, including flight bans from countries with high infection rates, Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Friday, citing the “stable situation” in India.
Mandaviya made the comments on a day when he held a meeting with health ministers of states and Union territories, while his ministry separately issued guidelines for people around the country to be urged to exercise caution while celebrating the year-end festivals.
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“Country’s situation is not such that would warrant imposing any kinds of stringent measures. We are doing fine and after all this time, people have become much aware and are taking precautions on their own. There is no point in causing panic when it is absolutely not required,” said Mandaviya during a select media briefing on Friday.
India’s Covid-19 statistics have remained stable or trended downwards, health ministry data showed. The test positivity rate in the country was declining week-on-week, with only 0.14% of samples being found infected in the week ending on December 22.
The ministry, citing its data, said that eight states and four Union territories currently had no active case.
“We should keep following Covid-appropriate behaviour and take the booster shot, and we will hopefully be good,” said Mandaviya, who has held a series of meetings and on Thursday briefed the Prime Minister over the situation, along with other top government functionaries.
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As part of emergency preparedness monitoring, the health ministry will conduct a drill on Tuesday in all major hospitals across the country in which manpower, oxygen supplies, and capacities for beds, ventilators and medicines will be tested.
“It is akin to preparing for war, for which we must be well prepared. A drill is an effective way to check preparedness. What is important to note is that there is no need to panic,” said the health minister.
During the review with the state ministers, the health minister emphasised that the Centre and states needed to work in tandem and in a collaborative spirit as was done during previous surges of the pandemic.
He reiterated his ministry’s prior communiques urging states to strengthen the surveillance system for whole genome sequencing of positive samples to track the variants through Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG). Focus is to be given to health facility-based sentinel surveillance; pan-respiratory virus surveillance; community-based surveillance; and sewage/wastewater surveillance, he added.
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He also highlighted the “need to collectively reinvigorate the system and remove any sense of complacency and fatigue.
States were also requested to expeditiously increase the rate of testing from the current rate of 79 tests per million, as on week ending December 22, and also increase the share of RT-PCR in tests to around 70%.
The health minister advised states to ramp up vaccination of all eligible population, especially of the elderly and vulnerable population groups.
Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan issued detailed guidelines to states asking to put in place requisite public health measures and other arrangements to minimise risk of increase in transmission of the disease.
“In terms of preparedness for upcoming festivities, it is essential that all measures are put in place with relevant stakeholders like event organisers, business owners, market associations etc., to avoid overcrowding, ensure adequate ventilation especially in indoor settings, wearing of masks in such places where crowds congregate,” said Bhushan in his letter to states.
Adding that focus should also be on test-track-treat-vaccination and adherence to Covid appropriate behaviour—use of mask, hand and respiratory hygiene and adherence to physical distancing for prevention and early detection of cases.
Experts also say these are basic measures that should be taken to stop the spread of any respiratory diseases, and Covid is no different.
“If visiting crowding and indoor spaces then people need to be extra careful and strictly observe Covid appropriate behavior such as wearing of mask and physical distancing. And more importantly, take your booster shot, if not already taken,” said Dr GC Khilnani, former head of pulmonary medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi.