Union Health Minister reiterates COVID is not over yet, urges states to increase surveillance and counter fake news

New Delhi: Rise in daily positivity rate observed in few states like Kerala, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Karnataka

BY | Wednesday, 20 December, 2023

In view of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in some States in the country, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Dr Mansukh Mandaviya, on Wednesday, chaired a high-level meeting to review the COVID-19 situation and preparedness of public health system for surveillance, containment and management. Reiterating that COVID is not over yet, he urged states to create awareness on respiratory hygiene and ensure dissemination of factually correct information and counter fake news to manage infodemic and mitigate any panic.

According to the Health Ministry, the Union Health Minister acknowleged the challenge posed by the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in some countries across the world such as China, Brazil, Germany and United States, and stressed on the importance of being prepared and remaining alert against new and emerging strains of COVID-19, especially in view of the upcoming festive season.

Read more: Centre advises constant vigil over surge in COVID-19 cases

Dr Mandaviya stressed the need for collective efforts between the Centre and the States to deal with the emerging situation in the spirit of “Whole of Government” approach and assured the states of all support from the Centre. He directed for strengthening the surveillance system for whole genome sequencing of positive case samples and requested States/UTs to ramp up testing and refer large number of samples of COVID-19 positive cases and pneumonia-like illness to INSACOG Genome Sequencing Laboratories (IGSLs) on a daily basis, for sequencing, to track new variants, if any.

According to the Health Ministry, the Union Minister urged all the states to remain alert, increase surveillance and ensure adequate stock of medicines, oxygen cylinders and concentrators, ventilators and vaccines. Further, he asked officials to undertake mock drills every three months at both the Central and State levels to assess functionality of PSA plants, Oxygen concentrators and cylinders, ventilators, etc., and encouraged the sharing of best practices.

Dr Mandaviya also urged States/UTs to share information on cases, tests, positivity etc., in real time on the COVID portal to enable timely monitoring and prompt public health measures.

During the meeting, Sudhansh Pant, Secretary, Union Health Ministry briefed on the global COVID-19 situation and the domestic scenario.

It was informed that

– while active COVID cases in India are significantly less compared to the global scenario, in the last two weeks there has been a steep rise in active cases from 115 on 6th Dec 2023 to 614 on date. It was also noted that 92.8% of the cases are home isolated, indicating mild illness.

– no increase in hospitalization rates have been witnessed due to COVID-19, the cases that are hospitalized are due to other medical conditions – COVID-19 is an incidental finding.

– a rise in daily positivity rate has been observed in a few states like Kerala, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Karnataka.

– New JN.1 variant of SARS-CoV-2 is currently under intense scientific scrutiny, but not a cause of immediate concern. No clustering of cases has been observed in India due to JN.1 and all the cases were found to be mild and all of them have recovered without any complications.

Dr Rajiv Bahl, Secretary, Department of Health Research and DG, ICMR informed that ICMR is currently working on genome sequencing of the new JN.1 variant. He urged states to monitor the COVID-19 scenario and increase RT-PCR tests but noted that there is no cause for panic.

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