The Union government on Saturday held a meeting to review the Covid-19 situation of the country. Officials from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and Union Health Ministry were part of the meeting.
In light of the Covid-19 surge in China and other countries, the Union government and other state and Union territory (UT) governments have stepped up the vigil and have emphasised on Covid-appropriate behaviour, higher testing, genome sequencing, etc, to prevent any potential surge in India.
The Saturday's meeting was chaired by PK Mishra, the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, as per sources, who added that it was about compliance of directions issued by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the review meeting on December 22.
In a Covid-19 review meeting on December 22, Modi had directed directed officials to increase Covid-19 testing and advised states to carry out an audit of their healthcare infrastructure, including the availability of oxygen.
What we know of Saturday's meeting
During the meeting, Union Health ministry officials informed that the Ministry of Commerce has been asked to monitor exports of medicinal products and equipment to China, said sources to PTI.
Mishra was apprised of the evolving global scenario of the Covid-19 pandemic with surge in Covid-19 observed in some countries, including China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Brazil etc, official sources said. It was informed that Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya chaired a virtual review meeting with health ministers of states on Covid-19 on December 23.
The focus was on enhancing awareness about Covid-appropriate behaviour, strengthening of surveillance, including ramping up of testing across the country, and uptake of coronavirus precautionary doses, said sources.
Mock drills, testing happening as per Modi's directives
It was informed that according to the directions Modi, mock drills across all health facilities were conducted on Dec 27.
All states and UTs participated in the drills to ensure operational reediness of Covid-dedicated facilities with specific focus on oxygen plants, ventilators, logistics and human resources.
Official sources said 21,097 facilities conducted the mock drill, of which 16,108 were government facilities. The Union Health minister personally reviewed the preparedness at Safdurjung Hospital in New Delhi, said sources.
As directed by Modi, detailed guidelines for 2 per cent random screening of international passengers on arrival were issued and random sampling was initiated from December 24, official sources said. As many as 1,716 international flights have been screened and 5,666 samples collected for Covid-19 testing.
Guidelines for international arrivals has been revised on December 29, and from January 1, 2023, all international arrivals from China, Singapore, Hongkong, Republic of Korea, Thailand and Japan will undergo mandatory pre-departure RT-PCR testing (to be conducted in 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey).
Air Suvidha portal has been made operational with a provision to allow passengers to submit/upload negative RT-PCR test reports as well as to submit self-declaration form.
It was apprised that a detailed advisory on Covid-19 for states was issued on December 24. An advertisement was issued in national and regional papers for awareness regarding steps being taken for Covid management in states, they said.
Respiratory, influenza-like illness being monitored
Monitoring of cases of severe acute respiratory infections (SARI), influenza-like illness (ILI), and similar diseases to identify early warning signals has started in states, and a weekly report for the same is being sent by states to Union Health Ministry, it was informed during the meeting.
It was also informed that strengthening of whole genome sequencing (WGS) and ensuring that larger number of samples are sent from across the country to INSACOG Network is being done, according to the directions of the PM.
Around 500 samples received during December 2022 are currently being genome sequenced by INSACOG Labs across the country, official sources said.
Officials also informed that the Union Health minister held a meeting on December 29 with representatives of pharma companies and senior officials to review the availability of medicines, and monitor their stocks and prices.
Pharma companies were asked to keep a close watch on the global supply chain scenario, and to ensure adequate stocks and availability of all drugs, including Covid drugs.
According to the directions, the Ministry of Commerce has been asked to monitor ongoing exports of medicinal products and equipment to China, official sources said.
The status of Covid vaccination was also reviewed and it was informed that more than 220 crore doses of Covid vaccine have been administered, of which 102.56 crore first dose (97 pc) and 95.13 crore 2nd dose (90 pc) have been given so far to the eligible beneficiaries.
Experts present at the meeting discussed issues regarding research of vaccines and their manufacturing in India, official sources said.
Moreover, advisory has been issued by AYUSH ministry to encourage people to use AYUSH practices to strengthen their immunity and as a preventive measure as it was done during earlier waves.
States and UTs requested wider dissemination of AYUSH advisories, guidelines and procurement and distribution of AYUSH kits, funds available under National AYUSH Mission.
Next few weeks crucial: Report
Earlier on December 28, a report said that next 40 days will be very crucial for India.
PTI cited official sources as saying that the trend so far suggests that it takes a few weeks for a surge to be seen in India after one hits East Asia.
"Previously, it has been noticed that a new wave of Covid-19 hits India around 30-35 days after it hits East Asia....This has been a trend," said the report.
(With PTI inputs)