Covid Review Meet: PM Modi Says Covid Not Over, Directs More Testing, Advises Audit Of Oxygen, Medical Infra

In Covid-19 review meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also said coverage of coronavirus vaccines' booster doses should be expanded, particularly to vulnerable people. He also said everyone should follow Covid-appropriate behaviour, such as wearing masks.

PM Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday chaired a high-level meeting to review the Covid-19 situation in India and directed officials to increase Covid-19 testing and advised states to carry out an audit of their healthcare infrastructure, including the availability of oxygen. 

Modi cautioned against complacency and directed officials to strengthen the ongoing surveillance measures, especially at international airports.

The high-level Covid-19 review meeting comes in the wake of a surge of Covid-19 infections in China and other countries, such as the United States and South Korea. The ongoing Covid-19 wave in China is overwhelming Chinese healthcare system and it is projected that 1.3-2.1 million people in China could die. The Chinese Covid-19 surge is being driven BF.7 Omicron sub-variant, three cases of which have been detected in India. 

Amid such international scenario, Modi directed officials to ramp up testing and genome sequencing of Covid-19 samples.

Genome sequencing finds the genetic structure and the purpose of sequencing Covid-19 samples is to identify any new coronavirus variant. Notably, the deadly second wave of Covid-19 in India was caused by the Delta variant which was relatively new at the time and was severe than the others.

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, said the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

Audit healthcare infrastructure: Modi

Modi in the meeting also advised the states to carry out audits of their healthcare infrastructure, including the availability of oxygen. 

In the second wave, there was severe shortage of oxygen across India and India had to depend on industrial oxygen repurposed for medical purposes and foreign aid from much of the world, which sent oxygen plants, oxygen concentrators, and oxygen containers, among other relief material, as India ran out of oxygen and essential medicines. 

"Prime Minister stressed the need to ensure that the entire Covid infrastructure at all levels is maintained at a high level of preparedness in terms of equipment, processes and human resources. He advised States to audit Covid specific facilities to ensure operational readiness of Hospital Infrastructure, including Oxygen Cylinders, PSA plants, ventilators and human resources," said the PMO statement. 

Ensure vaccination to vulnerable people: Modi

Modi urged everyone to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour, including wearing masks in crowded public places, at all times, especially in view of the upcoming festive season. He also urged that precaution dose may be encouraged especially for vulnerable and elderly groups.

Earlier, NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr VK Paul flagged the very low booster dose coverage among Indians. He said only 27-28 per cent Indians have taken the third booster dose of coronavirus vaccine, dubbed by the government as a precaution dose.

Current Indian Covid situation better than world's: Govt 

A comprehensive presentation was made at the meeting regarding the global Covid situation, including the rising cases in countries, by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan and Paul.

Modi was briefed that India has been witnessing a steady decline in cases with average daily cases falling to 153 and weekly positivity down to 0.14 in the week ending December 22. This is in sharp contrast to 5.9 lakh daily average cases have been reported globally since the last six weeks.

Modi was informed that there is adequate availability with regard to medicines, vaccines and hospital beds. 

Monitor essential drugs' prices: Modi

Modi also advised regularly monitoring of prices and availability of essential medicines.

Highlighting the globally appreciated work of frontline healthcare workers, exhorted them to continue working in the same selfless and dedicated manner, according to the statement.

The meeting was attended by top ministers and officials, including:

  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah
  • Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya
  • Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia
  • External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar
  • Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur
  • Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Bharati Pravin Pawar
  • Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister PK Mishra
  • NITI Aayog CEO Parameswaran Iyer
  • Member (Health) NITI Aayog VK Paul
  • Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba
  • Advisor PMO Amit Khare
  • Home Secretary AK Bhalla
  • Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan

(With PTI inputs)