Centre plans COVID-19 mock drill to prepare states

Mansukh Mandaviya holds meeting with state health ministers over rising Covid cases in some countries

NEW DELHI: States and Union territories will undertake a mock drill across all health facilities on Tuesday to ensure the operational readiness of the Covid-dedicated facilities, with a specific focus on oxygen plants, ventilators, logistics, and human resources.

During a virtual meeting with health ministers and senior officials of states and UTs, Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Friday said that the Centre and states need to work in tandem and in a collaborative spirit, as was done during the previous surges for Covid prevention and management.

The meeting was held to review the public health system’s preparedness for containment and management of Covid-19 and the progress of the vaccination campaign.

Taking note of the rising cases of Covid-19 globally, Mandaviya asked states to strengthen the surveillance system for whole genome sequencing of positive case samples to track variants through the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium network. This, he said, will ensure timely detection of newer variants, if any, circulating in the country.

Mandaviya said: "Focus is to be given to health facility-based sentinel surveillance, pan-respiratory virus surveillance, community-based surveillance, and sewage or wastewater surveillance. (There is a) Need to collectively reinvigorate the system and remove any sense of complacency and fatigue."

In view of the upcoming festive season, Mandaviya stressed on the importance of public awareness campaigns regarding adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour. He requested the health ministers of states to personally monitor and review the preparedness of all infrastructure and ensure there is an adequate stock of essential medicines.

The health minister said that irrespective of new Covid variants, the "Test-Track-Treat-Vaccinate approach and adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour" remain a tested strategy for the disease's management. States and Union territories were also asked to expeditiously increase the rate of testing from the current rate of 79 tests per million, as of the week ending December 22.

Mandaviya also urged states and UTs to ramp up vaccination of all eligible people, particularly vulnerable groups, including the elderly. He cautioned against misinformation and said it should be ensured that factually correct information is being disseminated in a timely manner.

In the last few weeks, Covid-19 cases across the world have registered an increasing trajectory. India, however, continues to log a sustained decreasing trajectory of cases since the last few months; at present, on an average, 153 new cases are being reported daily across the country.

Overall, there has been a consistent decline in cases in the country, with Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu accounting for 78 per cent of the daily new cases reported on December 22. Eight states and four UTs currently have zero reported active cases.

After the virtual meeting, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan sent a letter to the states and UTs stressing on the monitoring and reporting of district-wise influenza-like illness and severe acute respiratory illness cases in all health facilities on a regular basis to detect the early rising trend of cases. He said that these cases may also be tested for Covid-19.

Bhushan asked the states to ensure adequate testing in all districts, maintaining the recommended share of RT-PCR and antigen tests, and take stock of existing hospital capacities in terms of bed availability, logistic requirements, as well as the need for re-orientation of healthcare workers in the clinical management of Covid-19 to remain prepared for any surge in cases. This may be tested by conducting "dry runs" in hospitals, he said.

With random coronavirus testing of international arriving passengers set to start from Saturday, the Centre has made it clear that the airlines’ crew members will have to bring such identified passengers to the testing facility at the airport.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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