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Health Minister evaluates escalating Covid-19 cases, public health preparedness

Advises public to stay vigilant, stick to health guidelines
02:49 PM Dec 20, 2023 IST | SURINDER SINGH OBEROI
health minister evaluates escalating covid 19 cases  public health preparedness
Health Minister evaluates escalating Covid19 cases, public health preparedness -- Photo: @mansukhmandviya /X
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New Delhi, Dec 20: Mansukh Mandaviya, Union Minister of Health, and Family Welfare, spearheaded a high-level meeting today to assess the escalating COVID-19 situation in India.

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This urgent gathering focused on the readiness of the public health system to manage, surveillance, and contain the surge in COVID-19 cases, particularly in states witnessing a recent uptick.

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Joined by Prof. S P Singh Baghel, and Dr Bharati Pravin Pawar, Union Ministers of State for Health, and Family Welfare, as well as Dr V K Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog, the meeting emphasized the critical importance of preparedness and caution.

The Union Health Minister, Mandaviya, issued a stern call to all states, urging them to heighten vigilance, bolster surveillance, and ensure ample stocks of crucial medical resources.

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He specifically highlighted the need for regular mock drills at both central and state levels to evaluate the functionality of key equipment like PSA plants, oxygen concentrators, cylinders, and ventilators. Emphasizing the importance of sharing best practices, Minister Mandaviya stressed the dissemination of accurate information to counter misinformation and manage the growing "infodemic."

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Addressing the recent spike, Secretary Sudhansh Pant presented alarming statistics, revealing a sharp rise in active cases from 115 on December 6, 2023, to 614 at present.

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While the majority of cases are home-isolated, a rise in daily positivity rates has been noted in states including Kerala, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, and Karnataka.

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However, it was reassuringly noted that hospitalization rates have not increased due to COVID-19, with hospitalized cases primarily incidental findings during medical examinations for other conditions.

The emergence of the new JN.1 variant of SARS-CoV-2 was discussed, with officials emphasizing that while under intense scrutiny, it does not currently pose an immediate concern. No clustering of cases related to JN.1 has been observed in India, and all reported cases have exhibited mild symptoms, recovering without complications.

Dr V K Paul reinforced the need for a comprehensive government approach to combat the surge and address the new variant. Stressing the importance of testing and surveillance, he highlighted ongoing investigations into the new variant while assuring that there is no cause for panic.

The meeting concluded with Mr Mandaviya urging states to maintain a collective, "Whole of Government" approach to effectively tackle the emerging situation.

Strengthening the surveillance system, especially for genome sequencing through the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) network, was emphasized to track variants promptly.

States were urged to increase testing and submit a large number of samples for sequencing through INSACOG Genome Sequencing Laboratories (IGSLs) daily.

In attendance were Smt. L S Changsan, Addl. Secretary, Union Health Ministry, and senior officials from the Health Ministry, ICMR, and NCDC, underline the gravity of the situation and the collaborative efforts required to navigate through these challenging times. The public is advised to stay vigilant, follow health guidelines, and contribute to collective efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

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