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Covid News Updates: No Pandemic Curbs in Goa till Jan 2; Centre Warns Against Overcrowding Ahead of Festive Season



Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya asked States to strengthen surveillance systems, ramp up testing and ensure readiness of hospital infrastructure during a meeting with state health ministers on Friday regarding the Covid-19 situation in India.

Data shows a sharp rise in booster shot inoculations in India since last week. As per CoWIN data, on December 18 only around 4000 people got inoculated, while about 57000 people were inoculated with the precautionary dose on December 22. Meanwhile, Bharat Biotech’s intranasal Covid vaccine has been approved by the Union Health Ministry for inclusion in the vaccination programme as a booster dose for those above 18 years of age and will be available in private centres and on the CoWIN app Friday evening onwards.

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya will visit a government hospital in Delhi on Tuesday for a mock drill to review the emergency response in place for Covid-19 infections. All patients infected with the BF.7 strain in India have recovered and are well, as per sources. The health department in Gujarat on Thursday said that two patients who were infected with BF.7 and BF 12 Omicron subvariants had been isolated at home and have now “fully recovered”.

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya held a meeting with state health ministers to assess the Covid-19 situation and preparedness at 3pm on Friday. This comes after a high-level meeting chaired by PM Narendra Modi on Thursday to review the situation related to Covid-19 in the country and the preparedness of health infrastructure and logistics, the status of the vaccination campaign in the country and the emergence of new Covid-19 variants.

The Goa government on Friday will hold a meeting of various departments to take stock of the Covid-19 situation in view of the rising cases in some parts of the world. Preparedness for a possible surge in infections and precautionary measures amid the ongoing tourist season will be discussed. Amid concern over the growing spike in Covid-19 cases in China, Sahil Munjal, chairperson of the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil) reportedly said that India is ready to step up exports of fever medicines to its neighbour.

Reiterating that “Covid is not over yet”, PM Modi advised states to audit Covid-specific facilities to ensure operational readiness of hospital infrastructure, including oxygen cylinders, PSA plants, ventilators, and human resources. He directed officials to strengthen surveillance measures, ramp up testing, and also genomic sequencing efforts. He also cautioned people against complacency and urged them to wear masks in crowded places.

2% Int’l Passengers Coming to India to be Tested

The government on Thursday said that a certain number of passengers arriving in international flights will be subject to random coronavirus test from December 24. The Union health ministry has written to the civil aviation ministry in this regard. “A sub-section of 2 per cent of the total passengers in the flight shall undergo random post-arrival testing at the airport on arrival,” an official communication said, adding that such travellers in each flight shall be determined by the airlines concerned and preferably from different countries.

Mandaviya on Thursday told Lok Sabha that in the wake of Christmas and new year celebrations, states are advised to ensure that people wear masks, use sanitizers and maintain social distancing along with increasing awareness for precautionary doses. In his statement, he said that in the recent days there have been reports of rise in Covid-19 cases in many countries such China, Japan, South Korea, the US, France, Greece and Italy.

Several states in India have started enforcing Covid-19 protocols including testing in crowded places and screening at International airports. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the new Omicron sub-variant BF.7 of Covid-19 has not been detected in the national capital so far and his government is ready to tackle any eventuality if arises. Health authorities in Uttar Pradesh have begun screening visitors at the Taj Mahal and other monuments, focusing their efforts mainly on foreign tourists and the Kerala government has decided to conduct whole genome sequencing of more samples to identify different Covid-19 variants.

What is BF.7 and is it Dangerous?

The new variant BF.7 of the novel coronavirus is believed to be linked to the surge in Covid cases in China. India has already seen a few cases of the BF.7 Covid strain in the past but that did not lead to a surge in infections across the country or an increase in the severity of the disease, co-chair at INSACOG’s advisory board Dr Saumitra Das told.

“The sublineage BF.7 belongs to Omicron and it’s similar to BA.5 with additional mutations,” Das, a professor and a microbiologist at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), said. “We have seen at least one to two cases of BF.7 in India but there was no momentum or no threshold was breached. In the last three months, the number of cases has not gone up and there was nothing alarming.

“Dr Anil Goyal of Indian Medical Association on Thursday said that there won’t be a lockdown situation in India since 95 per cent of the people are vaccinated. “The immunity system of Indians is stronger than that of the Chinese. India needs to go back to Covid basics – testing, treating, tracing,” he added.