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Spike in Covid cases| Nationwide mock drills to be held on April 10 and 11: Health Ministry

The advisory comes on a day when India recorded 1,590 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, which is the highest single day count in 146 days.

March 25, 2023 / 07:01 PM IST
The advisory comes three days after PM Modi chaired a high-level meeting on the COVID situation (Reuters file image)

The advisory comes three days after PM Modi chaired a high-level meeting on the COVID situation (Reuters file image)

Amid a fresh spike in the coronavirus case count, the Union health ministry, along with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), wrote to the state governments and Union territories on March 25, asking them to ensure "optimum testing" and promote the usage of masks in crowded settings.

The health ministry said testing for COVID-19 has "declined" in some states over the past several weeks, and is below the standard prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which is 140 tests per million population.

Testing at the level of districts and blocks also varies, with some states heavily relying on the less sensitive rapid antigen tests, stated the letter, which was jointly issued by Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan and ICMR director general Dr Rajiv Bahl.

Also Read | PM Modi urges enhanced genome sequencing and mask-wearing amid COVID-19 surge

"Hence, it is critical to maintain optimum testing for COVID-19, equitably distributed (with suitable modifications to address emergence of new cluster of Covid cases) across the states. This is especially important to identify any ‘emerging hotspots' and take pre-emptive steps to curb virus transmission," it said.

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The advisory comes on a day when India recorded 1,590 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, which is the highest single-day count in 146 days.

"A gradual but sustained increase in trajectory of COVID-19 cases in the country is being witnessed since mid-February 2023," the health ministry said.

As on date, most of the active COVID-19 cases in the country are largely being reported by Kerala (26.4 percent), Maharashtra (21.7 percent), Gujarat (13.9 percent), Karnataka (8.6 percent) and Tamil Nadu (6.3 percent), it noted.

The advisory further asked the states to ensure the preparedness of hospitals, by taking a stock of the ICU beds, drugs availability, medical oxygen and medicinal equipment. "To this effect, a nation-wide mock drill is being planned on April 10-11 wherein health facilities (both
public and private) from all districts are expected to participate," it added.

While the rate of hospitalisation and death remains low due to the vaccination of a large section of the population, the gradual increase in cases needs "reinvigorated public health actions to contain the surge", the letter further said.

At the community level, awareness should be created to avoid overcrowded and poorly ventilated settings by co-morbid
persons and the elderly, the advisory said, adding that the "wearing of masks in crowded and closed settings" should also be promoted

Wearing of masks by doctors, paramedics and other healthcare workers, as well as patients and their attendants within healthcare facilities, is also essential, it added.

The health ministry and ICMR also asked the states to keep a close watch on the Influenza Like Illness (ILI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) cases.

India usually sees a seasonal rise in Influenza cases from January to March and again from August to October. "Presently, the most prominent subtypes of Influenza in circulation in the country seem to be Influenza A (HINT) and Influenza A (H3N2)," the letter added.

H3N2, which has emerged as the dominant subtype of flu, has reportedly led to the death of at least seven persons this year. As per the data shared earlier this month by the health ministry, India had reported 451 cases of the H3N2 virus between January 2 and March 5.

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first published: Mar 25, 2023 04:48 pm