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Covid not over yet: PM urges people to wear masks


STATE TIMES NEWS

New Delhi: Amid a spurt in Covid cases in China and some other countries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday cautioned people against complacency and urged them to wear masks in crowded places, while also directing officials to strengthen surveillance measures, especially at international airports.
At a high-level meeting, Modi reiterated that “Covid is not over yet” and advised states to audit Covid-specific facilities to ensure operational readiness of hospital infrastructure, including oxygen cylinders, PSA plants, ventilators and human resources.

Mandatory COVID tests for all Int’l passengers if necessary
New Delhi: In the wake of surge in COVID-19 cases in many countries, India has started 2 per cent random sampling of international travellers coming to the country and may consider making it mandatory for all if necessary, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Thursday.
He was responding to queries of some Opposition MPs after his suo moto statement in Rajya Sabha on the latest COVID-19 situation and India’s preparedness.
“We are constantly monitoring the situation. There are no direct flights between China and India but people come via other routes,” he said in response to a query by Raghav Chadha of AAP on whether the government would ban direct flights from China.
As a health minister, Mandaviya said he has spoken to many countries and WHO about what all precautions are needed to be taken and also understand in which direction the pandemic is moving.
“At a primary stage, we have already started doing 2 per cent random sampling of any traveller coming to India,” he said.
The minister further said “in the coming days the percentage could be increased and if necessary we will make it mandatory for everyone coming to India”.
Mandaviya also said the focus of the government is to ensure that no unknown variant of the virus enters India and at the same time there is now impediment on travelling.
The minister assured the Upper House that all the oxygen plants were running and a review has also been done about the availability of medicines.
“We are prepared and ready to provide the requirement of medicines and vaccines in the country,” he said.
Mandaviya also informed that an expert committee has given approval to nasal vaccine to combat the virus, doing away with the requirements of jabs.
“We are fully prepared to fight the virus,” he asserted.
Referring to the letter written to Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to follow appropriate covid protocol during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, he said it was his responsibility as a health minister to write after few MPs from the state had pointed out to him about people, including the Himachal Pradesh chief minister who took part in the event contracted the virus.
“We have never done politics on covid crisis and we don’t even want to do it,” Mandaviya asserted.
In his statement, he said 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.
The evolving nature of the virus poses threat to global health in a way that impacts virtually every country, he said adding the Centre has asked states to remain alert and create awareness about wearing face masks and using hand sanitisers, especially in view of upcoming festivals and new year celebrations.
He further said states have also been advised to focus on heightened surveillance within the community and to undertake requisite control and containment measures, increase the whole genome sequencing of all positive cases for timely detection of newer variants, if any.

Prime Minister 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, according to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
He also urged that precaution dose may be encouraged especially for vulnerable and elderly groups.
During the meeting to assess the COVID-19 situation in the country, preparedness of health infrastructure and logistics, status of the vaccination campaign in the country and the emergence of new variants and their public health implication, Modi directed officials to ramp up testing and also genomic sequencing efforts.
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, the PMO said.
This will support timely detection of newer variants, if any, circulating in the country and facilitate undertaking requisite public health measures, it said.
Prime Minister Modi cautioned against complacency and advised strict vigil.
He reiterated that “Covid is not over yet” and directed officials to strengthen the ongoing surveillance measures, especially at international airports, the statement said.
Modi stressed on the need to ensure that entire Covid infrastructure at all levels is maintained at a high level of preparedness in terms of equipment, processes and human resources.
The prime minister also advised states to audit Covid-specific facilities to ensure operational readiness of hospital infrastructure, including oxygen cylinders, PSA plants, ventilators and human resources, the statement said.
This high-level review meeting comes in the backdrop of spike in Covid cases in some countries.
A comprehensive presentation was made at the meeting regarding the global Covid situation, including the rising cases in countries, by the health secretary and the member (health) at the NITI Aayog.
Prime Minister 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 per cent in the week ending December 22.
However, 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.
He also advised regular monitoring of prices and availability of essential medicines.
Highlighting the globally appreciated work of frontline healthcare workers, Prime Minister Modi exhorted them to continue working in the same selfless and dedicated manner, according to the statement.
The meeting chaired by Modi was attended by Home Minister Amit Shah, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, 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 V K Paul, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, Advisor PMO Amit Khare, Home Secretary A K Bhalla, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, among others.
The meeting came on a day several states such as Uttar Pradesh and Delhi also conducted a review of the Covid situation.
Earlier in the day, Madaviya made a statement in Parliament and said India has started two per cent random sampling of international travellers coming to the country and may consider making it mandatory for all if necessary.
He made the remarks while responding to queries of some Opposition MPs after his suo moto statement in Rajya Sabha on the latest COVID-19 situation and India’s preparedness.
In his statement, Mandaviya 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.

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