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COVID preparedness: States/UTs to undertake mock drill to ensure operational readiness of health facilities


New Delhi: Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Friday advised states and union territories to undertake a mock drill across all health facilities on December 27 to ensure readiness of infrastructure with a specific focus on oxygen plants, ventilators, logistics and human resources. During a virtual meeting with health ministers and senior officials of states in view of the recent surge in coronavirus cases in some parts of the world, he said, “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.”

MoCA issues guidelines for random testing of international arriving passengers
New Delhi: With random coronavirus testing of international arriving passengers set to start from Saturday, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has said that airlines’ crew members will have to bring such identified passengers to the testing facility at the airport.
Against the backdrop of rising coronavirus cases in China and some other parts of the world, the government has decided to subject 2 per cent of the passengers arriving on international flights to random coronavirus test starting from Saturday morning. In a communication on Friday, the ministry said that airlines are required to direct their crew members to lead and bring identified 2 per cent of international arriving passengers to the testing facility at the airport.
“The airport operators would create necessary infrastructure to facilitate random testing of international arriving passengers at their respective airports,” the communication said.
The communication has been sent to the aviation regulator DGCA and copies have been marked to all scheduled commercial airlines, airport operators as well as to states and Union Territories (UTs), among others.
After the random testing, the passenger has to furnish the correct contact and address details to the Airport Health Officers (APHOs) airport authorities.
“The cost of testing shall be reimbursed by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare on submission of duly certified bills to APHOs,” it said.
Airlines concerned will identify such travellers on each flight, preferably from different countries. Such travellers can leave the airport after giving the samples.
A copy of the positive report will be shared with the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme by the airport concerned. Later, they will be shared with the State/ Union Territory (UT) concerned for further follow-up action.
“In case, any such travellers are tested positive, their samples should be sent for genetic testing at the designated INSACOG laboratory network,” the communication said.

The meeting reviewed the public health system’s preparedness for containment and management of Covid and progress of the vaccination campaign. Principal secretaries, additional chief secretaries and information commissioners of states also attended the meet, besides the ministers.
Referring to the high-level review meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, Mandaviya also advised states to be on alert, keep all preparedness for Covid management and continue their pre-emptive and proactive approach, the health ministry said in a statement.
He 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 (INSACOG) network.
This 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,” he said.
In view of the upcoming festive season, the Union minister 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 preparedness of all infrastructure and ensure there is adequate stock of essential medicines.
Irrespective of new Covid variants, the ‘Test-Track-Treat-Vaccinate and adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour’ remains a tested strategy for the disease’s management, Mandaviya said.
States and union territories were also asked to expeditiously increase the rate of testing from the current rate of 79 tests per million, as on the week ending December 22, the statement said. The Union health minister also urged states and union territories to ramp up vaccination of all eligible people, particularly of vulnerable groups, including the elderly.

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