Centre asks States to restart monitoring respiratory infections amid COVID-19 surge in southeast Asia

India’s infection tally now stands at 4,30,04,005, while the count of active cases fell below 30,000 after around 685 days, according to the Union Health Ministry on March 18

March 18, 2022 11:49 am | Updated 11:25 pm IST - New Delhi

COVID-19 vaccination drive under way at a centre in north delhi, in New Delhi.

COVID-19 vaccination drive under way at a centre in north delhi, in New Delhi. | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

Citing the resurgence of coronavirus cases in southeast Asia and parts of Europe, the Centre has asked the States to restart monitoring influenza-like illness and severe acute respiratory infections so that no early warning signals are missed and COVID-19 is controlled.

Testing for influenza-like illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) cases has been the pillars of COVID-management for the government. However, the testings were stopped recently as India has been recording a steady decline in COVID-19 cases.

As part of intensified surveillance, patients being hospitalised with ILI and SARI will again be tested for COVID-19 and positive samples will be sent for genome sequencing. In a letter, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has asked all the States and Union Territories to ensure that an adequate number of samples are submitted to the INSACOG network for timely detection of new COIVD variants.

He also stressed on maintaining testing according to protocols, observing all precautions and not letting the guard down while resuming economic- and social activities. "Effective surveillance by monitoring of emerging clusters of new cases, if any, testing as per norms and monitoring of ILI and SARI cases shall be taken up on a continued basis to ensure no early warning signals are missed and spread of infection can be controlled," Mr. Bhushan said in the letter.

He further said the State machinery should create required awareness and ensure adherence to COVID-appropriate behaviour and practise effective hand- and respiratory hygiene. With a spike in COVID-19 cases across Southeast Asia and some countries of Europe, a high-level meeting was chaired by Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on March 16 where the States were advised to focus on aggressive genome sequencing, intensified surveillance and overall vigil on the COVID situation, Mr. Bhushan said in the letter.

He also emphasised continued focus on the five-fold strategy of test, track, treat and vaccination and adherence to COVID-appropriate behaviour.

"All the States and Union Territories must observe all precautions and not let the guard down while resuming economic- and social activities," Mr. Bhushan stated.

"It is also vital that States may ensure that all eligible people are motivated to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as per the recent expansion of vaccination drive," he added.

India reports 2,528 new COVID-19 cases, 149 fatalities

With 2,528 new COVID-19 cases being reported in a day, India’s infection tally now stands at 4,30,04,005, while the count of active cases fell below 30,000 after around 685 days, according to the Union Health Ministry on March 18.

“The death toll due to the disease has climbed to 5,16,281 with 149 daily fatalities being recorded,” data updated by the Ministry at 8 a.m. showed. The count of active cases has declined to 29,181 which comprises 0.07% of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has further improved to 98.73%, the Health Ministry said.

A reduction of 1,618 cases has been recorded in the active COVID-19 caseload of the country in a span of 24 hours, the data showed. There has been a sustained fall in the weekly and daily positivity rates too, the Ministry said. Both were recorded at 0.40%, it added. The last 24 hours saw a total of 6,33,867 COVID-19 tests being conducted.

India has so far conducted over 78.18 crore tests for the disease. The number of people who have recuperated from the disease has surged to 4,24,58,543, while the case fatality rate was recorded at 1.20%, the data showed. The cumulative number of doses administered in the country so far under the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive has exceeded 180.97 crore.

India’s COVID-19 infection tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on August 7, 2020; 30 lakh on August 23; 40 lakh on September 5; 50 lakh on September 16; 60 lakh on September 28; 70 lakh on October 11; 80 lakh on October 29; 90 lakh on November 20; and the one-crore mark on December 19, 2020.

The country crossed the grim milestones of two crore cases on May 4, 2021 and three crore on June 23. The 149 new fatalities include 130 from Kerala. A total of 5,16,281 COVID-19 deaths have been reported so far in the country, including 1,43,762 from Maharashtra, 67,138 from Kerala, 40,028 from Karnataka, 38,025 from Tamil Nadu, 26,145 from Delhi, 23,492 from Uttar Pradesh and 21,192 from West Bengal.

The Health Ministry stressed that more than 70% of the deaths occurred due to comorbidities. “Our figures are being reconciled with the Indian Council of Medical Research,” the Ministry said on its website, adding that State-wise distribution of figures is subject to further verification and reconciliation.

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