Health Ministry writes to eight States to be vigilant amid COVID surge 

Letters have been sent to Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Haryana in the wake of uptick in COVID cases

April 21, 2023 06:51 pm | Updated 06:51 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan. File

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has written to Chief Secretaries of eight States and union territories asking them to be cautious about the rising COVID-19 cases in their areas and emphasised the need to be vigilant and not panic.

Letters have been sent to Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Haryana in the wake of uptick in COVID cases and the Ministry has directed them to increase the number of COVID-positive samples sent for whole genomic sequence, adding that the pandemic is far from over.

States have also been asked to strengthen surveillance in all districts, monitor trends of Influenza-like illness (ILI) & SARI cases, maintain adequate levels of testing (especially in emerging hotspots, ILI & SARI cases) while maintaining the recommended share of RT-PCR and Antigen tests.

Hospital infrastructure

States have also been told to ensure operational readiness and adequate strengthening of hospital infrastructure and encourage vaccine uptake among eligible beneficiaries, counter vaccine hesitancy through community awareness, and promote early symptom reporting, testing, and adherence to COVID-appropriate behaviour, including avoiding overcrowded and poorly ventilated settings and wearing masks.

Meanwhile the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its report (released on April 20) on the spread and trends in COVID said the southeast Asia region reported over 1,41,000 new cases, a 654% increase, compared to the previous 28-day period. 

“Eight (73%) of the 11 countries for which data are available reported increases in new cases of 20% or greater, with the highest proportional increases observed in Nepal, India, and the Maldives. The highest numbers of new cases were reported from India, Indonesia, and Nepal. The number of new 28-day deaths in the region increased by 210% as compared to the previous 28-day period, with 484 new deaths reported. The highest numbers of new deaths were reported from India (312 new deaths),’’ it said.

Giving insight into virus trends, the WHO said COVID variant XBB.1.16, which is responsible for the current surge in cases in India, according to the Health Ministry, has been reported in 31 countries.

“Due to its estimated growth advantage and immune escape characteristics, XBB.1.16 may spread globally and contribute to an increase in case incidence. However, at present, there is no early signal of an increase in severity,’’ noted the WHO. It added that the initial XBB.1.16 risk assessment is ongoing.

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