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The Center emphasizes rigorous surveillance of travelers from “at risk” countries


Given the possible threat the new variant of COVID-19 may pose to the nation, the Center has called on all states and UTs to focus on intensive containment, active surveillance, enhanced testing, point monitoring hot, increased vaccination coverage and increased health infrastructure. Listing a series of actions that states and UTs should take, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan also underscored the rigorous monitoring of international passengers, ensuring swift dispatch of samples for genome sequencing. and the strict application of appropriate behavior to COVID to effectively manage this variant of concern (VoC).

In a proactive move, the government has already placed the countries, where this VoC has been found, in the category of “at risk” countries for additional tracking measures of international travelers entering India from these destinations, he said. stated in a letter dated November 27. “Given the possible threat this VoC may pose to the nation, it is imperative that intensive containment, active surveillance, increased vaccine coverage and appropriate COVID behavior be applied in the field in a very proactive manner. to effectively manage this VoC, ”said Bhushan.

The health secretary said it was essential that the disease surveillance network in the country be designed for rigorous tracking of international travelers from all countries, especially those designated as “at risk”. There is already a reporting mechanism to get details of past journeys from passengers on international flights, he said, adding that this should be reviewed and the protocol provided by the ministry should be strictly guaranteed, including tests on the disembarkation of travelers from “at risk”. countries and promptly send all positive samples for genome sequencing to INSACOG laboratories.

Stressing that a vast testing infrastructure must be operationalized to cope with any increase due to this mutated virus, Bhushan said that overall testing, as well as the proportion of RT-PCR testing, has been observed to have declined in some states. “Without sufficient testing, it is extremely difficult to determine the true level of spread of the infection. States must strengthen the testing infrastructure and strictly enforce testing guidelines, ”he said.

Bhushan also insisted on continuous monitoring of hot spots, areas where a recent cluster of positive cases has emerged. “In all these ‘hot spots’, saturation testing and rapid dispatch of positive samples for genome sequencing to designated INSACOG laboratories should be done in collaboration with the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), the government India and the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC). States should closely monitor the emerging trend of cases and positivity in an area and quickly identify hot spots for effective containment of COVID-19, ”he said. The health secretary said states should aim for a positivity rate below 5% while focusing on increasing the number of tests and the share of RT-PCR tests to facilitate early identification.

“Adequate health facilities throughout the state are essential to ensure that there is no delay in providing care,” he said, adding that trained human resources, infrastructure, logistics and procurement should be planned and strengthened, taking into account the geographic distribution of the pandemic, and there should be no compromise to provide timely and quality treatment to patients. Bhushan urged states to make optimal use of the financial support provided by the Indian government under ERCP 1 and 2 diligently. INSACOG was created to monitor variants circulating in the country, he said, stressing that it is important for states to dramatically increase sampling of the general population for genome sequencing by sending these samples. to the INSACOG laboratory network in accordance with the policy.

He also urged states and UTs to hold regular press briefings. “We have seen in the latest outbreaks in the country that the discourse on COVID is often influenced by misinformation leading to anxiety among the masses. To address this issue, all states should proactively and regularly respond to community concerns through media briefings and state bulletins providing evidence-based information, ”Bhushan said in the letter.

States can also ensure that the community is well informed of actions taken and be asked to follow actions such as appropriate COVID behavior and vaccination. He said it was essential for states and UTs to adhere to the global principle of “Test-Track-Treat Vaccinate and COVID-appropriate behavior” to ensure the strict implementation of containment measures in accordance with Department of Health guidelines. and Family Welfare (MoHFW).

“I am sure that under your continued leadership, we will be able to maintain the momentum and build on the progress made so far to address the latest threat of the pandemic. The Department of Health and Family Welfare provides all necessary support to states and UTs, ”said Bhushan. The new, potentially more contagious variant B.1.1.529 was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) in South Africa on November 24 and was also identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel. It was designated Friday as a “variant of concern” by the WHO, which named it Omicron. A variant of concern is the WHO’s first category of COVID-19 variants of concern.

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