New Delhi: The Centre will today (December 21, 2022) review the Covid-19 situation in India as the new wave of the virus continues to sweep China. Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya will chair the key meeting that is scheduled to be attended by the secretaries of health, Ayush, department of pharmaceuticals and department of biotechnology, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director General Rajiv Bahl, Member (Health) of NITI Aayog V K Paul and National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) Chairman NL Arora and other senior officials.
India, which recorded 131 new coronavirus infections today, currently has 3,408 active cases. According to the Union Health Ministry data, the country has so far seen over 4.46 crore cases and around 5.30 lakh Covid-19-related deaths.
The Union Health Ministry on Tuesday urged all states and Union territories to ramp up the whole genome sequencing of positive samples to keep track of newer Covid-19 variants.
In a letter to states and UTs, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that such an exercise will enable timely detection of newer variants, if any, circulating in the country and will facilitate undertaking of requisite public health measures.
"In view of the sudden spurt of cases being witnessed in Japan, United States of America, Republic of Korea, Brazil and China, it is essential to gear up the whole genome sequencing of positive case samples to track the variants through Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) network," Bhushan said.
In view of the recent rising cases of COVID19 in some countries, Union Health Ministry has requested States/UTs to send samples of all #COVID19 positive cases to INSACOG labs to track new variants, if any.
Health Ministry and INSACOG are keeping a sharp watch on the situation. pic.twitter.com/ODLTkFwsdH — Ministry of Health (@MoHFW_INDIA) December 20, 2022
He highlighted that India with its focus on the five-fold strategy of test-track-treat-vaccination and adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour has been able to restrict the transmission of the coronavirus and is having around 1,200 cases on a weekly basis.
Public health challenge of Covid-19 still persists around the world with around 35 lakh cases being reported weekly, he said.
"In this context, all states are requested to ensure that as far as possible samples of all positive cases, on a daily basis, are sent to the designated INSACOG Genome Laboratories that are mapped to states and UTs," he added.
On Tuesday, cities across China scrambled to install hospital beds and build fever screening clinics as Covid-19 cases and deaths continued to surge amid international concern growing about Beijing's surprise decision to let the virus run free.
Beijing recorded five deaths on Tuesday, following two on Monday, which were the first fatalities reported in weeks. In total, China has so far reported 5,242 Covid-19 deaths (a very low toll by global standards) since the pandemic emerged in the city of Wuhan in late 2019.
China has been witnessing a spike in coronavirus cases since December 7, the day when they began dismantling its stringent "zero-Covid" policy of lockdowns and testing after protests against curbs that had kept the virus at bay among its 1.4 billion-strong population for three years. Since then, some hospitals have become inundated, pharmacies emptied of medicines, while many people have gone into self-imposed lockdowns, straining delivery services.
China's chief epidemiologist Wu Zunyou last week said that the country was in the throes of the first of three Covid-19 waves expected this winter. Beijing city official Xu Hejian also said on Monday that the virus was spreading fast in the capital.
Some health experts estimate that 60% of people in China (equivalent to 10% of the world's population) could be infected with Covid-19 over the coming months and that more than 20 lakh people could die.
China's abrupt end to its zero-Covid policy has raised concerns of widespread infections among a vulnerable, undervaccinated population with little natural immunity.
Zhou Jiatong, head of the Center for Disease Control in the southwestern Guangxi region, said last month in a paper published by the Shanghai Journal of Preventive Medicine that mainland China faces more than 20 lakh deaths if it loosened Covid-19 curbs in the same way Hong Kong did this year. Infections could rise to more than 233 crores, his forecast showed.