In the wake of the Omicron Covid-19 variant threat, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Sunday dashed off a letter to all the States and Union Territories (UTs), asking them to enforce intensive containment and active surveillance measures.
Bhushan also asked the States and UTs to increase vaccination coverage and Covid-19 appropriate behaviour to curb the spread of Omicron.
The World Health Organization on Friday has declared the recently discovered B.1.1.529 strain of Covid-19 as a 'variant of concern' and renamed it 'Omicron.'
The strain has 50 mutations overall, including more than 30 on the spike protein alone. It has been first detected in South Africa, and since detected in Hong Kong, Botswana, and Israel.
"In view of the possible threat that this variant can pose to the nation, it is imperative that the intensive containment, active surveillance, increased coverage of vaccination and Covid Appropriate Behaviour must be enforced in the field in a very proactive manner," Bhushan wrote in the letter.
He added, "As a proactive step, the government has already placed countries where this variant has been found in the category of 'At-Risk' countries for additional follow-up measures of international travelers coming into India from these countries."
To tackle the surge of Covid-19 mutated variants, Bhushan directed the States and UTs to aim at achieving a positivity rate below five per cent while focusing on increasing the number of tests and share of RT-PCR tests to aid in early identification.
"We have seen in the last surges in the country that discourse on Covid-19 is often influenced by misinformation leading to anxiety in the masses. States must ensure that the community is well informed regarding the measures undertaken and advised to follow measures like Covid appropriate behaviour and getting vaccinated," he said.
The letter also mentioned that the areas marked as 'hotspots' due to a recent cluster of COVID positive cases must be regularly monitored.
"In all such 'hotspots', saturation testing and sending of positive samples quickly for genome sequencing to designated INSACOG labs must be ensured in collaboration with the Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India and National Centre for Disease Control. States should keep a close check on the emerging trend of cases and the positivity in an area and quickly delineate hotspots for effective containment of Covid-19," the letter stated.
India on Sunday has reported 8,774 new Covid-19 cases with 9,481 recoveries in the past 24 hours. According to Union Health Ministry data, more than 82.86 lakh Covid-19 vaccine doses were administered in the last 24 hours. The active caseload presently stands at 1,05,691.
It may be mentioned that PM Narendra Modi on Saturday chaired a comprehensive high-level meeting to review the situation relating to Covid-19 and vaccination
While reviewing the new variant of concern ‘Omicron’, Modi asked the citizens to be more cautious and the need to take proper precautions like masking and social distancing. PM Modi also asked officials to review plans for easing international travel restrictions in light of the emerging new evidence.