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COVID-19: Mock drill on Tuesday to check readiness of health facilities

NEW DELHI: India will hold a mock drill on Tuesday to check preparedness of health facilities to deal with any spurt in COVID-19 cases, while cautious authorities encouraged the use of masks with Karnataka making it mandatory in schools, colleges and at places where large crowds gather for New Year celebrations.

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Monday said all state health ministers will take part at their level in the mock drill to be conducted throughout the country at all COVID hospitals as part of precautionary measures following an increase in infections in China and other countries

“Such exercises would help our operational readiness, help in filling gaps if any and will consequently strengthen our public health response,” he said at a meeting with doctors from the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

India saw a single-day rise of 196 new coronavirus infections, while the active cases have marginally increased to 3,428, according to Union Health Ministry data updated on Monday.

Random COVID-19 testing has started at various airports across the country in the wake of rising cases globally, the minister said.

Five foreign nationals, four of them from Thailand and one from Myanmar, have tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Bihar on a pilgrimage, state officials said.

They said testing has been intensified at the airport and the Gaya railway station.

Altogether 33 foreigners were tested during the weekend, out of whom four females and one male have tested positive. The condition of all the infected persons, who are in the age group of 35 to 75 years, was stable and they have been kept in isolation at the hotel they had checked in, they said.

After a person who recently returned from China tested positive in Uttar Pradesh, state Health Minister Brajesh Pathak on Monday appealed to all those who have recently travelled to foreign countries to remain in home isolation until they get tested for COVID-19.

“In case anyone tests positive, they should immediately inform the administration and we will make all arrangements,” he said.

“We have received information about a Covid-positive patient in Agra and his sample has been sent for genome testing. There is nothing to worry about as the situation is under control and the patient is in home isolation,” he told PTI.

Karnataka, which was one of the worst affected states during the pandemic, took the lead in introducing precautionary measures on Monday by directing the use of masks at cinema theatres and educational institutions.

It also made two doses of Covid vaccination compulsory at bars, restaurants and pubs which will be allowed to operate only up to the seating capacity for the New Year till 1 am on January 1, it said.

Further, masks have been made compulsory at places where large crowds gather for New Year. Children, pregnant women and senior citizens have been advised to avoid such places.

The decisions were taken at a meeting headed by the state’s Health Minister K Sudhakar and Revenue Minister R Ashoka, who is in-charge of Disaster Management, along with technical experts.

There is no need to panic or fear, and what the government has announced are only preventive measures aimed at controlling the virus spread and its impact, the ministers said.

“In the wake of the spurt in COVID cases in China and other countries and the health crisis there, we have been advised by the health experts to monitor international passengers. So they will be monitored at two dedicated hospitals – Bowring and Wenlock at Bengaluru and Mangaluru respectively, where there are international airports in the state,” Ashoka said.

Wearing masks will be mandatory in all schools and colleges, and staff will be asked to ensure that students sanitise their hands before entering classes.

Tamil Nadu Health Minister Ma Subramanian too had on Sunday urged people to wear masks in crowded places, saying Covid protocol had never been relaxed in the state.

The Delhi government has approved a budget of Rs 104 crore for hospitals to procure general medicines as part of preparations to deal with emergency situations.

At a review meeting, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia directed the heads of government hospitals to share details of beds, ventilators, ICUs, human resources, oxygen plants, and medical logistics with the Health Department by the evening.

“The surge in Covid cases globally is a matter of concern for everyone. Delhi hospitals have been asked to prepare well in advance and stay vigilant” a statement quoted Sisodia as saying.

Real-time data on the availability of beds, oxygen cylinders and ventilators will be available for the public on a Delhi government portal from Tuesday, officials said.

During the second Covid wave last year, Delhi had grappled with oxygen shortage with hospitals sending out SOS messages over depleting supplies on social media.

However, experts say the BF.7 sub-strain should not worry India too much as a lot of people have developed immunity against the virus – either through vaccination or previous infection – unlike China where people have low immunity due to tough restrictions.

“Modelling data from credible agencies” do not foresee any major Covid wave in Jammu and Kashmir, a leading pulmonologist said, but advised people to take precautionary measures as models “can go horribly wrong”.

In a series of tweets, SKIMS Director Dr Parvaiz Koul said, “Stay calm, observe routine precautions and vaccinate if you haven’t, as per the advisories. NO PANIC PLEASE. Safety saves. Better safe than sorry.”

Koul said the situation in China was different on various counts.

“But kindly do not panic. The situation in China is different. They resorted to strict lockdowns which resulted in lower exposure to the virus and a lower immunity by natural infection.

“Also the vaccine used predominantly in China is the inactivated Sinopharm/Sinovac vaccine which is inferior in evoking a robust immune response as compared to the adenovirus vectored vaccine used predominantly in India,” he added.

Officials said the mock drill on Tuesday will focus on parameters such as the availability of health facilities in all districts, the capacity of isolation beds, oxygen-supported beds, ICU beds and ventilator-supported beds, and optimal availability of doctors, nurses, paramedics, AYUSH doctors, and other frontline workers, including ASHA and Anganwadi workers.

It will also focus on human resource capacity in terms of healthcare professionals trained in COVID-19 management, healthcare professionals trained in ventilatory management protocol for severe cases and healthcare workers trained in the operation of PSA plants, etc. and the availability of Advanced and Basic Life Support (ALS/BLS) ambulances, testing equipment and reagents and that of essential drugs among others.

Referring to the surge in COVID-19 trajectory in many countries around the world, the Union Health Ministry on Saturday underlined that it was necessary that in all states and UTs requisite public health measures are put in place to meet any exigencies.



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