New Delhi: Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya chaired a key meeting with senior officials and experts on the COVID-19 situation in the country on Wednesday.
Meeting was attended by Dr V K Paul, member, NITI Aayog; Dr. NK Arora, Chairman COVID-19 working group NTAGI; Dr Rajiv Bahl, DG-ICMR; Dr Rajesh Gokhale, Secretary in Dept of biotechnology & Dr Atul Goel DGHS, MoHFW.
Sudden surge in cases world over
ln view of the sudden spurt of cases being witnessed in Japan, USA, Korea, Brazil and China, it is essential to gear up whole genome sequencing of positive case samples to track variants through the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) network, writes Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan to States and Union Territories.
“Today we’re holding a meeting under the chairmanship of Union Health Min Dr Mansukh Mandaviya. We’ll review as to what’s the situation of Covid in other countries and what needs to be done for India. Y’day guidelines were issued for doing genome sequencing,” MoS Health Dr B Pawar
“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 Sequencing Laboratories (IGSLs) that are mapped to the States and UTs,” said Union Health Secretary.
Amid the rising COVID cases in China, a top Indian health expert on Tuesday cautioned the people while asking them to keep a close vigil on the situation in the country.
However, the expert said that there is nothing to panic about as the country’s system is “vigilant”.
The remarks were made by Dr NK Arora, Chairman of the COVID-19 working group NTAGI.
“It is an important thing that we keep a close vigil on the Chinese situation. But I would say that there is nothing to be panicked about. There is no need for getting too much worried. The system is very vigilant, we need to be very vigilant. As far as genomic surveillance is concerned, this is the most important part we are doing genomic surveillance of individuals with symptoms,” he said.
India is prepared to tackle COVID situation
Exuding confidence in India’s preparedness to tackle the COVID situation, the expert said that the country can take appropriate action in case of the emergence of a new sub-variant.
“We are also doing surveillance from sewage and from hospitalised individuals and even those who are coming to international airports. A certain proportion of samples is picked up randomly from them also, in case there is a new sub-variant or anything, which is of concern is picked up promptly, appropriate action can be taken,” Dr Arora said.
“So overall we find that the situation in India is under control. But we need to maintain vigilance, particularly for surveillance,” he added.
Dr Arora also said that the exact situation of COVID in China is still unclear.
“China was following so-called Zero COVID policies and as we learn from media recently they have relaxed this policy and after that, we are hearing that there is widespread COVID infection in that community with associated severe disease and deaths also. But what is the exact situation we really do not know,” he said.
Hybrid immunity to protect Indians from COVID
According to the expert, vaccination and hybrid immunity will be helpful in protecting people in India from COVID.
“As far as India is concerned, there are three or four things which we need to keep in mind. One is that India has an extensively immunised adult population, particularly with very effective vaccines. In addition, there are several data which indicate that over 90 per cent of our individuals have also been affected by natural COVID infection. So, the Indian population is immunised with what we call as hybrid immunity. Third thing is that the INSACOG data shows that almost every sub-variant of Omicron which is found anywhere else in the world is also found in India. So, there are not many sub-variants which are not circulating here,” an expert said.
Meanwhile, the last Covid-19 fatality in Beijing, which was seeing thousands of Covid positive cases before the revocation of the Zero Covid policy was on November 23.
After it, China stopped reporting asymptomatic patients which is a major part of the Covid tally. The country also scrapped the once common Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing apparatus and instead used rapid antigen kits which are known to be a little inaccurate. This pointed out that the data was altered or stood meaningless, according to The Straits Times.