NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a key meeting on Saturday morning on the evolving situation of COVID 19 in the world and its effect in India amid an alert on new dangerous strain and need for a further intensified vaccination drive that saw India last month crossing the 100-crore mark.
The meeting has a representation of Union cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan, Covid Task Force head V K Paul among others.
His meeting comes in the wake of new strain, emerging from African countries, that World Health Organisation (WHO) has called a “variant of concern”. It has been named Omicron.
In the two-hour long meeting, the prime minister as briefed about the global trends on Covid-19 infections and cases. Officials highlighted that countries across the world have experienced multiple COVID-19 surges since the onset of the pandemic. PM also reviewed the national situation relating to Covid-19 cases and test positivity rates.
PM Modi directed that there is a need to increase the second dose coverage and that states need to be sensitised on the need to ensure that all those who have got the first dose are given the second dose timely.
The officials briefed him about the new Variant of Concern ‘Omicron’ along with its characteristics and the impact seen in various countries and implications for India. Modi spoke about the need to be proactive in light of the new variant.
The prime minister told officials:
In light of the new threat, people need to more cautious and the need to take proper precautions like masking & social distancing. PM highlighted the need for monitoring all international arrivals, their testing as per guidelines, with a specific focus on countries identified at risk
Modi also asked officials to review plans for easing of international travel restrictions in light of the emerging new evidence.
He also directed officials to work closely with state governments to ensure that there is proper awareness at the state and district level. He directed that intensive containment and active surveillance should continue in clusters reporting higher cases and required technical support be provided to states which are reporting higher cases presently.
“Awareness needs to be created about ventilation and air-borne behaviour of the virus,” Modi said.
The prime minister instructed officials to coordinate with states to ensure that there is adequate buffer stocks of various medicines. He asked officials to work with the states to review the functioning of medical infrastructure including pediatric facilities.
Modi asked officials to co-ordinate with states to endure proper functioning of PSA oxygen plants & ventilators.
Covid vaccine makers too have said that they are bracing up for a new variant, worse than Delta that took a toll in various countries including India this summer and lasted almost three months. Pfizer this week announced that it has begun testing its vaccine against Omicron.
India on Friday also announced a list of more than 12 countries, travellers from where would need additional protocol to follow forthwith while arriving into India. The countries include several African nations like South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe apart from Singapore, Hong Kong, Israel, Brazil and the UK.
The health secretary on November 24 had written to the state governments of Nagaland, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Sikkim, Kerala, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Goa, Manipur, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh over the decline in weekly covid-19 testing rates.