Amid rising concerns over the spread of Omicron variant of coronavirus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, December 23, stressed on COVID-appropriate behaviour, saying the fight against the pandemic is not over and directed officials to send teams to states with low vaccination, rising cases, and insufficient health infrastructure, to assist them in improving the situation. Modi gave directions to officials during a high-level meeting to review the status of COVID-19 and Omicron, the new variant of concern (VOC), and said "we should be 'satark' (vigilant) and 'saavdhan' (cautious)".
The fight against the pandemic is not over, he said, and asserted that the need for continued adherence to COVID-19 safe behaviour is of paramount importance. The meeting was held to review the public health response measures for containment and management of COVID-19, strengthening of health infrastructure including availability of drugs, oxygen cylinders and concentrators, ventilators, PSA plants, ICU/oxygen supported beds, human resources, IT interventions and status of vaccination, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said in a statement.
Officials briefed the Prime Minister about the emerging scenario globally driven by the new variant, with an overview of the surge in cases in countries having high vaccination coverage and presence of the Omicron variant, it said. He was also apprised of the technical brief and priority actions recommended by the WHO in the context of Omicron.
A snapshot of the status of COVID-19 and Omicron in the country, including states reporting a higher number of cases, districts reporting higher positivity, and higher number of clusters, was presented to the prime minister, the PMO said. The details of the Omicron cases reported in the country, including their travel history, vaccination status, and recovered status were also presented, it said.
Modi was briefed on the various actions taken since November 25, when the first advisory of the Union Health Ministry was shared with the states. Revised travel advisory for international passengers, review meetings with states/union territories on COVID-19 public health response measures, ramping up vaccination, installation of oxygen supply equipment, etc., was also briefed to Modi.
After the presentation by officials, Modi directed the officials to maintain a high level of vigil and alertness at all levels. He directed central officials to work in close coordination with the states to support their efforts of public health measures of containment and management under the 'whole of government' approach.
"The strategy of the Union government for proactive, focussed, collaborative and cooperative fight against the pandemic should guide all our future actions," Modi told the officials. He directed the officials to ensure that the health systems in the states, beginning from the district level, are strengthened to meet any challenge posed by the new variant. It is important for states to ensure that the Oxygen supply equipment is installed and fully functional, Modi instructed the officials at the meeting.
He also directed the officials to work with the states on a regular basis and review the status of preparedness of various components of health infrastructure including training and capacity building of human resources, timely availability of ambulances, readiness of states to operationalise COVID facilities for institutional quarantining, and effective and supervised monitoring of those in home isolation.
He further asked officials to make effective use of IT tools for tele-medicine and tele-consultation. Heightened and close monitoring of emerging clusters and hotspots through active, prompt and effective surveillance should continue, Modi stated at the meeting. He directed for sending a good number of positive samples for genome sequencing to INSACOG Labs in a prompt manner.
Modi also told officials to accelerate the testing to ensure quick identification of cases for timely containment and treatment. Focus should also be on effective contact tracing for curbing spread of the transmission, he said. He directed officials that the central government should send teams to states with low vaccination, rising cases and insufficient health infrastructure to assist them improve the situation.
Modi was apprised of the progress in vaccination across the country and was briefed that more than 88% of the eligible population is administered the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and more than 60% of the eligible population has received the second dose, the PMO said. Officials briefed him that the door-to-door 'Har Ghar Dastak' vaccination campaign to mobilise and vaccinate people has been able to motivate people to take the COVID-19 vaccine, and has shown encouraging results in boosting vaccine coverage.
Modi directed that states need to ensure that the eligible population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and to proceed to meet the target in a saturation mode. India has recorded 236 cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus across 16 states and UTs so far out of which 104 people have recovered or migrated, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Thursday.