Covid-19 surge: Kerala mandates wearing mask in public places; PM holds high-level meeting

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Representative image | Photo: ANI

Thiruvananthapuram: Owing to the slight spike in Covid-19 cases in the state, the health department under the Kerala government has urged the citizens to mandatorily wear masks in all public places.

According to health minister Veena George, the new Covid variant spreads more easily. However, it has not caused any cluster of cases so far, she noted.

The health minister convened a high-level meeting to take stock of the situation. The government will increase genome sequencing of samples to identify new variants, she added.

Meanwhile, India has recorded 1,134 new coronavirus cases, while the active cases increased to 7,026, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised on Wednesday that COVID-19 is "far from over" as he chaired a high-level meeting and called for maintaining vigil and precaution amid a spike in influenza and coronavirus cases in the country in the past two weeks.

He stressed on the need to enhance genome sequencing and keeping Covid-appropriate behaviour, an official statement said.
Modi chaired the meeting to assess the COVID-19 and influenza situation in the country in terms of preparedness of health infrastructure and logistics, status of the vaccination campaign, emergence of new COVID-19 variants and influenza types and their public health implications for the country.

He directed effective monitoring of IRI/SARI (Severe Acute Respiratory Illness) cases, and that testing for Influenza, SARS-CoV-2 and adenovirus be followed up with states.

The PMO said he also emphasised on the the need to ensure availability of required drugs and logistics for influenza and Covid across health facilities along with availability of sufficient beds and health human resources.

Incidentally, it was the third anniversary of 'Janata Curfew' on Wednesday, which the prime minister had announced in 2020 for a day, urging people to stay indoors following the pandemic outbreak. It was later followed by nationwide lockdown as the cases began rising.
This high-level review meeting came in the backdrop of a spike in influenza cases in the country and rise of Covid cases in the past two weeks.

During the meeting, a comprehensive presentation was made covering the global Covid situation including the rising cases in India by Secretary, Health, Rajesh Bhushan.

The prime minister was briefed that India has been witnessing a slight rise in new cases with average daily cases reported as 888 and weekly positivity reported as 0.98 per cent in the week ending March 22. However, 1.08 lakh daily average cases have been reported globally during the same week.

The action taken on the directions given by Modi during the last Covid review held on December 22, 2022 was also briefed, the statement said.
He was informed that availability and prices of 20 main Covid drugs, 12 other drugs, eight buffer drugs and one influenza drug is being monitored.
The prime minister was apprised on the influenza situation in the country particularly with respect to higher number of cases of H1N1 and H3N2 being noted in last few months.

Modi directed officials to enhance whole genome sequencing of positive samples with the designated INSACOG genome sequencing laboratories. This will support tracking of newer variants, if any, and timely response, the PMO said.

The prime minister emphasized Covid-appropriate behaviour including wearing of masks in hospital premises by both patients, health professionals and health workers. He also stressed that wearing of masks is advisable when senior citizens and those with co-morbidities visit crowded areas, the statement said.

Modi highlighted that Covid-19 pandemic is far from over and there is a need to monitor the status across the country on regular basis.
He said the focus on five-fold strategy of test-track-treat-vaccination & Covid-appropriate behaviour, enhanced lab surveillance and testing of all Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) cases. Mock drills should be conducted regularly to ensure that our hospitals are ready for all exigencies, he added.

He exhorted people to follow respiratory hygiene & to adhere to Covid appropriate behavior in crowded public places.

The meeting was attended by Modi's principal secretary P K Mishra, V K Paul, Member (Health) NITI Aayog, and Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba among others.

With PTI inputs

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