Amid rising Omicron fears, PM Narendra Modi calls for caution and stricter vigil

By PTI

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday reviewed the COVID-19 situation in the country amid fresh concerns sparked by the outbreak of highly transmissible Omicron variant and stressed on the need to be ‘satark’ (vigilant) and ‘saavdhan’ (cautious).

While asserting that the government is alert and seized of the evolving scenario, he added that the fight against the pandemic is not over yet and highlighted the “paramount importance” of Covid-safe behaviour, a statement from the PMO said.

He directed officials that the Centre’s teams be sent to states with low vaccination, rising cases, and insufficient health infrastructure, to assist them improve the situation.

Places like New Delhi and Maharashtra have seen a rise in the number of new infections of late.

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After the presentation by officials, including the measures taken to deal with the new challenges, Modi directed them to maintain a high level of vigil and alertness at all levels.

He asked them to work in close coordination with states to support their efforts of public health measures of containment and management under the ‘whole of government’ approach.

“The strategy of the Centre for proactive, focussed, collaborative and cooperative fight against the pandemic should guide all our future actions,” Modi told the officials.

In a tweet he said, “Reviewed the COVID-19 situation across India, particularly in the wake of Omicron. Our focus is on further ramping up health infra, testing, tracing and ensuring full vaccination coverage.”

In the meeting, 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.

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It is important for states to ensure that the oxygen supply equipment are installed and fully functional, Modi instructed the officials at the meeting, according to the statement.

He also asked the officials to work with 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.

Modi directed officials for sending a good number of positive samples for genome sequencing to INSACOG Labs in a prompt manner.

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He 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 per cent of the eligible population is administered the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and more than 60 per cent of the eligible population has received the second dose, the PMO said.

States need to ensure full vaccination of the eligible population, he said.

In dealing with the infections, focus should be on prompt and effective contact tracing, ramping up of testing, accelerating vaccination and strengthening health infrastructure, he said.

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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 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 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.

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 The meeting was attended by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, NITI Aayog Member (Health), Home Secretary A K Bhalla, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, ICMR DG Balram Bhargava, Principal Scientific Advisor K Vijay Raghavan among with other senior officials.