India: In Covid warning, Centre asks states to avoid overcrowding, ensure wearing of masks

Advisory in view of the festive season calls for measures including Covid-appropriate behaviour

By PTI

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A woman wearing a face mask walks through a busy shopping district in Mumbai. — AP
A woman wearing a face mask walks through a busy shopping district in Mumbai. — AP

Published: Fri 23 Dec 2022, 8:16 PM

Ahead of the festive season on Friday, India’s central government asked states and union territories to take measures to avoid overcrowding and ensure adequate ventilation for indoor gatherings and wearing of masks in crowded places.

In a letter to states and UTs, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan stressed on monitoring and reporting of district-wise influenza-like illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory illness (SARI) cases in all health facilities on a regular basis for detecting the early rising trend of cases.


These cases may also be tested for Covid-19, Bhushan said.

“Ensure higher samples for whole genome sequencing amongst positive samples of Covid-19 in the community so as to enable timely detection of new variants, if any, in the country,” he said.


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The official added: "Considering the upcoming festive season and New Year celebrations, there is a need to put in place requisite public health measures and other arrangements to minimise risk of increase in transmission of the disease by maintaining and strengthening focus on test-track-treat-vaccination and adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour, i.e. use of mask, hand and respiratory hygiene and adherence to physical distancing," he said.

Bhushan asked the states to ensure adequate testing in all districts, maintaining the recommended share of RT-PCR and antigen tests, and take stock of existing hospital capacities in terms of bed availability, logistic requirements as well as need for re-orientation of healthcare workers in clinical management of Covid-19 to remain prepared for any surge in cases. This may be tested by conducting "dry runs" in hospitals, he said.

"Covid-19 vaccination efforts need to be bolstered by creating community awareness. Special focus on increasing the coverage of 'precaution dose' is required by all states and UTs.

"In terms of preparedness for upcoming festivities, it is essential that all measures are put in place with relevant stakeholders like event organisers, business owners, market associations, etc. to avoid overcrowding, ensure adequate ventilation in indoor settings, wearing of masks in such places where crowds congregate," he said in the letter.

In the last few weeks, Covid-19 cases across the world have registered an increasing trajectory. India, however, continues to show a sustained decreasing trajectory of cases for the last few months and currently 153 new cases on an average are being reported daily across the country, the letter stated.

Bhushan also stressed on effective compliance of the detailed operational guidelines for revised surveillance strategy for Covid-19 as shared by the Union Ministry.

Meanwhile, the Health ministry is mulling reintroduction of mandatory Air Suvidha forms with negative report of RT-PCR test conducted 72 hours prior to travel or complete vaccination proof for passengers coming from China and other countries reporting high number of Covid cases.

A decision on this is likely to be taken next week after monitoring the global situation.


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