Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday asked officials at a high-level meeting to review plans for easing of international travel restrictions amid rising global concerns over a new strain of the coronavirus, which the World Health Organization has named ‘Omicron’. The variant has been classified as a highly transmissible virus of concern.
PM Modi chaired a comprehensive meeting, which lasted for almost two hours to review the public health preparedness and vaccination related situation for Covid-19, said Prime Minister’s Office.
The meeting was attended by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, P K Mishra, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan and NITI Aayog member (health) Dr V K Paul among others.
“PM was briefed about the global trends on Covid-19 infections and cases. Officials highlighted that countries across the world have experienced multiple Covid surges since the onset of the pandemic. PM also reviewed the national situation relating to Covid-19 cases and test positivity rates.
“PM was apprised of the progress in vaccination and the efforts being made under the ‘Har Ghar Dastak’ campaign. PM 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. PM was also given details about the sero-positivity in the country from time to time and its implications in public health response,” added PMO.
Officials briefed PM about ‘Omicron’ along with its characteristics and the impact seen in various countries. Its implications for India were also discussed. PM spoke about the need to be proactive in light of the new variant. PM said that in light of the new threat, people need to more cautious and the need to take proper precautions like masking and 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’. PM also asked officials to review plans for easing of international travel restrictions in light of the emerging new evidence.
Scheduled international flights to and from India will be resumed from December 15 after 20 months of coronavirus-induced suspension, the Civil Aviation Ministry said on Friday.
However, the countries deemed ‘at risk’ of COVID-19 by the Union Health Ministry will be allowed to operate only a certain percentage of their pre-Covid scheduled flights, the Aviation Ministry clarified.
The Health Ministry on Friday said the countries in Europe, including the United Kingdom, and South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel have been put in the ‘at-risk’ category.
India’s decision to resume scheduled international passenger flights came at a time when various countries such as Britain, Germany, Singapore, Israel, France and Italy have restricted air travel from southern Africa where a new coronavirus variant of serious health implications has been reported.
PM was, on Saturday, given an overview of the sequencing efforts in the country and the variants circulating in the country. PM directed that genome sequencing samples be collected from international travellers and community as per norms, tested through the network of labs already established under INSACOG and early warning signal identified for Covid-19 management. PM spoke about the need to increase the sequencing efforts and make it more broad-based.
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. PM also asked that awareness needs to be created about ventilation and air-borne behaviour of the virus.
Officials briefed PM that they are following a facilitative approach to newer pharmaceutical products. PM 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.
PM asked officials to co-ordinate with states to endure proper functioning of PSA oxygen plants & ventilators.