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Covid scare, BF7 Variant, PM’s meeting, New Guidelines and Vaccines; all you need to know

Amid a cascading surge in Covid cases in some parts of the world, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, December 22 called and chaired a high level meeting with ministers and top officials to take stock and review the preparedness as well as the surveillance of the covid situation in the country. The move came after four cases of the Omicron sub-variant BF7 were found in the country.

The main motive of this meeting was to assess the COVID-19 situation in the country, preparedness of health infrastructure and logistics, status of the vaccination campaign and the emergence of new variants and their public health implications. PM Modi cautioned against complacency and directed officials to strengthen the ongoing surveillance measures, especially at international airports.

During the high-level meeting, PM was informed that there is adequate availability with regard to medicines, vaccines and hospital beds. He advised to regularly monitor the availability and prices of essential medicines. He also advised States to audit Covid specific facilities to ensure operational readiness of Hospital Infrastructure, including oxygen cylinders, PSA plants, ventilators and human resources.

India had reported four cases of the BF.7 omicron sub-variant, the sub-variant that is the driving force behind current surge of infections in China. Sources claim about 10 different variant of covid-19 are in the country, latest being BF.7.

According to reports by Zee, a top Chinese health official said China is facing the first of three possible waves of Covid infection this winter. Since the removal of the most severe restrictions (Covid Ban) earlier this month, the country is witnessing an increase in Covid cases. Cases have increased due to shortages of Covid-19 tests. According to the report, in the next few months in China, 800 million people may get infected. It has been said in the report that in 2023, more than one million people may die due to a huge increase in the cases of Covid in China. Experts believe that the current surge in corona infections will last until mid-January, while the second wave will begin around January 21.

Earlier on Thursday, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya stressed the need for community awareness for continued implementation of the COVID Appropriate Behaviour (CAB), especially in view of the upcoming festival season.

After the high level meeting it was stressed that wearing masks in crowded public places, ramping up testing and also genomic sequencing; ‘Precaution dose’ to be encouraged especially for vulnerable and elderly groups was of utmost importance. Guidelines that stress on Covid appropriate behaviour will be issued once more by the Indian Government.

Guidelines on international travelling have already been issued as below w.e.f December 24, 10:00 AM IST :

A.1. Planning for Travel
i. All travellers should preferably be fully vaccinated as per the approved primary schedule of vaccination against COVID-19 in their Country.

A.2. During Travel

ii. In-flight announcement about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic including precautionary measures to be followed (preferable use of masks and following physical distancing) shall be made in flights/travel and at all points of entry.

iii. Any passenger having symptoms of COVID-19 during travel shall be isolated as per standard protocol
i.e. the said passenger should be wearing mask, isolated and segregated from other passengers in flight/travel and shifted to an isolation facility subsequently for follow up treatment.

A.3. On arrival
iv. De-boarding should be done ensuring physical distancing.
v. Thermal screening should be done in respect of all the passengers by the health officials present at the point of entry.

vi. The passengers found to be symptomatic during screening shall be immediately isolated, taken to a
designated medical facility as per health protocol (as above).

vii. The following protocol post arrival shall also be followed:

a) A sub-section (2% of the total passengers* in the flight) shall undergo random post arrival
testing at the airport on arrival.

b) Such travellers in each flight shall be identified by the concerned airlines (preferably from
different countries). They will submit the samples and shall be allowed to leave the airport

c) If such travellers’ samples are tested positive, their samples should be further sent for genomic
testing at INSACOG laboratory network.

d) They shall be treated/isolated as per laid down standard protocol.

viii. All travellers should self-monitor their health post arrival also shall report to their nearest health facility or call National helpline number (1075)/ State Helpline Number in case they have any symptoms suggestive.

* Children under 12 years of age are exempted from post-arrival random testing. However, if found
symptomatic for COVID-19 on arrival or during the period of self-monitoring period, they shall undergo testing and treated as per laid down protocol.

Amid the new possible outbreak the government of India on Friday, December 22 approved the use of Nasal vaccine of Covid-19 which will be used as a heterologous booster. As per reports, the nasal vaccine is expected to be added to the Co-Win portal today. According to the ANI report, the nasal vaccine for coronavirus will be included in the Covd-19 vaccination program from today onwards and it will be first available in private hospitals.

The important points on the new nasal vaccines are :
The two-drop India-made nasal vaccine, iNCOVACC, will be introduced on the Co-WIN platform Friday evening. The vaccine, manufactured by Bharat Biotech, will only be available at private centres for now. Those who have taken Covishield and Covaxin can take the nasal vaccine as a heterologous booster dose. In heterologous boosting, a person is administered a different vaccine from the one that was used for the primary dose series. The needle-free vaccine received approval of the Drugs Controller General of India in November for restricted use in an emergency situation.

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