Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently chaired a high-level meeting to evaluate the preparedness of health infrastructure and logistics, status of the vaccination campaign, emergence of new COVID-19 variants and influenza types, and their implications on public health in India. The meeting was held in the wake of a spike in influenza cases and a rise in COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks. The Secretary of Health, MoHFW presented a comprehensive report on the global COVID-19 situation, including the rising cases in India. The PM was informed that India has been experiencing a slight rise in new cases, with an average of 888 daily cases reported and a weekly positivity rate of 0.98% in the week ending on March 22, 2023. However, globally, 1.08 lakh daily average cases were reported during the same week.
The PM was also briefed on the action taken on the directions given during the last COVID-19 review held on December 22, 2022. The availability and prices of 20 main COVID drugs, 12 other drugs, eight buffer drugs, and one influenza drug are being monitored. A mock drill was conducted on December 27, 2022, in 22,000 hospitals, and many remedial measures were taken by hospitals thereafter.
The PM was apprised of the influenza situation in the country, particularly with respect to a higher number of cases of H1N1 and H3N2 being noted in the last few months. He 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 PM emphasised COVID-appropriate behaviour, including wearing masks in hospital premises by both patients, health professionals, and health workers. He also stressed that wearing masks is advisable when senior citizens and those with co-morbidities visit crowded areas. He directed effective monitoring of IRI/SARI cases and testing for influenza, SARS-CoV-2, and Adenovirus to be followed up with states. Further, the PM stressed the need to ensure the availability of required drugs and logistics for influenza and COVID-19 across health facilities along with sufficient beds and health human resources.
He highlighted that the pandemic is far from over, and there is a need to monitor the status across the country regularly. The PM advised continuing to focus on the 5-fold strategy of Test-Track-Treat-Vaccination and COVID-appropriate behaviour, enhancing Lab Surveillance and testing of all Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) cases. Mock drills should be conducted regularly to ensure that hospitals are ready for all exigencies.
The meeting was attended by PK Mishra, Principal Secretary to PM; Dr V K Paul, Member (Health) NITI Aayog; Rajiv Gauba, Cabinet Secretary; Secretary, Health & Family Welfare; Secretary, Pharmaceuticals and Secretary, Biotechnology; DG, ICMR; Amit Khare, Advisor, PMO along with other senior officials.