The mask mandate has partly returned in India, though limited to one state so far, with some conditions. PM Narendra Modi also held a review meeting after a spike in China, and reiterated an advisory on norms that are not yet binding.
Face masks will be a must in closed spaces and air-conditioned rooms in Karnataka, the state government said. It also decided to conduct mandatory testing of Influenza-like Illnesses (ILI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) in the state.
In UP, Taj Mahal in Agra is on alert in particular as visitors they will have to undergo a Covid test before they can enter, sources said. The state has otherwise followed the Centre in issuing an advisory to districts.
In Gujarat, Health Minister Rushikesh Patel underlined three persons found infected with the BF.7 variant, which is behind the surge in China, have recovered in home isolation. A meeting of district health officials was held and they were given necessary instructions, an official release said. “More than 1 lakh beds are available… Gujarat currently has only 23 active cases.”
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also gave out some numbers to assure the people that the national capital “must not worry”. At the moment, 2,500 tests are being conducted and these can be increased to 1 lakh if there is a surge. “We have 8,000 beds ready for Covid patients. At the time its peak, we had readied 25,000 beds but the bed capacity can be increased to 36,000.”
In West Bengal, too, based on an advisory from the Centre, the state government has told health authorities to be extra vigilant. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, “We have set up a committee to take care of what is going on.” The Gangasagar Mela (January 8-17) will take place, she said: “Will people not celebrate festivals? Right now, there are no cases here. If it comes here, we will ask people to wear masks and take precautions. I don’t want to presume it will.”
The Maharashtra health department has asked all district administrations and municipal corporations to increase testing. While the fatality rate and hospitalisation are going down in Maharashtra, Health Minister Tanaji Sawant directed all districts to strictly follow the five-point plan — test, track, treat, vaccinate and (ensure) COVID-19 appropriate behaviour.
The Punjab government is also carrying out a review but is not inclined to rimposing any restrictions. “We just have nine active cases of Covidl 16 districts do not have any positive cases of Covid 19 so far,” said Chetan Singh Jouramajra, the Health Minister.
Kerala has issued a general alert, but stressed that there is no cause for concern. Several others states did the same, and are awaiting a cue from the Centre if the situation turns.
On the Centre’s directions, incoming international travellers are being scanned — 2 per cent random sampling. Direct flights to and from China are already banned since the beginning of the pandemic two years ago.
With the surge in China likely to hit a high of 35 lakh cases a day by next months — official numbers are much lower — India remains worried like the rest of the world, even though cases are below 200 a day for a while now. Some experts say China saw a particularly bad surge as immunity level are lower because of repeated infections.
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