Omicron spread: Vaccinate teens in mission mode, says PM Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, chairing a high-level review meeting on Sunday, called for accelerating vaccination in the 15-18 age group in mission mode and ensuring adequate health infrastructure in districts.

The review meeting, held to take stock of the country’s Covid preparedness, came on the day India registered around 160,000 cases and the daily positivity rate crossed 10 per cent.

India has given the first dose of the Covid vaccine to 31 per cent the adolescents aged 15-18 years so far within seven days. The prime minister said even as Covid cases were rising, non-Covid health services should not be disrupted.

“Leverage telemedicine to ensure availability of health-related guidance to people in remote and rural areas,” he said. “Ensure effective usage of masks and physical distancing measures as a new normal to control the spread,” Modi said.

Modi said there was a need for continuous scientific research in testing, vaccines, and pharmacological interventions, including genome sequencing, given that the virus was evolving continuously.

He asked the officials to hold a meeting with chief ministers to discuss state-specific scenarios, best-practices, and the public health response.

Delhi logged 22,751 cases and a positivity rate of more than 23 per cent on Sunday. Mumbai saw a slight decline with 19,474 cases on the same day.

Modi also said vaccination coverage through precaution doses, which become available from Monday, for health care workers and front line workers should also be taken up in mission mode. He was apprised of predictive scenarios of peak cases in the current wave.

As Omicron cases see a rapid rise, around 400 staff members of Parliament are reported to have tested positive over the past five days.

With the Budget session just a few days away, reports said 65 staffers of the Rajya Sabha Secretariat, 200 of the Lok Sabha Secretariat, and 133 of allied services tested positive during January 4-8 during regular tests.

Modi said intensive containment and active surveillance should continue in clusters reporting higher cases and the required technical support be provided to states in such areas. Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Monday will meet state health ministers to take stock of the Covid situation and preparedness.

The Delhi government on Sunday said it did not plan to impose any lockdown if people wore masks and maintained the social distance. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the next plan of action would be decided on Monday.

In Delhi, on May 7 last year, which fell during the second wave of the pandemic, 20,000 cases with 341 deaths were reported. Stressing the lower virulence of Omicron, Kejriwal said on January 8, with a similar number of cases, 17 deaths were reported in the city.

On the same day, around 20,000 beds were occupied in Delhi while on January 8, the number was 1,500.

With several Covid clusters developing in parts of Tamil Nadu, the state is likely to come up with fresh regulations after a review meeting on Monday. Almost 60,000 police officials were deployed in Tamil Nadu to ensure that Sunday lockdown was implemented properly.

According to a news report, Karnataka Health Minister Sudhakar K said the third wave was expected to peak in mid-February in the state. The number of Covid cases rose by 12,000 in Karnataka on Sunday. Of those, more than 9,000 were in Bengaluru.

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