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India Makes Testing Mandatory For Travellers From Countries Seeing Covid Spike: All You Need To Know 

The rising Covid-19 cases across the globe has prompted concerns in India too, with central health minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Saturday making the RT-PCR test mandatory for passengers flying in from countries reporting high numbers of cases, including China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand.

Announcing the measure on Twitter, the health minister said, “Air suvidha portal to be implemented for passengers arriving from China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand, RT-PCR to be made mandatory for them and if they test positive, they will be quarantined.” 

Why Is China Seeing A Sudden Spike In Cases?

The rise in infections of Covid-19 in China has been attributed to the emergence of the BF.7 sub-variant of the virus. In early December, experts flagged the rising number of Covid-19 cases in China soon after the country ended its controversial zero-Covid policy following ‘public exasperation’. Cases started spurting in the country after stringent measures, which included strict lockdowns, sealing off entire neighbourhoods, mass testing, curfews and travel curbs, were relaxed. 

Videos emerging on social media painted a bleak picture, and showed bodies piling up at hospitals and crematoriums. American public health scientist and epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding, has termed the situation ‘Thermonuclear level bad’, and warned that deaths world over could run into millions. 

“The deaths in mainland China is being hugely underreported outside of China. Through a survey of hospitals, funeral parlors & related funeral industry chains in Beijing—there is a recent explosion in funeral services caused by the sharp increase in deaths,” Ding said. U.S.-based Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) has also predicted a million deaths through 2023. 

And as the situation worsens, the country has been accused of withholding information. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has expressed “concerns over the evolving situation in China”. The emergencies chief of the global body, Dr Ryan urged China to provide more information about the latest spread of the virus. The country has also changed the criteria to record COVID deaths, saying that only those who had “directly died of respiratory failure caused by the virus” will be considered as a COVID casualty. This has meant that the country, despite a huge spike in hospitalisations and death, has only recorded no new COVID deaths.

Is It Only China That Is Seeing The Spike?

Apart from China, countries like the USA, Japan, Brazil, and the Republic of Korea have also seen a surge in Covid-19 cases. On Friday, Japan registered 371 deaths in a single day, the highest since the pandemic began, authorities said. New coronavirus-related deaths hit a three-month high, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported, quoting the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. The Covid-19 cases registered in the US since the start of the pandemic have gone above 100 million, Johns Hopkins University said in a report. 

How Is India Placed?

India, taking note of the recent developments, has decided to gear up its Covid-19 preparations. 

As on December 23, India’s active Covid-19 cases stand at only 3,397 (0.01%) and the country’s cumulative Covid vaccination coverage exceeds the 220 Cr mark

Adar Poonawala, CEO and founder of Serum Institute of India (SII) has said that there is no need to panic and that we must follow the guidelines set by the government. “The news of rising COVID cases coming out of China is concerning, we need not panic given our excellent vaccination coverage and track record. We must continue to trust and follow the guidelines set by the Government of India and @MoHFW_INDIA.” he tweeted.

What steps govt. has taken so far?

On Thursday (December 22, 2022), Prime Minister Modi chaired a high-level meeting to review the Covid-19 situation and preparedness. The Prime Minister urged people to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour and wear masks in crowded places, and also advised states to maintain strict vigil and ramp-up testing and tracking. 

Earlier, On Wednesday Union Health minister Mansukh Mandaviya also chaired a high-level meeting to review India’s covid situation and preparedness following which Health Ministry also released a notice and asked the states to gear up genome sequencing of positive case samples to track the variants through the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) network

The Ministry has also asked states to follow the operational guidelines with respect to early detection, isolation, testing, and timely management of suspected and confirmed cases to detect and contain outbreaks of Covid-19. The Union health ministry’s move to make RT- PCR test mandatory for people arriving from countries with a high number of cases and the civil aviation ministry’s decision to start random testing of 2% of International arrivals from December 24 is a step in this direction. 

Will there be any stringent measures before Christmas and New year?

No special directions regarding Christmas and New year’s eve celebrations have been announced by the government yet, but keeping in view the latest trend of Covid-19, the Union government has released SOPs for the state and the public to adhere to. 

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