India announces nationwide Covid drill

Coronavirus Lockdown

Hospitals have been told to check their readiness for a potential surge in infections

Top health officials in India have held a series of meetings this week to assess how the global Covid-19 pandemic could evolve and affect the country, and how to ensure that the healthcare system is fully prepared to respond to a possible surge in cases during the holiday season.

At a meeting on Friday, chaired by Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, state health officials “assured” the central government in New Delhi that “they will hold mock drill for readiness of hospital infrastructure” on December 27, according to a press release from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. It remains unclear what exactly the exercises would involve, but the state health ministers were told to “personally monitor and review the preparedness of all infrastructure and ensure there is adequate stock of essential medicines.” 

“There is no need to panic. We have 3 years of experience in pandemic management,” Dr Mandaviya tweeted after the meeting, reassuring citizens that the central government would “take action” if needed and provide the states with “all the support to combat Covid-19.”

While India has seen a steady decline in daily Covid-19 cases in recent months, New Delhi is concerned about outbreaks in other countries, and the possibility of the situation worsening during the holiday season.

“Covid is not over yet. I have directed all concerned to be alert and strengthen surveillance,” the minister said earlier this week, as he announced that India would begin randomly testing around 2 percent of international travelers arriving at the country’s airports.

The decision to conduct a nationwide “mock drill” comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted another top-level meeting to assess the overall Covid-19 situation and status of the vaccination campaign, as well as preparedness of the country’s health infrastructure and logistics for the possible emergence of new Covid-19 variants.

India’s neighbor China is currently experiencing a surge in Covid-19 infections after the authorities abruptly lifted strict restrictions earlier in December.

China – where infections had been reduced to almost zero earlier this year – reported 3,761 new cases of the disease but no deaths on Thursday, putting the total number of infections this week at 14,285, with seven fatalities.

However, reports suggest that the actual situation is much worse than the official figures suggest. Bloomberg claimed that internal papers from China’s National Health Commission, seen by its journalists, spoke of up to 248 million people, or nearly 18% of the country’s population, being infected with Covid over the past few weeks. Experts cited by AP forecast between one and two million deaths related to the virus in the country in 2023.

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