Amid reports of new SARS-CoV-2 virus strains emerging, the ministry of health and family welfare has made RT-PCR report, not older than 72 hours, mandatory for passengers travelling from South Africa, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand and Zimbabwe. Earlier, this advisory was for arrivals from the UK, Europe and the Middle East countries.
The new variant was first detected in South Africa in May. Only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to board the flights to India and will again be tested for Covid through RT-PCR test upon arrival. The ministry has also asked the states to send a fixed percentage of samples of positive cases among international travellers for genome surveillance.
The ministry struck a note of caution ahead of the festive season and said full vaccination should be a pre-requisite for holding mass gatherings. Indian Council of Medical Research director-general Dr Balram Bhargava said, “Mass gatherings should be discouraged particularly in the forthcoming festive season. Full vaccination should be a pre-requisite if it is critical to hold a large gathering.” Niti Aayog member (health) VK Paul also emphasised on the need for restraint during the festive season. “We need to be careful and ensure that we celebrate the festivals within the family. We should ensure that we shop carefully without crowding our marketplaces.”
According to health ministry statistics, about 54% of the targeted adult population of India has received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and 16% is fully vaccinated. Two states and one UT – Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Dadra and Nagar Haveli – have administered one dose of vaccine to its entire adult population. At least five other states and UTs have achieved coverage of over 85% of the adult population with one dose. These include Tripura (89%), Ladakh (88%), Daman and Diu (88%), Lakshadweep (88%) and Mizoram (85%).
The boost in the vaccination drive comes when India’s fight against Covid-19 is at a crucial juncture. The cases, which have been on a decline over the past nine weeks, are showing an uptick in at least 39 districts. The weekly case positivity, which was down to 1.94% in the week between July 29 and August 4, is up at 2.22% in the week August 19 to August 25.