NEW DELHI — The number of new coronavirus illness infections in India surpassed 6,155 on Saturday, prompting authorities to increase surveillance efforts to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control.
The World Health Organization has identified an omicron sub-variant, XBB.1.16, as the source of the infection rise in India. XBB.1.16, also known as Arcturus, has high infectivity and pathogenicity and has been designated as a WHO variety under surveillance since late March.
The number of reported daily cases in India surpassed 6,000 for the first time in more than 200 days on Friday, prompting Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya to encourage states to be on high alert, increase testing and immunizations, and begin reviewing their preparation on Saturday.
“States must continue to work collaboratively as they did during previous surges for COVID-19 prevention and management,” he added, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Health during a meeting with regional health chiefs.
In addition, the minister “urged state health ministers to conduct mock drills of all hospital infrastructure on April 10 and 11, 2023, and to review health preparedness with district administrations and health officials on April 8 and 9, 2023.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged India, particularly during the second viral wave, which will occur between March and May 2021, when its hospitals will be unable to treat the patients due to a lack of staff, beds, and oxygen. People with empty oxygen cylinders were seen waiting up at refilling stations in the hopes of saving relatives in critical care.
Because funeral services could not handle the enormous amount of bodies, many individuals were forced to use temporary facilities for mass burials and cremations.
It is unknown how many people died during that time period. The death toll in India is estimated to be at 480,000 from January 2020 to December 2021, however WHO estimates that 4.7 million people have died as a result of the pandemic.
Following the latest infection outbreak, medical professionals agreed that greater attention and precautionary measures should be reinstated.
“I suppose whenever it goes above 5% positivity rate, this advisory kicks it… the government is correct,” said Dr. Dorairaj Prabhakaran, an epidemiologist with the Public Health Foundation of India.
Some argue that, in addition to increased testing and immunization, an action plan should be implemented.
“What exactly is the intervention?” According to the WHO, wearing (masks) and keeping social distance have no such effect. It’s fine to say “test more,” but is that enough? “What kind of preparation does the government intend to undertake?” wondered Prof. Rama V. Baru of the Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Center of Social Medicine and Community Health in New Delhi.
“We know we’re under-testing, and there’s an increase in reported cases — does this mean it’s another variant?” It ought to be.”