Mock drills were held at health facilities across India on Tuesday to check operational readiness to deal with any spurt in COVID-19 infection, with Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya saying the country has to remain alert and prepared as cases are rising in the world.
Mandaviya oversaw the exercise at the Centre-run Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, while health ministers took stock in their respective states and gave information on available beds, oxygen support and other equipment, medicines, vaccines, etc.
The Centre had asked states and union territories to conduct the drill as part of precautionary measures following an increase in infection in China and other countries.
"To make sure there isn't a Covid surge in the country, PM Modi has asked us to be careful. Hence it is important that the entire COVID infrastructure in terms of equipment, processes and human resources are in a state of operational readiness,” he said, adding government and private hospitals were making arrangements to ensure the people do not face any difficulty.
Clinical readiness at hospitals is crucial, Mandaviya said.
He cautioned against complacency and urged everyone to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour. He also asked people to refrain from sharing unverified information and ensure a high-level of preparedness.
"To prevent an outbreak, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed us to stay alert and remain prepared," he said.
India recorded a single-day rise of 157 new COVID-19 cases, while the count of active cases of the disease has marginally decreased to 3,421, according to Union Health Ministry data updated on Tuesday.
In Delhi, besides the LNJP Hospital, the drill was conducted at various other government hospitals like Centre-run Safdarjung Hospital and private hospitals too, including the Apollo hospital in south Delhi.
Delhi deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the health portfolio, visited the Delhi government-run Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan (LNJP) Hospital around noon to assess the drill and asserted that the city government-run hospitals were "fully equipped" to fight Covid.
"The Delhi government is prepared for any kind of emergency. At LNJP, there are 2,000 beds and 450 of them are marked for COVID-19. If a need arises, we can dedicate all 2,000 beds for COVID-19... we can also increase this number by using nearby banquet halls and add an additional 500 beds for COVID-19, so there would be no shortage," Sisodia told reporters at the hospital.
Four international travellers from Myanmar, who tested positive for Covid at the Delhi airport, are admitted to the Safdarjung Hospital and their samples have been sent for genome sequencing
In Mumbai, medical facilities including Seven Hills Hospital (having 1,700 beds) and Cama Hospital (100 beds) conducted the mock drill.
J J Hospital's Dean Dr Pallavi Saple told PTI that they conducted the mock drill in line with the instructions from health authorities.
According to the state health department, 44,666 passengers arrived at Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur international airports, and at least 703 underwent RT-PCR tests and two tested positive for the infection.
The samples of the infected passengers were sent for genome sequencing, it said.
In Madhya Pradesh, state medical education minister Vishvas Sarang said the drills were conducted in all government medical institutions in the state.
“We are ready to deal with any situation. The drill was conducted to check the preparedness of oxygen generation, intensive care unit, Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, oxygen supported beds, medicines,” Sarang said while appealing to all to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour.
Uttar Pradesh deputy Chief Minister Brajesh Pathak said the mock covered all COVID hospitals in the state.
"I personally checked the Covid management (facilities), oxygen flow and ventilators at Lucknow's Balrampur Hospital. Everything is working fine," told reporters.
At least one senior officer, MLA or minister is present at the drills in hospitals across the state, Pathak said.
Officials in West Bengal said the mock drill was conducted at Kolkata-based hospitals including MR Bangur Hospital, Infectious Diseases and Beleghata General Hospital.
All private hospitals in the city and one hospital each in the districts are also taking part in the drill, they said.
In Gujarat, officials said at least one lakh beds and 15,000 ICUs with ventilators are ready to be converted for the use of COVID-19 patients
State health minister Rushikesh Patel said Gujarat has prepared a comprehensive plan and reviewed the preparedness of the existing health infrastructure in case of any eventuality on the pandemic front.
The government will also launch a fresh drive for administering booster doses after receiving 12 lakh doses of Covaxin and Covishield vaccines for which it has placed a fresh order, the minister told reporters.
In Odisha, about 59 per cent of the eligible people are yet to receive the booster dose of the coronavirus vaccines and the state government has urged the Centre to supply the shots to expedite the vaccination drive, an official said.
The Odisha government is also planning to hold next year's state board examinations for classes 10 and 12 adhering to the Covid guidelines.
Education Minister SR Dash said though the use of masks is not made mandatory now, it is better to protect oneself from the infection as Omicron sub-variant BF.7 has created havoc in certain countries.
It came to the fore on December 21 that one case of BF.7, apparently the strain driving China's current surge of covid cases, has been detected in Odisha.
The Sikkim government on Tuesday issued an advisory asking people to take precautionary measures to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19 disease again in the state.
The residents of the Himalayan state have been asked to observe social distancing and use face masks while visiting public places, Sikkim Chief Secretary V B Pathak said in a notification issued by the home department.
Tamil Nadu health minister Ma Subramanian, who oversaw a mock drill at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital in Chennai, said the state had a sufficient stock of medicines, beds, equipment and oxygen to tackle any spike in COVID-19 cases.
Also, district-level health officials have been told to inspect the facilities to assess the preparedness and submit a report to the health department soon, he said.
Of the total bed strength, about 1,14,471 beds have been earmarked for COVID-19. Of these, 68,624 are non-oxygen beds, 37,526 oxygen beds and 8,321 intensive care unit beds in both government and private hospitals in the state.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi where the southern state's COVID-19-related preparedness was among the issues discussed.
COVID drill was also held in hospitals in other states including Uttarkhand, Goa, Rajasthan, Kerala and Telangana, and Union territories like Puducherry and Jammu and Kashmir.
All the healthcare institutions were found to be in the state of preparedness to tackle any upsurge of cases in Jammu and Kashmir, said Secretary, Health and Medical Education Department, Bhupinder Kumar, who monitored the conduct of mock drill exercises across the Union territory.
Union Minister Bharati Pravin Pawar was in Port Blair to take stock of the situation in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.