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COVID-19: Centre Asks States to Monitor “Influenza-like Illness,” Karnataka Makes Masks Compulsory for Senior Citizens

COVID-19: Centre Asks States to Monitor “Influenza-like Illness,” Karnataka Makes Masks Compulsory for Senior Citizens


Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Dec 18: The Centre on Monday issued an advisory to states urging them to monitor and report any influenza-like illness amid rising cases of Covid-19 in the country, the Karnataka government has asked the senior citizens with comorbidities, and symptoms of cough, phlegm and fever to mandatorily wear face masks.

“As the Covid-19 virus continues to circulate and its epidemiology behaviour gets settled in Indian weather conditions and circulation of other usual pathogens, it is of utmost importance that we maintain a state of constant vigil over the Covid-19 situation, right up to the district levels,” said the Ministry of Health in its advisory.

India’s Covid-19 situation remains under control, with an active caseload of 1,828 as of on Monday. However, one death was reported in Kerala, where the JN.1 subvariant of the coronavirus was recently detected.

Increased tests among those with such symptoms and suspected cases, and heightened surveillance in border districts are among the measures that the officials have been instructed to take up, the Karnataka Health Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao told reporters. The situation is being continuously monitored, and there is no need for any restriction on movement and gathering of people as of now, he said, adding, the Government would come out with an advisory.

Dr NK Arora, the chief of INSACOG, a network of genomic laboratories that tracks genomic variants of the virus, said the death was not caused by the subvariant alone but by multiple underlying health conditions. Dr Arora emphasised that “INSACOG is closely monitoring the situation, studying the epidemiology and clinical behaviour of the virus.”

The Centre, citing the upcoming festive season, said there was need to “put in place requisite public health measures and other arrangements to minimize risk of increase in transmission of the diseases by adherence to maintenance of respiratory hygiene.” The states have been asked to monitor and report district-wise influenza-like illness and severe acute respiratory illness cases in all health facilities on a regular basis.

In the wake of the surge in respiratory diseases and the new JN.1 Covid-19 sub-variant, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the virus was evolving and changing and urged the member states to continue with strong surveillance and sequence sharing.

“Ensure a higher number of RT-PCR tests and send the positive samples for genome sequencing to Indian SARS COV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) laboratories so as to enable timely detection of new variants, if any, in the country,’ the Centre told states. The Centre also urged the states to promote community awareness.

The Karnataka government said it would, based on the situation, decide what further measures need to be taken. Along with stepping up surveillance at the border, instructions have been issued to increase testing and those with symptoms and suspicious cases are being asked to compulsorily undergo testing.

“In a couple of days we will get to know if the infections are increasing or not. As we increase COVID tests, if more positive cases are recorded, we will decide on further measures that need to be taken. There is no need for imposing any curbs or restrictions now itself,” Mr Rao said.



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