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Centre rings alarm amid Covid comeback in China, calls for genome sequencing, surveillance at high-level meet

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Wednesday chaired a high-level meeting in the wake of a humongous rise in the Covid-19 cases in China and South East Asia. Official sources told News18 that Mandaviya asked for a high level of alertness, aggressive genome sequencing and intensified surveillance. The meeting was attended by top health officials, including the health secretary, pharma secretary and the principal scientific adviser to the Government of India, sources added.

The meeting comes as China is seeing a comeback of Covid-19 cases led by an Omicron-led outbreak with the country on Wednesday reporting 3,290 fresh infections. China also huddled to free up hospital beds as the highly transmissible Omicron variant is posing a stern challenge to its zero-Covid strategy, resulting in the 17.5 million residents of the southern tech hub of Shenzhen being locked down and other cities also under tight restrictions.

Meanwhile, mortuaries in Hong Kong are overflowing with Covid victims as the country is reeling under a deadly outbreak led by the Omicron variant.

In under three months, since the highly transmissible variant broke through, Hong Kong has recorded nearly a million infections and more than 4,600 deaths — the bulk of them from the city’s unvaccinated elderly population. A funeral industry representative told local media the soaring death toll had seen a crunch in the city’s coffins supply, with only 300 remaining and expected to be gone by the weekend.

In India, the third Covid wave, triggered by Omicron, had plateaued and the number of cases started declining after January 21 when 3,47,254 infections were reported. Experts even said that India may not see a fourth wave unless another variant emerges. Eminent virologist Dr T Jacob John had said it can be confidently concluded that the third wave has ended and the country has entered an endemic phase once again.

India on Wednesday reported 2,876 new infections, taking the country’s total Covid tally to 42,998,938, while the number of active cases dipped to 32,811, the health ministry said. The death toll stood at 516,072. India today also began administering doses of the Covid vaccine to children aged 12 to 14 years as public and private schools re-opened.

The government aims to swiftly expand vaccine coverage by also dropping a restriction on booster doses for those older than 60 only if they had a co-morbidity condition. News18

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