Staying prepared

Why in News?

  • Surging COVID-19 cases in China.


  • China abandoned its Zero-COVID strategy abruptly after three years of strict enforcement. This led to a massive jump in the daily number of cases. It was estimated by media, hospitals, and crematoria that approximately 250 million people were infected in 20 days in December 2022.
  • It was observed that BF.7 appears to be the dominant variant in China. There is fear that the uncontrolled spread of the virus in China might cause newer variants with higher transmissibility. For example, the BF.7 sub-lineage with three additional immune escape mutations was already found in other variants infecting people arriving from China.
  • It is suggested by experts that these mutations may increase transmissibility further but will not increase disease severity. 
  • With the COVID cases rising in a few more countries, India has adopted proactive measures. 
  • Approximately 90% of the adult population in India was already fully vaccinated by July 2022. Moreover, around one-fourth of adults were also boosted, and a large share of the population was also naturally infected. This reduces the chances of India facing the risk of large-scale deaths from existing variants. 
  • As a large share of the population enjoys hybrid immunity (vaccination and natural infection), India should focus on the increase in hospitalizations, specifically ICU admissions instead of daily cases.

India’s response to rising cases:

  • The Health Ministry has rightly urged States to ramp up genome sequencing (instead of testing) so that new variants are tracked. It should be noted that a virus evolves by accumulating mutations. 
  • In order to minimize the risk of the spread of new variants, the government has introduced 2% random post-arrival sampling of international passengers and mandatory RT-PCR tests for arrivals from China and four other countries. 
  • The states are also advised to ensure an uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen and conduct a drill in health facilities to ensure operational readiness. 
  • In terms of vaccines, India is self-sufficient with seven COVID-19 vaccines. Moreover, apart from homologous boosters, a couple of vaccines have got approval as heterologous booster doses too. 
  • On the antiviral front, a Hyderabad-based company has received WHO’s prequalification for a generic version of Pfizer’s COVID-19 oral antiviral drug, Paxlovid.
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