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Covid Almost Endemic But We Are On High Alert For Each New Variant: Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya

The minister said the situation is stable now after more than three years of one of the worst pandemics to hit the world but all necessary measures would remain in place to guard against any variant that can prove to be deadly

Covid Almost Endemic But We Are On High Alert For Each New Variant: Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya
Dr. Mandaviya said, more than 220 crore doses of Covid vaccines have been administered in India with about 90 per cent of India's eligible population fully vaccinated

New Delhi: COVID-19 is on the verge of becoming endemic but Indian scientists are keeping a close watch on each new variant and the government would continue to maintain a high alert, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has said, underlining that the virus has managed to survive and is going to stay.

In an exclusive video interview with PTI, the minister said the situation is stable now after more than three years of one of the worst pandemics to hit the world but all necessary measures would remain in place to guard against any variant that can prove to be deadly.

The deadly virus was first detected in China in late 2019 while the first case in India was reported in late January 2020. Since then, close to 4.5 crore positive cases have been reported in India and more than five lakh have died during multiple waves.

However, the caseload has declined significantly in recent months and the number of active cases now stands at just about 1,800 with close to 99 per cent overall recovery rate and about one per cent fatality rate.

Only 36 new cases were reported on Tuesday, the lowest since March 2020 and miniscule in comparison to a record of over four lakh new cases reported in a day at the peak of the pandemic in May 2021 and again more than three lakh in January 2022.

Also, more than 220 crore doses of Covid vaccines have been administered in India with about 90 per cent of India’s eligible population fully vaccinated. He said,

Covid is on the verge of entering the endemic stage (endemic ki kagaar pe hai) but our team of scientists at ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) is keeping a close watch on each variant of Covid. Till now, more than 224 variants of Covid have been noticed in the country, continuous genome sequencing is being done for each variant

Also Read: Those Who Get Jabbed Become ‘Baahubali’; Over 40 Crore People Vaccinated Against COVID: PM Modi 

The minister said whenever a new variant is found, it is isolated and then tested for effectiveness of the vaccine and it is also measured how deadly it is. The minister said,

All of this is a continuous process and we keep closely tracking it so that we can guard against and be prepared against any variant in the future that can cause any destruction. The situation is stable as of now across the world and, keeping the future in mind, we are alert. But I would say that it is a virus and this virus is never going to go away as it has managed to survive. Just like (the) influenza virus has survived somehow and whenever a new variant comes, people experience cough, fever, etc, but does not harm the people much, something similar will happen with Covid and largely that has happened now

According to experts, a disease is called endemic when its presence becomes constant, based on established patterns, in a population within a particular geographical area, as is the case with seasonal influenza.

Globally, more than 76 crore confirmed COVID-19 cases and nearly 69 lakh deaths have been reported so far while 1,340 crore vaccine doses have been administered. The cases saw their biggest spike in December 2022, nearly a year after the earlier peak of January 2022. However, in terms of deaths, the worst period was January 2021 and the situation remained worrisome for almost a year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced last month that Covid was now “an established and ongoing health issue which no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC)” but stopped short of declaring it an endemic.

Recounting the fight against the pandemic, Dr. Mandaviya, who took charge of the health ministry in the middle of the coronavirus crisis in July 2021, said Covid management was a big challenge for a vast and diverse country like India, but its success story has now become an example for the entire world. He also holds the charge of the pharmaceutical department as Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers, which he has held for much longer.

Also Read: Mann Ki Baat: PM Modi Urges People To Overcome COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy

He also dismissed suggestions that approvals for vaccines were rushed without taking into account long-term side effects and that the recent spate of heart attacks was linked to it, saying the entire process from vaccine research to its administration followed all established international standards.

He said vaccine development and approvals used to take much longer earlier due to various physical and manual processes but the authorities and scientists made full use of the latest technology, including artificial intelligence, this time and, therefore, the entire process could be fast-tracked.

Dr. Mandaviya, a BJP leader from Gujarat known to enjoy the trust of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for long said, let me tell you that PM Modi followed scientific ways for all procedures from the very beginning, from Covid management to vaccine research to approvals to the vaccination drive. It was the PM’s direction because of which INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium) and several other taskforce and empowered groups were set up for vaccine approvals and other protocols. In the entire Covid journey, we followed scientific ways to fight this pandemic. Scientists told us when the vaccines should be approved, and the entire data and data analysis was done as per international standards. India followed the same international standards that were followed by global companies. He said,

The minister said it all indeed happened very fast in India but those questioning the speed must understand why the approvals came early. The times have changed. Earlier, data would get collected, their physical analysis would take place, and a lot of procedures would happen manually, but today we have artificial intelligence, the latest modelling methods, and digital technology, and we thought how can we speed up things by using all of these

He further added,

Whatever international practice is there for vaccine research and vaccine approval, India followed the same. India’s vaccines are now known as the best in the world as they not only saved India but helped save the rest of the world also. Not just one, but five Indian-researched and Indian-manufactured vaccines are in the market today. Our vaccination journey has been based on scientific data while following all scientific protocols and methods, that I can assure you

Also Read: COVID Challenge Remains As Long As Infection Exists Even At Minor Scale: PM Modi

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – theLGBTQ population,indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the currentCOVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water,SanitationandHygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fightmalnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health,adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues likeair pollution,waste management,plastic ban,manual scavengingand sanitation workers andmenstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India wheretoiletsare used andopen defecation free (ODF)status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched byPrime Minister Narendra Modiin 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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