NEW DELHI: Expressing concern that mass congregations may transmit infectious diseases, including Covid-19, the centre has asked states to ensure that people are asymptomatic and fully vaccinated to attend yatras and religious gatherings.
In a letter to the states, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said if need be, these states should launch vaccination drives, including the administration of booster doses to all eligible people at least a fortnight in advance for those planning to join.
The centre’s directions came as the country saw a spike in Covid cases. It is feared that as many states will be organising various festivals and religious yatras in the coming months, it could lead to a bigger surge.
Bhushan also said that arrangements must be made for testing at multiple locations. Healthcare workers, frontline workers and volunteers engaged in such events should also be asymptomatic and fully vaccinated.
India has reported 11,793 new cases and 27 deaths due to Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, per the union health ministry data.
Asking states to strengthen surveillance during the event, the ministry asked them to maintain a watch over the occurrence of isolated/cluster of new Covid-19 cases and to take prompt public health measures accordingly.
The letter also said that precautions need to be taken by older adults and those with comorbid conditions (like diabetes, hypertension, chronic lung/liver/kidney diseases etc.) while planning to participate in such events.
They were asked to consult their treating doctor and continue taking their medication throughout the period while closely monitoring their health.
In events like religious yatras, where en route congregation points are expected, the ministry asked the concerned states to identify major routes scheduled to be taken and to organise requisite health facilities.
It also listed various other steps, including setting-up health desks at main destinations and halting places throughout the routes, to make provisions for referral and transport of severe cases to the nearest identified health facilities.
It also asked them to review and strengthen the existing hospital bed capacity, including human resources, drugs, oxygen, equipment, ambulance etc.
Public meetings, prayer, seating and lodging arrangements on the route and halting points should be made in outdoor or well-ventilated areas with the provision of thermal screening and hand washing, the letter said.
Regular cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces -handrails, queue barricades, seats, benches, washrooms - at the primary destination and halting places throughout the road should be taken up, the states were told.
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