Rajat Sharma

India on full alert after fresh outbreak of Covid in China

AKb (1)Amid reports of mass outbreak of a new variant of Covid-19 in China, the Centre today advised people to wear masks in crowded areas with immediate effect. The Centre has also ordered screening of all air passengers coming to India from China.

At a high-level review meeting on Wednesday, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya chalked out a strategy to tackle the emerging crisis. Mandaviya later tweeted: “COVID is not over yet. I have directed all concerned to be alert and strengthen surveillance. We are prepared to manage any situation.”

Dr. V. K. Paul, member, NITI Aayog, and head of the national task force on Covid, asked people not to panic because adequate tests are being conducted. He advised people to wear masks in crowded areas, start reusing hand sanitizers and avoid crowds.

Though there is no change in guidelines for international air travel yet, Congress MP Manish Tewari today demanded that the Centre must immediately stop all international flights from China.

On Tuesday night, the Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan in a circular to all state governments, directed them to conduct genome sequencing of positive Covid cases to check any new variant. In his letter, he wrote, it was essential to gear up the whole genome sequencing of positive case samples to track variants through Indian SARS COV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACoG) network.”

Taking cognizance of a sudden spurt in the number of Covid cases in China, Japan, US, South Korea and Brazil, the health secretary said, “such an (genome sequencing) exercise will enable timely detection of newer variants, if any, circulating in India and will facilitate undertaking of requisite public health measures for the same.”

The Centre has asked all state governments to ensure that samples of all positive cases are sent on a daily basis to the designated INSACOG Genome Sequencing Laboratories, that are mapped to states and union territories. So far, the health secretary said, India with its focus on five-fold strategy ot test, track, treat, vaccination and adherence to Covid appropriate behaviour, has been able to restrict transmission of Covid-19 virus and is having around 1200 cases on a weekly basis.

In my primetime show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Tuesday night, we showed videos of hundreds of bodies lying in hospital corridors and outside funeral parlours and electric crematoriums of China. Though Chinese authorities are trying to underplay the number of Covid-related deaths, the visuals belie their claims. Hospitals in China are full and have run out of beds for new Covid patients. The situation is so acute that patients are being given saline drip outside hospitals.

The pandemic in China appears to have gone out of control, with President Xi Jinping’s government saying that only deaths due to respiratory failure will be counted as Covid-related deaths. This is really strange. China was the first to implement “zero Covid policy”, it claimed to have manufactured the first Covid vaccine Sinovac. It claimed that it has given double doses of this vaccine to 90.2 per cent of its population.

As of November 21 this year, China claimed it administered 346 crore 40 lakhs 9,039 Covid doses. And yet, it failed to prevent the outbreak in its latest wave. Souces said, in capital Beijing alone, there were 2,700 Covid-related deaths on a single day (December 17). All electric crematoriums in Beijing are working round-the-clock to cope with the influx of bodies to be cremated.

The strangest part is that despite the outbreak, Chinese authorities have removed all Covid-related restrictions. All international flights are operating normally. The visuals of patients gasping for breath in hospitals and bodies lying in the corridor are really worrying. It could be the beginning of a fresh deadliest wave of the pandemic. WHO officials are not aware about the new variant of the virus that is sweeping China. Chinese authorities are hiding facts and figures.

In ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ show, we showed bodies lying on stretchers in the corridor of a hospital in Zhuhai city of China. There is no place left in hospital mortuary for keeping bodies. These visuals relive memories of the deadly Delta variant that swept India last year killing several lakhs of people. The new variant is spreading faster than the Delta or Omicron variants. The number of patients multiply within a few hours.

At the largest electric crematorium Babaoshan, in capital Beijing, tokens are being given to relatives of those who died of Covid. Outside the crematorium are long queues of cars and other vehicles carrying bodies of Covid victims. Some relatives said, the waiting time for cremating bodies has now stretched to 20 days. Since the Chinese media is controlled by the government, the true picture is difficult to come by. Most of the information are coming from newspapers in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Outside Covid testing centres, there are long queues of people waiting.

Most of the chemist shops have run out of medicines required for treatment of Covid. There are queues outside chemist shops. On the contrary, the government, after recent violent protests, has removed all Covid lockdown restrictions in Wuhan, from where the first Coronavirus originated.

The latest outbreak raises serious questions whether Sinovac, the Chinese Covid vaccine, is effective. Chinese authorities do not allow experts from outside to carry out proper assessment. It could be that the vaccine proved ineffective because the virus mutated into several variants. Some experts claimed that even three doses of Sinovac vaccine could not prevent the spread of Omicron variant. Though China has claimed to have developed a nasal vaccine that is 15 times more effective than Sinovac-Coronavac vaccine, it needs to be verified.

China is spreading pain for the rest of the world. It first lied when the first Coronavirus was spotted in its Wuhan lab. When the situation deteriorated, it admitted that the virus has spread. It imposed nationwide lockdown. There were also allegations that Chinese authorities secretly disposed of the bodies to hide facts from the rest of the world. Countries that took Sinovac vaccines from China faced more problems. The Chinese claim that its Sinovac vaccine was very much effective, now lies in tatters. It did not allow experts from outside to investigate the reasons behind the outbreak of the virus from Wuhan.

On the opposite side, Prime Minister Narendra Modi adopted a well-coordinated strategy to tackle Covid pandemic. There is no need for Indians to panic. It is still not known which variant may enter India from China. This is the reason why nationwide genome sequencing is being undertaken.

The world today realizes that China can only spread tension, but India has the solutions. China can only send virus to the rest of the world, and India can only send vaccines to tackle that virus to the rest of the world. China can spread diseases, India can provide the treatment.

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