PM Modi asks chiefs of states to gear up to combat potential omicron surge ahead of festive season

Dec 24, 2021: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday asked heads of state to strengthen up the supply of oxygen and boost health infrastructure to curb the possible rise in omicron cases ahead of the festive season, as public place gatherings and their size increases.

In the last 24 hours, India has recorded 236 cases of omicron coronavirus in 16 states, more than double the number in the previous week, the federal health ministry said. The government said in a statement that the prime minister had instructed officials to ensure that the health care system in the states, starting at the district level, was strengthened to meet any new challenges.

The government also said it is important for states to ensure that the oxygen supply equipment is installed and fully functional, as per PM Modi’s instructions.

“The Centre has advised States and UTs (union territories) to not let their guard down and maintain their preparedness for fighting Covid-19 (and its variants) in view of the new variant Omicron,” the government said in a separate statement issued earlier in the day.

In a second advisory issued this week, the federal government urged states to impose curbs lasting for almost two weeks should there be a risk of an outbreak.

Although more than half of India’s adult population has been fully vaccinated, millions are still at risk. Doctors have warned that if a third wave of Omicron-borne infections enters the country, medical care could soon be cut short.

Modi’s government came under fire this summer when India’s healthcare system was swept away by a deadly second wave that killed tens of thousands of people. Residents in the capital, New Delhi, are struggling to make ends meet as oxygen supplies run out and ambulances run out and morgues run out.

In a bid to stem the growth in cases, authorities in New Delhi announced a partial ban on public celebrations for Christmas and New Year’s Eve in a bid to prevent overcrowding.

From this week onward, s senior police official in Delhi said about 300 to 350 officers had been deployed to enforce Covid-19 protocols, mainly to crack down on crowds in market places, where shoppers have been thronging without masks.

Other states are urging people to adhere to the principles of social distance. Earlier this week, the health department in the southern state of Karnataka – the five states with the highest number of omicron cases – barred churches using roads or public places to accommodate people during mosques or for other ceremonies.

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