Corona Virus Covid 19

Why is NCDC not in the centre of managing the Covid-19 crisis?
By Nivedita Mookerji and Ruchika Chitravanshi

July 12, 2021 12:26 IST

'We have the technical expertise, and international collaborations. We also have robust real-time data. We are a university of pandemic management. If the ministry neglects the role of NCDC, it is the loss of the country.'

Nivedita Mookerji and Ruchika Chitravanshi report.

For nearly one-and-a-half years now, the Union health ministry at Nirman Bhawan has been the war room for all Covid-related matters. Along with top bureaucrats in the health ministry such as Rajesh Bhushan and Lav Agarwal, Niti Aayog member V K Paul and Indian Council of Medical Research Director-General Balram Bhar¬gava have become the face of Covid management through their regular briefings. All India Institute of Medical Sciences Director Randeep Guleria, too, has added heft to these interactions at times.

The National Centre for Disease Control, which comes under the health ministry’s Directorate General of Health Services, has, however, been largely missing from these engagements, raising questions as to why an institute meant to control communicable diseases and conduct epidemiology research is not at the centre managing the Covid-19 crisis.
Spread over 15 acres at the Sham Nath Marg in Delhi’s Civil Lines -- a historic landmark less than 15 km from Nirman Bhawan, the hub of Covid policy-making -- NCDC’s role during the pandemic has often been compared with the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Rochelle P Walensky-led CDC is the national public health agency of the United States under the department of health and human services.
NCDC Director Sujeet K Singh said, “We took note of it (Covid-19) first when Wuhan got the initial cases. That was towards the end of 2019.’’ After a few days of monitoring, NCDC notified DGHS about Covid, along with the need for cautionary steps including sanitation and stopping of international flights, especially from China, according to an official in the know.

It was weeks later, on February 4, 2020, that the government banned all India-bound airlines from boarding any passenger from China on e-visa; by then Covid had claimed 400 lives in China. More than a month later, on March 23, 2020, India suspended all scheduled international flights.
When asked why NCDC was not in the limelight when the country was facing such a huge crisis, Singh said, “We are in the thick of things. It’s a long pandemic and roles could change.’’ According to Singh, NCDC is the real war room during the pandemic. “The (health) ministry is not a technical body and relies on NCDC’s feedback…. NCDC is a public health organisation focusing on disease control. ICMR is a research organisation,’’ he said.
Anand Krishnan, professor of community medicine at AIIMS, added, “By giving a key role to ICMR during Covid-19, perhaps the focus shifted from public health. ICMR is not a public health organisation though it has presence in many states.’’
While in its current form, NCDC may not have been able to lead during a pandemic of this proportion, the government should have seen this as an opportunity to strengthen the centre’s capacity, said Krishnan who’s worked closely with several NCDC projects. “The system is more important than any individual. We have not invested in this system,’’ he added.
Health ministry and ICMR officials did not respond to questions on the role of NCDC during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although there are shortcomings and challenges, NCDC is not completely removed from the global healthcare system. Its India Epidemic Intelligence Service programme in collaboration with America’s CDC is an example of global engagement. It’s about hands-on training in epidemiologic service for public health professionals with the focus on outbreak investigation, designing and analysing epidemiological studies and evaluation of surveillance data. But there’s been no collaboration with CDC on the subject of Covid-19.
A former government official familiar with the organisation said that NCDC should have been a strong pillar for disaster management during the current pandemic, adding that upgradation of skill, infrastructure and leadership should be a must. He pointed out that the government has given significant support to NCDC but it has fallen short as an inspiring organisation.
Another reason is the short stint that most director generals have at the DGHS, the nodal health ministry organisation to which NCDC reports, the official said, adding, “It’s important to define the roles clearly so that there’s no confusion when the country faces an emergency like this. Systemic issues must be addressed.’’
A state-level branch official of NCDC in Varanasi captured the fuzziness around the roles and functions. Early 2020, NCDC officials had to knock on the doors of the district magistrate late at night to inform him of the warnings being issued about the coronavirus. The urgency of the matter was because Varanasi had an international airport and protocols had to be put in place immediately for passengers arriving from foreign countries.
“International passengers have their own rights. Preparations had to start from before, almost like a wedding,’’ the NCDC official said. Since Varanasi airport does not have an airport health organisation, the task fell on NCDC. As the cases rose, so did the workload of NCDC in screening and isolating passengers.
The same was true in some other branches, including NCDC Patna, which had to be vigilant because of the porous Nepal border. In both cities, NCDC officials had to set protocols at the airports for screening of passengers, though it is not their core function.
State officials at NCDC feel they have been underutilised in this pandemic. “We have the technical expertise, and international collaborations. We also have robust real-time data. We are a university of pandemic management. If the ministry neglects the role of NCDC, it is the loss of the country,” an official said.
Nutan Mundeja, director general health services in Delhi, said NCDC was an important agency in surveillance as well as in containment, testing and genome sequencing. “We look up to them for technical support,’’ she said.
As one of the state officials explained, the primary job of NCDC is prediction of the epidemic curve. Based on the data on disease burden and fatalities, the beginning and end can be mapped. “However, no one knows the big picture. We have the ability, but the resources are less utilised.”
Against a robust nationwide network in an organisation like CDC in the US, NCDC has only eight state branches with plans to go all-India.

According to Rajesh Kumar, former head of the department of community medicine and school of public health at PGIMER, Chandigarh, NCDC is an organisation with high esteem and good capacity for surveillance and disease prevention. “It’s constantly in touch with CDC and the World Health Organisation.’’

Nivedita Mookerji and Ruchika Chitravanshi in New Delhi

Source: source

Why is NCDC not in the centre of managing the Covid-19 crisis?
Time to open up schools in a staggered way, Indian kids have good immunity: AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria
It is time to reopen schools in India in a staggered way, said Dr Randeep Guleria. The AIIMS Director added that Indian children have developed good levels of immunity against Covid-19.

Sneha Mordani
Sneha Mordani

New Delhi
July 19, 2021
UPDATED: July 20, 2021 15:52 IST

School students undergo thermal screening before appearing for SSLC exam in Bengaluru on Monday

School students undergo thermal screening before appearing for SSLC exam in Bengaluru on Monday (Photo Credits: PTI)

  • AIIMS-WHO survey had found that sero-positivity rate was high among children
  • Importance of schooling in overall development of a child should be looked at, Dr Guleria said
  • Reopening of schools can be planned in places with positivity rates below 5 per cent: Dr Guleria

Director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi says that the country should consider reopening schools in a "staggered way". Most schools in India have been shut since the first nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19 was imposed in March of last year.

Classes are being conducted virtually ever since. While the central government did allow a phased reopening of schools last October, the decision was withdrawn soon after.
Speaking exclusively to India Today, AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria said, "I am a proponent of opening up schools in a staggered way, for districts that are seeing less virus circulation."

"It [reopening of schools] can be planned for places having positivity rates below 5 per cent," Dr Guleria said.

The renowned pulmonologist and member of India's Task Force on Covid-19 also said that schools can be immediately shut if surveillance hints at the spread of infection. But districts should explore the option of bringing children to schools on alternate days and plan other ways of staggered reopening, he added.

Dr Guleria went on to say, "The reason is not just a normal life for our kids, but also the importance of schooling in the overall development of a child should be looked at."

Director of AIIMS (New Delhi), Dr Randeep Guleria, also highlighted why children who have been deprived of online education should be sent to school now.

Students wearing masks while attending class at a school in Bihar's Patna earlier this month (Photo Credits: PTI)

Even the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) had said in a report in November of last year: "Covid-19 has reaffirmed the need to bridge the gaps in Internet access. The digital divide exists across borders, fields, and generations, impacting virtually every aspect of life."
"Within the digital realm, the pandemic has increased the digital divide — the uneven distribution of the access to and use of digital technologies, whether based on age, geographical or geopolitical factors, social factors, or economic factors," UNICEF said.

Dr Randeep Guleria said children have had a good deal of exposure to the virus in India and that many of them have developed natural immunity.

A survey by AIIMS and the WHO had found that SARS-CoV-2 sero-positivity rate among children was high and comparable to the adult population. Hence, it is unlikely that any future third wave of the prevailing Covid-19 variant would disproportionately affect children aged two years or older.
Following protocols such as masking, social distancing and proper ventilation can allow schools to reopen since prolonged closure has affected children adversely, Dr Guleria said.

One of the country's leading medical experts, Dr Guleria said Covid-19 vaccines for children would be made available in India by September of this year. Preliminary data from Covaxin's clinical trials for children is encouraging, he added.
Bharat Biotech is testing India's first indigenous coronavirus vaccine on children.
If the data submitted by the vaccine maker is accepted by regulators (DCGI), the approval for vaccines for children as young as 2 years would come through by September, Dr Randeep Guleria said.

Time to open up schools in a staggered way, Indian kids have good immunity: AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria
US eases travel advisory for India, urges citizens to exercise caution

The US has eased travel advisory for India, lowering it to Level 3, which urges citizens to reconsider travel, from Level 4, which means no travel.

India Today Web Desk
New Delhi
July 20, 2021
UPDATED: July 20, 2021 08:50 IST

On May 5, the US government had issued a Level 4 travel advisory for India when the country was reeling under the second wave of coronavirus. (Photo: Reuters)

Prompted by the declining active Covid-19 caseload in India, the US has improved the travel advisory for its citizens travelling to the country. Now, the travel recommendation has been eased to Level 3, which urges citizens to reconsider travel, from Level 4, which means no travel.

The US State Department said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for India due to Covid-19, indicating a high level of Covid-19 in the country.
"Your risk of contracting Covid-19 and developing severe symptoms may be lower if you are fully vaccinated with an FDA authorised vaccine. Before planning any international travel, please review the CDC's specific recommendations for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers," it said.
Besides India, the travel recommendations to Pakistan have also been eased from Level 4 to Level 3.
On May 5, the US government had issued a Level 4 travel advisory for India when the country was reeling under the second wave of coronavirus.
While the CDC issued a Level 2 Travel Health Notice for Pakistan due to Covid-19, indicating a moderate level of the pandemic, the State Department maintained Level 3 risk for US citizens travelling to the country due to terrorism.

"Reconsider travel to Pakistan due to terrorism and sectarian violence. Exercise increased caution in Pakistan due to Covid-19. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory," the State Department said.

(With inputs from PTI
Mint: ‘Fully-vaccinated people don’t need RT-PCR report to travel’.

‘Fully-vaccinated people don’t need RT-PCR report to travel’


Fully-vaccinated people don’t need RT-PCR report to travel (Photo: HT)1 min read . Updated: 06 Aug 2021, 05:49 AM IST

Neetu Chandra Sharma

  • Several states are insisting on a negative RT-PCR report from fully-vaccinated people
  • The NTAGI had concluded that if a person is fully vaccinated, there shouldn’t be a requirement for negative RT-PCR test report for travel

The central government has informed states that there is no need for mandatory RT-PCR reports to allow entry for those who have received both doses of covid-19 vaccines.
Noting that several states are insisting on such certificates even after full vaccination, the government said that the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) had concluded in May that if a person is fully vaccinated, there shouldn’t be a requirement for a negative RT-PCR test report for travel.

“The Union health ministry has communicated to the states regarding this. Covid-19 vaccines provide strong immunity and protection against the disease. With the ongoing pandemic, RT-PCR testing should be done where it is required. For travel purposes, full vaccination certificate is sufficient," said Dr N.K. Arora, who chairs India’s covid-19 working group of the NTAGI.

States have been applying diverse rules in this respect—The Tamil Nadu government has mandated a negative RT-PCR test report and a complete covid-19 vaccination (with two doses) certificate for people coming from Kerala. The rule took effect on Wednesday, amid the huge number of covid-19 cases in the bordering state.
Similarly, from Thursday, passengers travelling from Kerala to Chennai can enter only if they produce an RT-PCR test negative certificate. Karnataka has also made RT-PCR negative reports mandatory for people entering from Kerala and Maharashtra.
The Chhattisgarh government has made it mandatory for passengers arriving by air to produce a negative RT-PCR report. Goa has mandated the tests for travellers from Kerala.
Starting 8 August, all passengers flying to West Bengal from Pune, Mumbai and Chennai must produce a mandatory RT-PCR negative report at the time of boarding for the test conducted within 72 hours of flight departure.

At least eight states are showing high reproductive number of infections with Himachal Pradesh having the highest value of 1.4 followed by Jammu & Kashmir (1.4), Lakshadweep (1.3) Tamil Nadu, Mizoram, Karnataka, Puducherry and Kerala.

‘Fully-vaccinated people don’t need RT-PCR report to travel’
Coronavirus: No time curbs for markets, restaurants in Delhi from Monday, says Arvind Kejriwal

The Capital on Saturday reported 19 new cases of coronavirus, the lowest since April 15, 2020.

Scroll Staff
Yesterday · 05:39 pm

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday announced that markets in the Capital will be allowed to remain open as per their regular timings from Monday.

“Because of the coronavirus, markets in Delhi were till now allowed to remain open till 8 pm,” Kejriwal said in a tweet. “Due to the reducing number of cases, these restrictions are being lifted. Now, markets can remain as per their normal timings.”

The relaxations will apply to all shops, including the ones located in shopping complexes and malls, NDTV reported. Further, restaurants have been permitted to remain open beyond 10 pm.

Delhi on Saturday reported 19 new cases of coronavirus, the lowest since April 15, 2020. The city has not recorded any deaths due to the coronavirus for two consecutive days on Friday and Saturday.

This is the twelfth time since the beginning of the second wave of the coronavirus that Delhi has reported zero fatalities in a 24-hour time span.

The Delhi chief minister made the announcement two weeks after the city’s Chamber of Trade and Industry exhorted the government to allow markets and malls to stay open till 10 pm.

In a letter to the Delhi Disaster Management Authority on August 7, the CTI had said that if shops were allowed to remain open till late in the evening, there would be no crowding, according to PTI. “Everyone will be able to do their work comfortably,” the letter said. “Corona rules will also be followed well.”

Delhi had suffered a severe second wave of Covid-19 in April and May. During that period, the city frequently saw shortages of medical oxygen and hospital beds; and many people had put out SOS calls for these on social media.

From April 19 to May 30, Delhi was under a stringent lockdown because of the second wave. The Delhi government allowed markets to reopen from June 7 under a phased reopening plan.

In July, the Delhi government had ordered the closure of several market areas on account of violations of Covid-19 protocols. These included markets in Janpath, Lajpat Nagar, Laxmi Nagar, Kamla Nagar, Sarojini Nagar, and parts of Sadar Bazar and Karol Bagh.



New Member
Don't know when we will get rid of the fear of this corona virus, I think there was no virus in this world before this virus. The condition of poor people, small traders and general public has become very bad.