Three more die of Covid-19 in Kerala, one reported in Karnataka; governments advice precautions

Union Minister for Health Mansukh Mandaviya calls for mock drills in hospitals across India, pledges support to all states and UTs.

BySumit Jha

Published Dec 20, 2023 | 4:36 PMUpdatedDec 20, 2023 | 4:37 PM

Three out of every four cases in December 2023 were turning out to be JN.1. (Shutterstock)

The South Indian states of Karnataka and Kerala collectively reported four Covid-19 deaths on Wednesday, 20 December.

Karnataka’s Health Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao said that a 64-year-old man from Chamarajpet died five days ago. He had various underlying health conditions, such as hypertension, tuberculosis, and other respiratory issues.

After being informed of the death recently, the Karnataka Health Department had five family members of the deceased man undergo Covid-19 tests. All of them tested negative.

Samples from the deceased individual have been dispatched to Pune for genome sequencing.

According to Dr K Ravi, Head of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) formed by the Government of Karnataka to manage the Covid-19 situation, “The state has, until Tuesday, logged 60 cases.”

Gundu Rao said that the state has instructed the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike to ensure home isolation/quarantine of those testing positive for Covid-19.

Emphasising that there was no need to panic, Gundu Rao advised all to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour. Also, those with comorbidities, especially severe acute respiratory infection and influenza-like illness, should be more careful in crowded areas.

Also read: WHO classifies JN.1 variant of Covid-19 as ‘Variant of Interest’

3 deaths in Kerala

Kerala, where the JN.1 subvariant was first detected in the country, reported 292 fresh Covid-19 cases and three more deaths in 24 hours, till 8 am on Wednesday, the Union Health Ministry’s website revealed.

Of the 341 new Covid-19 cases reported nationwide, 292 were from Kerala, bringing the state’s active cases to 2,041.

The three reported deaths took the cumulative total to 72,056 Covid-related fatalities in Kerala since the first case in the country was reported in Thrissur on 30 January 2020, three days after a 20-year-old medical student from Wuhan, China, sought treatment for sore throat and dry cough.

In the past 24 hours, 224 individuals diagnosed with the infection have either recovered, been discharged, or migrated, contributing to a total of 68,37,203 cases falling under this category to date.

State Health Minister Veena George assured the public on Tuesday that despite the surge in Covid-19 cases in Kerala, there was no need for concern as the state was well-equipped to manage virus infections.

She further stated that specific instructions had been issued to establish dedicated facilities for Covid-19 patients. Measures included ensuring the availability of isolation wards, rooms, oxygen beds, ICU beds, and ventilators in hospitals to enhance the state’s capacity to handle the evolving situation.

Also read: 3 years ago, on 30 January, Kerala reported India’s first Covid case.

Andhra Pradesh fully prepared

In response to the reported cases of Covid-19 infections in the country, the Andhra Pradesh Health Department has braced itself to address any potential situation, according to an official statement issued on Tuesday.

MT Krishna Babu, Special Chief Secretary, Health & Family Welfare, assured that the current situation was not alarming and was under continuous monitoring. He instructed senior officials to activate all testing labs in government general hospitals, aiming for at least 1,000 tests per day, an official press release said.

Babu emphasised the importance of stocking an ample supply of rapid test kits in village clinics. Additionally, he mandated testing for all patients with severe acute respiratory infections and influenza-like illnesses.

Officials updated Babu on the relatively lower virulence of the disease, with only a few reported hospitalisations. Adequate stocks of essential drugs and equipment, including gloves, masks, sanitisers, and others, have been arranged in all hospitals. Oxygen supply plants, oxygen concentrators, D-type cylinders, and ventilators were set to be fully operational.

The Health Department recommended individuals with mild symptoms such as fever and cough to sequester themselves at their respective residences and avoid contact with others.

Given the upcoming festivals, the Health Department advised initiating sufficient precautions to ensure Covid-appropriate behaviour, especially in large gatherings. Furthermore, individuals returning from the Sabarimala pilgrimage were urged to exercise caution and undergo testing immediately, if any symptoms arise.

Also Read: JN.1 in India: Karnataka Health department’s Dos and Don’ts 

Mansukh Mandaviya held a meeting

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya held a virtual review meeting on Wednesday to address the escalating Covid-19 cases in the nation and underscored the readiness of health facilities.

Mandaviya, while urging states to stay vigilant, pledged complete support from the Union government and highlighted the significance of preparedness through regular mock drills, heightened surveillance, and effective communication.

The minister stressed the necessity of conducting mock drills in hospitals regularly, recommending a frequency of once every three months. Furthermore, he called upon states to implement preventive measures against the backdrop of the upcoming winter and festival seasons.

Taking a non-political stance on health matters, Mandaviya asserted, “There should be no complacency in our preparedness. Health is not a domain of politics. The Union Health Ministry is ready to assist.” He advocated for a collaborative “whole-of-government” approach, underscoring the shared responsibility in addressing health challenges.

Amidst a surge in Covid-19 cases, the Union health minister’s emphasis on heightened preparedness aligned with ongoing endeavours to handle and alleviate the virus’s impact. The focus on mock drills and preventive measures aimed to ensure a resilient response to potential challenges, fostering a united approach across states and Union Territories.

Exclusive: Is JN.1 ‘variant of interest’ a cause of worry? Dr Gagandeep Kang decodes

India reports highest daily Covid-19 cases since 21 May 

India has recorded its highest daily count of new coronavirus infections since 21 May, with 614 cases reported in the latest data from the Union Health Ministry. The active cases have risen to 2,311. The death toll stood at 5,33,321 at 8 am on Wednesday.

The country’s overall Covid-19 case tally stood at 4.50 crore (4,50,05,978).

On a positive note, the number of recoveries increased to 4,44,70,346, resulting in a national recovery rate of 98.81 percent. The case fatality rate remained at 1.19 percent.

According to the Health Ministry’s data, a total of 220.67 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in India so far.