In response to recent reports of the emergence of newer variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on a global scale, Dr. P.K. Mishra, Principal Secretary to the Honorable Prime Minister, led a high-level meeting to assess the worldwide and national COVID-19 situation, the prevalence of newer variants, and their potential impact on public health.
The meeting, which convened on 21st August, 2023, saw the participation of prominent officials.
During the meeting, Secretary (Health) provided an overview of the global COVID-19 situation, with a particular emphasis on the detection of certain newer variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus such as BA.2.86 (Pirola) and EG.5 (Eris), which have been reported internationally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), EG.5 (Eris) has been documented in over 50 countries, while the variant BA.2.86 (Pirola) has been identified in four countries.
It was emphasized that despite a global tally of 2,96,219 new COVID-19 cases in the past week, India, which constitutes nearly 17% of the world’s population, reported a relatively low number of cases, with just 223 instances (0.075% of global new cases) in the same timeframe. Additionally, India has maintained a daily average of new COVID-19 cases below 50 across the entire country, and the nation has successfully kept the weekly test positivity rate below 0.2%. An overview of genome sequencing of various variants circulating in India was also presented.
Following extensive discussions, Dr. P. K. Mishra emphasized that while the COVID-19 situation in the country remains stable, and India’s public health systems are adequately prepared, it is essential for individual states to closely monitor trends in Influenza-like Illness (ILI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) cases. States were also urged to send an ample number of samples for COVID-19 testing while simultaneously enhancing the capacity for Whole Genome Sequencing. Vigilance regarding the emergence of new global variants remains a critical aspect of the nation’s ongoing pandemic response efforts.