‘Non-essential travel…’: ICMR chief lists dos and don’ts during Christmas, New Year amid Omicron

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Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) director general Balram Bhargava on Friday laid down three measures he said everyone must follow to contain the rising cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) ahead of Christmas and New Year celebrations.

“This is the time to avoid non-essential travel and mass gatherings and it is very important to observe low-intensity festivities,” Bhargava told reporters at a press briefing of the Union ministry of health and family welfare.

The ICMR chief also said districts reporting a weekly Covid-19 test positivity rate of over 5 per cent must implement strict, local restrictive measures “until it comes below 5 per cent for at two weeks.” He said there are as many as 24 districts around the country where the weekly positivity rate is still above 5 per cent.

His remarks come as India’s tally of Omicron cases went beyond 100 on Friday. The country currently has 101 infections spread across 11 states and Union territories (UTs), with Maharashtra leading the tally with 32 infections. The western state is followed by Delhi and Rajasthan where 22 and 17 cases of Omicron Covid-19 variant have so far been detected, respectively.

Earlier in the day, Delhi reported 10 fresh cases of Omicron and Telangana logged two new ones.

Lav Agarwal, the health ministry joint secretary, reiterated the Centre’s emphasis on Covid-19 vaccines and said they cannot replace masks. He said people should continue wearing masks and take their due vaccine shots in order to fight the virus and its various variants.

Agarwal said India’s current vaccination coverage is the highest in the world with 74.31 lakh doses being administered on an average every day. “[This] is 4.8 times more than that in the USA (15.5 lakh) and 12.5 times more than in the UK (5.9 lakh),” the joint secretary said during the press briefing.

India’s Covid-19 vaccination coverage has surpassed 1350 million.

Meanwhile, the country reported 7,447 fresh cases on Friday, taking the overall tally to 34,726,049, according to data provided by the Union health ministry. The active case count in India stands at 86,415, accounting for 0.25 per cent of the total cases—lowest since March last year.

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