December 22, 2023
KOLKATA – With the Union health ministry’s nationwide alert on an uptick in Covid-19 cases, West Bengal health department directed government medical colleges and a large number of secondary-level hospitals in districts to make critical care units (CCUs) functional with adequate infrastructure facilities and human resource strengths.
According to a senior official at the public health wing of Swasthya Bhaban, with the onset of winter since the end of October there has been a steady rise in influenza-like illness (ILI) and acute respiratory infection (ARI) in the city and districts. Besides ILI and ARI cases, the health ministry has alerted all states and Union territories in the country to get prepared with infrastructure facilities for Covid-19 care following reports of JN-1 cases, a sub-variant of the viral disease.
The Swasthya Bhaban has directed the government teaching and non-teaching hospitals to take stock of the Covid care arrangements. “We have asked these hospitals to make CCUs functional with adequate equipment like ventilators, bi-pap arrangements and oxygen monitors. We have sensitized the hospitals because of the steep hike in the number of ILI and ARI patients. In addition to this preparedness, the health ministry’s alert has prompted us to take up the issue seriously.
Many government hospitals have been asked to earmark sufficient space for setting up of Covid wards if a sudden surge in JN.1 cases happens,” the official said. “So far, I know of only one Covid case being reported in the state last week. No JN.1 case is reported till today in our state,” he added, saying, “With sharp decline in the number Covid-19 cases in the state, the health department had withdrawn Covid wards in government hospitals more than one year ago.”
“There is no need to panic and we are not advising patients showing ILI or ARIlike symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath, headache to go for Covid-19 confirmatory tests because the situation in the state is absolutely normal. It’s the prerogative of the doctors to advise patients for Covid tests considering health conditions,” he said. In general, symptoms of Covid-19 tend to be similar across variants.
There is no indication of increased severity from JN.1. At this time, there is no evidence that JN.1 presents an increased risk to public health relative to other currently circulating variants, health ministry officials felt.