Amid China Pneumonia Concerns, Centre Urges States to Assess Hospital Readiness, says ‘no need for alarm’

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Amidst a mysterious pneumonia outbreak in China, the Union health ministry on November 26 said it has asked the state governments to review hospital preparedness, even as it underlined that there is “no need for alarm”.

“All states and Union territories are advised to implement ‘Operational Guidelines for Revised Surveillance Strategy in the context of COVID-19’,” it said in a media release. 

The guidelines require surveillance of respiratory pathogens presenting as cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory illness. “Trends of ILI/SARI are to be closely monitored by district and state surveillance units.”

The health ministry added that it has taken note of the reports that indicate a surge in respiratory illness among children in northern China, and is proactively monitoring the situation.

“This is noted to be important in view of the ongoing influenza and winter season that results in an increase in respiratory illness cases. Government of India is closely monitoring the situation and indicated that there is no need for any alarm,” it stated.

China on November 24 suggested that cases of respiratory illness in the country may spike further. Influenza infections are expected to increase in the winter and spring months, whereas, mycoplasma pneumoniae infection would be reported in high numbers in some regions, said the State Council, which is China’s cabinet, according to news agency Reuters.

The Chinese government also reportedly warned that there could be a rebound in cases of COVID-19. “All localities should strengthen information reporting on infectious diseases to ensure information is reported in a timely and accurate manner,” the State Council said.

Notably, Beijing and the World Health Organisation (WHO) had drawn criticism following the declaration of coronavirus as a pandemic in March 2020, as they faced questions about transparency during the early stages of the disease outbreak. The first COVID-19 cases were reported in late 2019 in China’s Wuhan.

The WHO, which is actively monitoring the current surge in respiratory illnesses in northern China, said on November 24 that no new or unusual pathogens have been detected behind the spike in infections.

The global health body, in a press release, noted that it has received additional data from China as per its request. “The data indicates an increase in outpatient consultations and hospital admissions of children due to mycoplasma pneumoniae pneumonia since May, and RSV, adenovirus and influenza virus since October.”

“Some of these increases are earlier in the season than historically experienced, but not unexpected given the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, as similarly experienced in other countries,” the WHO said. The coronavirus-linked curbs were completely lifted by China 11 months ago.

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