Japan’s Famed ‘Naked Man’ Festival Held One Last Time

Amid growing concerns over an ageing population and declining childbirths, a weird Japanese festival that features almost-naked men fighting over a hemp bag filled with charms took place for one last time on February 17 in Iwate prefecture, according to Asahi Shimbun, one of the largest newspapers in Japan.

Every year, thousands of men dressed in loincloths brave the bitter cold of Tohoku winter to compete in the renowned ‘Somin-sai’ festival.

The Kokusekiji temple said since the participants are growing too old for the event, a decision was taken to end the festival that has a 1000-year long history in Japan.

Quoting the statement from the temple, Asahi Shimbun reported that there is also a shortage of successors to carry on the tradition.

Meanwhile, in the famed ‘Naked Man’ festival that was organised for the last time yesterday, the participants, who were just wearing loincloths called ‘fundoshi’, carried square lanterns and bathed in the Yamauchigawa River.

After praying for a bountiful harvest and other blessings in the Yakushido hall of the temple, they got into a brawl over a hemp sack known as a ‘somin-bukuro’ that held little talismans.

It is said the person who takes a talisman will subsequently be shielded from any kind of misfortune or disaster.

Meanwhile, in Saidaji Temple, located in Okayama prefecture, western Japan, the ‘naked festival’, also known as the ‘Eyo festival’ there, was celebrated. It included the tradition of semi-naked men scrambling to catch a pair of wooden sticks said to bring good luck, according to NHK World.

The tradition is one of Japan’s intangible folk cultural treasures.

The event, which had been postponed for the previous three years owing to the coronavirus pandemic, drew about 9,000 males to the Okayama temple festival.

Since the 1980s economic boom, Japan’s population has been steadily declining, with a fertility rate of 1.3, significantly lower than the 2.1 required to sustain a stable population in the absence of immigration, according to CNN.

The number of deaths in the country has exceeded the number of births for over ten years, causing increasing concern among the leaders of the fourth-largest economy globally.

The nation boasts one of the longest life expectancies globally, which also contributes to the rapidly growing senior population. (ANI)

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Malabar exercise Australia

Australia To Host Latest Edition Of 10-Day Malabar Exercise For First Time

The latest edition of the Malabar exercise is all set to commence in the Australian waters from August 11-21 that will see the participation of the United States, Japan, India and Australia. 

Australia is also the host for this mega event which is being hosted there ‘for the first time’. 

The ten-day exercise aims to deepen the interoperability between the key partners, Australia, India, Japan and the United States who are also members of the Quad or the Quadrilateral security dialogue. 

The exercise is also designed to deepen the partnership for the Indo-Pacific, for shared aspiration, for a free, open and resilient Indo-Pacific and it will be followed immediately afterwards by AUSINDEX, the bi-annual naval exercise between India and Australia. 

The Malabar series of exercises began as an annual bilateral naval exercise between India and the US in 1992. Japan joined the Naval Exercises in 2015. Malabar 2020 saw the participation of the Australian Navy also. 

Malabar exercise is a navy-led exercise that will witness the participation of the navies from all four countries. Two major Australian ships HMAS Brisbane and HMAS Choules will perform an entry into the Sydney Harbour. The vessels and the aircraft will then proceed out to an exercise area off the coast of New South Wales. 

The Indian Navy will be represented by its multi-role stealth frigate, INS Sahyadri and indigenous destroyer INS Kolkata. 

A destroyer from the United States will be seen along with a major surface vessel from Japan. There’s a large designated and gazetted exercise area which is referred to as the East Australian exercise area which will witness this high-voltage exercise. Though Malabar has four countries as participants, there are no plans or discussions on its expansion at the moment. 

During his India visit in March this year, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced his country will host Exercise Malabar. Albanese was received onboard INS Vikrant by Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar with a Guard of Honour. The Australian PM said his visit reflected his government’s commitment to place India at the heart of Australia’s approach to the Indo-Pacific and beyond. 

Malabar exercise which represents one of the most complex naval activities that the four nations do together is also the capstone exercise that builds on a number of the bilateral excercises that the countries do with each other around the world. 

China has been suspicious about the purpose of the Malabar exercise as it feels that the aim is to contain its influence in the Indo-Pacific region, but this exercise is not directed at any country and hence isn’t a China exercise per se since it is not a military or the defence arm of the Quad. 

Notably, the Indo Pacific region has been subject to significantly enhanced strategic competition. And all partners of this exercise are determined to see greater strategic equilibrium and their purpose is to make sure that there is some concrete action beyond the words and talks. 

Even as Beijing alleges that the Quad is aimed at it, the grouping has maintained that it is not intended ‘against China’. 

Earlier in March this year, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Quad is not a military grouping adding it is now engaged in working together to help countries to deal with humanitarian situations in natural disasters. 

“We are working on things that are really critical,” Blinken said at a panel discussion of the Quad Foreign Ministers themed ‘The Quad Squad: Power and Purpose of the Polygon’ in the national capital in March this year. 

Australia and India have seen an exponential increase in defence cooperation. Exercising has been both more frequent, and complex and that is an aspiration that both countries are determined to see continue. Since, the United States and Japan will send only one warship each, its important to understand in which context Malabar has been scheduled this year, and the size of exercises and ships numbers shouldn’t equate with complexity the important thing here to understand is, what those ships and what those men and women inside those ships and aircraft are doing together. 

Australian PM during his March visit earlier also noted that Last year, India and Australia conducted more exercises, operations and dialogues than ever before. 

The strategic importance of the India-Australia partnership is increasing and there has never been a point in both countries’ histories where they have had such a strong strategic alignment, Albanese said. There has never been a busier or more productive time in the bilateral defence and security partnership and 2023 will be “busier than ever” in this area, he added. 

During PM Modi’s visit to Australia in November 2014, both sides decided to extend defence cooperation to cover research, development and industry engagement and agreed to hold regular meetings at the level of the Defence Minister, conduct regular maritime exercises and convene regular service-to-service talks. 

The fourth edition of AUSINDEX was held during between September 7 and 10, 2021 in Australia at Off Darwin. Navies of India, Australia, Japan and the USA also participated in Phase I of Exercise Malabar 2021, from August 26 to 29, 2021 off Guam and in Phase II in the Bay of Bengal from October 12 to 15, 2021. 

India also participated as an Observer in Exercise Talisman Sabre 2021 in July 2021. India-Australia Joint Military Exercise AUSTRAHIND 2022 was held in Rajasthan from November 28-December 11, 2022 between Indian Army and the Australian Army, the first exercise in the series of AUSTRA HIND with the participation of all arms and services contingent from both armies. 

Australia and India have also built links between their defence forces through regular personnel and training exchanges, such as short specialist courses and longer-term higher education positions. Every year, Australia sends officers to attend India’s premiere military educational institutions. 

India also sends four officers to study in Australia annually. Inaugurated in 2023, General Rawat India – Australia Young Defence Officer Exchange Program offers the opportunity each year for fifteen young officers from across Army, Navy, and Air Force, to learn more about each other’s training, operational environments and culture. 

In 2023, 15 young Australian Defence Officers travelled to India and in 2024 it is expected that 15 young Indian Armed Forces officers will travel to Australia, to study Australian Defence capability and culture. (ANI)

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Japan's Epsilon Rocket Engine

Japan’s Epsilon Rocket Engine Explodes During Test

In the latest blow to the Japan’s space agency, a rocket engine on Friday exploded during a test, an official said.

As per the Kyodo News Agency, no one was injured in the explosion. The incident took place about one minute after the ground test for the second-stage engine began.
The Noshiro Testing Center in Akita Prefecture is developing the Epsilon S as the successor to the current Epsilon series to enhance the country’s competitiveness in the growing satellite launch market, according to Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The first rocket in the series blasted off in 2013 and there were successful launches of five models before an Epsilon-6 was ordered to self-destruct in 2022 after it deviated from its intended trajectory.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency sent the command at 9.57 am after the Epsilon-6 rocket lifted off from Uchinoura Space Center near the southern tip of the southwestern main island of Kyushu around 9.50 am.

It was carrying eight satellites developed by private and public entities, including universities, as per Kyodo News Agency.

In a press conference after the failed launch, the agency said the decision to send the self-destruct order was made after the rocket deviated from its intended position and could not place the satellites in orbit.

The failure led the agency to postpone the launch of the Epsilon S from fiscal 2023 to fiscal 2024 as it uses the same fuel tank as the Epsilon-6.

Epsilon series rockets utilize solid fuel, simplifying launch preparations compared with those that use liquid propellants.

JAXA’s new flagship H3 rocket was also ordered to self-destruct in March minutes after its second-stage engine failed to ignite, reported Kyodo News Agency. (ANI)

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9th International Day of Yoga

Embassy Of India In Kuwait, Japan, Celebrate International Day Of Yoga

The Indian Embassy in Japan and Kuwait observed the 9th International Day of Yoga by organizing events in Tokyo and Kuwait City respectively on Wednesday.

The official Twitter account of the Embassy of India tweeted the video of people performing Yoga and chanting ‘Om’ in Tokyo.

“The sacred Om chants reverberate across Tokyo during the celebrations of the 9th International Day of Yoga #IDY2023 organised by Embassy of India Tokyo @ICCR_Japan

#ConnectingHimalayaswithMountFuji #YogaforVasudhaivaKutumbakam”, tweeted the Embassy of India.

Whereas, Kuwait also participated in the celebration of International Day of Yoga.

The official Twitter account of the Embassy of India in Kuwait tweeted a video of the people of performing Yoga. The event was also attended by yoga trainers, enthusiasts, members of diplomatic corps, people of Kuwait and members of Indian community.

“The 9th International Yoga Day celebrations were held at Indian Embassy in Kuwait on 21 June. The event was well-attended by yoga trainers and enthusiasts, members of diplomatic corps, friends from Kuwait and members of Indian community. #IDY2023@ANI, the tweet said.

On Tuesday, the Embassy of India in Muscat, in collaboration with Visit Oman, the national travel operator and a subsidiary of Omran Group jointly released a short video titled “Soulful Yoga-Serene Oman.” This groundbreaking initiative marks the first time that India and Oman are utilizing yoga as a medium to promote tourism and spread the message of yoga’s harmony to both Omani citizens and international tourists.

In Oman, which is India’s close maritime neighbour and a close strategic partner in the Gulf region, Yoga has become very popular in recent years. The seven lakh-strong Indian community in Oman played an important role in this endeavour.

The video was made in collaboration with the Government of Oman. The Embassy of India partnered with ‘Visit Oman’, a subsidiary of Oman’s Ministry of Tourism to produce this video. (ANI)

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G7 Chinese Militarisation

G7 Opposes Chinese Militarisation Of South China Sea

The Group of Seven (G7) foreign ministers on Tuesday declared that peace and stability were an “indispensable element” of global security, while reiterating their call to China to behave responsibly as a member of the international community.

In a joint statement issued after a three-day meeting at Karuizawa in central Japan, the foreign ministers emphasized “there is no change in the basic positions of the G-7 members on Taiwan.”

Expressing concern about the situation in the East and South China Seas the ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, plus the European Union, opposed China’s “militarization activities” in the region.

The G-7 joint statement comes in the wake of French President Emmanual Macron’s remarks during his recent visit to China where he said that Europe should not become a “follower” of either Beijing or Washington and avoid getting involved in any conflict between the two countries over Taiwan.

The comminique issued by the G-17 ministers after the meeting in Japan read, “We remain seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas. We strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion. There is no legal basis for China’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea, and we oppose China’s militarization activities in the region.”

“We emphasize the universal and unified character of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and reaffirm UNCLOS’ important role in setting out the legal framework that governs all activities in the oceans and the seas,” the statement added.

The G7 reiterated the award rendered by the Arbitral Tribunal on July 12, 2016, as a significant milestone. According to the US State Department, the Arbitral Tribunal was constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention and delivered a unanimous and enduring decision firmly rejecting the PRC’s expansive South China Sea maritime claims as having no basis in international law.

The G7 members recognized the importance of engaging candidly with and expressing our concerns directly to China. They acknowledge the need to work together with China on global challenges as well as areas of common interest, including climate change, biodiversity, global health security, and gender equality.

“We reiterate our call for China to act as a responsible member of the international community. We stand prepared to work together to build constructive and stable relations through dialogue and to promote global economic recovery and people-to-people exchanges in a mutually beneficial way,” the statement read.

“It is in the interest of all countries, including China, to ensure transparent, predictable, and fair business environments. Legitimate business activities and interests of foreign companies must be protected from unfair, anti-competitive, and non-market practices, including through illegitimate technology transfer or data disclosure in exchange for market access,” the statement added.

Looking at various cyber-theft cases, G7 asked China to uphold its commitments to act responsibly in cyberspace, including refraining from conducting or supporting cyber-enabled intellectual property theft for commercial gain.

Talking about the peace in Taiwan, G7 reaffirmed the importance of stability across the Strait as an indispensable element in security and prosperity in the international community, and call for the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues. There is no change in the basic positions of the G7 members on Taiwan, including stated one China policies.

G7 also raised concerns with China on reported human rights violations and abuses, including in Xinjiang and Tibet.

“We reiterate our concerns over the continued erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy rights and freedoms and call on China to act in accordance with its international commitments and legal obligations, including those enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law,” the G7 said in a statement.

“We call on China to act in accordance with its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations,” the statement added. (ANI)

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Covid-19 fresh covid cases

Japan To Curb Covid-19 Border Controls On May 8

With its decision to categorize COVID-19 as a common disease, Japan on Monday announced to end the current border control measures on foreign tourists from May 8, Kyodo News reported.

Travelers arriving at five major airports — Narita, Haneda, Chubu, Kansai and Fukuoka — will be subject to the new framework, which is set to start when the legal status of COVID-19 is downgraded to the same category as seasonal influenza early next month.
With an aim to normalise social and economic activities, Japan government will simultaneously start a new genomic surveillance program, under which entrants with symptoms such as fever are tested voluntarily to detect new infectious diseases, as per Kyodo News.

Currently, foreign tourists are required to present certification of three COVID-19 doses or a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of departure.

The end of the COVID-19 border controls, which were first implemented in February 2020 and are regarded by some as the most stringent among the Group of Seven industrialised nations, is anticipated to aid in the revival of inbound tourism in Japan, where it fell to a fraction of the record 4.8 trillion (USD 36 billion) in 2021.

Japan tightened border restrictions by prohibiting entry of nonresident foreigners and requiring returning Japanese citizens and foreign residents to quarantine at certain facilities, once the country started to experience cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in November 2021, read a report published in Kyodo News.

In late December, Japan introduced blanket COVID-19 testing for all arrivals from mainland China amid an explosion in infections in the country after Beijing drastically relaxed its stringent “zero-COVID” policy that had involved lockdowns and quarantines, read a report published in Kyodo News.

In early January, it further tightened border controls for visitors from the region by requiring proof of a negative test, but in March, however, the Japanese government ended the blanket testing for such visitors but started random testing at airports after finding that the number of those testing positive for COVID-19 had dropped.

Government officials claim that it takes a few weeks for test participants to receive their genetic test results.

Ahead of the across-the-board lifting of border control measures, Japan will ease those on all arrivals from mainland China from Wednesday and give them the option of entering the country by presenting proof of being inoculated with three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, it added. (ANI)

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New Chinese Foreign Min Qin

New Chinese Foreign Min Qin Seeks Improved Ties With India

China’s new Foreign Minister Qin Gang, in an op-ed piece for US-based magazine, The National Interest, has indicated that Beijing seeks to improve ties with New Delhi.

Days before replacing Wang Yi, Qin in an article titled “How China Sees the World”, referred to India-China border issues and said, “both sides are willing to ease the situation and jointly protect peace along their borders.”

The Galwan Valley and Pangong Lake in the west of the LAC, have hosted flashpoints in recent years. In the east in Tawang, the site of the latest scuffle, there are discussions about Buddhist holy sites whose control can have implications for China’s authority over Tibet and its next spiritual leader according to a report in Newsweek.

Recently, India and China held the 17th Round of Corps Commander Level Meeting at the Chushul-Moldo border meeting point on the Chinese side on December 20 and agreed to maintain security and stability on the ground in the Western Sector.

“In the interim, the two sides agreed to maintain the security and stability on the ground in the Western Sector,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.

The MEA statement said the two sides agreed to stay in close contact, maintain dialogue through military and diplomatic channels and work out a mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues at the earliest.

Qin, meanwhile also blamed the US for challenging the status quo on Taiwan, and Japan for altering the status quo in the South China Sea.

“China’s development means a stronger force for peace, not a growing power poised to ‘break the status quo’, as some call it. The tension across the Taiwan Strait was not created by the Chinese mainland breaking the status quo, but by ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists and external forces continually challenging the status quo of ‘one China’,” Qin wrote.

“In the case of the East China Sea, it was Japan who attempted to ‘nationalize’ Diaoyu Dao ten years ago, altering the “status quo” between China and Japan by agreeing to put aside differences. In the South China Sea, the status quo is that regional countries are consulting on a code of conduct that will lead to meaningful and effective rules for the region,” he wrote.

Earlier, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a phone call with Qin, discussed the Washington-Beijing ties and keeping the lines of communication open.

Taking to Twitter, Blinken said, “Spoke by phone this morning with incoming People’s Republic of China Foreign Minister Qin Gang as he departs Washington for his new role. We discussed the US-PRC relationship and maintaining open lines of communication.”

Qin, who was China’s ambassador to the United States, was appointed as the country’s new foreign minister on Friday.

This decision was made by the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, Global Times reported.

Qin, 56, replaced Wang, who is now a Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and State Councillor, the report added.

On Thursday, the Chinese ambassador had warned Washington that it could face “military conflict” with Beijing over the future status of Taiwan.

“If the Taiwanese authorities, emboldened by the United States, keep going down the road for independence, it most likely will involve China and the United States, the two big countries, in a military conflict,” Qin told US-based publication NPR in his first one-on-one interview since assuming his post in Washington, last July.

Qin, who arrived in Washington last year at a time of bipartisan discontent with China, told NPR that any idea of “changing China” was always “an illusion”. (ANI)

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UK Covid Test Mandatory For Travellers From China

UK To Make Covid Test Mandatory For Travellers From China

After India and Japan, the UK is also likely to make Covid-19 tests mandatory for travellers from China after the infection surged in the mainland, Reuters reported citing British media outlets.

The travellers from China have to produce a negative COVID test report.
According to Reuters citing UK media reports, the UK government is all set to announce the new China arrival policy without providing specific details about the time.

This comes at a time when the United States is considering imposing new Covid-19 measures on travellers coming from China amid the surge of new Covid cases, Reuters reported citing a US official.

“There are mounting concerns in the international community on the ongoing COVID-19 surges in China and the lack of transparent data, including viral genomic sequence data, being reported from the PRC,” the officials said, using the initials of the People’s Republic of China, according to Reuters.

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Saturday announced that the RT-PCR test had been made mandatory for passengers coming from five countries including China.

“The RT-PCR test to be mandatory for international arrivals from China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand. On arrival, if any passenger from these countries is found symptomatic or tests positive for Covid-19 infection, then he/she will be put under quarantine,” Health Minister Mandaviya said in a conversation with ANI.

Taking note of the rising cases of COVID globally, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Friday said that the Centre and States need to work in “tandem” and in a “collaborative spirit” as was done during the previous surges.

Meanwhile, Japan also imposed Mandatory testing for COVID-19 from December 30 upon arrival for travellers from China due to an increase in the number of confirmed cases there, the Kyodo news agency reported on Tuesday.

The measure applies to travellers from mainland China and those who visited it within the past seven days. They are required to take a COVID-19 test upon their arrival in Japan. Those who test positive will be quarantined for seven days. The Kyodo news agency said Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced the decision on Tuesday.

In November, China saw a record increase in local COVID-19 outbreaks. Due to the deterioration of the epidemiological situation, the authorities introduced partial lockdowns in some areas while also forcing their residents to undergo PCR testing on a daily basis.

In particular, starting from November 24, restrictive measures were tightened in a number of China’s major cities, including Beijing and Shanghai.

Against this background, some Chinese cities — Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Wuhan, and others — were hit by mass protests. The rioters demanded the immediate lifting of lockdowns, the abolition of regular PCR testing, and the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

On Friday, media reported that about 37 million people in China could have contracted COVID-19 on a single day last week, making the country’s outbreak the largest in the world.

It was noted that up to 248 million people, or nearly 18 per cent of the population, were likely to have contracted the coronavirus in the first 20 days of December.

The Embassy of Japan in Beijing has said that many employees of Japanese firms operating in China are getting infected with COVID-19 and are being asked to work from home, NHK World reported.

Plants are also functioning with lower capacities in China. Speaking to NHK, Yoshikawa Akinobu, head of the Japan External Trade Organization’s office in Qingdao, said that COVID-19 began spreading quickly around December 16. (ANI)

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Two Covid Positive At Kolkata Airport

Two Covid Positive Detected At Kolkata Airport

Two persons returning from abroad have tested positive for the Coronavirus infection at the Kolkata Aiport, airport sources said on Monday.

Both samples have been sent for genome sequencing.
According to sources, one of the positive passengers came from Dubai on Saturday while another came from Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur.

Patients are kept in quarantine in Beliaghata ID Hospital.

Following the advisory ‘Guidelines for International Arrivals’, issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has commenced random post-arrival testing for International arrivals at Delhi Airport, said Dr. Gauri Agarwal, Founder of Genestrings Diagnostic Center on Sunday.

According to the new instructions by the government, 2 percent of all passengers arriving at international airports have to undertake random post-arrival testing at the Delhi Airport from December 24. This is being done to reduce the risk of ingress of the new COVID-19 variant BF.7 in India.

Earlier in the day, four international travellers from Myanmar tested positive for the Coronavirus infection at the Delhi airport.

It is pertinent to mention that Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya will hold a virtual meeting with the Indian Medical Association (IMA) at 4 pm today for the Covid-19 preparedness, situation.

Recently, the IMA also issued an advisory and appealed to the public to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour with immediate effect.

“In view of the sudden surge of COVID cases in different countries, the Indian Medical Association alerts and appeals to the public to follow COVID appropriate behaviour with immediate effect.”

“As per available reports, nearly 5.37 lakhs new cases have been reported in last 24 hours from major countries like USA, Japan, South as per the available reports, nearly 5.37 lakhs new cases have been reported in last 24 hours from major countries like USA, Japan, South Korea, France, and Brazil,” read the statement of IMA.

The entire country is gearing up for a possible fourth wave of Covid-19, with the new Omicron sub-variant BF.7, which is said to be the reason behind the surge in Covid cases in China, being detected in India. (ANI)

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Health Facilities In Wake Of COVID

Mock Drills To Be Conducted At All Health Facilities In Wake Of COVID Alarm

Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Saturday decided to hold mock drills at all health facilities across the country on December 27 in the wake of the COVID alarm due to a surge in infection in many countries.

This is to ensure readiness in the availability of oxygen support, and ICU beds among other preparedness measures in case of a surge of COVID cases in India.
In a letter duly signed by Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan dated December 24, the Ministry said that it is necessary that in all States/UTs requisite public health measures are put in place to meet any exigencies, adding that preparedness of COVID health facilities to ensure that the states are in a state of readiness to meet the increase in clinical care needs due to any spurt in cases.

“It has therefore been decided to hold the mock drill at all health facilities (including identified COVID-dedicated health facilities) across the country on Tuesday, 27th December 2022,” the Ministry said.

According to the Ministry, the objective of the exercise is to ensure the operational readiness of these health facilities for the management of COVID.

Detailing the focus on the parameters during the mock drills, it said that the main focus will be on the bed capacities including isolation, oxygen-supported, and ICU beds at the health facilities.

“Geographically representative availability of health facilities — covering all districts. Bed capacities — Isolation beds, oxygen-supported isolation beds, ICU beds, and ventilator-supported beds.

The focus will also be on the optimal availability of human resources which include doctors, nurses, and paramedics. AYUSH doctors, other frontline workers including ASHAs, Anganwadi workers, etc.

“Human resource capacity. Healthcare professionals trained in COVID-19 management, Healthcare professionals trained in ventilatory management protocol for severe cases, healthcare workers trained in the operation of PSA plants, etc. Referral services: Availability of Advanced and Basic Life Support (ALS/BLS) ambulances, availability of other ambulances (under PPP mode or with NGOs), availability of functional ambulance call centre,” it said.

Boosting the testing capacities and availability of RT-PCR and RAT kits, availability of testing equipment and reagents will also be the focus.

“Logistics availability. Availability of essential drugs. ventilators, BIPAP. SPO2 systems, PPE kits, N-95 masks. etc” the Ministry said.

“Medical oxygen: Oxygen Concentrators, Oxygen Cylinders, PSA Plants. Liquid Medical Oxygen Storage Tanks, Medical Gas Pipeline Systems, etc,” it added.

The Ministry informed that the mock drill may be conducted under the guidance of respective district collectors, and district magistrates in close consultation with officers of the Health Department of the State/UT.

Earlier, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Saturday announced that the RT-PCR test has been made mandatory for passengers coming from five countries including China.

“The RT-PCR test to be mandatory for international arrivals from China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Thailand. On arrival, if any passenger from these countries is found symptomatic or tests positive for Covid-19 infection, then he/she will be put under quarantine,” Health Minister Mandaviya said in a conversation with ANI.

He also said that the Air Suvidha form filling to declare the current health status will also be made compulsory for international passengers arriving from these Asian countries.

Taking note of the rising cases of COVID globally, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Friday said that the Centre and States need to work in “tandem” and in a “collaborative spirit” as was done during the previous surges.

Mandaviya, while chairing a virtual meeting Friday with the health ministers of the states, Principal Secretaries, Additional Chief Secretaries, and Information Commissioners, said that the country needs to be on the alert and be fully prepared for COVID management.

The meeting was held in view of the recent upsurge in cases in some countries like China, Japan, Brazil, and the United States in the presence of Union Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar, NITI Aayog member V K Paul to review the public health preparedness for containment and management of COVID-19 and progress of national COVID-19 vaccination campaign. (ANI)

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