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NEW DELHI : Concerned over rising covid cases amid upcoming religious festivals and yatras involving mass gatherings, health secretary Rajesh Bhushan has directed states to widely publicize that people planning to participate should be asymptomatic and fully vaccinated.

If needed, states may start special vaccination drives at least a fortnight in advance of the events. In a letter to states and UTs, Bhushan said such congregations may become sites for spreading infectious diseases including covid.

India reported 11,793 new cases and 27 deaths due to covid in the last 24 hours. The country’s active caseload currently stands at 96,700, the union health ministry said on Tuesday.

India was hit by a super-spreader event at the Kumbh mela in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, during the second wave of the pandemic last year. This year, the Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra begins in Puri, Odisha, on 1 July, while the Kavad Yatra, popular in North India, starts on 14 July.

Bhushan said healthcare and other frontline workers at these events should be also asymptomatic and preferably fully vaccinated. “Additionally, precautions need to be taken for elderly people and those with co-morbid conditions (like diabetes, hypertension, chronic lung/liver/kidney diseases etc.) while planning to participate in such events. They need to consult their treating doctor and continue taking their medication throughout the period while closely monitoring the health," Bhushan said.

“In events like religious yatras, where en-route congregation points are expected, concerned state governments shall identify major routes expected to be taken by the individuals and organize requisite health facilities on these routes," he said adding that states should focus on a five-fold strategy of testing-treat-vaccination and adherence to covid-19 appropriate behaviour.

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