The Centre on Sunday asked states and Union Territories to review preparedness of their healthcare systems to deal with respiratory illnesses amid an “emerging public health situation” in China.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization said it has asked China for more information about an increase in respiratory illnesses and reported clusters of pneumonia among children in the north of the country.

Since mid-October, China has been experiencing an increase in cases of influenza-like illnesses compared with the same period in the previous three years when strict measures were in force as authorities enforced a zero-Covid strategy. The first cases of Covid-19 in 2019 had been reported as viral pneumonia.

On Sunday, the health and family welfare ministry told states to “immediately review” public health and hospital preparedness measures such as availability of hospital beds, drugs and vaccines for influenza, medical oxygen, antibiotics, personal protective equipment, testing kits and reagents, functionality of oxygen plants and ventilators and infection control practices at medical facilities.

Governments of states and Union Territories have also been asked to ensure that the trends of influenza-like illnesses and severe acute respiratory illnesses, particularly of children and adolescents, are closely monitored by the district and state-level surveillance units of the Integrated Disease Surveillance Project, the ministry said.

The project, which functions under the Union health ministry, is a nationwide disease surveillance system geared at early detection and long term monitoring of diseases.

States have also been asked to send nasal and throat swab samples of patients with severe acute respiratory illnesses to the Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratories to test them for respiratory pathogens, the ministry said.

“This is noted to be important in view of the ongoing influenza and winter season that results in an increase in respiratory illness cases,” the ministry added.

The Centre also said that while it is closely monitoring the situation in China, the review measures are “precautionary” and that “there is no need for any alarm”. “While WHO has sought additional information from Chinese authorities, it is assessed that there is no cause for any alarm at the moment,” the ministry said.

The United Nations’ healthcare body said on Wednesday that groups, including the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases, have reported clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children in northern China. But it was not clear if these are associated with an overall increase in respiratory infections previously reported by Chinese authorities or separate events.

The World Health Organization has also sought details from China about trends in the circulation of known pathogens and the burden on healthcare systems. The agency’s statement said it was in contact with clinicians and scientists through its existing technical partnerships and networks in China.

The agency also urged the Chinese public to take preventative measures, including getting vaccinated, keeping distance from those sick and wearing masks.