The government is keeping a close watch on the COVID-19 situation in the country by strictly observing the strategy of ‘test-track-treat’, Covid-appropriate behaviour and vaccination to mitigate the impact of resurgence in the disease’s trajectory, Rajya Sabha was informed on Tuesday.
The Centre has also established the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Surveillance Consortium for genomic sequencing and tracking the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 variant strains, Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar said in a written reply.
She was responding to a question on whether health infrastructure has been strengthened and expanded, including oxygen cylinders and medicines, to meet the COVID-19 challenge and if the government has undertaken any detailed study with experts on how to minimise the threat and likelihood of a third wave of the pandemic.
The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Pawar said, is supporting the implementation of two key programmes, the National Biopharma Mission (NBM) and the Ind-CEPI Mission, which have enabled strengthening of the national vaccine development ecosystem to effectively respond to pandemics.
Moreover, ‘Mission COVID Suraksha’,the Indian COVID-19 vaccine development mission, was launched as part of the third stimulus package — Atmanirbhar Bharat 3.0 — for promoting research and development, she said.
The mission is led by the DBT and is implemented by the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), she said.
Besides, support is provided to states and union territories (UTs) to increase preparedness and response capacities against COVID-19 and other public health emergencies. Various initiatives have been taken to provide technical guidance and strengthen health infrastructure to manage COVID-19, Pawar said.
Listing some of the major areas of intervention, she said over 150 guidelines, advisories, SoPs and plans have been provided to states and UTs.
Guidelines on clinical management of COVID-19 with emerging scientific evidence, guidelines for management of COVID-19 in children on acute presentation of the infection, and guidelines on multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children and adolescents found temporally related to COVID-19 have been issued, she said.
The number of testing labs for COVID-19 has been increased to 3,062, as on December 1, and guidelines and checklists on prevention and clinical management of mucormycosis disseminated to all states and UTs, Pawar said.
She said comprehensive guidelines for management of post-Covid sequel was issued after expert consultations to guide doctors.
States are being supported with PPE kits, N-95 masks, ventilators and drugs like hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir. They have been supported with supply of oxygen cylinders and oxygen concentrators, Pawar said.
States are also being supported in terms of installation of oxygen concentrator plants and pressure swing adsorption plants, she said.
They have been advised to undertake oxygen consumption audit in hospitals, including private hospitals, and to undertake facility-wise and hospital-wise oxygen inventory mapping and advance planning for timely replenishment so that there is no stock out, Pawar said.
She said COVID-19 vaccines are made available free of cost to all citizens aged 18 years and above, irrespective of their socio-economic status, at all government COVID-19 Vaccination Centres (CVCs). Provisions have been made to improve access to vaccination for elderly, specially-abled citizens, persons in mental health institutions, destitute and vagabonds, Pawar said.
Under the ‘Har Ghar Dastak’ campaign for improving vaccination rate, various initiatives, including community awareness campaigning in collaboration with local religious and community leaders, CSOs, NGOs, NSS, NYK etc. is taken to ensure mobilisation and counselling of the eligible population, Pawar said.
Funding support is provided to states and UTs through various avenues, Pawar said, adding during the 2019-20 fiscal Rs1113.21 crore was released to states and UTs under the NHM towards management and containment of Covid.
Since September 2020, the government has allowed use of state disaster response funds for various COVID-19 related activities and during 2020-21, Rs 8257.88 crore has been released to states and UTs towards the India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package, she said.
This provided support to states for health infrastructure strengthening, expansion of laboratory network, surveillance and contact tracing, procurement of PPEs, N-95 masks, ventilators.
The ‘India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package: PhaseII’ has also been approved by the Cabinet with Rs 23,123 crores (Rs 15,000 crore as central component and Rs 8,123 crore as state component) and is implemented from July 1, Pawar said.
This includes support to states and UT for ramping up health infrastructure including those in rural, tribal and periurban areas, providing support for procurement of drugs and diagnostics to enhance service delivery at district and sub district levels for management of COVID-19 cases, including paediatric care, and for maintaining a buffer of drugs, support for IT Interventions such as implementation of Hospital Management Information System and expanding access to teleconsultations in all districts, and support for capacity building and training for all aspects of management of COVID-19.
Pawar said adequate doses to vaccinate all eligible first dose and due second dose beneficiaries aged 18 years and above by December 2021 are made available to states and UTs.