Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a late night meeting on Saturday with senior Central and State government officials to review the status of preparedness to handle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting was held amid a record surge in cases across the country and with several States complaining of shortage of staff, medicines and essential equipments to deal with the pandemic.
“Various aspects relating to medicines, oxygen, ventilators and vaccination were discussed and PM stressed that there is no substitute to testing, tracking and treatment while directing that all necessary measures must be taken to ramp up the availability of hospital beds for COVID patients. The Prime Minister also directed that additional supply of beds through temporary hospitals and isolation centres should be ensured,” said a release issued the government.
At the meeting PM reviewed the status of supply of Remdesivir and other medicines and noted that the use of these medicines should be in accordance with approved medical guidelines, and that their misuse and black marketing must be strictly curbed.
More oxygen plants
The Prime Minister “has directed that the installation of approved medical oxygen plants should be accelerated,” said the release, adding that 162 PSA Oxygen plants are being installed in 32 States/UTs from PM CARES and one lakh cylinders are being procured and will be supplied to States soon. Mr Modi asked all officials to make efforts to utilize the entire national capacity, in public as well as private sector, to ramp up vaccine production.
Earlier in the day Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said India is currently reporting the sharpest growth rate of 7.6% in new COVID cases, which is 1.3 times higher than case growth rate of 5.5% reported in June 2020. The Minister added that this is leading to an alarming rise in active cases and also a sharp growth of 10.2% in the number of COVID deaths.
Dr. Vardhan, chaired a high-level review meeting with Health Ministers of 11 States/UTs — Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, West Bengal, Delhi, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh — that are reporting an unprecedented surge in new COVID cases.
The Ministry added that India now has 2,463 testing labs that have a combined daily testing capacity of 15 lakh. The three-tier health infrastructure to treat COVID according to severity now includes 2,084 Dedicated COVID Hospitals (of which 89 are under the Centre and the rest 1995 with States), 4,043 Dedicated COVID Health Centres and 12,673 COVID Care Centres. They have 18,52,265 beds in total including the 4,68,974 beds in the dedicated COVID Hospitals.
”The Centre gave 34,228 ventilators to States last year. Fresh supply of the lifesaving machines — 1,121 ventilators are to be given to Maharashtra, 1,700 to Uttar Pradesh, 1,500 to Jharkhand, 1,600 to Gujarat, 152 to Madhya Pradesh and 230 to Chhattisgarh,” said the Minister.
At the meeting the issues of augmenting supply of oxygen cylinders, stepping up supply of Remdesivir in hospitals, adding to the ventilator stock and enhanced supply of vaccine doses were raised by almost all the States and UTs.
Several states also demanded dovetailing of medical oxygen supply lines and the capping of prices of essential drugs like Remdesivir which they claim is being sold in the black market at exorbitant prices.
“Double mutant strain was a key point of concern and the Delhi government requested for additional beds in central government hospitals as was done in 2020 to help tide over the emergent health crisis,” noted a release issued by the Health Ministry.
Also taking note of the active surge in cases witnessed since last February in which most states have now crossed their highest tally, Dr. Vardhan directed States to plan in advance and increase COVID hospitals, oxygenated beds and other relevant infrastructure to deal with any further surge in cases.
The States were asked to seek out positive cases with the onset of early symptoms so that prompt and effective treatment checks the deterioration of health. Large containment zones for achieving community quarantine were also suggested as a strategy.