The strategy to prevent resurgence of COVID-19 cases through various public health measures has been deliberated upon in different technical committees and the Centre continues to advise states to strictly follow the strategy of "test-track-treat-vaccination and adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour", Rajya Sabha was told on Tuesday.
Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar said this in response to a question on whether the government has undertaken any detailed study with experts on how to minimise the threat and likelihood of a third wave of the pandemic, if not prevention.
In a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha, Pawar said the strategy and interventions required to prevent resurgence of COVID-19 cases through instituting various public health measures has been deliberated upon in various technical committees under the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Directorate General of Health Services.
These technical committees include subject experts from the field of public health, clinicians, scientists, microbiologists, etc. drawn from eminent public health institutions and hospitals as well as the World Health Organization.
The Ministry of Health continues to advise states to strictly follow the five-fold strategy of "Test-Track-Treat-Vaccination and adherence to COVID appropriate behaviour", Pawar said in the reply.
States and union territories have been accordingly advised the same through formal communications, video conferences as well as through the deployment of central teams.
On whether the health infrastructure has been strengthened and expanded to meet the challenges throughout the country, Pawar said health is a state subject but the Government of India has supported the states and undertook a series of action including further strengthening of existing health infrastructure to ensure provisioning of sufficient hospital beds, drugs, medical oxygen and other consumables to aid proper clinical care of COVID-19 patients.
Elaborating on some of the ongoing initiatives to strengthen hospital infrastructure, the minister said with the intent to reduce the risk of cross-infection to non-COVID-19 patients as well as to maintain continuity of non-Covid essential health services in the country, a three-tier arrangement of dedicated health facilities has been implemented in the country.
The Government of India, in addition to providing services through hospitals/facilities available under the Ministry of Health, roped in tertiary care hospitals under ESIC, Defence, Railways, paramilitary forces, Steel Ministry, etc. for management of COVID-19 cases.
Further, many large temporary treatment facilities were established by DRDO to manage the surge in COVID-19 cases in the country, the reply stated.
Due to the concerted actions of the central and state governments, the isolation bed capacity and ICU bed capacity which was merely 10,180 and 2,168 before the first lockdown (as of 23rd March 2020) could be increased to 18,21,420 isolation beds and 1,21,671 ICU beds (as on 16th July 2021).
Additionally, the reliance on imports with respect to ventilators was mitigated with concerted efforts of governments and industry under the "Make in India" vision.
Government institutions have been allocated 56,218 ventilators, of which 48,060 have been already supplied as on July 13.
Taking note of spread of the disease to peri-urban and rural areas in many districts, the Ministry of Health had on May 16 issued an SoP on COVID-19 containment and management in these areas, the reply said.
With the intent to protect pediatric age group in current and any future surges of cases, guidelines for management of COVID-19 in children were also issued on June 18.
The guideline provides guidance on the management of acute presentation of COVID-19 as well as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C) in children and adolescents found temporally related to COVID-19.
Oxygen cylinders and concentrators are being procured and being supplied to States. Further PSA plants have been sanctioned across the country to augment oxygen supplies.
In addition, "India COVID-19 Emergency Response & Health System Preparedness Package: Phase-II" has also been approved by the Cabinet with Rs 23,123 crore (with Rs. 15,000 Cr as Central Component & Rs 8,123 crore as State component) and is to be implemented from July 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022.
Pawar said the vaccination drive is going as scheduled.
On questioning about the time the country will achieve universal vaccination, the minister said the COVID-19 vaccination is an ongoing and dynamic process, which is being guided by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) on the basis of concurrent scientific evidence.
In view of the dynamic and evolving nature of COVID-19 pandemic, no fixed timeline at present can be indicated for the completion of the vaccination drive.