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Centre reviews public health preparedness for management of Covid-19

by Vaishali Sharma

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Monday chaired a high-level meeting to review the preparedness status of the entire spectrum of management of the COVID19 pandemic in view of the upsurge in cases, with States and UTs through a Video Conference.

Dr V K Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog and Dr Rajiv Bahl, Secretary, Dept. of Health Research were also present in the review meeting. Union Health Secretary referred to the message of PM Modi from the high-level review meeting held on 22nd March 2023 and advised States to be on the alert and ensure preparedness for COVID19 management.

He cautioned States and UTs against any complacency and advised them to follow up on the priorities listed in the joint advisory issued today by the Department of Health Research and the Department of Health and Family Welfare on March 25 2023.

He stressed ramping of testing with a higher proportion of RT-PCR and whole genome sequencing of positive samples. Urging everyone to follow COVID Appropriate Behaviour at all times.
He also stressed the need to increase the administration of precaution doses among people, especially for the vulnerable population group.

A comprehensive presentation was made covering the global Covid-19 situation including the rising cases in India. States and UTs were briefed that India has been witnessing an increase in COVID-19 cases with average daily cases rising to 966 in the week ending March 23 2023 from 313 average daily cases in the week ending March 3 2023; and weekly positivity going up to 1.08 per cent during the same time.

It was informed that weekly positivity in Maharashtra has gone up to 4.58 per cent as on March 24, 2023 from 0.54 per cent in the week ending March 3, 2023. In Gujarat, it has increased to 2.17% from 0.07 per cent. In Kerala, weekly positivity shot up to 4.51 per cent from 1.47 per cent. Karnataka witnessed average weekly positivity rise up to 3.05 per cent from 1.65 per cent while Delhi has seen weekly positivity rise to 4.25 per cent from 0.53 per cent. Similarly, Himachal Pradesh witnessed weekly positivity increase to 7.48 per cent from 1.92 per cent. In Rajasthan, it has increased from 0.12 per cent to 1.62 per cent and Tamil Nadu reported an increase in weekly positivity from 0.46 per cent to 2.40 per cent in the same time period.

The Health Ministry in a press note said that a total of 22 States/UTs are reporting average daily TPM less than the national average. It was also pointed that 24 districts in India are reporting more than 10 per cent weekly positivity in the week ending March 24, 2023, while 43 districts are reporting weekly positivity between 5-10 per cent in the same time period.

Rajesh Bhushan also advised States to undertake mock drills across all health facilities on April 10 and 11, 2023 to ensure operational readiness of Hospital Infrastructure, including Oxygen Cylinders, PSA plants, ventilators, logistics and human resources. He informed about the status of the last mock drill which was conducted on December 27, 2023.

“The drills were conducted in a total of 21,939 facilities, including 16,601 govt. facilities and 5,338 private facilities. Over 94 per cent of PSA plants and oxygen concentrators were found functional across the country while over 87 per cent of ICU beds, ventilators, O2 beds and isolation beds were found in working condition,” the Health Ministry said.
Union Health Secretary said that irrespective of the new COVID variants, ‘Test-Track-Treat-Vaccinate & Adherence to COVID Appropriate Behaviour’ continue to remain the tested strategy for COVID management. “This would facilitate undertaking of appropriate public health measures,” he said.

Bhushan also urged the states to ensure availability of sufficient designated beds and health workers across the states, enhance community awareness regarding disease and vaccination and regularly update COVID-19 data in Covid India Portal.

Dr V K Paul highlighted the need for increased vigil due to the prevalence of new variants and vaccine immunity across the country currently at a modest level. He urged states to increase preparedness, including higher level of RT-PCR tests and called for increasing the coverage of precaution dose among population.

Dr Rajiv Bahl encouraged states to ramp up testing, especially RT-PCR tests and maintain precaution. He also asked them to follow the advisory sent from the Union Health Ministry and increase community awareness. He also urged states showing higher number of cases to monitor cluster of new cases and severe cases.

There was comprehensive and detailed discussion on various aspects of COVID management. States appreciated the timely review meetings chaired by the Hon. Prime Minister and the Union Health Minister and advisories from the Union Health Ministry. They assured that they will work with the Centre for effective prevention and management of COVID-19. They informed that they are maintaining vigil and are reviewing the present situation. States also assured they will hold mock drill for readiness of hospital infrastructure on 10th – 11th April, 2023.

Lav Agarwal, AS, Health Ministry, and other officials from the Ministry was present in the meeting. Principal Secretary (Health), Mission Director (NHM) from the States/UTs participated in the review meeting.

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