Dr. Harsh Vardhan chairs a video conference with States/UTs Health Ministers regarding the steps taken on COVID-19

New Delhi: “I congratulate you all for managing and keeping the situation under control in our fight against COVID-19 in your respective States and UTs”, said Dr. Harsh Vardhan to State/UT Health & Medical Education Ministers and senior officers while reviewing the COVID-19 preparedness and public health measures taken in the country for the same, through Video Conference (VC). Shri Ashwini Kumar Choubey, MoS (HFW) was also present in the meeting.

The VC saw participation from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka,Kerala, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Odisha, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Chandigarh, Andaman and Nicobar, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Uttarakhand.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan stated, “The fight against the pandemic is now more than three & half months old and the prevention, containment and management of COVID-19 in the country is being monitored at the highest level in collaboration with the States.” He further said that the Mortality rate in the country is 3% and recovery rate is more than 20%. Speaking about the surveillance efforts being put in by the Government, he said, “We know the whereabouts of our enemy and with proper, graded and guided response we are in a position to overcome it.”

He further informed, “We have sent teams of technical officers for handholding, reviewing the situation in the states and helping in day to day fight against COVID-19.” On the issue of Anti-Body Tests, he said, “The results of the test vary from place to place and it can’t be relied upon. Moreover, WHO has also not commented on its accuracy. The ICMR is reviewing the efficacy of the test and the kits in its own labs and shall come out with fresh guidelines soon.”

While apprising States about the Ordinance promulgated by the President of India to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 to protect healthcare service personnel against violence during epidemics, he said, “There is zero tolerance to any form of violence against healthcare service personnel and damage to property of clinical establishments. The amendment makes such acts of violence cognizable and non-bailable offences. Commission or abetment of such acts of violence shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of three months to five years, and with fine of Rs.50,000/- to Rs.2,00,000/-which can be increased to imprisonment for a term six months to seven years and with fine of Rs.1,00,000/- to Rs. 5,00,000/- in case of grievous injuries.” He further informed,“Government of India has announced a Rs. 50 lakh insurance on demise of a frontline health workers involved in managing COVID-19 outbreak andit also includes sanitation staff, doctors, ASHA workers, paramedics, nurses and even private doctors.”

He reviewed the requirement and the adequacy of PPEs, N95 masks, testing kits, drugs and ventilators with each State, and assured that Government of India will ensure there is no shortage of supplies of these critical items. Dr. Harsh Vardhan said, “PPEs and N95 masks used to be imported in the country but now we have around 100 manufacturing units which are capable of making them in India itself.” Further, while commending the efforts of the States, he said that they may also emulate the best practices of each other.

Dr Harsh Vardhan also reviewed the status of dedicated COVID-19 hospitals in the country. He said “There is a need to establish dedicated COVID-19 hospitals in each district of the country and notify them as soon as possible so that people are informed about them.”

Dr. Harsh Vardhan exhorted all the Ministers to ensure that non-COVID patients are not neglected. He said, “While we are providing treatment and care to the COVID-19 patients, we also need to ensure treatment for the non-COVID-19 patients, who are suffering from critical ailments such as respiratory or heart disease, those requiring dialysis, those that require blood transfusion and pregnant mothers. We should not turn them away on any kind of flimsy pretexts as these critical procedures can’t wait.” He also stressed upon the States/UTs about the need to promote voluntary blood donation and urged them to keep themselves prepared for other vector-borne diseases such as Malaria, Dengue and TB which should not be ignored in the present circumstances.

He also urged all to download and use the ArogyaSetu App as it will enable people to assess the risk of their catching the Corona Virus infection. “Once installed in a smart phone, the app can assess the risk of infection based on sophisticated parameters,” he said.

At the end, Dr Harsh Vardhan urged all to ensure social distancing and spread awareness about personal hygiene in fight against COVID-19. He asked the Health Ministers of States to personally monitor the process. He further advised that “We should follow the Lockdown 2.0 in letter and spirit as was done earlier. He warned the states not be too relaxed in their approach during Lockdown and maintain the standards. He gave the example of Uttar Pradesh which is efficiently implementing the Lockdown and advised other states to emulate it.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan exhorted the States/UTs to keep their spirits high so that country comes out more resilient and self-reliant in providing critical health care while dealing potently with the pandemic. He said that India is a vast country and with the support of the States/UTs we would take the fight against Corona Virus to its desired end.

Ms. Preeti Sudan, Secretary (HFW), Dr. Balram Bharagava, Secretary DHR & DG,ICMR and senior officers from the Health Ministry along with representatives from ICMR were also present during the review meeting.