Saturday, March 28, 2020

Bracing for a possible surge in Covid-19 cases, India ramps up health facilities

India has recorded an additional 120 cases in that past 24 hours, taking the total to 927, out of whom 19 people have died.

Image for representative purposes only

Image for representative purposes only

NEW DELHI : Fearing an exponential rise in Covid-19 infections through community transmission in coming days, India is ramping up its testing facilities and boosting its overall health infrastructure.
Despite a nationwide lockdown for about a week, experts say how far the action has helped would only be known in a few days as the virus has an incubation period of 2 days to 2 weeks.
India recorded an additional 120 cases in that past 24 hours, taking the total to 927, out of whom 19 people have died.
India is still on stage 2 of the disease officially when most of those infected have either travel history or have come in contact with someone who traveled overseas. But the nation may be on the cusp of stage 3, when clusters of people transmit the disease locally, making it hard to control, experts say.
“It is so early to see any results of the lockdown in terms of cases and deaths due to covid-19. But we having a graded response and anticipating the situation we should be prepared for. Meanwhile, we are requesting the states to identify hospitals, isolation wards," said Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, ministry of health and family welfare.
"The government is taking pre-emptive and proactive approach to tackle the situation. Anticipating if we need to treat more patients, we have ordered 40,000 more ventilators. The government is focussing on high disease-burden hotspots and is working with the states to implement strong contact-tracing, community surveillance and containment strategies," he said.
Agarwal said to ensure the social distancing measures, the government has decided that Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) beneficiaries (chronic disease patients) may be issued or indented medicines for three months at a time without the necessity of the beneficiary having to visit the wellness centre.
"They beneficiaries can send an authorised representative without requirement of the beneficiary himself or herself visiting wellness centre," Agarwal said. According to the government, currently India is largely reporting cases either having a travel history to the virus hit countries or contact history with an infected person which means the country is still in the local transmission stage (stage 2) and yet not entered the stage 3.
India has been increasing its testing strategy for the finding covid-19 patients. “We are ready to test more than 5 lakhs people. We have got over 5 lakhs testing kits from the USA. And we are currently in a position to test at least 1 lakh persons," said Dr Raman R Gangakedkar, Head of Epidemiology and Communicable Disease at Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), New Delhi, the apex body for biomedical research in India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday interacted with AYUSH sector practitioners via video conference and said the government may rope in the AYUSH doctors to deal with the pandemic, if needed. Modi said that AYUSH scientists, ICMR, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and other research organizations must come together for evidence-based research.
“The country must be ready to use the entire healthcare workforce to meet the challenge, and if the need so arises, help from private doctors connected with AYUSH may be sought by the government," Modi said.
“AYUSH medicine producers could utilize their resources towards producing essential items like sanitizers which are in high demand these days. And utilize the platform of telemedicine to reach out to the public and generate constant awareness to fight the pandemic," the Prime Minister said.
Government has already looped in the private laboratories for testing and hospitals for treatment. Prime Minister on Saturday also called up a nurse from the civic-run Naidu Hospital, which has been treating coronavirus patients, and lauded the work done by the hospital staff to fight the pandemic.
“With India nearing the stage 3 of community transmission we are recommending people that the only way to slow down the infection spread is by staying home," said Dr Shankar Narang, COO, Paras Healthcare, a chain of hospitals.
“While Covid 19 cases are being primarily treated at public hospitals in India, the private sector can play a role in mitigating this crisis by expanding their telemedicine network and offering consultations at discounted rates to improve accessibility.

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