Rajat Sharma

With PM Modi at the helm, India is ready to face fresh Covid challenge

AKb (1)With clouds of Covid pandemic wave looming again, there have been massive preparations by Centre and state governments to keep the infrastructure ready to face the challenge. From oxygen generation plants to medicines and ventilators, work has begun on a war footing across the country. On one hand, use of intra-nasal vaccine has been approved by the Centre, and on the other hand, use of masks and social distancing norms are going to be implemented strictly.

In the wake of a spurt in Covid cases in China, the Centre has planned to hold a mock drill on December 27 (Tuesday) across India to check Covid emergency preparedness in hospitals. Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya will also be participating in this drill.

The Centre has cleared use of Bharat Biotech’s intra-nasal vaccine Incovacc, which will be used as a heterologous booster. It will be available for administering in private hospitals, and will be included in Covid-19 vaccination programme from today. This nasal vaccine can be administered to those above 18 years of age as a booster dose.

The Central Drugs Standard Control Organization had approved this intra-nasal vaccine for restricted use a few weeks ago for the age group 18 years and above. Since the delivery process is easy and needle-free, it also eliminates needle-associated risks like injuries and infections. Due to its simple delivery mechanism, no trained health care worker is required to administer it.

At a top-level meeting attended by Home Minister Amit Shah, Health Minister Mandaviya, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and other officials on Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked all state government to carry out audit of their Covid-related facilities to ensure operational readiness in hospitals. This includes ensuring adequate stocks of oxygen cylinders, oxygen generation plants, ventilators and personnel who will man these facilities. Guidelines have been issued to all states to ensure random testing of incoming passengers at airports, operationalizing Covid wards in hospitals, checking all ventilators supplied by Centre last year, and enforcing social distancing and use of masks.

The Indian Medical Association has advised people to avoid public gatherings like wedding functions, political or social meetings, as well as international travel in view of rising number of Covid cases in some countries. In an advisory, the IMA has appealed to people to go for vaccination and follow Covid-appropriate behaviour.

At the top-level meeting, Prime Minister Modi sought to know the number of beds and oxygen supply available for Covid cases in hospitals, and the number of people yet to take primary and booster Covid vaccines. It was told in the meeting that while the Centre and states are well-prepared, there appears to be negligence and complacency on part of people at large. People are taking Covid cases lightly. The thrust should be more on spreading awareness. At present, there are nearly 10 variants of Coronavirus active in India, the latest entry being the new variant BF.7, that is wreaking havoc in China.

In order to send the right message to people, Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, Rajya Sabha Chairman, all ministers and most of the MPs have started attending Parliament wearing masks. The Speaker and RS Chairman appealed to all members to spread awareness about Covid-appropriate behaviour among people in view of the looming threat from China. Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar praised Health Minister Mandaviya and said, “during my two foreign visits, I heard praises about our Health Minister for ensuring administration of more than 220 crore vaccine doses and for easy availability of digital Covid vaccine certificates.“Even developed countries have failed to achieve this”.

It is true India today is ready to face the Covid challenge. The world knows about this. When the first wave of Covid pandemic began, India did not have adequate number of masks, PPE kits, medicines and hospital beds. The oxygen crisis that was faced by the country last year during the second wave, was overcome immediately by setting up PSA (pressure swing adsorption) plants that produced medical-grade oxygen.

Today, India has adequate number of hospital beds for Covid patients, PPE kits, ICUs, medicines and our doctors and health workers have gained vast experience in dealing with Covid cases. The third wave is yet to reach our shores, and, God forbid, even if it comes, we are in a better position to handle the challenge. There is no harm in following precautions. There must be no complacency or negligence, at any cost, neither on part of Centre, nor on part of state governments.

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