Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Sunday urged states to take all necessary steps to strengthen infrastructure so that the country escapes unscathed from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a health ministry statement.
“…Globally, countries are experiencing 3-4 times the surge in Covid-19 cases in comparison to their earlier peaks. The Omicron variant being highly transmissible, a high surge in case can overwhelm the medical system. Therefore, leave no stone unturned in ramping up infrastructure to manage a high surge so that India escapes unscathed from this episode of Covid-19,” said Mandaviya during a review meeting on the pandemic situation and vaccination progress, the statement said.
“The meeting was basically to discuss together bottlenecks and how the preparations can be expedited and streamlined to manage the expected surge,” said a health ministry official, who was part of the meeting.
The health minister in particular directed states to better utilise funds under the Emergency COVID Response Package (ECRP-II ) for an adequate number of ICU beds, oxygen beds, paediatric ICUs, high dependency unit beds etc. So far, the states collectively have used just over 17% of the available funds.
“Effectively use IT tools for tele-medicine and tele-consultation, including training and capacity building of human resources, timely availability of ambulances, readiness of states to operationalise Covid-19 facilities for institutional quarantining, and effective and supervised monitoring of those in home isolation,” he said.
The health minister also emphasised that irrespective of the Covid-19 variants in circulation, measures for preparedness and protection remain the same. He asked the states to re-invigorate their teams to work at the ground level and strengthen monitoring and containment mechanisms.
Critical bottlenecks in medical infrastructure were also discussed at the review, according to the statement. “We have put up a strong fight against Covid earlier and this learning must be used to re-focus on efforts against the Omicron variant. There is a continued need to follow Covid appropriate behaviour along with renewed and stringent focus on containment measures for addressing the present surge,” he said.
He also asked states to start preparations to administer Covid vaccine doses to children aged 15-18 years from January 3. “We must focus on planning with regard to the 15-18 age group vaccination and precautionary doses for eligible beneficiaries. Ensure that the healthcare workers and frontline workers are fully vaccinated, as they form the vulnerable categories,” said Mandaviya.
While appreciating the efforts of states and UTs in achieving the national average of 90% coverage of first dose vaccination of all eligible adults, he urged those states, whose progress of vaccination is below the national average, to ramp up their vaccination campaign.
“States were also advised to prepare a weekly plan to catch up and exceed the average national vaccination coverage and review the implementation of this plan on a daily basis at the level of Secretary/ACS Health [with special emphasis in 5 poll-bound States of Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Manipur],” read the health ministry statement.
Stressing on the need to ensure smooth implementation of new vaccination guidelines, States were advised to ensure the orientation of vaccinators and vaccination team members for vaccination of 15-18 years age-group, and the identification of dedicated session sites for vaccination of 15-18 years age-group. To avoid the mixing-up of vaccines during administration, separate covid vaccination centres, separate session sites, separate queue (if at same session where adult vaccination is ongoing) and separate vaccination team (if at same session site) should be formed.
States have also been asked to share their requirement of vaccine doses through district wise estimation of beneficiaries using CoWIN, and plan for distribution of Covaxin to identified session sites well in advance and publish sessions for at least 15 days to provide sufficient visibility.