Even as the country is witnessing a sharp rise in COVID cases in the backdrop of a Omicron wave, states and Union territories have only spent over 17 per cent of the ₹23,123 crore Emergency COVID-19 Response Package II (ECRP-II) allocated by the Centre to improve health infrastructure, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has said.
Taking stock of the COVID-19 situation at a review meeting with state health ministers and senior officials in the state health departments on Sunday, Mandaviya said it was vital to ramp up the health infrastructure as a “high surge in cases can overwhelm the medical system.”
“…globally, countries are experiencing three-four times the surge in COVID-19 cases in comparison to their earlier peaks. The Omicron variant being highly transmissible, a high surge in case 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,” Mandaviya said.
He said ₹23,123 crore was allocated under the ECRP-II in August last year to help states and Union territories ready enough ICU beds, oxygen beds and paediatric ICU/HCU beds to manage any pandemic-induced crisis as seen during the devastating second wave.
“States/UTs were also urged to effectively use IT tools for tele-medicine and tele-consulation, including training and capacity building of human resources, timely availability of ambulances, the readiness of states to operationalize COVID facilities for institutional quarantining, and effective and supervised monitoring of those in home isolation,” Mandaviya said.
Under the ECRP-II, the Centre had approved the setting up of around 23,056 ICU beds across states and UTs. Seven states were asked to incorporate 1,000 beds each. They are Uttar Pradesh (4,007), Karnataka (3,021), Maharashtra (2,970), West Bengal (1,874), Tamil Nadu (1,583), Madhya Pradesh (1,138), and, Andhra Pradesh (1,120).
While it was decided to set up 75,218 COVID beds to expand the health-care system till the village level under the plan, 60 per cent of the beds was set aside for six states: Uttar Pradesh (11,770), Bihar (9,920), Andhra Pradesh (9,596), Odisha (8,206), Assam (7,320), and Jharkhand (5,798).
During an earlier review meeting on December 15, Union Health Secretary Rajesh informed states that the ECRP-II funds were also meant to be spent on installing 958 liquid medical oxygen storage tanks and medical gas pipeline systems in 1,374 hospitals, as well as for the provision of 14,000 oxygen concentrators.
‘India’s vaccination drive successful’
Ahead of the vaccination drive for 15-18 year olds, Mandviya said India’s vaccination programme against COVID-19 has been one of the most successful and largest in the world, dismissing media reports which he said claimed that the country has missed its COVID-19 inoculation targets.
Since the start of the national COVID-19 vaccination drive on January 16 last year, India has administered to over 90 per cent of its eligible citizens first doses and 65 per cent second doses.
“In a recently published news article by a reputed international news agency, it has been claimed that India has missed its vaccination target. This is misleading and does not represent the complete picture,” the health ministry said in a statement.
In the fight against the global pandemic, India’s national vaccination programme has been one of the most successful and largest vaccination programmes when compared to many developed western nations with significantly low population base to vaccinate, it said.
“India under PM Narendra Modi Jis leadership is running the world’s most successful and largest vaccination programme. India’s COVID-19 drive has performed better than many developed western nations with significantly low population base to vaccinate,” Mandaviya said in a tweet.
In the vaccination drive, so far, the country has achieved several milestones, which have no precedent in the world, including administering over 100 crore doses in less than nine months, administering 2.51 crore doses in a single day and several times administering one crore doses in a day, the ministry said. “Compared with other developed nations, India has done a better job in administering Covid vaccination to its eligible adult citizen of 93.7 crore (as per the RGI (Registrar General of India)) across all its states and UTs (union territories),” it underlined.
“In case of first dose coverage to the eligible population, the US has covered only 73.2 per cent of its population, the UK has covered 75.9 per cent of its population, France has covered 78.3 per cent of its population and Spain has covered 84.7 per cent of its population, the ministry said. India has already covered 90 per cent of its eligible population with first dose of vaccine against COVID-19, it said in the statement. Similarly, for the second dose, the US has covered 61.5 per cent of its population, the UK has covered 69.5 per cent of its population, France has covered 73.2 per cent of its population, and Spain has covered 81 per cent of its population, the ministry said. India has covered over 65 per cent of its eligible population with second dose of vaccine. Over 11 states and UTs have already achieved 100 per cent first dose vaccination coverage, while three states and UTs have already achieved 100 per cent full vaccination against COVID-19 (both first and second dose), it said. Many states and UTs are soon expected to achieve 100 per cent vaccination very quickly,the statement said. Under the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination programme, the Har Ghar Dastak (house-to-house) campaign was implemented from November 3 and this includes mobilisation and awareness on vaccination by reaching out to all missed out or dropped out eligible beneficiaries.
“This has also resulted in an increase of first dose coverage by 11.6 per cent since introduction of the campaign. While the second dose coverage increased by 28.9 per cent in the same period,” the statement stated.
Keeping in view the global surge in COVID-19 cases, detection of the Omicron variant, scientific evidence, global best practices and the suggestions of the COVID-19 Working Group of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) as well as of the Standing Technical Scientific Committee (STSC) of the NTAGI, it was decided to further refine the scientific prioritisation and coverage of COVID-19 vaccination of teenagers in the age-group of 15-18 years to be started from January 3, it said.
Further strengthening India’s fight against COVID-19, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has given approvals to two additional vaccines. These include Biological-Es Corbevax vaccine and SIIs Covovax vaccine for restricted use in emergency situation. This takes the number of vaccines given restricted use in emergency situation in India to eight, the statement said.
(With inputs from agencies)