Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Sunday interacted with State Health Ministers, Principal Secretaries, Additional Chief Secretaries of States/UTs and reviewed the public health preparedness to COVID-19 and national COVID-19 vaccination, informed the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
According to the ministry, the meeting was held in view of the rising cases of the Omicron variant and the recent decisions to roll out vaccination for the age group 15-18 years and precautionary dose for identified vulnerable categories. The meeting was officiated by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, stated the ministry.
The Union Health Minister noted at the very outset that 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 the case can overwhelm the medical system. He, therefore, advised the States to 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 in this regard that irrespective of the COVID-19 variants, measures for preparedness and protection remain the same. He urged the states to reinvigorate their teams to work at the ground level and strengthen monitoring and containment mechanisms.
This was followed by a comprehensive and detailed discussion on various aspects of COVID-19 management including ramping up of hospital infrastructure, increased testing, stringent restrictive measures for breaking the chain of transmission, and stress on COVID-19 appropriate behaviour among the masses.
Critical bottlenecks in medical infrastructure were also discussed. Mandaviya said, “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.”
“We must focus on planning with regard to the 15-18 age group vaccination and precautionary doses for eligible beneficiaries,” he observed.
The Minister also urged states to ensure that the healthcare workers and frontline workers are fully vaccinated, as they form the vulnerable categories.
While appreciating the efforts of States/UTs in achieving the national average of 90 per cent 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 directed 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.
States/UTs were also instructed 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. Also, states/UTs were advised to share their requirement of vaccine doses through district-wise estimation of beneficiaries using Co-WIN.
They were urged to plan for the distribution of Covaxin to identify session sites well in advance and publish sessions for at least 15 days to provide sufficient visibility. Mandaviya also pointed out that various measures are being taken by the Union government to ramp up infrastructure development and vaccine production in the country.
He requested states/UTs to share their best practices so that the entire country can benefit. The Union Health Minister brought the attention of the States/UTs to the fact that collectively, they have only used just over 17% of the available approved funds under the Emergency COVID-19 Response Package (ECRP-II). States/UTs were exhorted to expedite the physical progress under ECRP-II in terms of ICU beds, oxygen beds, Paediatric ICU/HDU beds etc.
The Minister also urged States/UTs to effectively use IT tools for telemedicine and teleconsultation, including training and capacity building of human resources, timely availability of ambulances, the readiness of states to operationalize COVID-19 facilities for institutional quarantining, and effective and supervised monitoring of those in home isolation.