India was able to avoid a surge in Covid-19 cases during the festival season by putting in place a comprehensive testing, tracking and treatment strategy, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Saturday. Addressing the 22nd meeting of the Group of Ministers constituted for putting together an action plan to fight the pandemic in February, he briefed about the plans to expeditiously vaccinate 30 crore Indians in all target populations. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Minister for Civil Aviation, Hardeep Puri and Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai were among those present. “When we met last in mid-October, the number of active cases in India was around 10 lakh and now it has dropped to around 3 lakh,” the Health Minister said. He said India’s Covid-19 pandemic growth has dropped to 2 per cent and case fatality rate is amongst the lowest in the world at 1.45 per cent.
National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Director Surjeet K Singh showed how graded government policies have helped India achieve a significant control over the pandemic. He showed figures related to number of cases, number of deaths, their growth rate and how they compared favourably to the rest of the world which is still witnessing a rise in these parameters.
According to data shared by Singh, there are 15,300 dedicated Covid-19 facilities in the country with 15.38 lakh isolation beds, 2.7 lakh oxygen supported beds and over 80,000 ICU beds. Similarly, there are 40,575 ventilators are available for Covid-19 patients in the country.
Niti Aayog Member (Health) Vinod K Paul briefed the GoM about critical aspects of vaccination; the process of pre-clinical and clinical trial of all vaccines, the details of the six vaccine candidates undergoing trial in India and the composition of target populations in India, in terms of age, occupation and co-morbidities and how they compare with other countries and WHO’s recommendations. He also said that requests for vaccines were received by the Ministry of External Affairs from 12 other countries.
Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan noted the importance of health seeking behaviour among the population as a key driver in checking fatality. Explaining the paradox of some States and Union Territories reporting very high cases but minimal fatalities, while others reporting low cases but comparatively high fatalities, he said that this phenomenon results from people not coming forward for testing even if they are symptomatic in the second category of States.
People in States/UTs with a vibrant public healthcare system are tracked and encouraged to be tested by grassroots health workers which inhibits the progress of Covid-19 in the patient to an advanced stage which allows these States to keep their fatality rate at minimum.