India Far From Achieving Herd Immunity Against Covid-19: Dr. Harsh Vardhan.

ICMR expert panel is examining reinfection cases even though the number of such cases is negligible at the moment, says Dr. Harsh Vardhan

India’s coronavirus infections are rising rapidly in some states yet, India’s recovery rate continues to rise which is a sigh of relief.

While interacting with his social media followers on ‘Sunday Samvad’, Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan asked everyone to always raise awareness regarding Covid-19 appropriate behaviors which he himself does by stopping his car and asking non-compliant people to wear their masks. He re-emphasized the need for wearing masks even in places of worship.

He said, “the Pandemic can only be fought when the Government and society work together in tandem.” The Health Minister also coined the slogan:

दो गज की दूरी बेहद जरूरी !!

He further cautioned that ICMR’s Sero survey report should not create a sense of complacency in people. The first serosurvey of May 2020 revealed that the nationwide prevalence of novel coronavirus infection was only 0.73%.

Even the soon to be released second serosurvey indications are that we are far from having achieved any kind of herd immunity which necessitates that all of us should continue following Covid-19 appropriate behavior.

Regarding wide usage of investigational therapies such as Remdesivir and Plasma Therapies, the Union Health Minister stated that the Government has issued regular advisories regarding their rational usage.

The private hospitals have also been advised against the routine use of these investigational therapies. The doctors in the States/UTs are being made aware of this through webinars and during the teleconsultation session of AIIMS, New Delhi.

On the emerging evidence that the disease not only impacts our lungs but other organ systems too, especially cardiovascular and renal, the Minister said that the Ministry of Health has already set up committees of experts to look into these facets of Covid-19. ICMR is also studying this subject.

ICMR is also actively investigating and researching reports of reinfection and although the number of reinfection cases is negligible at this moment, the government is fully seized of the importance of the matter.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan stated that States/UTs have been advised to lower the prices of Covid-19 tests. In the early days of the pandemic, as the kits were imported, the price tended to be high. But now, supplies of testing kits have also stabilized and domestic production of these kits has also commenced.

He added that the Ministry of Health has written to States and Union Territories to engage private laboratories at mutually agreeable lower rates. He added that he has spoken personally to several State health ministers regarding the reduction of prices of testing in their respective states.

On a question related to ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharat Yojana’, Dr. Harsh Vardhan spoke of India’s two-pronged strategy of incentivizing production and creation of common infrastructure for high-quality medicines and medical devices to make the country self-reliant.

He said that the government is ensuring that there is import substitution in this sector as well and that we are no longer dependent on imports; “Under these newly-launched schemes, the Government has proposed the development of three bulk drug parks and four medical device parks across India.”

He continued “in times to come, we will not just be able to meet domestic requirements, but also be able to fulfill global demand for low-cost, quality medical devices.” He said that in the last few months since the outbreak of the pandemic, India had made rapid strides in the “manufacturing of ventilators, PPEs, testing kits, and many medical devices.

Responding to a question on the strengthening of the public health system, he spoke of the Union Government’s commitment “to increasing the public healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP from the existing 1.15 % to 2.5 % by 2025”, which “will mean an actual increase of 345% over the current share in this short period of time.”

He added that the 15th Finance Commission’s high-level group on health has concurred that healthcare spending must be raised substantially in the next five years in view of the present pandemic.

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