With coronavirus cases skyrocketing across the country, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan on Tuesday said that even though the situation look’s grim, with the Centre’s 'whole of government' and 'whole of society' approach, the nation will beat the virus.
Vardhan’s remarks come on a day when India's Covid-19 case tally climbed to 1,53,21,089 with 2,59,170 new coronavirus infections being reported during the past 24 hours.
Registering a steady increase for the 41st day in a row, India’s active cases increased to 20,31,977, comprising 13.26 per cent of the total infections, while the national Covid-19 recovery rate has dropped to 85.56 per cent.
While many states and the national capital have raised concerns of depleting medical oxygen reserves, Vardhan said that the percentage of Covid-19 patients requiring critical care and oxygen support has gone down as compared to two days ago.
Earlier today, the health minister had conducted a review meeting with top medical officers to take took of the deteriorating pandemic situation in the country.
He said that as compared to the figures two days ago, the percentage of Covid-19 patients in ICU is down from 1.93 per cent to 1.75 per cent, those on ventilators down from 0.43 per cent to 0.40 per cent, and those requiring oxygen down from 4.29 per cent to 4.03 per cent.
According to a Health Ministry statement, he said these figures do not diminish the fact that there is anxiety in the general population about availability of beds. It is also important for the nation as a commune to access the best medical facilities at all places.
Vardhan, who chaired a meeting with the Directors of 10 AIIMS, PGIMER-Chandigarh and JIPMER-Puducherry to discuss the public health response to the pandemic, said, "We are the fastest globally to vaccinate. The fatality rate of 1.18 per cent is one of the lowest in the word and is continuously dipping. The present indicators tell us about the significant control we still have on the emerging situation."
He requested the directors to ensure that those who need hospital care are provided thus and those who are in need of oxygen/ventilators are also tended to, the statement stated.
He also asked the officials to explore avenues to monitor patients who may not need hospitalisation through telephonic counselling to re-assure them out of their helplessness.
In this regard, he also said, "AIIMS have a special responsibility towards providing quality healthcare. You have to ensure that all the hospital facilities are functional. The present capacities can be augmented by re-purposing non-COVID infrastructure to COVID facilities, such that non-COVID healthcare is not unduly affected."
He reminded them that the Union Health Secretary had advised for the strengthening of the hospital infrastructure after careful review.
Vardhan observed that all the institutes combined have increased 879 general beds and 219 ICU beds. In this regard, he also spoke of the recent attempt by DRDO to open a 500-bed facility in Delhi and the Council Of Scientific and Industrial Research-Central Building Research Institute (CSIR–CBRI)'s attempts to make temporary but durable hospital blocks at the Safdarjung Hospital and Lady Hardinge Medical College to house more patients, the statement said.
He informed that the AIIMS National Institute of Cancer (NIC) in Jhajjar had added 100 beds to its COVID Block while approximately 80 beds were added at JPNATC, AIIMS New Delhi at his request.
Asserting that the recent Covid-19 surge is spreading fast and needs immediate attention, Vardhan detailed efforts to tackle the pandemic so far.
"In the shortest possible time, we ramped up testing from 1 lab to 2467 labs today with a capacity of more than 15 lakh tests per day, set up hospital infrastructure including COVID Care Centres, COVID hospitals with oxygen beds and ventilator bed.
"More than 12,000 quarantine centres were established. We also overcame the need for PPE kits, N95 masks. This helped to tide over the pandemic last year," he was quoted as saying in the statement.
Regarding the shortage in hands at the hospitals, Vardhan said, “We have to develop our manpower and human resources. Those who are in other departments and units can be used for COVID care with building their skills and capacities with training for a very short duration. Everyone is looking at AIIMS for inspiration and your guidance and support. People respect AIIMS for their professional expertise."
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan laid out his suggestions to the directors of the different institutes.
In view of the need to increase oxygen beds and ICU beds in the possibility of a surge, the Union government has already written to the states for supporting the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in their jurisdiction.
He suggested that the unutilised hostel blocks, AUYSH block, hostel beds can be used for additional bed capacity to tide over the crisis.
(With PTI inputs)