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Cabinet approves Rs 15,000 cr package for fighting COVID-19 outbreak

New Delhi, April 22 (IANS) The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved Rs 15,000 crore for what it calls ‘India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package’. The funds will be utilized in 3 phases while for immediate COVID-19 emergency response, provision of an amount of Rs 7,774 crore has been kept.

Meanwhile the rest of the amount will be used for medium-term support for the next 1-4 years, which will be provided under the mission mode approach, said the government on Wednesday.

“The key objectives of the package include mounting emergency response to slow and limit COVID-19 in India through the development of diagnostics and COVID-dedicated treatment facilities, centralized procurement of essential medical equipment and drugs required for treatment of infected patients, strengthen and build resilient National and State health systems to support prevention and preparedness for future disease outbreaks, setting up of laboratories and bolster surveillance activities, biosecurity preparedness, pandemic research and proactively engage communities and conduct risk communication activities,” said a government statement.

These interventions and initiatives would be implemented under the overall umbrella of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

In Phase 1, the health ministry with the support of all the other ministries has already undertaken several activities. Additional funds to the tune of Rs 3,000 crore is released under the package to states and UTs, for strengthening of existing health facilities as COVID Dedicated Hospitals, Dedicated COVID Health Centres and Dedicated COVID Care Centers. Detailed guidelines, protocols and advisory for quarantine, isolation, testing, treatment, disease containment, decontamination, social distancing and surveillance has already been made. Meanwhile, identification hotspots and appropriate containment strategies are also in full swing.

Talking about India’s testing facilities, the government said, “Diagnostics laboratories network has been expanded and our testing capacity is increasing everyday. In fact, leveraging on the existing multi-disease testing platforms under NationalAA TB Elimination Programme, orders for procurement of 13 lakhs diagnostic kits have been placed to augment COVID-19 testing.”

All health workers including Community Health Volunteers (ASHAs) have been covered with insurance. Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), N95 masks and ventilators, testing kits and drugs for treatment are being procured centrally, said the government.

However, the major share of the expenditure will be used for mounting robust emergency response, strengthening National and State health systems followed by strengthening pandemic research and multi-sector national institutions and platforms. It will be done for community engagement and risk communications and implementation, management, capacity building, monitoring and evaluation components.

The cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi also amended the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1987 to ensure safety of India’s medical fraternity with steep fines and making any attack on them a cognisable and non-bailable crime.




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