‘Free jabs, rapid testing must to fight Covid in rural India’


Free or subsidised testing, treatment and vaccination along with the provision of uninterrupted essential health services is essential to fight Covid-19 in rural India, public health expert Poonam Muttreja said on Tuesday.

Compared to the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, this year has witnessed a rapid rise in the number of infections and deaths in rural India. An estimated 65 per cent of the country’s 1.3 billion population lives in rural areas.

Citing data repository website How India Lives, Muttreja said 714 districts in India have reported coronavirus cases, putting 94.76 per cent of the population at potential risk.

“The perception in some regions is that Covid-19 is a myth, perpetuated by permissions by authorities for large gatherings for elections as well as religious congregations and religious and political leaders flouting Covid-19 protocols,” said Muttreja, who is also executive director of national NGO Population Foundation of India, in a statement.

“A lack of awareness and reluctance to submit to testing, treatment and vaccination makes the rural population more susceptible to Covid-19. The problem is compounded by the fact that medical infrastructure is concentrated in urban areas. Community Health Centers are not always easily accessible,” she added.

There is an urgent need for increasing surveillance and testing in rural areas to ensure early detection and diagnosis, she said. Moreover, in the long run, greater investment in public health infrastructure, capacity building of frontline health workers and prioritising universal health coverage is must to ensure that India’s response to health emergencies is robust, she noted.