Since Wednesday, 540 cases of the coronavirus infection and 17 deaths have been reported. (Photo Credit: File)
The Union Health Ministry on Thursday stressed on the rational use of personal protective equipments (PPEs) by healthcare workers treating coronavirus patients amid concerns over their dwindling numbers in the country.
Joint Secretary at the Health Ministry Lav Agarwal said there is no need to panic as India has sufficient stocks of PPEs and the government is making all efforts to augment their supply further.
Addressing a daily briefing at 4 pm to provide updates on the COVID-19 situation, he said that 20 domestic manufacturing companies of PPEs have been developed. “Orders for 1.7 crore PPEs have already been placed with them and supply has already begun,” Agarwal said.
Since Wednesday, 540 cases of the coronavirus infection and 17 deaths have been reported, taking the total number of COVID-19 cases in India to 5,734 and death toll to 166, he said.
Over the availability of PPEs, he said, “No needs to believe any rumour or have any fear regarding the availability of such items. Our guidelines state that not only PPEs should be made available, but they should be used rationally on the basis of risk profile.”
He underlined the usage of PPEs on the basis of the three defined zones—low risk, moderate risk and high risk—and said all the components of PPEs like masks, coveralls, boots, goggles and gloves among others should be used in high risk areas like emergency, mortuary or in laboratories collecting samples.
“It (PPE) should be used as per requirement, and as I have told you, I can use four N-95 masks within a day, or I can use just one within a day. While the central government is augmenting supplies to the states, we are also requesting them to use them rationally,” he said.
Orders for 49,000 ventilators have been placed, Agarwal said.
Speaking about the initiatives taken by the government, he said the Health Ministry has formed 10 high-level multi-disciplinary central teams and they have sent to nine states to support them with the containment plans, hospital management and ventilator management. The nine states are Bihar, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telengana and Uttar Pradesh.
Agarwal said that the Group of Ministers meeting chaired by the health minister reviewed the current status and actions for prevention and management of coronavirus. They focused on containment measures and setting up of dedicated hospitals for COVID -19 in the states during their discussions.They also discussed on the strategy for increasing lab testing in hotspots and cluster areas.
According to an ICMR official, 1,30,000 samples have been tested for coronavirus so far in the country out of which 5,734 have tested positive. “If we see the positivity rate ranged between 3 to 5 per cent in the last one and half months and it has not increased substantially,” he said.
The ICMR official further said that India is in the final stages of finalising protocol for conducting clinical trial on convalescent plasma therapy. They will also have to take approval from DCG before conducting the trial.
The official said the therapy is not currently used or prescribed for patients and as of now it will be used only in clinical trials. The therapy, he said, has been successful in limited clinical trials in some countries on severely ill patients.
Convalescent Plasma therapy is a process in which blood plasma from a patient who has recovered from COVID-19 is infused into a critically ill patient so that the specific antibodies present in the blood of the recovered person can help fight the infection.
The official also said that the Indian Railways has produced about six lakh reusable face masks and over 4,000 litres of hand sanitiser. It has also converted 3,250 coaches into COVID-19 isolation units with beds and a total of 5,000 coaches are to be converted, Agarwal said.
The joint secretary said that the Centre has approved the “India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package” for significant investments to the tune of Rs 15,000 crore.The funds sanctioned will be utilized for immediate COVID-19 Emergency Response (amount of Rs 7,774 crore) and rest for medium-term support (1-4 years) to be provided under mission-mode approach.
The key objectives of the package include mounting emergency response to slow and limit the disease in India through the development of diagnostics and COVID-19 dedicated treatment facilities, centralized procurement of essential medical equipment and drugs, strengthen and build resilient national and state health systems to support preparedness for future disease outbreaks, setting up of laboratories and bolstering surveillance activities, Agarwal said.
The project will be implemented in three phases during the period January 2020 to March 2024. Phase 1 from January to June 2020, phase 2 from July to March 2021 and phase 3 from April 2021 to March 2024.