Topic: General Studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
A COVID-19 control plan made simple
The COVID-19 outbreak is not yet an epidemic in India as of March 11th 2020.
However, a crisis is looming over horizon which may turn out to be disaster of unprecedented proportion if not handled properly
The track record
So far we have stoically confronted all the new and resurgent communicable diseases that appeared in recent decades.
- There was surge capacity of crisis management during the 2018 Nipah epidemic in Kerala.
- Government handled the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) scare of 2003 extremely efficiently.
- The 2009 pandemic influenza H1N1 was also confronted reasonably well.
- However, India’s weakness in dealing with seasonal influenza is embarrassing as there is no national policy to control seasonal flu
- With high flu deaths reported annually, it can be said that India manages short-term crisis very well but fails on long-term disease control
Existing Administrative Set-up
- Ministry of Health and Family Welfare – which coordinates with State Health Departments to deal with Health issues of the country
- National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) – functions well only when smaller problems erupt in various States.
- Director General of Health Services (DGHS) – It has limited executive powers and there is no competent public health infrastructure under the Directorate to deal with epidemics
- Department of Health Research and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) – whose primary job is on the research of pathogens that cause epidemics but they are not equipped to deal with control of epidemics
Need for dedicated body/operation
- The Minister for Health is a key person but COVID-19 epidemic is more than a medical problem.
- Many ministries such as those of travel, tourism, industry, education, economics, railways and local governments are all being affected.
- India needs a dedicated disaster management operation headed by Prime Minister.
- PM should declare a national emergency and establish a ‘war-machinery’, with a ‘task force’ of the best experts in the country, of proven capability and track record against communicable diseases.
- The war room should have all necessary facilities and should run a 24-hour control room.
- The job of the task force ought to have one goal: manage the epidemic, to minimise the spread and damage of the virus, and to mitigate the sufferings of all people everywhere.
- The terms of reference of the task force must include the design of immediate, short-term, medium-term and long-term responses.
- Once the task force designs a strategy with tactics, the Ministry of Health as well as all Ministries must implement them.
Preventive Measures taken by India
- The Union Home Ministry has transferred some of its power to the Union Health Ministry for tackling the COVID-19 if the outbreak turns out to be a disaster of national proportions.
- The Indian government has issued a new travel advisory stating that all existing visas, except diplomatic, official, U.N./International Organisations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till 15th April, beginning from 13th March.
- Visa-free travel facility granted to OCI cardholders is also suspended for the same duration.
- All incoming travellers, including Indian nationals, arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after 15th Feb shall be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days.
- International traffic through land borders will be restricted as well.
- The Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued an advisory to take all necessary steps in public transport vehicles to ensure sanitation of seats, handles and bars.
- India will send a team of doctors to Italy and Iranfor testing its nationals for coronavirus and bring them back
An agency exclusively for managing a constant and continuous watch on all developments — biomedical and sociological — and to recommend remedial and containment measures is essential in order to face this epidemic.
Connecting the dots
- Impact of epidemic on pharmaceuticals & pesticide sector
- Health Emergency