Faced with the daunting challenge of unprecedented surge in Covid-19, eleven states including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi on Saturday stepped up pressure on the Centre to resolve their key concerns around supply of oxygen cylinders; supply of Remdesivir in hospitals; addition of ventilator stock besides enhanced supply of vaccine doses.
These issues were raised by most of the 11 States — Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, West Bengal, Delhi, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh — at a review meeting chaired by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Saturday.
“Many of them raised the issue of dovetailing the Medical Oxygen supply lines and the capping of prices of essential drugs like Remdesivir which has been sold in the black market at exorbitant prices. Double mutant strain in Maharashtra was a key point of concern. The Delhi government requested for additional beds in central government hospitals as was done in 2020 to help tide over the emergent health crisis,” an official release issued after a three hour long meeting said.
On his part, the Union Health Minister exhorted the states to plan in advance and increase Covid hospitals, oxygenated beds and other relevant infrastructure to deal with any further surge in cases. He requested the states to give special focus on the prominent 5-6 cities in their administration, map medical colleges to either these cities or adjoining 2-3 districts.
“The states were asked to seek out positive cases with the onset of early symptoms so that prompt and effective treatment checks the deterioration of health in the diseased. Large containment zones for achieving community quarantine were also suggested as a strategy,” the release said adding that the minister reminded the states to send the clinical and epidemiological pictures to assess genomic mutants of the pathogen to the coordinating INSACOG nodal officer and attempt to correlate the public health scenario with the clinical picture.
Vardhan reiterated Home Ministry’s notification for granting permission to the states to utilize up to 50 per cent of their annual allocation of State Disaster Response Fund and that of the Union Health Ministry allowing for utilization of unspent pending balance under National Health Mission as on April 1, 2021 for Covid management purposes.
On the perceived issue of vaccine shortage, the Union Health Minister asserted that there is no shortage of vaccine and urged states to further ramp up their vaccination exercise.
The total consumption of vaccines so far (wastage included) has been approximately 12 crore 57 lakh 18 thousand doses against the 14 crore 15 lakh doses provided by the Centre to the States.
About 1 crore 58 lakh doses are still available with the States while another 1 crore and 16 lakh 84 thousand are in pipeline, to be delivered by next week. “Stocks of every small state are replenished after 7 days. For big states, the time period is 4 days,” he added.
Reminding the Health Ministers that 34,228 ventilators were granted to the States by the Centre last year, Harsh Vardhan assured a fresh supply of the lifesaving machines: 1,121 ventilators are to be given to Maharashtra, 1,700 to Uttar Pradesh, 1,500 to Jharkhand, 1,600 to Gujarat, 152 to Madhya Pradesh and 230 to Chhattisgarh.
Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday told a press conference that the national capital was facing a shortage of ICU beds, oxygen, Remdesivir and tocilizumab. He also said directions have been given to take strict action against people found hoarding or black marketing medicines. Delhi has reported about 24,000 new Covid19 cases in the last 24 hours, he said.