The government on Thursday released an emergency package worth Rs 15,000 crore to the states and the UTs to fight coronavirus pandemic. The response and health system preparedness package, which is 100 per cent centrally funded, is aimed to boost health systems and support the procurement of essential medical equipment and drugs, and strengthening of surveillance activities, the government said.
"The funds sanctioned will be utilized for immediate COVID-19 Emergency Response (amount of Rs.7774 crores) and rest for medium-term support (1-4 years) to be provided under mission mode approach," the government said. According to the communication sent to the states and UTs by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the project would be implemented in three phases -- phase 1 January 2020 to June 2020, phase 2 July 2020 to March 2021 and phase 3 April 2021 to March 2024.
Phase 1 will focus on support for the development of coronavirus hospitals, isolation blocks and ICUs with ventilators, procurement of PPEs, N95 masks and ventilators. It will set up a lab network and diagnostic facilities and funds would also be utilised for surveillance, outreach, and awareness against the pandemic. A part of this fund is also earmarked for disinfection of hospitals and government offices, public utilities and ambulances.
"The key activities to be implemented under Phase 1 include support to states and UTs for development of dedicated COVID-1 hospitals, isolation blocks, ICUs with ventilators oxygen supply in hospitals, strengthening of laboratories, hiring of additional human resources and incentives to human resource and community health volunteers," the ministry said. However, there is little clarity on what phase 2 and phase 3 would focus on.
The project is the outcome of various rounds of interactions between the center and the states. The state governments had been demanding a special package to fight the pandemic. The issue has also come up during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's interaction with chief ministers of various states. The death toll due to novel coronavirus rose to 166 and the number of cases climbed to 5,734 in the country on Thursday, according to the Union Health Ministry data.