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Rs 65,560 crore to fight future pandemics! Centre to invest in research, healthcare

Joe C Mathew     September 14, 2020

The Central government is planning to spend Rs 65,560.98 crore under Prime Minister Atma Nirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana to identify gaps in health infrastructure and effectively face the challenges of COVID-19-like pandemics, epidemics and disasters in future. 

An Expenditure Finance Memorandum is under consideration, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare informed the Lok Sabha today. In a suo-moto statement regarding COVID pandemic and the steps taken by the government, the minister informed that the proposed fund will cover investments in research, healthcare and public health infrastructure with particular focus on pandemic management.

Stating that an effective vaccine would be the sure shot tool in containing COVID-19, Dr Vardhan said more than 30 vaccine candidates are in different stages of development in India. "Three candidates are in advanced stage of Phase I/II/III trials and more than four are in advanced pre-clinical development stage," he said.

The minister also said that the COVID-19 Bio repositories set up by the government have collected more than 40,000 samples which have been made available to researchers and industry for developing diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

Also read: Scientists release images of coronavirus infected cells; support mask use

"Thirteen clinical trials of repurposed drugs and harnessing of traditional knowledge using modern medicine approach are building a portfolio of therapeutic options for COVID-19 patients. Phase 2 clinical trial of immunomodulator Sepsivac has been completed successfully. Phase 2 clinical trial of the first-ever phytopharmaceutical ACQH is underway. One prophylactic trial of Ashwagandha and three trials of Guduchi + Pippali; Yashtimadhu; and polyherbal AYUSH drug (AYUSH-64) are planned on moderately ill COVID-19 patients," the minister said.

According to the government, as on September 11, India had a total of 45,62,414 confirmed cases and 76,271 deaths (Case Fatality Rate 1.67%). "As many as 35,42,663 (77.65%) cases have recovered. The maximum cases and deaths have been primarily reported from Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, West Bengal, Bihar, Telangana, Odisha, Assam, Kerala & Gujarat. All these states have reported more than 1 lakh cases. India has been able to limit its cases and deaths per million to 3,328 cases per million and 55 deaths per million population respectively, which is one of the lowest in the world as compared to similarly affected countries," the minister said.

Also read: Coronavirus made in Wuhan lab, govt covered up outbreak: Chinese virologist

Similarly, COVID treatment facilities have also been augmented to meet the challenge. "As on September 12 a total of 15,284 COVID treatment facilities with 13,14,646 dedicated isolation beds without O2 have been created. Also, a total of 2,31,093 oxygen supported isolation beds and 62,717 ICU beds (including 32,575 ventilator beds) have been created. Constant monitoring of the disease trend, analysis of available infrastructure and planning in advance for the future has averted a major crisis as was faced by many developed countries. In addition, a total of 12,826 quarantine centres with 5,98,811 beds have been created," the government says.

The Department of Bio Technology, Department of Science and Technology, CSIR and Department of Health Research have also done a comprehensive mapping of Indian startup ecosystem to identify and support over 110 technology startups and over 20 industries for commercial production. "Over 150 projects in all areas of virus behavior have been initiated," the minister said. 

The government has also made it clear that the country has moved from 'managing travel related cases' to containing clusters and large outbreaks due to local transmission to wide spread of infection to urban, peri-urban and rural areas. 

Also read: Amid spurt in COVID-19 cases, Delhi govt asks 33 private hospitals to reserve 80% ICU beds


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