‘Omicron Could Overwhelm’: Centre Raps States for ‘Just 17%’ Use of Covid Fund for ICU, Oxygen Beds

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Sunday flagged the under-use of Covid funds, at just 17 per cent, to ramp up health infrastructure such as ICU, oxygen beds, amid the rise of Omicron in the country. Reviewing the public health preparedness for COVID-19 and progress of the national vaccination campaign in view of rising cases of the Omicron variant, the minister pointed out that collectively, states and UTs have only used just over 17 per cent of the available approved funds under the Emergency COVID Response Package (ECRP-II).

Mandaviya noted that at the outset, countries are experiencing three to four times surge in Covid cases in comparison to their earlier peaks. The Omicron variant being highly transmissible, a high surge could overwhelm the medical system, he said.

He advised states to leave no stone unturned in ramping up infrastructure to manage a high surge so that India escapes unscathed from this episode of the pandemic.

States and UTs were exhorted to expedite the physical progress under ECRP-II in terms of ICU beds, oxygen beds, paediatric ICU and HDU beds etc. They were also asked to effectively use information technology tools for tele-medicine and tele-consultation, including training and capacity building of human resources, timely availability of ambulances, readiness of states to operationalise Covid facilities for institutional quarantining, and effective and supervised monitoring of those in home isolation. At the same time, he also urged states and UTs to better utilise approved funds under ECRP-II and invited any suggestions regarding the same, the statement said.

Mandaviya said in this regard, irrespective of Covid variants, measures for preparedness and protection remain the same.

He urged states and UTs to re-invigorate their teams to work at the ground level and strengthen monitoring and containment mechanisms. In the meeting, a detailed discussion on various aspects of Covid management, including ramping up hospital infrastructure, increasing testing, stringent restrictive measures for breaking the chain of transmission, and stress on Covid-appropriate behaviour, was held, a statement from the government said.

Critical bottlenecks in medical infrastructure were also discussed.

He stressed on the continued need to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour along with renewed and stringent focus on containment measures for addressing the present surge, the statement said.

Underscoring the importance of vaccination, the minister observed, “We must focus on planning with regard to the 15-18 age group’s vaccination and precautionary doses for eligible beneficiaries.”

States were also advised to prepare a weekly plan to catch up and exceed the average national vaccination coverage and review implementation of the plan on a daily basis, the statement said Stress on the vaccination drive was especially on Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Manipur where assembly polls will be held, it said

Mandaviya also pointed out that various measures are being taken by the Union government to ramp up infrastructure and vaccine production. He requested states and UTs to share their best practices so that the entire country can benefit.

With inputs from PTI.

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