Underlining the “alarming rise in daily number of active cases which currently stand at 16,79,000” and “a sharp growth of 10.2% in the number of deaths”, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan Saturday said “the widening gap between daily new cases and daily new recoveries reflects that the infection is spreading at a much faster rate than recoveries with consistently growing active cases”.
At a meeting to review the availability of oxygen, ventilators, manpower, medicines and hospital beds in 11 states/UT reporting a surge in Covid-19 cases, Harsh Vardhan said: “India is currently reporting the sharpest growth rate of 7.6% in new Covid cases, which is 1.3 times higher than case growth rate of 5.5% reported in June 2020.”
He said the Centre is rushing 6,303 additional ventilators to six states of concern: 1121 ventilators to Maharashtra, 1700 to Uttar Pradesh, 1500 to Jharkhand, 1600 to Gujarat, 152 to Madhya Pradesh, and 230 to Chhattisgarh.
Later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who chaired a meeting to review the levels of preparedness, was informed by officials that one lakh oxygen cylinders are being procured and will be “supplied to states soon”.
On the shortage of hospital beds, the Prime Minister directed officials to ensure additional supply by setting up temporary hospitals and isolation centres in the states.
“All necessary measures must be taken to ramp up the availability of hospital beds for Covid patients. Installation of approved medical oxygen plants should be accelerated,” Modi said during the meeting.
On the issue of vaccines, he directed officials to make efforts to utilise the entire national capacity, in public as well as private sector, to ramp up vaccine production.
On the availability of Remdesivir, he was told that its manufacturing had been ramped up to provide around 74.10 lakh vials/month in May; that supplies of the anti-viral drug have been increased to high caseload states — from 67,900 vials on April 11 going up to over 2,06,000 vials on April 15 in high caseload states.
The Prime Minister reiterated that the use of Remdesivir must be in accordance with clinical management protocols and that “misuse and black marketing must be strictly curbed”.
Given the alarming increase in the number of deaths being reported in surge states, the Prime Minister underlined that early testing and tracking of contacts remain key to reducing mortality.
“There is no substitute to testing, tracking, and treatment… close coordination with States must be ensured in handling the pandemic,” he said.
Earlier, Harsh Vardhan reassured the states that vaccine stocks are being replenished. A statement from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare quoted him saying: “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 said. Emphasising that there is no shortage of vaccine, he strongly pushed for further ramping up of the vaccination exercise.
Saturday’s meeting was attended by Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, West Bengal, Delhi, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
During the meeting, all 11 states/UT flagged four issues: augmenting supply of oxygen cylinders; stepping up the supply of Remdesivir in hospitals; adding to the ventilator stock; and enhanced supply of vaccine doses.
The states also raised concerns over the high transmissible strain being reported in Maharashtra; they asked the Centre on capping of prices of essential drugs like Remdesivir which has been sold in the black market at exorbitant prices. The Delhi government requested additional beds in Central government hospitals — as was done in 2020.
Following the meeting, the Centre released revised maximum retail prices of Remdesivir: Cadila Healthcare (Rs 899); Syngene (Rs 2,450); Dr Reddy’s (2,700); Cipla (Rs 3,000); Mylan (Rs 3,400); Jubilant (Rs 3,400); and Hetero (Rs 3,490).
At the meeting, Harsh Vardhan also suggested that the states give special focus to prominent 5-6 cities under their administration, map medical colleges to either these cities or adjoining 2-3 districts; include large containment zones for achieving community quarantine; plan in advance and increase Covid hospitals and oxygenated beds.
Meanwhile, the Centre also asked states to utilise up to 50% of their annual allocation of State Disaster Response Fund and that of the Union Health Ministry allowing for utilisation of unspent pending balance under the National Health Mission for Covid management.