As the coronavirus threat looms worldwide and the need for isolation wards intensifies, the private healthcare centers are under heavy pressure by the government to treat confirmed coronavirus positive cases. Despite government approval to admit Covid-19 suspects and infected, the private healthcare centers are awaiting a green nod from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to start treatment on coronavirus patients.
According to today's data from ICMR, coronavirus cases have crossed 600 and 11 people have died because of the same. Besides, the center has also asked private hospitals to divide their staff into groups, so just in case an individual or a group gets infected, other groups can continue to serve. One of the major challenges for private hospitals today is the spreading of virus infection via AC ducts, medical experts stated.
Government preparedness and efforts to combat Covid-19
Uttarakhand is the only state in the country, wherein 25 percent of the beds in private healthcare centers are allocated for Covid-19 patients. Meanwhile, the Union Ministry has asked All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to allocate a part of their new emergency wing of its Jai Prakash Narayan Apex Trauma Centre to set up isolation wards to treat Covid-19 patients. The isolation facility will be able to admit 20 coronavirus suspects at a time and those tested positive will be triaged as Red, Yellow or Green depending on the severity of the condition and sent to National Cancer Institute (NCI) Jajhar for treatment. NCI Jajhar will be augmenting its isolation bed capacity from 25 to 125.
The Ministry of Health has further asked states to set up rapid response teams at district, block and village levels to prevent community spread of the disease by promptly checking and sanitizing environment of the person around, within the 3 km radius of the house of Covid-19 infected and also those who have come in contact with the individual.
Also, all international passengers entering India have been asked to undergo a mandatory universal screening. Adequate screening equipment has been installed at a total 30 airports in India.
ICMR initiatives and plan of action
In its efforts to curb, contain and control the spread of coronavirus, the government is implementing a fast-track mechanism for manufacturing and supplying testing kits with validation from the Pune-based National Institute of Virology (NIV). These will be supplied to both government laboratories and private healthcare facilities, even those functioning without approval from the European CE and USFDA. The kits manufactured in India with NIV approval can then be sent to the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for applying for a manufacturing license.
Twelve private laboratory chains with more than 15,000 collection centers have been registered for conducting Covid-19 tests. The ICMR guideline however clearly states that "commercial kits for real-time PCR based diagnosis of Covid-19 should be USFDA approved or European CE certified or both for in-vitro diagnosis of Covid-19 emergency use." NIV Pune has completed the evaluation of 9 non-US FDA EUA/CE IVD kits. Only test kits with 100% concordance among true positive and true negative samples have been recommended for commercial use in India.
Taking stock of the personal protective equipment (PPEs) in the country on February 27, the WHO (World Health Organisation) in its guideline stated, "panic buying, misinformation and stockpiling has resulted in global shortage of PPE." While India continued to export PPEs until March 19.
The ICMR task force also recommended the use of hydroxy-chloroquine for the treatment of high-risk COVID-19 cases only. Also, a combination of anti-HIV drugs Lopinavir and Ritonavir can be administered in coronavirus positive patients tested above the age of 60. Scientists across the world are racing against the pace of coronavirus spread, to develop vaccines and find treatments to control and cure the population of the pandemic.
National lockdown for 21-days till April 14
Prime Minister Narendra Modi allocated Rs 15,000 crore for the development of healthcare facilities to treat Covid-19 patients. He said the fund will be used for developing testing kits, training of healthcare professionals and development of infrastructure in the country.
An order was further issued for a nationwide complete lockdown for the next 21 days from 12am tonight until April 14, which will be observed and to be abided by the citizens of the country in full compliance.
While this lockdown will cost a severe economic impact, the Prime Minister in his address to the nation said, "If we're not able to manage the pandemic in the next 21 days, the country and your family will be set back for 21 years."