Amid fear of a possible third wave of the Coronavirus, the Union Government on Friday admitted that some states and Union Territories (UTs) are recording a surge in positive cases due to evolution and circulation of more transmissible variants of SARS-CoV-2 viruses.
"Easing of lockdown combined with pandemic fatigue, lack of community adherence to COVID appropriate behaviour and evolution and circulation of more transmissible variants of SARS-CoV-2 viruses can be attributed for the surge in Coronavirus cases in some States/UTs," Minister of State for Health Dr. Bharti Pravin Pawar informed the Lok Sabha.
The Minister was referring to the reasons for the recent surge in Coronavirus cases in some States/UTs including Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Manipur.
New strains are more infectious; vaccines sufficient to neutralize all variants
In a written reply, the Minister said that as per World Health Organization, there is some evidence to indicate higher transmissibility for cases infected with variants of SARS-CoV-2 like Delta and Delta plus.
"Ministry of Health and Family Welfare after expert deliberations has concluded that the existing clinical management protocol for managing COVID-19 cases is sufficient for the treatment of cases infected with variants of the virus and doesn't warrant any change," the minister said.
Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Virology (ICMR-NIV) has conducted in-vitro laboratory assays to determine the neutralization potential of variant strains of SARS-CoV-2 in comparison to the standard strain with D614G mutation. Similar studies have also been done by other laboratories across the world.
In the case of the Alpha variant, the baseline titers of neutralizing antibodies are high in both Covishield and Covaxin. In the case of the Delta variant, the baseline titers of neutralizing antibodies are very high in Covishield and significantly high in Covaxin. Both the vaccines are sufficient to neutralize the delta variant strain.
Government takes steps to face the challenge of possible third wave
"Although health is a state subject, the Government of India has provided the required technical support and has also supported the states through logistic and financial support to further strengthen the existing health infrastructure to tackle COVID-19 pandemic," the minister informed.
The government of India has roped in tertiary care hospitals under other ministries to supplement the hospital facilities. Further, many large temporary treatment facilities were established by DRDO to manage a surge in COVID-19 cases in the country. The isolation bed capacity and ICU bed capacity were also enhanced continuously.
- The daily liquid medical oxygen (LMO) supply was increased by the enhancement of LMO production in steel plants as well as in other LMO plants.
- Further, restrictions were also imposed on the industrial use of oxygen.
- Online digital solutions viz. Oxygen Demand Aggregation system (ODAS) and Oxygen Digital Tracking System (ODTS) have been developed to ascertain the demand for medical oxygen from all medical facilities and to track their transportation.
- All States/UT and State Drugs Controllers have been requested to verify stock of the drug and check other malpractices and take effective steps to curb hoarding and black marketing of Remdesivir.
Centre provides financial support to states, UT to enhance health infrastructure
Union Government has provided financial support to States/UTs for ramping up health infrastructure and support all aspects of management of COVID-19.
- During the financial year 2019-20. funds to the tune of Rs.1,113.21 crore was released to the States/UTs under National Health Mission (NHM).
- In September 2020, the Union Government allowed the states to spend a maximum of 35 percent of the annual allocation of funds under SDRF for the financial year 2019-20. The ceiling was
- further enhanced to 50 percent during the financial years 2020-21 and 2021-22 for containment measures of COVID-19.
- During the financial year 2020-21, funds to the tune of Rs.8,257.88 crore has been released to the States/UTs towards the India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package.