Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare chaired the 22nd meeting of the High-level Group of Ministers (GoM) on COVID-19 by a video-conference, here today. He was joined by Dr S. Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs and Sh. Hardeep S. Puri, Minister of Civil Aviation, Sh. Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State, Health & Family Welfare and Sh. Nityanand Rai, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs. Dr Vinod K Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog, Sh. Amarjeet Sinha, an adviser to Hon. Prime Minister and Sh. Bhaskar Khulbe, an adviser to Hon. Prime Minister was present virtually.
Dr Harsh Vardhan began the meet by expressing deep gratitude to all the COVID warriors who have been steadfast in their duty without any fatigue throughout the pandemic which is in its twelfth month. He also informed his colleagues of the gains made by the country’s public health system against COVID and the encouraging results so far. “India’s COVID 19 Pandemic Growth has dropped to 2% and Case Fatality Rate is amongst lowest in the world at 1.45%”, he stated. “India’s Recovery Rate has peaked to 95.46% while the strategy of testing 1 million samples has decreased the Cumulative Positivity Rate to 6.25%” he added.
Observing the fact that despite festivals in the month of October November, no new surge of cases was observed in this period due to comprehensive testing, tracking and treatment policy implemented on the ground, the Union Health Minister and Chairperson of the GOM reiterated his concern and appeal to diligently maintain COVID Appropriate Behaviour even at a time when the country is at the cusp of authorizing the first set of vaccines. He also expressed the need for an expeditious vaccination drive to cover all the target populations estimated to be around 30 crores.
Dr Sujeet K Singh, Director (NCDC) presented a detailed report on how the data-driven graded government policies have helped India achieve significant control over the pandemic. He showed figures related to a number of cases, a number of deaths, their growth rate and how they compared favourably to the rest of the world which is witnessing a meteoric rise in these parameters. He presented a granular analysis of the trajectory of the pandemic in each state pointing out critical parameters like positivity, RAT & RT-PCR per cent breakup, the concentration of cases in particular districts and other trends like a fatality, and fatality within 48 and 72 hours of hospitalization. He also presented data on the total dedicated Covid-19 facilities in the country.
Through a detailed presentation, Dr Vinod K Paul, Member (H) NITI Aayog apprised the GoM on three critical aspects of vaccination; the process of the pre-clinical and clinical trial of all vaccines, the details of the six vaccine candidates undergoing trial in India (in terms of composition, manufacturers and technical partners, numbers of doses, conditions for storage and efficacy) and the composition of target populations in India, in terms of age, occupation and co-morbidities and how they compare with other countries and WHO’s recommendations. He also briefed the GoM about requests for vaccines received by the Ministry of External Affairs from 12 other countries.
Union Health Secretary Sh. Rajesh Bhushan noted the importance of Health Seeking Behaviour among the population as a key driver in checking fatality. Explaining the paradox of some States /UTs reporting very high cases but minimal fatalities while others reporting low cases but comparatively high fatalities, he said that this phenomenon results from people not coming forward for testing even if they are symptomatic in the second category of states. People in States/UTs with a vibrant public healthcare system are tracked and encouraged to be tested by grassroots health workers which inhibits the progress of COVID in the patient to an advanced stage which allows these States to keep their fatality rate at a minimum. In this regard, he apprised the Ministers of the Government’s policy of testing on demand; people can opt to test themselves without a prescription if they are symptomatic. He also highlighted the importance of IEC activities to instil health-seeking behaviour among the population in States/UTs reporting high deaths.
Sh. Ravi Capoor, Secretary (Textiles), Ms S. Aparna, Secretary (Pharma), Shri Amitabh Kant, CEO NITI Aayog, Sh. Govind Mohan, Addl. Secretary (Home Affairs), Sh. Dammu Ravi, Addl. Secretary (MEA), Sh. Arun Kumar, DGCA (Civil Aviation), Sh. Amit Yadav, DG, Foreign Trade (DGFT), Sunil Kumar, DGHS and other senior government officials participated through virtual media. Dr. Samiran Panda (NICED) represented the Office of DG (ICMR).