The Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan interacted with WHO Regional Director and Health Ministers of South East Asia Region, through video conferencing, in New Delhi on August 06, 2020.
At the outset, Roderico Ofrin (WHO) informed the ministers of the logistic support provided by WHO during COVID-19 and Sunil Bahl (WHO) apprised them of WHO’s programme for vaccine development and policy of allocation.
Dr Harsh Vardhan spoke about India’s tryst with COVID-19. He highlighted how “India had been preparing for the pandemic as soon as China informed WHO on 7th January”. Earlier viral outbreaks like the Avian Influenza, H1N1pdm09 Influenza, Zika and Nipah had provided institutional memory in “designing containment and management strategies using ‘whole of government’ approach”, he added. “India’s proactive and graded multi-level institutional response to COVID made it possible to have very low cases per million and deaths per million in spite of having a high population density and low fractional GDP spending and per capita doctor and hospital bed availability as compared to other developed countries”, he pointed out.
On the efficacy of the Lockdown, Dr. Harsh Vardhan expanded how it was “effective in slowing down the rate of growth of cases and gave the government time to augment the health infrastructure and testing facilities.” He added that “From one lab in January, India has 1370 labs today. Indians anywhere can access a lab within 3 hours travel time.33 of the 36 States and UTs exceed WHO’s recommendation of testing 140 people per million per day.” He also stated that the Containment Strategy has been successful in that 50% of the cases are from three States and 32% of the rest are from seven States. The spread of the virus thus has been contained.