At least 92 per cent of all confirmed cases in India have reported mild symptoms, Union health minister said. Photo: Vikas Choudhary

Union govt to consider Rs 65,560 crore corpus to handle future epidemics

India moved from managing travel-related cases to containing clusters and large outbreaks, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said 


The Union government is considering a special ‘Expenditure Finance Memorandum’ of Rs 65,560.98 crore to handle future epidemics.

The Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Harsh Vardhan in the Lok Sabha September 14, 2020 said the allocation under Prime Minister Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana would ensure investment in research, healthcare and public health infrastructure with particular focus on pandemic management.

The minister added that the country has now moved from ‘managing travel-related cases’ to containing clusters and large outbreaks due to local transmission. While statement pointed to a large-scale virus spread, he avoided using the phrase community transmission.

He said the infection has spread widely from urban to peri-urban and rural areas. Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, West Bengal, Bihar, Telangana, Odisha, Assam, Kerala and Gujarat recorded the maximum number of cases as well as deaths. All these states have reported more than 100,000 cases each, the minister said.

While the increasing burden of COVID-19 cases will strain the country’s health infrastructure, the minister stressed it would be equally crucial to not lose sight of reproductive maternal and child health, preventable diseases, non-communicable diseases, tuberculosis and vector-borne diseases such as kala-azar and malaria.

At least 92 per cent of all confirmed cases in India have reported mild symptoms, he added. “Only 5.8 per cent cases require oxygen therapy. The disease may be severe enough in only 1.7 per cent cases who may require intensive care,” he added. 

Although more than two dozen studies conducted globally have shown that anti-malarial drug hydroxychorloquine did not have any positive impact on COVID-19 patients, the Indian government has continued with the usage of the drug.

“The Department of Pharmaceuticals increased the production of hydroxychloroquine manifold. The Union health ministry had issued 10.84 crore tablets of hydroxychloroquine to states and Union territories as on September 11, 2020,” the minister said in the Lok Sabha.

The Union Ministry of AYUSH has already included several Ayurvedic medicines as part of COVID-19 prevention and post-COVID recovery protocols. Experts have, several times, asked if there was any scientific backing to them. 

According to Vardhan, the AYUSH ministry has “initiated impact assessment of effectiveness, acceptance and usage of AYUSH advisories and measures in prevention of COVID-19 through a mobile application app known as AYUSH-Sanjivani app”.

He did not say, however, say whether the results for the same were out. The minister also appreciated healthcare workers. He did not make any other announcement regarding them. 

Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla interrupted the minister twice, asking him to table the statement “since complete reading would take a lot of time”. He interjected Vardhan for the first time when the latter had barely spoken for four minutes.

Some 13 minutes later, Birla again asked the minister to table the statement. The next speaker in line, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, was asked to make his statement.