New Delhi [India], September 27 (ANI): Indian population is still far from achieving herd immunity against COVID-19 as shown by Indian Council of Medical Research's (ICMR) second Sero Survey, the Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said on Sunday adding that ICMR expert panel examining reinfection cases.
While interacting with social media users during Sunday Samvaad-3, Dr Vardhan said: "The findings of the second sero survey are going to be released soon. But second sero survey indications are that we are far from having achieved any kind of herd immunity which necessitates that all of us should continue following COVID appropriate behaviour. The first sero-survey of May 2020 revealed that the nationwide prevalence of novel coronavirus infection was only 0.73 per cent."
"ICMR is also actively investigating and researching reports of reinfection and although the number of reinfection cases is negligible at this moment, the government is fully seized of the importance of the matter," added the health minister.
Dr Vardhan discouraged the wide usage of investigational therapies such as remdesivir and plasma therapies. "Government has issued regular advisories regarding the rational use of investigational therapies. The private hospitals have also been advised against routine use of these investigational therapies. The doctors in the States/UTs are being made aware of this through webinars and during the tele-consultation session of AIIMS," he said.
The Union Health Minister dispelled fears regarding the phased opening of schools and advised on proper protocol to be followed while visiting salons and hair-spa. The Minister asked everyone to always raise awareness regarding COVID appropriate behaviors. He re-emphasized on the need for wearing masks even in places of worship.
On the emerging evidence that the disease not only impacts lungs but other organ systems too, especially cardiovascular and renal, Dr Vardhan informed that the committee of health ministry is looking into these facets of COVID-19 and ICMR is also studying this subject.
He stated that States/UTs have been advised to lower the prices of COVID tests. "In the early days of the pandemic, as the kits were imported, the price tended to be high. But now, there is a domestic production of kits and supplies of testing kits have also stabilized. The health ministry has written to States and Union Territories to engage private laboratories at mutually agreeable lower rates."
Responding to a similar question on the strengthening of the public health system, he spoke of the Union Government's commitment "to increasing the public healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP from the existing 1.15 per cent to 2.5 per cent by 2025", which "will mean an actual increase of 345 per cent over the current share in this short period of time." He added that the 15th Finance Commission's high-level group on health has concurred that healthcare spending must be raised substantially in the next five years in view of the present pandemic.
On the disparity of setting up AIIMS in different regions and only one for the entire North East, Dr Harsh Vardhan spoke of the Central Scheme Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) aimed at correcting the regional imbalances in healthcare.
"Other than setting up new AIIMS, the scheme also aims to upgrade the existing medical infrastructure in the entire country in a phased manner. Under different phases of the Scheme, the Central Government will establish new medical colleges attached with existing district and referral hospitals in Dhubri, Nagaon, North Lakhimpur, Diphu, Kokrajhar Districts in Assam, Churachandrapur in Manipur West Garo Hills District in Meghalaya, Falkawan District in Mizoram, and Kohima and Mon in Nagaland."
On a question related to 'AtmaNirbhar Bharat Yojana', Dr. Harsh Vardhan spoke of India's two-pronged strategy of incentivizing production and creation of common infrastructure for high-quality medicines and medical devices to make the country self-reliant.
"The government is ensuring that there is import substitution in this sector as well and that we are no longer dependent on imports; "Under these newly-launched schemes, the Government has proposed the development of three bulk drug parks and four medical device parks across India," he said.
He further said, "In the coming days we will not just be able to meet domestic requirements, but also be able to fulfill global demand for low-cost, quality medical devices. In the last few months since the outbreak of the pandemic, India had made rapid strides in the manufacturing of ventilators, PPEs, testing kits and many medical devices." (ANI)