New Delhi [India], November 21 (ANI): A parliamentary panel has lauded the ramping up of COVID-19 testing facilities in the country but noted that the testing facilities are mainly limited to bigger districts and cities and "lack of testing facilities in rural areas has also resulted in the underreporting of cases".
The committee observed that initially only NIV-Pune was equipped to carry out COVID-19 testing and by April 1, testing facilities were increased to 151 labs. It said that testing capacity was expanded to 1,321 labs by July 31 and to 2,082 labs by November 10.
"This ramping up is commendable. However, the Committee finds that the testing facility is only limited to bigger districts and cities. Lack of testing facilities in rural areas has also resulted in the underreporting of cases. The PHCs and CHCs are still largely devoid of any testing facilities and the required technical workforce," the panel said.
Ram Gopal Yadav, the Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare, virtually presented 121st, 122nd, 123rd and 124th reports to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu.
While 121st, 122nd and 124th reports are action taken reports, the 123rd report is a subject report on 'Outbreak of Pandemic COVID-19 and its Management', an official release said.
The committee strongly recommended to the Health Ministry "to establish a strong network of Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratories in the country to tackle the constantly increasing incidence of COVID-19 cases and enhance the efficacy plan of containment of the pandemic".
The committee, which submitted the first report by any parliamentary committee on the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, pointed out that the health care spending in the country is "abysmally low" and added that the lack of investment in the healthcare infrastructure has exposed the fragility of Indian health ecosystem and posed a big hurdle in generating an effective response against the pandemic.
It urged the central government to work with stakeholders to ensure that the vaccine, when it comes, is easily available to the general public at an affordable price. It also called upon the government to subsidize the vaccine cost for weaker sections of the society.
Expressing concerns over the "grossly inadequate" number of hospital beds in the government hospitals, the committee noted that lack of beds and inadequate ventilator facilities further complicated the efficacy of the containment plan against the pandemic. (ANI)