Government announces Rs 15 billion package to increase health infrastructure and fight against COVID-19

NEW DELHI: The government on Thursday announced a Rs 15 billion financial package to increase overall health infrastructure by addressing the pandemic that has infected nearly 6,500 people and left at least 196 dead in the country.

The government said an amount of Rs 7,774 million of the package will be used for the immediate response to the pandemic, while the rest will be spent in the medium term (1-4 years) under the mission mode approach.

The health ministry, in a statement, said the package's key goals include increasing the emergency response to curb and limit the growth of COVID-19 through the development of dedicated diagnostic and treatment facilities.

The announcement of the financial package came as several states faltered under mounting pressure to provide medical assistance to a growing number of people infected with the virus.

Separately, a Group of Ministers (GoM) chaired by the Minister of Health carried out a comprehensive review of the overall containment and management of COVID-19 in the country.

The Government of Mexico also deliberated on social distancing measures and on the strategy to control the spread of the infection.

The GoM was informed that all districts were asked to prepare and strengthen their contingency plans to combat COVID-19, the health ministry said.

He said several other measures were discussed, including ways to boost health care infrastructure and dedicate adequate resources to states to create dedicated hospitals to treat patients with coronavirus.

The amount of Rs 15,000 crore has been sanctioned under the Indian Health and Emergency Response Preparedness Package COVID-19.

The funds will also be used for centralized procurement of essential medical equipment and medications needed to treat infected patients, as well as to build resilient national and state health systems to effectively cope with future disease outbreaks.

In his speech to the nation on March 24, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi He said: The central government has provided Rs 15,000 crore to treat coronavirus patients and strengthen the country's medical infrastructure.

A PTI count of the numbers reported by various states and union territories at 6.30 PM showed that as many as 6,475 people had contracted the virus and at least 196 had lost their lives so far. So far, nearly 600 have been cured and downloaded.

However, the nightly update from the Union Ministry of Health said that at least 169 people have died across the country with a total of 5,865 cases so far. The ministry said 591 new cases and 20 deaths have been reported since Wednesday.

The ministry said the funds will also be used to establish laboratories, as well as pandemic research, in addition to proactively engaging communities and conducting risk communication activities.

These interventions and initiatives would be implemented under the general umbrella of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, he said.

The ministry said most of the spending will be used to build a robust emergency response system and strengthen national and state health systems, followed by strengthening pandemic research and multi-sector institutions.

"The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is authorised to re-appropriate resources among components of the package and among the various implementation agencies as per the evolving emergent situation," it said.

To date, a total of 223 laboratories comprising a network of 157 government and 66 private laboratories are carrying out a rigorous process of detecting suspected cases.

The ministry said that Rs 4.1 billion has already been disbursed to all Union states and territories to help them handle COVID-19 cases.

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