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Focus: GS-III Disaster Management

Opportunity to act

  • The overall case numbers have moved steadily past the million mark and India is now third in global case standings, and the distribution of cases also presents itself as the world’s biggest opportunity to intervene and blunt the global toll of the epidemic.
  • The low numbers in a large number of districts present officials the opportunity of stemming the epidemic and preventing morbidity, mortality and economic distress in a significant way.

Key steps at ground level

  • There should be district-level COVID-19 tracking mechanisms and tables and graphs that are updated daily – as State and national summaries are important but are not as critical as ensuring the accuracy and timeliness of district-level tracking.
  • The first output of such disaggregation will be to see, with great relief, the number of districts with extremely small or no incidence numbers.
  • In order that they retain their low incidence status, such districts should be supported with all comprehensive testing kits and contact tracing know-how.
  • The testing capacity in the district can be scaled up dramatically by coopting the science departments of every college and university. Thus, chemistry and zoology-allied departments such as microbiology and biochemistry can lend their laboratory services to carry out basic polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based tests.
  • Not using emerging talents in educational institutions in tier 2 and tier 3 towns in many districts in India would be a wasted opportunity, both in terms of training and nurturing ambitions.

On testing

  • Rapid innovations that have been surfacing within the past 12 weeks globally show it will not be very long before testing could become a self-administered process. One has to look at recent insights into using saliva as the start point for testing rather than using a nasopharyngeal swab for sampling.
  • Increased testing is not only necessary; indeed, it will be the single biggest contributor to stemming the tide of morbidity and mortality in India and the rest of the world.

Chance for biotech

  • India is the pharmacy to the world, and with a coordinated effort, the COVID-19 crisis can provide the Y2K equivalent for India’s biotech and biopharmaceutical enterprises.
  • At the moment, the world is increasingly looking at personalised diagnostics and therapeutics.
  • If with a positive test report, COVID-19 positive individuals were able to monitor their own oxygenation status at home, along with basic fever management medicines, and based on predetermined cutoffs, were able to seek and obtain care at oxygen equipped care facilities, we would both be building on expanding the network of monitoring exponentially, and addressing morbidity earlier in its course.
  • For the roughly 3% to 5% of people who will need more than oxygen support, we need to ensure that our doctors, nurses, laboratory personnel and floor workers in hospitals are protected with everything they deserve.


India’s general health-care spending has been far below optimal. But if innovations to help manage the current crisis are suitably capitalised on, they can enable India to move far ahead in health-care delivery and related outcomes.

COVID-19 is both a crisis and an opportunity for health-care reform as well as understanding the interplay of health outcomes with social and economic support interventions, and limitations of law enforcement in managing epidemics.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023