Why in news?

  • The Union Health Ministry on Friday denied evidence of community transmission (CT) of COVID-19 while reporting at least 700 new cases since 9th April 2020.
  • A countrywide shortage of medicines and medical devices is likely in the coming weeks, the Department of Pharmaceuticals has warned the Home Ministry.

Denial of Community transmission

Machine generated alternative text:New high On Thursday, 859 new COVID-19 cases were recorded in India, the highest single day spike yet Mar. 16 As of 10 p.m. on Friday, 847 new cases were recorded Apr. 2 750 500 250 Apr. 10 No distancing: A jostling crowd at the Keshopur vegetable market in West Delhi on Friday. •SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR
  • There was evidence for community transmission — or instances of coronavirus (COVID-19) in patients who had no established contact with someone who had picked up the disease from abroad — from as early as March 22, suggests a research study in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, authored by several ICMR scientists.
  • The ICMR’s official position continues to be that there is no evidence for community transmission.
  • The Ministry’s response follows an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) report.
  • The World Health Organisation describes Community Transmission as when there are large clusters of outbreaks when it is no longer possible to trace the original source of an infection.
  • Over the last few weeks, there have been reports from several States of people testing positive but who were unable to explain the possible source of the infection.
  • However, the Health Ministry has consistently maintained that this was not evidence for CT.

Concern of Scarcity of Drugs and Devices

Machine generated alternative text:A bitter pill The Indian pharma industry is hit hard by the restrictions imposed during the lockdown • Ancillary industries such as packaging and raw material suppliers are shut • As close to of the pharmaceutical output is exported by India, the domestic market is more vulner- able to such production shocks • Pharma and medical device producers are operating at just 20 to of their capacity • Reverse migration and the inability of local workers to turn up has reduced their labour force • Lack of adequate transport and logistics services (such as couriers) • Mistreatment by police and local officials • Lack of clarity on permits for factory operations e
  • Department of Pharmaceuticals has urged the Home Ministry to take immediate steps to help drug makers resume production under the current lockdown as a countrywide shortage of medicines and medical devices is likely in the coming weeks.
  • Drug and medical device makers are functioning  on an average, at only 20%-30% capacity during the lockdown.
  • If the production does not reach the pre-lockdown level soon, it could lead to shortages of medicines and medical devices in the coming weeks.
  • Half of India’s output of pharmaceuticals is exported as global markets offer better prices
  • Production units engaged in making essential commodities, including medicines, vaccines, masks and their ancillaries had been exempted from the restrictions imposed as per the three-week national lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24.

Requests by the Department of Pharmaceuticals

  • Dept. of Pharmaceuticals urged the Home Ministry to allow the pharma industry to ‘ferry back their contractual workers from their native places’ and make courier services ‘fully functional’ in metro cities as well as Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities.
  • State and district administrations need to be sensitised and nudged to be proactive to fulfil the need for pharma units to function fully.
  • There is a dire need to not only address the apprehensions of the pharmaceutical distribution related drivers but also to motivate/incentivise them (with insurance, etc.).
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