New Delhi, Mar 17: India’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the recent Omicron surge, has strongly demonstrated to the world the power of strong political will, self-reliance, technology-powered innovation and collaborative efforts, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Thursday.
Delivering the keynote address at a webinar, he said India’s strategies of public health response have resulted in better management of Omicron surge compared to many other countries.
The webinar, titled ‘India’s Public Health Response to manage COVID-19’, was organised with NITI Aayog and more than 200 NGOs and civil society organisations. In a presentation, steps taken by the country demonstrating various timely public health measures were highlighted.
At a time when many countries are reporting an increase in number of daily Covid cases, India’s daily cases have reported a substantial decrease, combined with increased recovery rate, and high levels of vaccination, the minister said. Timely measures, including test, track and treat approach with focused genome sequencing, containment, community surveillance, protocols for home isolation and effective clinical treatment, have in tandem contributed to India’s COVID-19 management, he stated.
The management of the COVID-19 pandemic, and especially the recent Omicron surge, has strongly demonstrated to the world the power of “strong political will, self-reliance…, innovation powered by technology, shared goals and collaborative efforts through a ‘whole of government and whole of society’ approach”, the minister said. Applauding collective spirit of the citizens, he said, “India’s vaccination drive is testament to its capabilities and power of the people without whom this journey, and this high level of vaccine coverage, would not have been possible.”
Despite the large population combined with geographical and sociological diversities, India has set global standards of vaccination, he said. One of the key achievements has been our capacity to deliver over 1.8 billion Covid vaccine doses across a multitude of regions and terrains,” the minister said.
Speaking about the challenges India faced during the pandemic, he said timely and prompt decisions for containment, management, treatment and vaccination were taken by India under the leadership and guidance of the prime minister. Mandaviya highlighted the crucial role played by technology and how it was leveraged for increased accessibility of healthcare services during the pandemic through eSanjeevani, CoWIN portal for vaccination, Arogya Setu app, etc.
India’s technological innovations have lent speed and efficiency to the country’s vaccination drive, he stated. Referring to Indian philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ and Shubh Laabh’, he said, India has not only produced quality and affordable vaccines, we have exported medicines to more than 150 countries on humanitarian grounds. The Vaccine Maitri programme of the government has been lauded globally.”
Mandaviya expressed deep gratitude to all the grassroots NGOs, stakeholders and civil society organisations who have worked tirelessly among the communities during the pandemic to support them in various ways. “I seek your continued partnership for connecting with the communities to take healthcare services to them. Your work will be pivotal in enhancing awareness and accelerating uptake of e-health services (such as eSanjeevani, and tele-health) among the masses,” he stated.
Dr Mark Esposito of Harvard University stated that the commendable work done by the Government of India lays the foundation that will be able to develop a government system, which is committed to prompt and science-based response. He also noted that this governance approach of whole of government and whole of society adopted by the Government of India, in terms of dealing with the pandemic and ensuring the success of the vaccination drive, would be a model for dealing with a crisis or similar challenges in the future.
Reaffirming India’s success being embedded in science, Dr Chris Elias, President, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, appreciated the country’s exemplary response to the pandemic. “However, in dealing with these challenges and ensuring the success of vaccination drive, crucial policy decisions that were taken swiftly…under the leadership and guidance of Prime Minister…to ensure that millions were safely administered COVID-19 vaccines in India played an instrumental role.
“India’s pandemic response and the strategies developed by the country has now become the textbook approach to deal with future pandemic,” he asserted. Outlining the distinctive initiatives that set India apart from many other countries in terms of COVID-19 management, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said India’s approach was technology-led which helped in achieving this whole of society approach. CoWIN app turned out to be the heart of the vaccination drive.
Many challenges like delivery and equitable distribution of vaccines were addressed through timely transparent technological and physical interventions. Vaccine hesitancy was prevented through mass communication. Procurement, logistics were solved through robust cold chain ecosystem development. “Also, we trained and provided clear information which helped in creating momentum for phase-wise vaccination of vulnerable groups, he said.