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Dr Harsh Vardhan engages with North Eastern states to review preparedness  for COVID-19 management

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Dr Vardhan appreciated the dedication of all the states in combating COVID-19 in the country

Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare held a high level meeting with Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim to review the status of COVID-19 in the north-eastern states along with the measures being taken for its containment and management, in the presence of Ashwini Kumar Choubey, MoS (HFW), in New Delhi. 

The review meeting (over video conferencing) was attended by Dr R Lalthangliana, Health Minister of Mizoram, Alo Libang, Health Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, and Piyush Hazarika, MoS, Health and Family Welfare, Assam along with senior officers from the eight states.

At the outset, Dr Vardhan appreciated the dedication of all the states in combating COVID-19 in the country. “It is a huge relief and very encouraging to see green zones in most North Eastern States. As of date, only Assam and Tripura have active COVID-19 cases; the other States are all in the green zone. Let us focus and work together by converting the orange zones to green zones and maintain the protective status across the states,”he stated. 

During the detailed interaction with the NE States, they highlighted various issues related to testing facilities, health infrastructure, surveillance, contact tracing etc., and also shared their best practices. 

Dr Vardhan mentioned about the various measures taken by the Centre to combat COVID-19 so far. 

To maintain the positive status of COVID-19 management in the North East, Dr Vardhan advised the states to ensure that the returning migrant labourers, students and those returning from abroad should be screened and quarantined as per the guidelines and protocol laid down by the by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of External Affairs. He also stated that the guidelines for discharging patients is also revised and needs to be followed by all the states.

Dr Vardhan stated, “While some states have worked in this direction, others need to focus on more effective surveillance, contact tracing, house to house survey and early diagnosis.”

He said, “Surveillance for Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI)/ Influenza Like Illness (ILI) should be intensified in unaffected districts and districts which have not reported cases from last 14 days and more through the IDSP network in collaboration with medical college hospitals,” he added. 

He urged states to aggressively pursue the download of Aarogya Setu app to aid contact tracing and surveillance, and for self assessment by people. He advised the states to put the information of the earmarked facilities for COVID-19 like the dedicated COVID hospitals, COVID health centres and care centres in public domain to help people access the services. 

The states were informed that funds have been allocated by the Minister of DONER (Ministry of DoNER) for strengthening of the health infrastructure, and states need to submit their proposals for availing of funds under this fund.

For the states that have international borders, Dr Vardhan stated that these states need to take adequate measures at the border areas to prevent exposure by conducting screening of all individuals entering the state at entry points and following quarantine protocol as per the guidelines.

The states were reminded that in addition to the COVID-19 care, non-COVID-19 health services were equally important and should not be neglected. Due attention was required to be paid to healthcare services such as ANCs for pregnant women, immunisation drives, OPD/IPD services, screening of NCDs and TB diagnosis and treatment. Adequate measures for prevention of vector borne diseases also need to be taken, they were advised. Also, facilities of telemedicine and tele-counselling could be used for reaching to a larger population for their healthcare needs.  

States were also advised to ensure that payments, salaries and incentives were paid to the healthcare staff, paramedics and other healthcare workers. States were also advised to ensure that the NHM funds were transferred to the health department. States were also informed that helpline number 104 in addition to 1075 can be used for grievance redressal for non-COVID essential services, and for providing the needed information to the people on their location etc. States were also advised to keep adequate stock of essential medicines and explore home delivery by engaging volunteers for the purpose.

In view of the larger prevalence of non-smoking tobacco usage in some of the states, Dr Vardhan advised the states to ensure that concrete actions were taken for prohibiting their wide usage and for prohibiting spitting in public places which shall help in preventing spread of COVID-19. Strong reforms are needed in this direction, he stated. He appreciated the effort of states that have banned the use of chewing tobacco and imposition of fine for  spitting in public places.

Preeti Sudan, Secretary (HFW), Rajesh Bhushan, OSD (HFW), Vandana Gurnani, AS & MD (NHM), Dr Manohar Agnani, Joint Secretary (MoH&FW), Dr SK Singh, Director, NCDC along with Principal Secretary (Health) and other senior state health officials participated in the meeting.

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