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Lancet Citizens’ Commission offers recommendations to address COVID-19 surge in India

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The commission has proposed eight urgent recommendations to central and state governments to help curtail the loss of life and suffering caused by the pandemic

In response to the alarming resurgence of COVID-19 cases in India, the Lancet Citizens’ Commission on Reimagining India’s Health System has proposed eight urgent recommendations focused on the immediate steps central and state governments must take to help curtail the loss of life and suffering caused by the pandemic, a statement has said.

The commission was launched in December 2020 to lay out a roadmap for India to achieve universal health coverage in the next 10 years.

According to the recommendations, firstly, the organisation and financing of essential health services must be decentralised to districts; secondly, there must be a transparent national pricing policy and caps on the prices of all essential health services; thirdly, clear, evidence-based information on the management of COVID-19 should be widely disseminated, including guidance on what not to do.

Other recommendations are that all available human resources, including the private sector, must be marshalled for the COVID-19 response and adequately resourced and supported; central systems to procure and distribute COVID-19 vaccines free of cost should be established in a departure from the current policy of decentralised procurement through state governments; community engagement and public participation must lie at the heart of the country’s COVID-19 response, with no restrictions on civil-society organisations to access resources.

In addition, there must be transparency and sharing of government data to enable districts to proactively prepare for the likely caseloads in the coming weeks; and surveillance needs to include urgent investment in genomic sequencing, and the profound suffering and risk to health caused by loss of livelihoods should be minimised by making provisions for cash transfers by the state to workers in India’s vast informal economy for those who have lost their jobs and requiring businesses not to lay-off their workers.

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