New Delhi, 30th March, 2020: As India makes a vigorous push to prevent the spread of highly-contagious COVID-19 virus with a nation-wide lockdown, leading Indian public health experts at the first virtual summit on coronavirus have lauded the step as a ‘historic decision’ and a learning from Italy’s plight.
The online conference, organized by the Integrated Health and Wellbeing (IHW) Council to discuss the various aspects of the pandemic in India, including challenges and prevention, was attended by directors, heads of department of medical colleges and hospitals such as AIIMS and Safdarjung Hospital as well as stakeholders such as diagnostic laboratories and other public health experts.
“The lockdown, the biggest in the world, is a historic decision and the best step to prevent the spread of the disease. IMA supports the decision and wants the quarantine to be ensured – the loss due to lockdown is an investment to prevent coronavirus. Also, we learnt from Italy and took the measures to develop dedicated facilities for COVID patients; it is commendable. This lockdown is also a chance for the medical, sanitation and other communities in the emergency response to stock up for the coming days,” said Dr. Rajan Sharma, National President, Indian Medical Association (IMA).
The total number of people in India tested positive for COVID-19 has crossed 1000 and 29 people have died since the first case was reported in January this year. A blanket lockdown starting 26th March, 2020 was declared, which, according to experts, now needs to be supported by interventions such as rapid and extensive testing as well as social distancing.
“In an epidemic situation, there is a peak, after which the incidents start falling. The sooner public health interventions are applied, that peak can be decreased. Doing this is important because if large number of cases are coming to any health facility in a community, then it is difficult to manage. Besides, there are impacts other than the health impact, such as economic impact, psychological impact, and social impact. If the reproductive rate of the virus is 2.1 to 2.3, then bringing everyone under the cover of tests may not be possible. Even in next 2 months, we cannot have a good coverage of testing for all, and disability limitation and rehabilitation will be important for a comprehensive approach to the pandemic,” said Dr. Jugal Kishore, Director, Professor, and Head of Department, Community Medicine, Vardhaman Mahavir Medical College and Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi.
Discussing the preparedness, Dr. Peter John Victor, Director, Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore said, “We receive more than 5000 patients from all over the country and have to stategise and stratify patients to extend medical services to them. We are stepping up our preparation – we will add 300 beds by next week which we plan to increase to 500.”
“Preparedness is important as the numbers of affected people is going to increase. But COVID-19 has made such a dent in the understanding and psyche of the healthcare workers that they are really scared because it has such a high transmission rate. Besides, we don’t have PPEs and the available PPEs are poor quality – the supply is making a huge impact on the healthcare workers to extend their services,” said Prof. Sarman Singh, Director & CEO, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Bhopal.
The webinar marks a new dimension in the activities of IHW Council, a premier think tank that advocates for a healthy world through multilateral stakeholder engagement. Mr. Kamal Narayan, CEO, IHW Council said, “IHW Council has always been at the forefront shaping discourse on public health in India and facilitate exchange of knowledge that can help formulating policies and taking better action to improve health outcomes. With humanity and our nation facing one of the gravest health emergencies in form of COVID-19 outbreak, it became all the more critical to bring together all stakeholders and public health experts to share views and experiences for better handling this crisis. The web-summit also helped in maintaining the practice of social distancing, while connecting the experts and audience both from industry and general public from across the country virtually. These are extraordinary and difficult times, and we all must make every effort to spread information that is scientifically validated.”
The topics for panel discussions included suppressing and flattening the curve, quality diagnosis and care in non-tertiary and home settings, optimizing cancer care and prevention in era of COVID-19, and preparedness for sick patients, moderated by well-known public health expert Dr. Bobby John.
The esteemed speakers on the panel included Prof. Priya Abraham, Director, ICMR National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, Prof. (Dr.) Nitin M. Nagarkar Director, AIIMS, Raipur, Dr. Sanjiv Kumar, Chair, Indian Academy of Public Health, Dr. K K Aggarwal, President, Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia & Oceania and Heart Care Foundation of India, Dr. Rajeev Gautam, President, Horiba India, Dr Dipanjan Sujit Roy, Team Lead, NUHM Assessment Team, PWC-ADBD, Dr. Daya Krishan Mangal, Professor and Dean, Research, IIHMR University, Dr. (Prof) Sudhir Kumar Rawal, Medical Director & Chief of Genito Uro-oncology Services, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute, New Delhi, Dr. Ashok Kumar Vaid, Chairman, Medical & Haematooncology, Cancer Institute, Medanta - The Medicity, and Dr. Sudeep Gupta, Director, Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer, Tata Memorial Hospital, among others.
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