India must close the gaps in its essential medical supplies and hospital capacities urgently amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday, 28 April.
“The current rapid surge of COVID-19 cases has put immense pressure on the health systems, already overburdened since the start of the pandemic. We need to act with speed, expand hospital capacities and equip them with medical supplies, most needed to save lives,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region.
Dr Khetrapal Singh went on to talk about the importance of optimising the resources available, and rationing scarce resources such as certain highly in-demand drugs and oxygen to ensure lifesaving interventions are made available to only those who need it.
The WHO, in an effort to support India, is procuring laboratory supplies, including 1.2 million reagents for testing, mobile field hospitals with capacity of 20-30 beds, which could be set up in the most affected areas;
According to the press release, the bed capacity at these field hospitals can be increased to a maximum of 50 if needed, without impacting infection prevention and control protocols, and water and sanitation.
Additionally, the health body is also chartering flights to bring in 4,000 oxygen concentrators to help meet the increased demands, and over 2,600 WHO technical staff, working on various programmes such as polio, TB and NTD, have been repurposed to support pandemic response in India.
Saying that the WHO will continue to work with health authorities at all levels, it will address the fear among the communities which triggers hoarding of medical supplies and the rush to hospitals.
She added that with mounting cases, it is important to triage people well to optimise available resources such as ICU beds.
“Irrespective of the numbers that we see today or the virus variants that may be circulating during the ongoing surge, our key public health measures – test, trace, isolate and treat – along with physical distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette and masks continue to be our tried and tested measures to curtail COVID-19 transmission.”WHO Press Release
“Masks should be worn correctly covering nose and mouth properly. Our masks should be a good fit, without gaps, to effectively protect us from the virus,” she said, emphasising that this needs to be promoted among the masses.
India Declines UN Assistance Of Integrated Supply Chain for COVID-Related Supplies
Meanwhile, India declined the assistance offered by the United Nations of its integrated supply chain for COVID19-related material, and said that the country has a "robust system" to deal with the required logistics, a UN Secretary General spokesperson said, PTI reported.
Responding to a question by PTI, Farhan Haq said, "One of the things we did is we offered the assistance of our integrated supply chain if it was required. We've been told at this point that it's not needed because India has a reasonably robust system to deal with this. But our offer stands, and we're willing to help in whatever way we can."
Haq also informed that India has not said sought any shipments of essential healthcare and other supplies, adding that “we do have people, including our people who deal with operational and logistical issues who are willing to help, if we're needed, and we're in touch with our counterparts in India to see whether that will be useful," PTI reported.
The president of the UN General Assembly also expressed worry over the surge in COVID-19 infections in India, and said it is time for the world to offer support to the country.