R Dutta Choudhury

GUWAHATI, Jan 17: The healthcare system of India has improved a lot after the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic and now the country is in a much better position to deal with any outbreak of epidemic or pandemic, said the Director of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Dr Rajni Kant. He also said that the people should keep following the COVID-19 precautions, which would help protect them not only from COVID but also from various other diseases.

Talking to The Assam Tribune, the ICMR Director said that the launching of the vaccination programme yesterday was a big step towards the battle against COVID-19. He admitted that it would be impossible to vaccinate more than 130 crore population of India and that is why the Government decided to go for vaccination in a phased manner.

Initially, the target is to vaccinate around 30 crore people of the country. In the first phase, three crore frontline health workers including doctors and nurses will be vaccinated and in the next phase, people about 50 years as well as those having comorbidities will be vaccinated. It is a major achievement for India that the country could develop and produce vaccines in less than a year of outbreak of the pandemic, he added.

Dr Kant said that some countries like the United Kingdom, United States of America and some other European nations have seen another spike in COVID-19 and there could be multiple reasons for it. The spikes took place mostly after the celebration of Christmas and the people of those countries may have lowered their guards after the number of cases came down. He pointed out that some states of India also witnessed spikes after the celebration of Diwali and that is why, people should not lower their guards even though the number of cases is coming down.

He said that simple habits like maintaining hand hygiene, maintaining social distance and wearing masks would not only protect people from COVID-19 but also from various other diseases.

The ICMR Director pointed out that people of India are facing outbreak of epidemics like malaria, dengue, etc and that is why, there is a belief that they have developed some inherent immunity. Moreover, the food habits of Indians also helped in improving immunity as spices and herbs used by Indian people helped them in boosting immunity. He said that there is need for a proper study in those aspects.

Dr Kant pointed out that the overall health care system in India improved a great deal since the outbreak of the pandemic. "The COVID-19 has taught us many lessons and now India is in a much better position to deal with any epidemic or pandemic in the days to come," he added. He pointed out that when the first strain of COVID-19 was detected last year, there was only one laboratory in the country which could detect COVID. Now there are around 2300 laboratories in the country which can detect COVID. Earlier, real time data about diseases were not available though such data is a must to deal with any epidemic or pandemic. Now the country has real time data about COVID and the Government can plan accordingly.

The coordination between the Central and State governments in dealing with diseases improved, while, at the same time, the coordination between the government, academics, researchers and industry also improved considerably. That is why, India could produce vaccines in a short span of time, while, the production of health equipment and other materials including PPE kits, N 95 masks etc also improved a great deal. India has shown the world what it can progress in the field of health care despite resource crunch and having such a large population, he added.