NEW DELHI: In the face of COVID-19 cases rising sharply in the past few weeks, the Union Cabinet in its meeting, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Wednesday approved investments of Rs 15,000 crore for “India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package” to beef up the health infrastructure. The fund will be sanctioned in three stages within four years.
In the first phase, Rs 7,774 crore has already been provisioned, and the remaining corpus would be spent during medium-term (1-4 years) in a mission mode approach.
The Cabinet proposal listed out the objectives, which included Centralized procurements of medical equipment and types of machinery to deal with the immediate challenge of the pandemic and its containment strategy.
“The key objectives of the package include mounting emergency response to slow and limit COVID-19 through the development of diagnostics and dedicated treatment facilities, strengthen and build national and state health systems to support prevention and preparedness for future disease outbreaks,” said a senior official. He added that setting up of laboratories and boosting surveillance activities would also be funded.
The corpus of the fund would also be utilised to fund biosecurity preparedness, pandemic research and proactively engage communities and conducting risk communication activities.
Incidentally, the Centre under the Phase 1 so far has released Rs 3,000 crore to states and Union Territories to deal with the immediate challenges posed by the pandemic.
Union Minister Prakash Javdekar said that close to two lakh hospital beds have been created, besides additional ICU beds and dedicated COVID-19 hospitals as part of the containment strategy of the pandemic.
“Diagnostics laboratories network has been expanded and our testing capacity increasing every day. Leveraging on the existing multi-disease testing platforms under the National TB Elimination Programme, orders for procurement of 13 lakhs diagnostic kits have been placed,” said a senior official.
Centre extended till March 2021 the relaxation given to Assam, Meghalaya, J&K and Ladakh from the mandatory requirement of Aadhaar seeding of data of beneficiaries under the PM-KISAN scheme.