India has ramped up its COVID-19 testing facility from one lab in January this year to 1,370 labs today and citizens anywhere can access a lab within three hours of travel time, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has said.
Addressing a virtual meeting of regional directors of World Health Organisation (WHO) South-East Asia on Thursday, the minister said that India's proactive and graded multi-level institutional response to COVID-19 made it possible to have very low cases and deaths per million.
He said India had been preparing for the pandemic as soon as China informed WHO on January 7.
The minister said the daily handling capacity of COVID-19 cases in hospitals has increased to almost 35 times.
"India's proactive and graded multi-level institutional response to COVID-19 made it possible to have very low cases per million and deaths per million in spite of having a high population density and low fractional GDP spending and per capita doctor and hospital bed availability as compared to other developed countries," the minister said.
Earlier viral outbreaks like avian influenza, H1N1pdm09 influenza, Zika and Nipah had provided institutional memory in designing containment and management strategies using "whole of government" approach, the minister said.
He said the coronavirus-induced lockdown was utilised to quickly augment healthcare infrastructure in the country to fight rising COVID-19 cases.
"The lockdown period was utilised to quickly augment our healthcare infrastructure to support the growing number of COVID-19 cases. We were able to increase our isolation beds more than 34 times and ICU beds over 20 times. From one lab in January, India has 1,370 labs today. Indians anywhere can access a lab within three hours travel time. Thirty-three of the 36 states and UTs exceed WHO's recommendation of testing 140 people per million per day," he said.
The minister said that telemedicine facilities at AIIMS Delhi helped identify the root causes of mortality and made high-impact interventions possible that significantly curbed the mortality rate from 3.33 per cent on June 18 to 2.11 per cent on August 3.
"Within 10 to 20 days, with the help of DRDO, we were able to create 1,000 to 10,000 beds for COVID-19 patients. Right now, on evaluation, we find that the daily handling capacity of COVID-19 cases in our hospitals has increased to almost 35 times," he said.
The meet focused on maintaining essential health services and public health programmes in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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