The government on Thursday rolled out a 15,000 crore package to help states with their covid-19 emergency response and health system preparedness over four years.

While an amount of 7,774 crore sanctioned so far will go into immediate emergency response, the rest of the money will be used for medium-term support (1-4 years) under a mission mode approach.

The health ministry said it has already disbursed 4,113 crore to all states and Union territories for dealing with the emergency response.

The project will be implemented in three phases between January 2020 and March 2024. Phase 1 will span January 2020 to June 2021, phase 2 from July 2020 to March 2021 and Phase 3 from April 2021 to March 2024.

“The Union health ministry is releasing funds under the immediate response of this package for states/UTs under the National Health Mission (NHM) for implementation of Phase 1 up to June 2020,” said Vandana Gurnani, additional secretary and NHM mission director in a letter to the states.

“The objectives of emergency covid-19 response fund are strengthening national and state health systems to support prevention and preparedness, procurement of essential medical equipment, consumables and drugs, strengthening of surveillance activities including setting up of laboratories and biosecurity preparedness,” she said.

Gurnani in her letter explained that the key activities to be implemented under Phase 1 will be support for development of dedicated covid-19 hospitals and other hospitals, isolation blocks, negative pressure isolation rooms, lCUs with ventilators, oxygen supply in hospitals, strengthening of laboratories and hospitals, hiring of additional human resources and incentives for human resources and community health volunteers.

Other activities to be done in the first phase will be procurement of personal protection equipment (PPE) and procurement of N95 masks and ventilators, over and above what is being procured and supplied by the government.

During Phase 1, states would also be strengthening identified laboratories and expanding diagnostics capacities, including procurement of diagnostic equipment, testing kits and other reagents and mobility support for sample transport, disinfection of hospitals, government ambulances, information education and surveillance activities.

The Union health ministry is authorized to re-appropriate resources among components of the package and among the various implementation agencies which are NHM, Central Procurement, railways, department of health research, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), National Centre for Disease Control on the basis of the evolving situation.

“The key objectives of the package fully funded by the central government include mounting emergency response to slow and limit covid-19 in India through the development of diagnostics and covid-19 dedicated treatment facilities, centralized procurement of essential medical equipment and drugs required for treatment of infected patients,” said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary, ministry of health and family welfare. He added that the funds will also be used to strengthen and build resilient national and state health systems to support prevention and preparedness for future disease outbreaks, setting up of laboratories and bolster surveillance activities, bio-security preparedness, pandemic research and proactively engage communities and conduct risk communication activities.

In response to the containment of the coronavirus in India, a total of 223 laboratories comprising a network of 157 government and 66 private laboratories are conducting screening.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation on 24 March said the central government has provisioned 15,000 crore for treating coronavirus patients and strengthening the medical infrastructure.

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