The world is witnessing unprecedented times. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the COVID-19 coronavirus to be a controllable pandemic and has advised governments across the world to adopt comprehensive measures to contain its spread.
Of the many countries that have taken varying degrees of measures to curb the spread of this deadly virus, India’s efforts have been widely applauded. The United Nations (UN) has expressed solidarity with India in its fight against COVID-19 pandemic and the WHO has praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 21-day nationwide lockdown as a "comprehensive and robust" response.
Such stringent measures have resulted in significant disruption to business operations triggering monumental levels of economic uncertainty across sectors. Financial markets and other sectors such as manufacturing, tourism, hospitality and travel have been some of the ones to be hit severely.
CRISIL has slashed India’s base-case Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth forecast for fiscal 2021 to 3.5 per cent from the 5.2 per cent expected earlier. As per CRISIL, the slump in growth is expected to be concentrated in the first half of next fiscal, while the second half may see a mild recovery.
Closer home, the Indian Government has announced a Rs 1.7 lakh crore relief package under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package (PMGKP) to provide a safety net to those affected severely by the Covid-19 lockdown. Along with this, insurance coverage of as much as Rs 50 lakh each for about 22 lakh healthcare workers battling the disease has also been announced. Also, about 8.7 crore people will get free cereals and cooking gas apart from cash through direct transfers for three months.
However, not all is gloomy, there is a silver lining to the cloud. Events like these have their own way of bringing together an entire ecosystem. Despite an absence of a vaccine or a cure, there are three crucial enablers for a robust healthcare response.
Testing: Test kits
Sixteen companies have now received government approval to market RT-PCR based Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnostic kits in India. Mylab Discovery Solutions became the first Indian firm to get full approval to make and sell testing kits. Each Mylab kit can test 100 samples and costs Rs. 1,200, about a quarter of the Rs. 4,500 that India pays to import Covid-19 testing kits from abroad.
Hyundai, on the other hand, will import testing kits from South Korea to help 25,000 patients.
Prevention: Masks, Medical Textiles & Sanitisers
The Ministry of Textiles has set up an Emergency Control Room to monitor production and supply of medical textiles (N-95 mask, body coveralls and melt blown fabric) which are required for the frontline personnel fighting Covid-19.
Trichy Corporation jointly with Mahalir Thittam department has identified around 20 self-help groups (SHG) to manufacture face masks. These will be used by workers involved in routine solid waste management work and Covid-19 preventive measures.
Diageo India, the leading beverage alcohol company, announced that it will produce 3 lakh litres of hand sanitizers from its 15 manufacturing units across the country.
Treatment: Ventilators & Infrastructure
Ventilators are the single most important tool hospitals have for keeping Covid-19 patients in critical condition, alive. It is estimated that India has only about 40,000 ventilators at present, including about 8,500 in public hospitals. Keeping such shortage in view, the Indian government has reached out to five automobile manufacturers - Tata Motors Ltd, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, Hyundai Motor India Ltd, Honda Cars India Ltd and Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL) - to explore the possibility of manufacturing ventilators at their factories in collaboration with nine existing ventilator manufacturers.
MSIL has pledged to manufacture 10,000 ventilators in collaboration with AgVA Healthcare, an existing approved manufacturer of ventilators.
Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is working with Tata Motors Ltd and Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd on 'multi-patient ventilators' wherein several patients can be supported by a single ventilator.
Indian Railways is converting train coaches into isolation wards to prepare to meet the increasing demand for beds.
Also, Indian Railways is making all efforts to ensure availability of essential commodities through its uninterrupted freight services. More than 1.6 lakhs wagons have been carrying supplies to keep the supply chain functional.
Meanwhile, with a nationwide lockdown in place, over 90 cities have recorded minimal air pollution in the last few days (including Delhi - PM2.5 dropped by 30 per cent). The level of Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) pollution, which can increase the risk of respiratory conditions, has also reduced.
On a lighter note, private and public sectors in the country are coming up with their own ‘jugaad’ system to maintain ‘business as usual’ conditions. The ‘sarkari way’ of doing things in govt. offices has finally found a new way and physical movement of files and normal meetings have almost stopped. Email, Whatsapp and video conferencing are being seen as better ways to deal with the current situation.
In the meanwhile, how are you helping yourself, your society and our country in battling this deadly virus? Stay home and stay safe.