Rajesh Bhushan, OSD in the Ministry of Health, speaks during a press conference, in New Delhi on July 14 2020 | ANI
File photo of Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan | ANI
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New Delhi: While India is doing well on various Covid-19 parameters such as testing, recoveries and case fatality rate, it is “premature” to talk about opening up schools, colleges and malls, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said Tuesday.

On a day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a video conference meeting with chief ministers of the 10 states that account for 80 per cent of the Covid cases, Bhushan said that standard operating procedures (SOPs) have already been prepared for various contingencies when diverse activities can be restarted, but it is still too early to say when those contingencies will emerge.

Replying to a question from ThePrint on reopening of schools, colleges etc, Bhushan said, “That is not how things work. In life as in pandemic management, you cross the bridges when we come to them. Therefore, while we do have SOPs for specific activities after due stakeholder consultations, we release those only after there is an understanding that a specific activity needs to be opened.

“Therefore, it would be rather premature at this point in time to say that by such and such date, we will open this activity and by another date we will open another activity,” he said.

Bhushan added that it would be premature also to divulge what those SOPs are, but the Department of School Education and Literacy has been holding regular consultations with state governments and parent bodies.

In his presentation, he said that 24 states and Union Territories have a better than national average testing rate, and the fact that over 15 lakh patients have recovered is a very “satisfying statistic”.

“As we have said here before, WHO recommends 140 tests per day per million population should be done. You can see we are doing over four times that number everyday — 506 tests every day per million population. Goa, Delhi and Tamil Nadu are the leaders in testing,” Bhushan said.

He reiterated the government position that “states should not be overawed by rising numbers”.


Also read: Only 33% parents support reopening of schools from 1 September, finds survey


‘Will follow procedure on vaccine development’

Bhushan said the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration, which is chaired by NITI Aayog member V.K. Paul and of which he is the co-chair, will meet Wednesday to discuss various issues pertaining to vaccine delivery, selection of suitable candidate, prioritisation of groups, logistics and cold chain management, finance and equity.

On a question about the Russian Covid-19 vaccine that was unveiled Tuesday, Bhushan said, “Whenever a vaccine is made in the country, how procurement will be done and all other issues related to it, the expert group will discuss. It is hypothetical to ask about a vaccine being made somewhere else.”

The other members of the vaccine administration group are the secretary of Department of Biotechnology, secretary of Ministry of External Affairs, AIIMS director, head of epidemiology at ICMR, JIPMER director and various representatives from states.

Pressed about a timeline for vaccines, he said, “After phase I and phase II trials are completed (of the Bharat Biotech and Zydus Cadila vaccines), they will take permission for phase III trials. This is a set procedure.”


Also read: Modelling, testing, sero survey, vaccine — 4 lessons India learnt from 4 months of Covid


PM meeting with states

On the meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi held with chief ministers and senior officials of the 10 states worst affected by Covid — Punjab, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Telangana, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu — Bhushan said the PM had set a target of reducing the case fatality rate to below 1 per cent.

He also cited Delhi and several districts in the NCR — Ghaziabad, GautamBuddha Nagar, Faridabad, Gurgaon and Sonepat — as an example for the effective contact-tracing, testing and containment strategies that were implemented to bring down fatalities.

Of the total active cases in the country currently, less than 1 per cent are on ventilators, less than 3 per cent on oxygen support and less than 4 per cent in the ICU, Bhushan added.


Also read: India’s single-day Covid count higher than US, Brazil in past week, says WHO


 

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