New Delhi: The Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs tabled the Economic Survey 2022-23 in Parliament today, the survey noted the fiscal and social measures taken by the union government in building COVID infrastructure and combating COVID-19 in the country.
The COVID-19 virus posed an unprecedented challenge to the country which was tackled with an agile approach, based on feedback loops, real-time monitoring of actual outcomes, flexible responses, and safety-net buffers. Over two years since the pandemic was declared, the government has taken various fiscal and social measures to balance the revival of the economy and deal with increasing caseloads. These included ramping up health infrastructure, both physical and digital, enhanced training of health professionals and, continuing with the mass vaccination drive, says the Economic Survey 2022-23.
Highlighting the focus of the government on scaling up health infrastructure under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan, the survey observes that the union government focussed on scaling up expenditure on health infrastructure by investing in grass root health institutions and ramping up HWCs in rural and urban areas; by setting up critical care hospital blocks in all districts; and by strengthening the laboratory network and surveillance by integrated public health laboratories in all districts and blocks and public health units to manage pandemics.
The survey noted that the state governments also took various measures to fight the pandemic. This was complemented by digital infrastructure through Co-WIN for mass vaccination and e-Sanjeevani for telemedicine to reach the last mile. The timely intervention at all levels helped India navigate the COVID pandemic successfully despite successive shocks.
The survey observes that in the last few months, the caseload has subsided significantly, where the active caseload is below 4000 and daily new cases recorded below 300 (as of December 29, 2022).
Building COVID infrastructure:
A three-tier arrangement of dedicated COVID-19 health facilities in the country was implemented to reduce the risk of cross-infection to non-COVID patients and to make provision for non-COVID essential health services, mentions the Economic Survey.
This three-tier arrangement of health facilities comprises a dedicated covid care centre with isolation beds for mild or pre-symptomatic cases; a dedicated COVID health centre with oxygen-supported isolation beds for moderate cases, and a dedicated covid hospital with ICU beds for severe cases.
Besides this, tertiary care hospitals under the ESIC, Defence, Railways, Central Armed Police Forces, Steel Ministry, etc were also leveraged for case management. In addition, in many states, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) utilised large-scale field hospitals to rapidly scale up treatment capacities.
Strengthening oxygen infrastructure during the pandemic
Pressure swing adsorption (PSA) oxygen generation plants: Elaborating on the criticality of the PSA plants the Economic Survey states that the PSA plants are being established in hospitals, especially in far-flung areas enabling the hospitals to become self-sufficient in the generation of oxygen for their needs and, thereby, reducing the burden on the medical oxygen supply grid across the country. It was emphasised that each district of the country should have at least one PSA plant from PM-CARES support at the public health facilities. Accordingly, 4,135 PSA plants are being established in the country, which enhances the oxygen generation capacity by 4,852 MT, as per the details below. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) developed and shared the guidelines on indicative norms for setting up oxygen plants in all health facilities on July 6, 2021, with the states, the survey states.
Oxygen cylinders:The survey mentions that the government has ensured an adequate supply of medical oxygen for patient care in the states. Until now, 4,02,517 oxygen cylinders have been supplied to States/UTs/ central government hospitals; which consists of 1.0 lakh by Central Medical Services Society (CMSS) in 2020; 1.3 lakh by CMSS in 2021; 1.5 lakh by DRDO in 2021 and 23,000 from foreign aid. The oxygen cylinder allocation has been performed in a transparent and participative manner with States/UTs.
Moreover, MoHFW has approved the distribution of additional 14,340 D-Type oxygen cylinders among states from UNICEF-ADB (Asian Development Bank) support, which is under process.
Oxygen concentrators: A total of 1,13,186 oxygen concentrators have been procured by the government for COVID management, ie, 99,186 under PM-CARES through ONGC for use in rural areas; and 14,000 under Emergency Covid Response Package (ECRP) support. All these domestically procured concentrators have already been allocated to states/UTs. Moreover, states have been advised to promptly issue oxygen concentrators to districts with details of consignee points and promptly enter data pertaining to the receipt of oxygen concentrators at the district level on the OC-MIS portal (OxyCare MIS Portal).