A vibrant scientific community and good scientific institutions have been India’s greatest assets in fighting COVID-19

The future will be shaped by societies that invest in science and innovation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said. Delivering the keynote address at the Grand Challenges Annual Meeting 2020 on Monday, he said the benefits of science and innovation can be reaped at the right time by investing in it well in advance.

Referring to how the COVID-19 pandemic had made the world realise the importance of teamwork, PM Modi pointed out that science would never prosper in silos and the Grand Challenges Programme had understood this ethos well.

The Grand Challenges Annual Meeting is an attempt to foster international innovation collaborations to address the biggest challenges in health and development.

Speaking via video conferencing, Prime Minister Modi commended the scale of this programme where many nations were engaged globally to address diverse issues such as Antimicrobial Resistance, Maternal and Child Health, Agriculture, Nutrition, and WaSH - (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene).

Maintaining that diseases do not have geographic boundaries and do not discriminate on the grounds of faith, race, gender or colour, he said a strong & vibrant scientific community and good scientific institutions in India have been India’s greatest assets while fighting COVID-19. He added they had achieved wonders from containment to capacity building.

The Prime Minister said the COVID-19 death rate in India is very low despite the large population due to the "people powered and people driven approach". In India, there is a decline in the number of cases per day, decline in the growth rate of cases and one of the highest recovery rates of 88 percent.

According to PM Modi, this happened because India was one of the first countries to adopt a flexible lockdown, was one of the first to encourage the usage of masks, actively began to work on effective contact-tracing and was one of the earliest to deploy the rapid antigen tests.

The Prime Minister pointed out how India was now at the forefront of vaccine development for COVID. More than 30 indigenous vaccines are being developed in the country and three of them are in an advanced stage. India is already working on putting a well-established Vaccine delivery system in place and this digitised network along with digital health ID will be used to ensure immunisation of our citizens.

During his address, the Prime Minister pointed out that India had a proven capacity to produce quality medicines and vaccines at low cost. More than 60 percent of the vaccines for global immunisation were being manufactured in India. With its experience and research talent, India will be at the centre of global healthcare efforts and desires to help other nations enhance their capacities in these sectors, PM Modi said.

The Prime Minister also used the occasion to list interventions made in the last 6 years like better sanitation, improved cleanliness, more toilet coverage which has contributed to a better healthcare system. This has helped the women, poor & under-privileged and led to a reduction in diseases.

He also listed the efforts of the Government in ensuring disease reduction and bringing better healthcare to the villages like providing piped drinking water to every household, setting up medical colleges in rural areas and running the world’s largest health insurance scheme.