“India’s COVID-19 response approach was preemptive, proactive and graded,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said

Attending BRICS health ministers conference in a virtual format, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday expressed happiness that the five emerging economic power of the world-Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa-have over the years embarked upon a journey marked with substantial reforms in the health care sector.

“Over the past few years, the BRICS nations have embarked upon a journey marked with substantial reforms that have helped us provide improved healthcare services, financial protection, and universal health coverage,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said.

While expressing his sincere gratitude to the frontline workers—healthcare workforce, researchers, policy makers--who risked their lives to save Covid-19 patients, Dr Harsh Vardhan who is himself an ENT expert, said, “We continue to become stronger as we gain greater awareness about emergency preparedness strategies in light of a global health crisis.”

Talking about measures undertaken by India when the deadly pandemic started spreading in the country, he said, “A rapid and robust institutional response was activated under the leadership of our visionary PM Narendra Modi.”

Explaining it in details, he said, “While the Central government steered this movement with constant monitoring and evaluation, providing handholding support to the states to tackle this crisis holistically, our respective State governments also undertook various unique strategies to keep their response mechanism agile and vigilant.”

“Our decentralized but unified mechanism to provide universal, accessible, equitable and affordable health care to one and all was the driving force behind our unique response strategy for COVID-19,” he added.

Dr Harsh Vardhan said India’s COVID-19 response approach was preemptive, proactive and graded.

“Starting with early screening and isolation of passengers, imposing lockdowns and creating containment zones to prevent over-burdening of health facilities and personnel, propagating behavior change as an integral move to contain the spread, and ultimately recognizing the imperative need for reopening of the economy in a phased, cautious and responsible manner,” he said, adding that India has curated its response, keeping in mind the large population size.

He also highlighted that several technological innovations were leveraged in the country’s pandemic management efforts.

“While applications such as Arogya Setu and ITIHAS facilitating rapid contact tracing and surveillance, the interactive and dynamic COVID India Portal enabled real time tracking and monitoring. The iGOT portal (Integrated Government Online Training) was also launched as a training module for our frontline health workers,” the Union Health Minister said.

“We worked round the clock to boost domestic production and expand our healthcare workforce, thus bridging major gaps in demand and supply of essentials such as testing kits, PPEs, ventilators etc. Furthermore, an “Aatma Nirbhar Bharat” movement has now been launched to become self-sufficient in all our capacities,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said in his address at the BRICS health ministers’ conference.