KT Exclusive: The third Covid wave is coming, this Indian state is ready Filed on May 6, 2021

Rajesh Tope, Minister for Public Health & Family Welfare, Maharashtra. — File photo

Santosh Karande. — Supplied photo

Coalition state govt has a robust plan in place ahead of the anticipated third wave in August

Maharashtra’s battle to avert and combat the third wave of Covid-19 — anticipated in August — intensifies, as it deploys innovative strategies to rein in the spread of the lethal contagion that has roiled the economy and crippled normal life to a standstill amid untold human miseries and mounting daily death toll.

The state may halt all development work, if required, and divert funds to fight the unprecedented challenges owing to Covid-19, said Maharashtra’s Minister for Public Health & Family Welfare Rajesh Tope on Thursday in an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times.

Tope said: “We’re strictly adopting strategies from what we learned from the first and second wave. The challenges encountered due to oxygen shortage are dealt with as a top priority. The state could manage by getting oxygen allotment from the Central government of up to 400 metric (M) tonnes (T), coupled with the medical gas manufactured in the state — approximately 1,300MT — and they are being used for medicinal purposes only. There is strict monitoring on the production of oxygen and a tab is being kept on transport and logistics issues. Heavy penalties will be imposed, if any black market activity is detected,” the minister said.

The state is working towards achieving ‘self-sufficiency’ for the third wave and, as a result, has directed district collectors (DCs) to be self-reliant by deploying Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) technology. “Every DC has given orders for converting the atmospheric oxygen into medicine oxygen to the purity of 95 plus per cent, which will help to produce oxygen,” said Tope.

The western Indian state is facing a daily shortage of 20,000 Remdesivir vials, as the current requirement is estimated at 60,000.

The coalition state government has directed health authorities to administer the drug for moderate and severe Covid19 patients. The state’s Covid-19 3T (test, trace, and treatment) strategy is being adopted in both the rural and urban areas.

Maharashtra is going to boost its test services, and multinational pharmaceutical companies such as Abbott have been roped in. Abbott will conduct up to 10,000 PCR tests per day across the state to contain the pandemic.

“At present, we’re ramping up medical bed facilities in every district in the state. We're constructing 1,000-bed field hospitals in some of the metropolitan cities,” said Tope.

Maharashtra is stocking up steroids and antibiotics in advance along with ventilators, BiPap, and CPAP machines to store the liquid medical oxygen, the lifeline to treat Covid-19 patients in its second and most lethal wave to date. The state has issued an expression of interest by the public health and family welfare department and is receiving offers from different countries for oxygen, liquid oxygen, and oxygen concentrators.

The state recorded a 5 per cent drop in Covid-19 new infections, from 27 per cent to 22 per cent. The recovery rate is at 84.07 per cent, which is the highest in the country.

Maharashtra is conducting 280,000 Covid-19 tests per day and the authorities have issued a restricted lockdown, which is termed as ‘breaking of the viral chain’.

“Restrictions have been imposed at large on the citizens of Maharashtra especially on the adherence to Covid-19 appropriate behaviour, which is the need of this hour,” Tope added.

The state government’s vaccination programme is aimed aggressively at those aged between 18 years and 44 years. “The government has given us clearance for vaccinating those in the age bracket of 18 years to 44 years, and we’re purchasing vaccines from our state exchequer. But the unavailability of an adequate quantity of vaccines has emerged as a stumbling block. We’ve not been able to match the soaring demand because there is a supply crunch, belying the public's expectations,” the minister added.

Help is also at hand from civil society members.

The Indian media reported today that Mumbai will have drive-in vaccination centres, maybe as soon as within 24 hours. That is the deadline given by the city’s civic body to its officials, who were told to have it ready in each administrative zone. Drive-in vaccination centres will be set up in big open grounds — such as the Andheri Sports Club ground, Cooperage ground, Shivaji Stadium, Oval Maidan, Brabourne stadium, MIG ground, MCA ground, Reliance JIO garden or even the Wankhede stadium, the Brihanmumbai Corporation has said.

AAMI Parivar, a social group with over 7,000 members, is led by Santosh Karande, a US-based entrepreneur and its founder.

He said: “With the help of our AAMI Parivar members, we corresponded with the Maharashtra government in June 2020, when Maharashtrians in the (Arabian) Gulf had no access to repatriation and organised a charter flight to take our people home back. A total of four aircraft were then serviced by us.”

The social group offers support to many non-resident Indian (NRI) families, who have been impacted due to the pandemic back home. “Our social group took the initiative to ensure that if people transiting via the (Arabian) Gulf have taken the jab and carry a negative Covid-19 PCR test report, they should be allowed to isolate at home without institutional quarantine. The Maharashtra government considered our proposal and implemented it. Also, we provide help in collaboration with the state government to any member's relative such as access to emergency intensive care unit (ICU) bed, Remdesivir injection, or oxygen,” said Karande. —


Sandhya D'Mello

Journalist. Period. My interests are Economics, Finance and Information Technology. Prior to joining Khaleej Times, I have worked with some leading publications in India, including the Economic Times.

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