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COVID-19 is no more a public health emergency of international concern

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services Relating to Health

 

Source: TH

Context: The World Health Organization (WHO) declared that COVID-19 was no longer a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).

 

When was it declared PHEIC?

COVID-19 was announced as a ‘PHEIC’ by the WHO on January 30, 2020.

 

What is the current status of COVID-19?

It has acquired the status of other endemic diseases (from the pandemic). India reached the COVID-19 endemic stage a year ago.

Trends during COVID-19 spread in India:

  • ‘COVID deniers’ at the beginning of the pandemic: Resulted in the spiking of the COVID-19 cases in India.
  • Misinformation during the 2nd wave: A third wave in India would affect children resulting in the deprivation of schooling and learning of children.
  • Policy interventions missed factoring in the local context: Local context determines the epidemiological pattern, spread of disease and proposed interventions.

 

Lessons from COVID Pandemic that India must embrace and implement:

  • Invest in healthcare (HC) infrastructure.
  • India needs National HC Services Regulatory Authority: To check rampant black marketing of critical drugs, artificial shortage and discrepancies in the cost of the same.
  • India needs more doctors, paramedics and hospitals.
  • Revamp Primary health centres with the PPP model.
  • Bring the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) under PMO to enhance proficiency in predicting future pandemics.
  • Better pay and training of ASHA workers: They played a critical role in creating awareness in rural India – allaying fake apprehensions regarding vaccines.
  • Fight disinformation in mission mode.
  • A strategic reserve of critical medicines.

 

Steps taken by India towards Covid-19 prevention:

  • Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Surveillance Consortium (INSACOG) for genomic sequencing and tracking the evolution of variant strains of SARS-CoV-2.
  • The National Biopharma Mission (NBM) and the Ind-CEPI Mission have enabled the strengthening of the national vaccine development ecosystem.
  • Mission COVID Suraksha was launched as part of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat 3.0 for promoting the R&D of Indian COVID-19 vaccines.

 

Some best practices in India:

  • “Har Ghar Dastak” campaign: Aims at awareness, mobilisation and vaccination of all eligible beneficiaries.
  • Training of healthcare professionals: The Government of India has utilised the iGOT (Integrated Government Online Training) platform to train various personnel.

 

Way ahead:

  • COVID-19 has ‘officially’ transitioned from a population-level challenge to more of an individual health concern.
  • The government should offer formal training courses in epidemiology to prepare India for future outbreaks and epidemics and to curb misinformation.
  • Integrate the COVID-19 response to general health services. There is no role for universal measures against COVID-19 to be enforced.
  • It is time to drop the COVID-19 fixation and move on to tackle other more pressing health challenges in the country.

 

Insta Links:

With COVID-19 ‘over’, applying the lessons learnt

 

Mains Links:

Critically examine the role of WHO in providing global health security during the COVID-19 Pandemic. (UPSC 2020)

 

Prelims Links: (UPSC 2022)

  1. In the context of vaccines manufactured to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic, consider the following statements:
  2. The Serum Institute of India produced a COVID-19 vaccine named Covishield using mRNA platform.
  3. Sputnik V vaccine is manufactured using a vector-based platform.
  4. COVAXIN is an inactivated pathogen-based vaccine.

 

Which of the statements given above are correct?

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

 

Ans: 2