AGENCIES, New Delhi: A 100 per cent centrally-funded five-year scheme worth Rs 15,000 crores to strengthen national and state-level health systems was approved on Wednesday as India fights to control the spread of the infectious COVID-19 virus, the government has said.
The ‘COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package’ will be implemented in three phases — from January 2020 to June 2020, from July 2020 to March 2021 and from April 2021 to March 2024. This fund will be divided among all states and Union Territories.
Activities to be funded under this scheme include the development of dedicated COVID-19 hospitals, ICUs (intensive care unit) and supply of oxygen in medical centres.
Activities listed under the first phase also include disinfection of hospitals and government ambulances, as well as purchase of PPE (personal protection equipment) and N-95 face masks.
India has reported over 5,700 COVID-19 cases so far, including at least 166 deaths. Maharashtra (1,135 cases, 72 deaths), Tamil Nadu (738 cases, eight deaths) and Delhi (669 cases, nine deaths) are the areas worst-hit, so far. As of Monday cases have been reported from 284 districts across 28 states and Union Territories.
The scale of the outbreak, and the speed with which it has spread over the past few weeks, has left several states scrambling for funds to fight the virus.
States are slashing salaries, demanding an increase in borrowing limits and asking for fund transfers from the Centre as tax revenues and reserves dry up.
Both Telangana (427 cases, seven deaths) and Andhra Pradesh (348 cases, four deaths) have deferred at least portions of the salaries of some, including the Chief Minister. The Delhi government has stopped all expenditure except salaries.
The Centre too has gone into belt-tightening mode, with salaries of Union ministers and MPs, starting with the Prime Minister, slashed by 30 per cent for the coming year.