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Roles of the Centre and States - COVID-19 Management

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June 21, 2021

What is the issue?

  • The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light some fundamental gaps in dealing with medical emergencies as the current one.
  • It calls for an assessment of the roles of the Centre and States in this regard.

What should the Centre be clear about?

  • Clearly, events like that the current pandemic are national crises.
  • They call for concerted efforts by both, the Government of India (GoI) and state governments.
  • Denials, finger-pointing, and media management will not help in rightfully dealing with these.
  • It is time the GoI realises that health is a state subject.
  • The number of employees in the health wing of the GoI is negligible as compared to that in any state government.
  • The implication is that if anything good in health or Covid management happens, the credit must rightly go to the state government.
  • The GoI must however help the states, motivate them to do better and assist them in their task.

What key role can the Centre play?

  • Where the GoI must and can play a major role is in vaccination.
  • So far, all vaccine procurement has been by the GoI, which allots vaccines to states depending on the need.
  • The task before it is to procure 160 crore doses before December 2021, the stated target.
  • This works out to 26 crore doses per month as against the current production capacity of 6 crore.
  • The Centre must thus try to augment supplies by encouraging companies to produce more and through imports/gifts.
  • It is doubtful whether this can be achieved.
  • However, whatever it procures must be allotted to states in proportion to their eligible population.
  • State governments must be involved in this policy.
  • The vaccination policy may be left to the state governments based on the allocation.
  • The GoI must also augment supplies of critical medical goods in view of their acute shortage, through imports and donations from friendly nations.
  • It must distribute them to the needy states transparently and equitably.

What role should the states play?

  • State governments have rightly opted for need-based lockdowns and relaxations, which have helped arrest the spread of the virus.
  • But lockdowns are not the solution.
  • They just buy breathing time for the governments to ramp up capacity.
  • State governments must set up efficient and well-functioning control rooms and telemedicine centres.
  • This should guide people on home treatment and timely admission to hospitals.
  • The private sector can also be fully involved in these efforts.
  • It is also important to put in place a standard guidance protocol for health workers and control rooms to guide patients through the disease.

What is the way forward?

  • Another wave may be lurking.
  • This calls for total co-operation of the central and the state governments and also the public.
  • The central government must realise that states are on the forefront in this war, and therefore, play a supporting and proactive role.
  • Above all, a high level of transparency on Covid management, particularly on vaccination, beds, supplies, infections and deaths, is essential.

 

Source: The Indian Express

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