Updated: July 25, 2021 7:23:33 am
ASKING the government to prepare itself for a level of 4-5 lakh cases per day in the next surge, the empowered group of officers, tasked with formulating the nation’s Covid emergency strategy, has said that all steps should be taken to ensure that the daily count doesn’t cross 50,000, The Sunday Express has learnt.
This is significant as this guidance, effectively, sets a new benchmark for the overall system to go on alert, sources said, an element missing in the run-up to the brutal second wave.
Significantly, as vaccination rolls out, the group has put on record that the pandemic level be kept at a level of 50,000 per day by “non-pharmacological” interventions that include Covid-appropriate behaviour — mask hygiene and distancing — and carefully calibrated lockdowns.
As the second wave has abated, since June 25, the daily national case count has remained below 50,000 – on Saturday, India reported 39,097 new cases in the last 24 hours. Experts said this 50,000 level doesn’t overwhelm the system.
However, to meet the 4-5 lakh per day peak in a future surge, sources said the Empowered Group-1, headed by Niti Aayog member V K Paul, has recommended 2 lakh ICU beds – including 1.2 lakh ventilated ICU beds; 5 lakh oxygen-enabled beds and 10 lakh Covid isolation care beds by September 2021.
In effect, this means an additional 80,000 ICU beds and around 1 lakh more oxygen-enabled non-ICU beds given the current availability, sources said. Sources said that the existing number of ICU beds is sufficient to meet a surge of only 2.7 lakh new cases per day.
The group has proposed that 5% of ICU beds and 4% of non-ICU oxygen beds be earmarked for pediatric care in view of apprehensions that the next wave could hit children as well.
The peak level of 4-5 lakh cases a day – this translates to 300-370 cases per million population per day – comes with “unacceptable stress and untold cost” to the nation even if the health system were prepared to cope with it, the report has said.
The goal, therefore, the group said, is to set a warning level of 50,000 new Covid cases per day with the recommendation not to allow the count to breach this.
It is learnt that of the 2 lakh ICU beds required to meet the challenge of the next wave, a maximum of 33,000 would be required in Uttar Pradesh followed by Maharashtra (17,865), Bihar (17,480), West Bengal (14,173) and Madhya Pradesh (12,026).
Incidentally, on July 8, the Centre cleared Rs 23,123 crore for FY 2021-22 under which 20,000 ICU beds are planned to be put in place. Of these, 20% are meant to be pediatric ICU beds.
On vaccination, the group has underlined the need for scale-up and roll-out to meet national targets with mechanisms to counter hesitancy and factor in the need for booster doses, it is learnt.
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