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From pricing policy to decentralising health services in India: Lancet Commission calls for urgent action to fight Covid

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The coronavirus cases which had surged unabatedly in India pushing almost all states to impose lockdown to curb the resurgence is slowly declining. Amid the growing call for international cooperation and support to India, several authors as part of the Lancet Citizens’ Commission on Reimagining India’s Health System have called to amplify and synthesise what must be done urgently to control the pandemic.

Led by Yamini Aiyar of the Centre for Policy Research, the article published in the journal Lancet gives out several recommendations to better the universal healthcare in the country. “On behalf of the Lancet Citizens’ Commission, we propose eight recommendations for the central and state governments that share responsibility for the health of India’s people,” the article read.

The article, which is not an editorial standpoint of the journal, recommends decentralisation of essential health services adding that the “one-size-fits-all approach is untenable” since the numbers of Covid-19 cases and health services differ substantially. Appropriate technologies could have a role in streamlining the management of resources and supplies, such as hospital beds, oxygen, ambulances, and funeral resources, the authors recommended.

Highlighting the black marketing of medical equipment, which was recently seen in the country as demand for oxygen cylinders and concentrators skyrocketed, the authors call for a national pricing policy and capping on the prices of all essential health services. They also call for more information on the management of Covid-19 to be disseminated. “Additionally, widespread access to teleconsultation and care delivered by front-line workers needs to be expanded to reduce the burden on hospitals,” the authors said in the article.

A central system for procuring and distributing Covid-19 vaccines free of cost is also needed.

The authors also recommend marshalling out all human resources from the private and public sector for Covid response and supported the Centre’s decision to deploy final-year medical students to Covid-19 duty. Meanwhile, a central system for procuring and distributing Covid-19 vaccines free of cost is also needed. The vaccine distribution has been halted in several states due to a shortage of doses.

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The article also calls for more community engagement and transparency in government data collection to enable districts to proactively prepare for the likely caseloads in the coming weeks.

The Lancet, in a highly critical piece earlier this month, had said that India wasted its early successes in managing the coronavirus pandemic and the Modi government could preside over a “self-inflicted national catastrophe” if the predictions of 1 million deaths from Covid-19 by August 1 came to be true. The journal editorial further criticised the government, saying until April, “the government’s Covid-19 taskforce had not met in months. The consequences of that decision are clear before us.”

Meanwhile, India registered a rise in daily Covid-19 cases on Wednesday as 2,08,921 fresh infections were reported in the country in the last 24 hours. The death toll from the pandemic has crossed the three lakh mark.



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