India announces COVID-19 strategic containment plan

As COVID-19 infections continued to spread, India today released a comprehensive strategy that leaves nothing to chance in the fight against the pandemic, should there be a massive outbreak nationwide.

As of 9 am GMT on Saturday, Indian officials said there have been 2,902 cases of COVID-19, of which 68 patients had succumbed to the disease. 183 patients had been cured and discharged from hospitals.

In preparing the comprehensive strategy to deal with the eventuality of a "large outbreak," India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is, however, drawing lessons from the global experience of dealing with the pandemic.

The Ministry’s 20-page containment strategy, referred to at his daily Coronavirus briefing by Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary to the government, sets out five scenarios from the current travel transmission stage to the worst case of India "becoming endemic to COVID-19."

There is a strategic approach set out in the document for each scenario. These include large scale geographic quarantine, punitive legal action to prevent any gathering of people and epidemiological intelligence as trigger for action.

The document also sets out in great detail the institutional mechanisms from the very top at the Union Cabinet level to that of district Collectors for dealing with a massive crisis and through all the five scenarios.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will deploy Central Rapid Response Teams or RRTs to support and advise states if necessary. Meanwhile, states have been asked to prepare their own RRTs right down to the district levels.

"All suspect/confirmed COVID-19 cases will be hospitalised and kept in isolation in dedicated COVID-19 hospitals/hospital blocks. Persons testing positive for COVID-19 will remain hospitalised till such time as two of their samples are tested negative as per discharge policy," the document says.

"The objective of this plan is to stop the chain of transmission, thus reducing the morbidity and mortality due to COVID-19," the Ministry argues as the rationale for the containment strategy.

The document deals with every possible aspect of a massive outbreak, including media management and scaling down of operations once the disease ebbs.

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