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Covid surge: Lancet Citizens’ panel’s 8 recommendations for Centre, state govts

Published on May 26, 2021 12:17 PM IST

The commission comprises 21 experts and the recommendations were published in an article in the British medical journal, The Lancet, on Wednesday

A healthcare worker collects swab samples for Covid-19 test of passengers arriving at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Mumbai. (HT archive)

The Lancet Citizens’ Commission has recommended establishing central systems to procure and distribute Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccines free of cost instead of the current policy of decentralised procurement through state governments. This is among the eight-point recommendations proposed by the commission in response to the alarming resurgence of Covid-19 in India.

The commission comprises 21 experts and the recommendations were published in an article in the British medical journal, The Lancet, on Wednesday. “In response to the alarming resurgence of Covid-19 in India, authors drawn from the Commission and its network of fellows have proposed eight urgent recommendations in an article in The Lancet. These recommendations are focused on the immediate steps central and state governments must take to help curtail the loss of life and suffering caused by Covid-19 amid the recent surge in cases,” said the Commission in a press statement.

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The Lancet Citizens’ Commission on Reimagining India’s Health System was launched in December 2020 with the aim of laying out a road map to achieve universal health coverage in India over the next decade.

Among other measures suggested by the members of the commission to manage the situation in India are: the organisation and financing of essential health services be decentralised to districts; a transparent national pricing policy and caps on the prices of all essential health services; and evidence-based information on the management of Covid-19 be widely disseminated, including guidance on what not to do.

It also suggests that all available human resources, including the private sector, must be marshalled for the Covid-19 response and adequately resourced and supported; community engagement and public participation must lie at the heart of India’s Covid-19 response, with no restrictions on civil society organisations to access resources; transparency and sharing of government data to enable districts to proactively prepare for the likely caseloads in the coming weeks, and surveillance to include urgent investment in genomic sequencing;

Finally, the team also recommended that the profound suffering and risk to health caused by loss of livelihoods should be minimised by making provisions for cash transfers by the state to workers in India’s vast informal economy who have lost their jobs and requiring businesses not to lay off their workers.

The commission bases its work on a participatory and consultative process with citizens and prominent stakeholders from across India’s health system. The article synthesises and amplifies the suggestions already being made by grassroot workers and experts across the country.

“The humanitarian crisis the resurgence has precipitated requires all persons in central and state governments to set aside their political differences and work in solidarity with each other, and with civil society, to implement the eight clearly articulated recommendations in our article,” said Vikram Patel, one of the commission members, in statement.

Patel is the Pershing Square Professor of Global Health, Harvard Medical School; Professor, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Cambridge, USA; and Co-founder, Sangath, Goa, India.

Another member, Poonam Muttreja, executive director, New Delhi’s Population Foundation of India, said, “Covid-19 is the most serious crisis independent India has faced as the virus pushes its way into rural areas where 65% of India lives. We need to enable our country’s innate resilience to kick in and hope that these eight steps will go a long way towards providing that support. All of us and our organisations look forward to partnering with the government and enabling our most vulnerable to survive this pandemic.”

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