Our collective action can help India brace for the likely impact of COVID-19: FICCI President Dr Sangita Reddy

NEW DELHI/ 02nd March 2020: WHO’s call for countries, regional and global health organizations, media, private sector, and people everywhere to act together, emphasising on the ‘need for facts not fear’ may prove to be the only likely solution to COVID-19 that has now spread to almost 60 countries, infecting nearly a million people.

‘Most important strategy must be screening and ensuring the virus does not enter and parallelly a hospital preparedness strategy is in place’ 

India’s response to COVID-19 in containing spread of the outbreak in the country, despite our high population density, high rates of migration, and constrained healthcare resources and surveillance systems, is truly commendable. However, India is still very vulnerable as increasingly large number of new cases are emerging outside China. Two new cases have been confirmed today in Delhi and Telangana, with travel history to Italy and Dubai.

In light of the new cases emerging, both in the country and across the globe, it is extremely critical that the government works with all stakeholder groups on developing a national strategy for detection, control and treatment. This needs to be further backed by mapping of available healthcare resources in both- public and private sector, for sample testing, quarantine and treatment to prepare for likely spread. Screening at all ports of entry for travellers from all countries should to be immediately strengthened. As private hospitals in India cater to many international patients under Medical Value Travel, active involvement of the private healthcare providers becomes even more critical to develop protocols for screening, isolation and treatment of COVID-19 infected persons.

“Till date India has been relatively untouched. The most important part of our strategy must be screening and ensuring that the virus does not enter and parallelly a hospital preparedness strategy is in place,” said Dr Sangita Reddy, President, FICCI

At the community level, there is a need to engage with the larger population to maintain highest standards of personal hygiene and adopt infection control practices. FICCI has also constituted a working group of experts from the industry and government, to track the situation, identify strategic interventions and supplement the government’s efforts in generating community-level awareness about the outbreak and prevention with factually correct information.

It is fortunate that the mortality rate of COVID-19 is low and no deaths have been reported in India so far. But having seen the case of Wuhan, we know that the outbreak has potential to severely impact day to day life, devour the health system and disrupt the economy.

As a nation, it is important for us to come together and be prepared for any likely spread. Our concerted efforts now can also help India face such outbreaks in the future, as we see several new infectious diseases spreading and infecting people across countries and continents in the age of a borderless economy.