EXAMINING RESPONSES Feedback to PMO from districts paints grim picture on medical kits and migrant influx too


New Delhi:

There is a huge gap between demand and availability of health infrastructure to combat the spread of Covid-19, districts collectors and other senior IAS officers have said in a feedback survey to the Prime Minister’s Office.

The officers posted in 410 districts across states — who participated in the ‘National Preparedness Survey Covid-19’ — reported major shortfall in testing kits, ventilators, masks and protective gear. Many officials suggested that the lockdown be extended or lifted in phases till each state reported there were no fresh Covid-19 cases. The PMO and the empowered groups formed to fight the pandemic are examining the feedback.

Officials of Arunachal Pradesh’s Dibang valley district said that the closest testing centre was 379 km away, at Assam’s Dibrugarh, which made sample collection and testing tedious. Nagaland doesn’t have a single testing centre. There was lack of essential goods in the state, following sealing of inter-state borders. In Jharkhand’s Dumka, officials said they did not have anesthetic. “Hence, we can’t run ventilators,” Dumka’s district officials told the Centre. Madhya Pradesh’s Panna district does not have any private hospitals or doctors and only one ventilator is available in the district. Availability of PPE kit and N-95 masks are low in Neemuch district, where functioning ventilators are unavailable and staff are not equipped to handle ICU cases.

In Assam’s Dima Hasao, there is no ICU or ventilator in government hospitals and there are no private nursing home in the entire district. Karimganj, Nalbari districts have similar problems. The story is alarmingly similar across districts surveyed from East Siang, Lohit , Namsai, Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh to Haryana’s Jhajjar, Bhiwani, Chamba in Himachal Pradesh, Kolhapur in Maharashtra and Kulgam in J&K.

Patna has shortage of PPE, masks, ventilators, medicines, surgical gloves, oxygen cylinders, oxygen regulators and disinfectants. Feedback from Purnea to Saharsa and Samastipur were near identical. In Chhattisgarh, Balrampur, Gariaband, Jashpur, Mahasamund, Surjuga, Mungeli have shortage of basic health infrastructure, trained staff and equipment. The state is worried about lack of awareness among forest dwellers. The concern was raised by officials of Narayanpur district which also pointed to the bad condition of roads.

Maharashtra’s Palghar district officials were concerned about tribals and pointed out that ensuring supply of essential goods was complicated when the supply-chain was affected. Lakshadweep drew attention to transportation and logistical challenges because of the geographical spread of the islands. Delhi’s posh southern districts said “there is a need to do enough testing for people who are suspected cases” besides the need for “better equipment for the hospital”.

Influx of migrants and workers were listed as other problems. Andhra Pradesh’s Krishna district pointed to the challenge of identifying foreign returnees and people from Telangana border as “the most serious gap”. Prakasam district officials said due to the lockdown, people staying outside were “infiltrating and causing difficulty”. Assam’s Cachar district have “people coming back from Mizoram”.

Gujarat’s Banaskantha reported difficulty in stopping district-wise migration, while Bhavnagar cited “high inflow of migrant population (2 lakh in last 15 days), coupled with shortage of PPE and other screening equipment”. Haryana’s Mewat district said many people arrived from different areas of India and it was difficult to track them. Himachal Pradesh’s Hamirpur district expressed inability to reduce panic movement of people from place of work to villages. Maharashtra’s Parbhani district noted migration from Pune and Mumbai should have been stopped earlier.

Gujarat and Assam complained about slum dwellers defying lockdown and social distancing norms. “Community transmission chances are big,” said an official of Gandhinagar .