The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Thursday said that personal protective equipment may not be required for everyone working with Covid-19 patients, and that its use is based on risk profile. The ministry said there was no need to panic about its availability.
India has confirmed 5,734 cases of Covid-19 by Thursday, and 166 patients have died. Out of the total number of cases, 5,095 patients are being treated, 472 have recovered, and one person has returned to their country.
“This feeling created in the system that there are not enough PPEs creates an atmosphere of fear,” Lav Aggarwal, the joint health secretary, said during a daily briefing on the pandemic. “We should try to understand that not everyone needs a PPE. We have issued guidelines on the rationalisation of PPE in the past. I want to tell everyone that awareness is required, not panic. What is important is to ensure that PPEs are used when needed in certain scenarios.”
Supplies of PPEs, masks, and ventilators have now begun, the health ministry said. “Twenty domestic manufacturers in India have been developed for PPEs, orders for 1.7 crore PPEs have been placed and the supplies have begun,” Agarwal said, adding that 49,000 ventilators have also been ordered.
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At the field level, the protective equipment should be used according to procedure, Agarwal said. “PPEs are used on the basis of risk profile,” he said. “Our design provides for the use of PPEs in low-risk, moderate risk and high risk...there are particular zones where PPEs should be used.”
The health ministry official said that PPE includes not just cover-all but a mix of different components, including boots and N95 masks, and their use is evaluated on the risk.
Agarwal said that the ministry’s Covid-19 training focuses on control and prevention guidelines, especially for field healthcare workers dealing with Covid-19 patients. “In case of an unfortunate incident where a medical staff is infected, it is a big problem for us. Therefore, we would urge that guidelines at the field level are followed,” the joint health secretary added.
India has conducted 1,30,000 tests so far, the Indian Council for Medical Research said during the briefing. Out of these, 13,143 samples were tested on Wednesday, the medical body’s official said, adding that the “positivity rate” has remained at 3% to 5% in last one and half months, and has not changed substantially.
Meanwhile, the Indian Railways has converted 3,250 coaches into Covid-19 isolation units with 2,500 doctors and 35,000 paramedics staff, the health ministry said. A total of 5,000 coaches will be converted into these units. The health ministry reiterated that India has more stocks than needed of anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which some believe can help Covid-19 patients but there is no conclusive evidence yet.
By Wednesday evening, the number of positive cases worldwide was at 14.9 lakh, and 88,982 Covid-19 patients have died, according to a tracker by Johns Hopkins University.