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Govt forms empowered groups, task force to deal with Covid-19 outbreak

By PTI
|

New Delhi, Mar 29: The government on Sunday constituted 11 empowered groups to suggest measures to ramp up healthcare, put the economy back on track and reduce misery of people as quickly as possible post 21-day lockdown imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Representational Image

These groups constituted for ensuring a comprehensive and integrated response to COVID-19 and work under the overall guidance of P K Mishra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, sources said.

The initiative is being viewed as pro-active step by the government to deal with multiple challenges, which the outbreak of pandemic COVID-19 has posed and made the country deal with emergency situation, they said, adding these groups will also work on strategy for restoring normalcy in their respective sectors, including healthcare, in the shortest possible time frame.

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The sources further said that these groups have been set up under the Disaster Management Act, and the Department of Expenditure has issued special instructions to enable expeditious decision making in procurement matters.

The panel on the 'Economy and Welfare' headed by Economic Affairs Secretary Atanu Chakraborty has been tasked to address the concerns of various sectors, including both formal and informal segments of the economy - hit hard by coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdown.

The panel is expected to suggest various relief measures to put the economy back on track as soon as possible, the sources said. Special emphasis will have to be welfare schemes for the poor who have suffered a lot on account of the lockdown, they said, adding poor and vulnerable section of the society has been the key focus of the government and top priority will be given to deal with the challenges before them in the coming days.

The groups have been empowered to formulate plans and to take all necessary steps for their time-bound implementation, the sources said. Besides, two other working groups under the leadership of Niti Aayog member V K Paul and Enviornment Secretary C K Mishra will work on preparedness for medical emergency, seamless supply of medicine, medical equipment and hospital availability.

They have been entrusted with the task of mapping of hospitals across the country and medical facility of public sector undertakings and other government agencies, including police forces and army.

Already many agencies, including government school, universities and Railways have committed to set up isolation ward.

In addition to this, the sources said, the panel will also focus on augmentation of trained medical professionals and capacity building.

Suggestions are also solicited on increasing capacity for manufacturing of ventilators and other medical equipment. Research and Development in the medical field is another focus area for the panel, they added.

Committee under V K Paul and C K Mishra are expected to ease out burden of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which is currently doing heavy lifting in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

At the same time, they will do in-depth study on protective gear to be used by public to ensure infection is contained post April 14. Logistics will be another critical area, which would be looked by a working group for ensuring movement of goods, medicine, medical equipment, doctors and other services, the sources said.

Out of these 11 empowered groups, 9 are headed by Secretary level officers, 1 by Niti Aayog member, and 1 by Niti Aayog CEO. In case of any need for guidance, these groups may seek guidance from the Cabinet Secretary.

Each group will have about 6 members with one officer from the PMO and Cabinet Secretariat, so that there is a seamless coordination, and accepted suggestions are implemented without any delay.

In all about 20 secretaries of various departments as well as ministries, and 40 other officials have started working on various issues and will come up with measures at the earliest, the sources said. Each group has been given the time limit of a week to come out with measures on the specified sector.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 announced a complete lockdown across the country for 21 days, asserting that social distancing is the only way out for the country in its decisive battle against coronavirus.

In his second address to the nation on the pandemic, Modi made a fervent appeal to the countrymen not to cross the 'lakshman rekha' of their homes in the next three weeks. The lockdown lead to large scale exodus of migrant labours from cities to their native places as they were left to fend for themselves.

The Prime Minister on Sunday sought the nation's forgiveness for imposing a monumental lockdown on the country, saying it was a question of life and death and expressed confidence that "we will definitely win the battle" against coronavirus menace that has claimed 25 lives in India so far.

According to the Health Ministry update released an hour before Modi''s address, India has recorded a total of 979 cases and 25 deaths so far.

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