Rather than a mini-lockdown, cash transfers of Rs. 1,000 per person to vulnerable sections, food distribution centres for unorganized workers must be implemented, said NGO Jan Arogya Abhiyan Maharashtra April 19, 2021 in a press release.
While a partial lockdown was required to curb the rise in Covid-19 cases, the organisation argued that the state government now has a responsibility to protect the vulnerable population from the ill-effects of the lockdown.
“To meet such expenses, governments should raise additional funds through progressive taxation. While the central government must use its powers to increase taxes on large corporates and the richest one percent of Indians for a COVID-response fund, state governments can increase excise and similar taxes to support COVID-relief measures,” said the NGO in a bid to strengthen primary health care and call for adequate rise in health budget.
Further, regarding healthcare it argued that vaccinations cannot resolve the immediate problem of acute shortage of hospital beds. About 60 to 80 percent of people develop protection from Covid-19 after two weeks of the second dose. This means that people vaccinated with the first dose in April will only be protected after May 15. Moreover, even though vaccination keeps people from ending up in dire situations like death, it can only partially reduce virus transmission.
“All vaccinated people must continue to use masks even after doses… overall vaccination is not an immediate counter to the explosive rise in cases and need for hospital admissions,” said members while condemning the inhuman demand of the Indian Medical Association to deny ration to non-vaccinated persons.
In light of all this, the Jan Arogya Abhiyan recommended simplifying the vaccination registration process for the unlettered population and unorganised sector workers, who should be vaccinated on priority. Similarly, yellow or orange ration card holders must get free vaccines at government expenses in private hospitals as well.
The government should also organise a coordination committee of working class and other social organisations at various levels so that measures can be planned and executed. At the same time, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme must be re-activated and expanded to cover urban areas also.
As for rural areas, members suggested a recommencement of ‘Corona Committees’ consisting of health staff like medical officers, PHC-nurses, ASHA, anganwadi workers and staff from other departments like gram panchayat members, gram-sevak, police-patil, gram panchayat, NGO workers and the village school principal.
“This helped a great deal in effective coordination among various constituencies and implementation of various steps for epidemic control. Now non-health staff is not involved at all; all the work is being carried out only by the health-staff,” said the NGO.
Further, health staff must be allowed dialogue with higher officials, especially considering rural hospitals have an acute shortage of experts especially in Marathwada, Vidarbha, and Konkan area.
“Hundreds of doctors graduate from government medical colleges in Maharashtra every year, all of these have all signed a bond with the government to serve in govt facilities for two years. So there is no dearth of doctors in Maharashtra public health services,” said members in the press release.
Another pressing problem highlighted by the NGO is the lack of fully functional Covid-beds in sub-district hospitals and below. Each PHC must have 20 fully functional oxygen beds, said members. Likewise, all ambulances must be made fully functional as opposed to the current functioning of 25 percent ambulances in the state.
Lastly, the Jan Arogya Abhiyan recommended vaccination camps in different villages along with transport for vulnerable groups such as women and the elderly.