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Workers' exodus, lack of public awareness serious gaps in combating COVID-19

Workers' exodus, lack of public awareness serious gaps in combating COVID-19

Published:02 April 2020

The exodus of migrant workers, lack of public awareness, hospital preparedness and infrastructure are some of the serious gaps identified by IAS officers working across the country in a survey conducted by the Centre to combat COVID-19.

New Delhi | The exodus of migrant workers, lack of public awareness, hospital preparedness and infrastructure are some of the serious gaps identified by IAS officers working across the country in a survey conducted by the Centre to combat COVID-19.
The COVID-19 national preparedness survey 2020 was conducted in 410 districts of the country from March 25-30 to attain a bird's eye view of the governance challenges of the nation while coping with the greatest health crisis India has faced since Independence, a statement issued by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions said Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh, who released the survey on Thursday, said the findings point out that India's response has been "coherent, purposeful and determined".
"There was that national, state and district coordination which has been effective in combating the pandemic," the minister said.
Further, Singh added that the survey has highlighted that the policy actions of the government like Janata Curfew, nationwide lockdown, economic package of Rs 1.7 billion, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announcements are steps which have received overwhelming support, the statement said.
He recognised the immense efforts of civil servants, doctors, nurses, health sector specialists, police officials in implementing the 21-day nationwide lockdown.
Singh felt that the survey will serve as a benchmark for policymakers at national and state levels.
Singh thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his leadership role in this moment of crisis and hoped that the it would pass in the coming days with the determined efforts of India's citizens and the government.
Secretary of the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievance (DARPG), Kshtrapati Shivaji, Additional Secretary, DARPG, V Srinivas, Joint Secretaries Jaya Dubey and N B S Rajput along with other senior officials of the department participated in the launch through video conferencing.
A large number of IAS officers of five batches -- 2014-18, who are working as District Collectors and at other posts, participated in the survey.
Furthermore, 266 complete feedback application forms were submitted online on COVID-19 from across the nation providing a holistic view on the ground challenges to combat the outbreak of the pandemic in India, according to the survey by DARPG.
"People's awareness about the threat of COVID-19 pandemic is very high. Ninety-two per cent of respondents said people are aware of the threat. Seventy-five per cent of respondents said people are taking precautions to cope with COVID-19 threat," it said.
Sixty-nine per cent respondents took the view that people are handling the lockdown in a peaceful and orderly manner on being questioned on public panicking, whilst 31 per cent agreed that people are panicking, according to the survey.
It identified the need for enhanced hospital preparedness in district/sub-district hospitals, with 40 per cent of officials responding that hospitals were adequately prepared, it said.
The District Collectors and officers felt that inadequate availability of personal protection equipment in district/sub-district hospitals is an area of concern, it addded.
"The availability of adequate isolation beds in district/sub-district hospitals was agreed by approximately 50 per cent officers; with 28 per cent disagreeing to its availability," it said.
The non-availability of adequate ventilator machines in district/sub-district hospitals is highlighted as an area of concern in the survey.
"DCs/DMs and other IAS officers (2014 -2018 batches) strongly agreed or agreed that a lockdown needs to be enforced/made mandatory, with 96 per cent responding positively in this category," the survey stated.
"Hospital preparedness and infrastructure", "quarantining and isolation facility", "testing facilities", "personal protection equipment", "lack of public awareness", "foreign travel history and contact tracing", "temporary and wage-worker exodus", "sanitising public places" and "essential goods and services" are the most serious gaps identified by the respondents in their districts.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal on 'Janata Curfew' was very effective on ground in meeting its objectives of motivating people to adopt social distancing while staying at home with 91 per cent respondents agreed in this category, the survey stated.
To a question on the one thing the government should do to combat COVID-19, districts have identified some measures, including "develop and issue standard operating procedures and guidelines for inter-state movement of people across state borders" and to "immediately address issues relating to procurement, logistics and supply chain for medical equipment".
They suggested "create more testing centres and capabilities for all district/sub-district hospitals along with isolation wards for fast and seamless results and initiate steps to avoid unnecessary delays".
The suggestions also included "more awareness campaigns on COVID-19 targeting slums in urban areas and backward villages in all districts" and "encourage domestic manufacturing of testing kits".
The objectives of the survey were to develop a comparative analysis of COVID-19 preparedness; highlight the main priorities and constraints of preparedness, as they are perceived by civil servants working in the field and to access enabling factors in making institutional/logistics/hospital preparedness, among others.


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