“The current rapid surge of covid-19 cases has put immense pressure on the health systems, already overburdened since the start of the pandemic. We need to act with speed, expand hospital capacities and equip them with medical supplies, most needed to save lives,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia Region, in a press release on Wednesday.
In addition, health authorities must emphasize on rational use of drugs and oxygen, to ensure lifesaving interventions are made available to only to those who need it, the Regional Director said.
Supporting India in these challenging times, WHO is procuring laboratory supplies, including 1.2 million reagents, to meet the huge demand and need for testing.
To make available additional hospital beds and critical equipment, WHO is procuring mobile field hospitals with capacity of 20-30 beds, which could be set up in the most affected areas.
The bed capacity at these field hospitals can be increased to a maximum of 50, if needed, without impacting infection prevention and control protocols, and water and sanitation.
WHO is chartering flights to bring in 4,000 oxygen concentrators to help meet the increased demands.
Dr Khetrapal said the over 2,600 WHO technical staff, working on various programmes such as polio, TB and NTD, have been repurposed to support pandemic response in India.
In the recent surge, they are supporting with rapid situational analyses, and implementation of tailored responses.
"Together with health authorities, partners, community-based organizations and media, we also need to address concerns and fear among the communities which often triggers hoarding of medical supplies and the rush to hospitals," she said.
With rapid surge of cases it is important to triage people well to optimize available resources such as ICU beds, she said.
Simultaneously, all efforts need to be made to scale up covid-19 vaccination coverage, the Regional Director said.
India’s covid-19 vaccination drive completed 100 days on April 25 with 145 million doses administered..
"Irrespective of the numbers that we see today or the virus variants that may be circulating during the ongoing surge, our key public health measures – test, trace, isolate and treat – along with physical distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette and masks continue to be our tried and tested measures to curtail covid-19 transmission," she said.
"Masks should be worn correctly covering nose and mouth properly. Our masks should be a good fit, without gaps, to effectively protect us from the virus," she said, emphasizing that this needs to be promoted among the masses.
The Regional Director said WHO stands committed to and will continue to work with health authorities at all levels in these challenging times.
"Together we must do all we can to halt the current covid-19 surge," she said.