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Maintaining essential health services: operational guidance for the COVID-19 context

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World Health Organisation

Countries around the world are facing the challenge of increased demand for care of people with COVID-19, compounded by fear, misinformation and limitations on movement that disrupt the delivery of health care for all conditions.

Maintaining essential health services: operational guidance for the COVID-19 context recommends practical actions that countries can take at national, subregional and local levels to reorganize and safely maintain access to high-quality, essential health services in the pandemic context. It also outlines sample indicators for monitoring essential health services, and describes considerations on when to stop and restart services as COVID-19 transmission recedes and surges.

This document expands on the content of pillar 9 of the COVID-19 strategic preparedness and response plan, supersedes the earlier Operational guidance for maintaining essential health services during an outbreak, and complements the recently-released Community-based health care, including outreach and campaigns, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is intended for decision-makers and managers at the national and subnational levels.

This is an update to COVID-19: Operational guidance for maintaining essential health services during an outbreak: Interim guidance, 25 March 2020 

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Serum Institute CEO has a question for govt: ‘Will it have Rs 80k cr to give each Indian Covid vaccine’

Serum Institute of India has the licence to produce and market two of the leading vaccine candidates, one being developed by AstraZeneca and the Oxford University, and the other one by US company Novavax.

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Covid 19 Vaccine

New Delhi: Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawala Saturday asked if the government will have Rs 80,000 crore available over the next one year to buy and distribute the Covid-19 vaccine.

Terming it as “next concerning challenge” that needs to be tackled, Poonawala tweeted, “Quick question; will the government of India have 80,000 crores available, over the next one year? Because that’s what @MoHFW_INDIA needs, to buy and distribute the vaccine to everyone in India.”

He also tagged the prime minister’s office in his tweet. “I ask this question, because we need to plan and guide, vaccine manufacturers both in India and overseas to service the needs of our country in terms of procurement and distribution,” he added.

SII, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, has the licence to produce and market two of the leading vaccine candidates, one being developed by AstraZeneca and the Oxford University, and the other one by US company Novavax. The Oxford University vaccine is currently undergoing phase-II and phase-III trials in India. Earlier, the institute had announced that it will make the Oxford vaccine available at USD 3 for low-and-middle-income countries including India.

Apart from bringing some of the leading contenders of a coronavirus vaccine to India, the Serum is developing its own vaccine as well. It is partnering with SpyBiotech, a spin-off of Oxford University, for this purpose. Their vaccine candidate has entered into combined phase-I/phase-II clinical trials, which are being done in Australia. The trials began in the first week of September.

Meanwhile, while addressing the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that as the largest vaccine producing country of the world, India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help people across the world. “As the largest vaccine producing country of the world, I want to give one more assurance to the global community today. India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all humanity in fighting this crisis,” PM Modi said.

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Another earthquake jolts Jammu and Kashmir

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Earthquake Strong

An earthquake measuring 4.5 on the Richter Scale jolted Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday. According to the National Centre for Seismology (NCS), the tremors were felt at 12:02 pm today.

The epicentre of the earthquake was yet not known.

There were no immediate reports of any loss of life or damage to property due to the earthquake.

More to follow…

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WHO Board to get 1st update from Covid panel on Oct 5-6, report next year

A diplomat said it is improbable that the independent panel set up by the WHO would be severely critical of the WHO’s handling of the disease in context of China

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Xi Jinpin and UN Chief

The independent panel on Covid-19 announced by World Health Organisation director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in July will submit its first update to the world body’s executive board at its meeting on 5-6 October.

The panel was set up at the World Health Assembly against the backdrop of sharp criticism aimed at the WHO chief and Beijing for their handling of the contagious virus that is believed to have originated in China’s Wuhan. Beijing locked down domestic travel in the early weeks of the infection but allowed flights to freely leave the country, spreading virus across the globe.

At last count, John Hopkins University tracker of Covid-19 infections across the world indicates the virus has infected more than 31 million people worldwide and almost killed a million people. China, from where the disease started late last year, has reported only a small proportion of infections, less than even Oman’s 95,000 cases. The United States and India are among those hit hardest.

The US had led the demand for an independent review of WHO’s response that was seen to have let Beijing guide its hand in the early days of the pandemic. At the UN General Assembly this week, Donald Trump – who pulled out the US from the world health body over its handling of the disease – lashed out at China again and asked the UN to hold China “accountable” for unleashing “this plague” on the world.

Diplomats in New Delhi and Geneva, however, suggest that this is unlikely to happen. One of them said it was improbable that the independent panel – co-chaired by former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark and former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – would be critical of the WHO’s handling of the disease in context of China.

Already, Tedros and the independent panel have made it clear that the exercise was not a fault-finding exercise but an effort to improve the world’s response to the next pandemic.

“While we are clear that The Independent Panel must shed light on what has happened and why, this exercise is not a blame game” said Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Co-Chair of the Panel at its first meeting last week, according to an official statement.

The panel’s co-chair Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said she hoped their report would lead to “bold, credible, robust and implementable solutions that ensure our world is better prepared for the next pandemic”.

The panel is scheduled to submit its final report before the next World Health Assembly (WMA) in May next year but will come up with regular updates for other meetings. Like when the WHO’s top policy-making body, the WMA, resumes its meeting on 9-14 November.

The US isn’t part of the panel. Preeti Sudan, a retired civil servant who was India’s Union health secretary when the coronavirus disease broke out, is a member of the WHO panel.

China has sent Zhong Nanshan, the pulmonologist who is credited by Chinese media for having spearheaded the country’s fight against the outbreak of a new coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

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