COVID-19: The Healthcare Preparedness of healthcare delivery systems in Public Health emergencies
There is a public health alert in the country since the news of the Coronavirus outbreak. Though not very alarming, as only 28 cases have been confirmed so far, who are largely foreign tourists from outside India. The entire government health administration at various levels are constantly monitoring the situation. The precarious situation is being closely monitored by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The Joint Monitoring Group (JMG) convened under the Chairmanship of Director General of Health Services (DGHS) with representations from various stakeholders (health and non-health sectors) and WHO (1) are instrumental in bringing about the responsiveness in the health systems.
Seventy years on, since the founding of the People’s Republic of China (2), the country has made tremendous strides in Health care, up until now, the novel Coronavirus 2019 has wrecked the health fabric of the part of People’s Republic of China with its ravaging onslaught.
However, the incident and contingency measures undertaken on a warfooting after the identification of the Viral pneumonia (as a novel strain among the group of Coronaviruses) gives a promise for the Nation, struggling to contain the epidemic. China, has the largest population in the World, and so also is their vast representation in the entire globe. It is heartening to see however, that the disease outbreak is slowly edging towards pandemic proportions. The burden of relentless and painstaking care round the clock by the frontline health workers is commendable and is indeed a lesson to imbibe for the whole world. The fear and apprehension for the disease has lead to relocation and migration of large sections of the population of Wuhan city, China. The powerful leadership of China and its policies on Health are indeed robust, the advantage of pooling resources and the technological support coupled with the experience of containing the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic in 2003 in Guangdong China. (3)
In the words of the Director-General WHO quote “There is an emergency in China, but it has not yet become a global health emergency. World Health Organisation is following this outbreak every minute of every day”, said Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO (unquote). There are enormous gaps in the understanding of the dynamics of the disease. Very little is known about the origin of the new strain of the virus, if the media reports are to be believed, it is a controversial story. There was a false hope, in later part of the previous century, that the infectious epidemics have been curbed. In time, we witnessed a spate of emerging infectious illnesses of viral origin spilling over from wildlife reservoirs. Striking examples either directly or via domestic animals, were AIDS from chimpanzees, influenza from wild birds, Ebola, SARS and MERS from bats, and Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika from mosquitoes. This paved the way for the unprecedented spread of infections in humans and animals with dramatic consequences for public and animal health, animal welfare, food supply, economies, and biodiversity. (4) Emergence of epidemics such as novel Coronavirus, in a setting shrouded in mystery, the Chinese govt tight lipped about the outbreak also casts doubts on the subject of Biowarfare agents used in terror strikes or in military strategies