CoWIN portal in Hindi, 14 regional languages soon

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The CoWIN platform, which is the backbone of the Covid-19 vaccine delivery system in the country, will be made available in Hindi and 14 regional languages by next week, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said on Monday.

The official made the announcement at a high-level meeting chaired by Union health minister Harsh Vardhan with a group of ministers on the Covid situation.

“This was in the pipeline for some time keeping in mind the convenience of people who are not comfortable with the English language. The portal will be tweaked accordingly,” a government official familiar with the developments said, requesting anonymity.

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Vardhan, meanwhile, told the meeting that the Centre has decided to add 17 more laboratories to the Indian Sars-Cov-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) to scale up genome sequencing of samples of Covid-19 patients, taking the network of advanced laboratories to 27 across the country.

“Seventeen new labs are going to be added to the INSACOG network to increase the number of samples screened and allow for more spatial analysis. The network is presently served by 10 labs located at different corners of the country,” he said.

According to the INSACOG data shared by the government till May 5, 18,453 samples were genome sequenced of which 3,532 were found to be variants of concern. The United Kingdom-identified variant, B.1.1.7 lineage, was found predominant in samples collected in Punjab and Chandigarh between February and March this year.

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India’s Covid-19 testing capacity has also been scaled up to 2.5 million per day amid a surge in cases.

Dr Balaram Bhargava, secretary, department of health research, and director of general Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), spoke on the innovative changes in testing policy that would widen its scope of application and help in mass screening for Covid-19, particularly in peri-urban and rural settings where health infrastructure is relatively weak.

“The deployment of mobile reverse transcription- polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing vans and amplification of rapid antigen tests was the way forward. While the present capacity is around 25 lakhs (RT-PCR -13 lakh and RAT- 12 lakh), this is projected to exponentially increase to 45 lakhs (RT PCR-18 lakh and RAT- 27 lakh) under the new testing regimen,” he said at the meeting.

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To check the demand and supply of essential medicines, a dedicated cell has been created by the department of pharmaceuticals.

“A dedicated cell has been created to coordinate production and allocation of drugs in demand to treat Covid-19. Manufacturers have been advised to increase the production of drugs. The three-pronged strategy undertaken includes identification of new suppliers and addressing operative issues faced by suppliers exploring all the possible ways to meet the demand; national distribution of drugs to states to avoid hoarding in drug-producing states, constant monitoring of the supply chain and quick resolution of issues between states and suppliers; and enforcement against hoarding and black-marketing was also initiated through the drugs controller general of India and state drugs controllers,” S Aparna, secretary, department of pharmaceutical, said.

The focus was particularly on the procurement and allocation of the antiviral drug, remdesivir, immunosuppressant, tocilizumab, and antifungal amphotericin-B.

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“Remdesivir production has more than tripled in the country with government intervention from around 39 lakh to 118 lakh vials per month. The demand for Amphotericin-B which is used for treatment of Mucormycosis has also increased. Five suppliers have been identified and efforts are being made for optimal allocation of the drug. States were given 1 lakh vials from 1st to 14th May, 2021, while avenues for import are being actively explored,” a statement by the health ministry read.

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