Union government initiates procurement of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, bans export
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a complete lockdown of 21 days across the entire country to deal with the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
On March 24, in a televised address, he appealed to people to follow the lockdown as “this was the only measure to contain the global pandemic”.
Giving examples of the United States, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Iran — where the outbreak continues to affect thousands — the PM said the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) would be difficult to contain once it spreads.
He added that even Italy and US with their robust healthcare services are struggling to control the pandemic.
“Today’s actions will determine how much we would able to mitigate the disaster,” he said. The Centre has also invoked Disaster Management Act, 2005.
Several times in the speech, he referred to staying at home as the panacea of the disease.
The PM added that the government would release Rs 15,000 crore to ensure procurement of personnel protective equipment (PPEs) for healthcare workers, ventilators, isolation beds and other paraphernalia required.
Earlier in the day, a press note dated March 24 said that manufacturers have been identified and procurement ‘initiated’ for PPEs, including N95 masks. Commerce ministry in a notification said it was would ban exports of ventilators and sanitisers with immediate effect.
The PM said both central and state governments would try their best to maintain supply of essential services.
A note from Union home ministry that came after his speech said commercial establishments sellling food, groceries, fruits and vegetables; dairy booths; meat and fish and animal fodder would continue to function.
Banks and ATMs; print & electronic media outlets; telecommunications and information technology services; delivery of essential goods, including food, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment; petrol pumps, power generation units, capital and debt markets; cold storage units and private security agencies would not be under the purview of the lockdown.
The home ministry note added the industrial establishments selling commodities; hotels and homestays; lodges; police and related services and electricity, water and sanitation services would continue to operate.
However, it was not immediately clear how it would be done as means of transportation and communication would remain shut.
The PM further cautioned people against consumption of any drug without advice of a doctor. The caution came close on the heels of ICMR nod to anti-malarial drug hydroxy-chloroquine to deal with SARS-CoV-2.
However, its usage has strictly been limited to healthcare workers treating the COVID-19 patients, in case they develop symptoms of the disease.
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