To fight against coronavirus, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday has deployed its national surveillance network, earlier used to eradicate polio. Highlighting that India has entered a stage where surveillance is going to play a vital role in making future strategies for containment, Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia Poonam Khetrapal Singh in a joint video conference with Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said that ‘surveillance corona warriors’ can defeat the pandemic and save lives.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom has thanked Union Minister Harsh Vardhan for his efforts. Taking to Twitter, he has praised the minister for his leadership and collaboration with WHO.
My thanks to Minister @drharshvardhan for his leadership and collaboration with @WHO. Through these joint efforts we can defeat the #coronavirus and save lives. Together! #COVID19 https://t.co/G7ttUz5QkH— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) April 15, 2020
Addressing field staff of WHO and other agencies in over 1,000 locations, Singh said: “The National Polio Surveillance Project (WHO-NPSP) played a critical role in strengthening surveillance for polio that generated useful, timely and accurate data to guide policies, strategies and interventions until transmission of the poliovirus was interrupted in the country,” Khetrapal Singh said, adding that the other WHO field staff involved with elimination of TB and neglected tropical diseases and hypertension control initiative were also significant resources.
Harsh Vardhan added: “Time and again the Government of India and WHO together have shown our ability, competence and prowess to the whole world. With our combined meticulous work, done with full sincerity and dedication, we were able to get rid of polio. Today I would like to remind you of your potential and ability, and the big things we can do together. All of you in the field – IDSP, state rapid response teams and WHO - are our ‘surveillance corona warriors’. With your joint efforts we can defeat the coronavirus and save lives.
WHO’s National Polio Surveillance Project in India was renamed National Public Health Surveillance Project after elimination of polio in 2011. Singh also said India has its unique challenges and also the capacity to overcome them, an example being elimination of polio in 2014. She complimented Harsh Vardhan for introducing several of the key polio elimination initiatives as health minister of Delhi in 1994. Many of his initiatives were scaled up across the country and also adopted by other countries.
The WHO admitted that one of its reports had shown COVID-19 community transmission in India due to an error that has now been fixed. The Indian government has maintained that community transmission has not yet started in India.
The WHO rectified the mistake in its latest situation report on COVID-19 published on Friday and said that India came under the "cluster of cases" category, not "community transmission" as stated in the earlier report published on Thursday.
As India extended its lockdown due to COVID 19 outbreak till May 3, WHO praised the Narendra Modi government's 'timely and tough'. "World Health Organization commends India’s timely and tough actions to stop COVID19. It may be early to talk about results in numbers, but a six-week nationwide lockdown to facilitate effective physical distancing, coupled with the expansion of core public health measures such as detection, isolation and tracing contacts of COVID19 positive people, would go a long way in arresting the virus spread," Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO said in a statement issued.