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‘Over 1.26 cr AB-PMJAY beneficiaries got free treatment in 2 yrs’

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New Delhi: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan moves The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, 2020 for consideration in Rajya Sabha, during the Monsoon Session of Parliament in New Delhi on Sep 19, 2020. In between the Congress crediting Rahul Gandhi for predicting the Covid-19 pandemic well before a spike in infections and the Trinamool objecting to the amendment to the epidemic legislation saying it gives unqualified power to the Centre to meddle into state issues, the upper house passed the Epidemic Diseases Amendment Bill, 2020 on Saturday. The Centre also gave a peek into a new legislation that it is working on. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan informed the House that the government is working on a National Public Health Act for the past few years and it will be brought to the House. (Photo: IANS)
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan moves The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, 2020 for consideration in Rajya Sabha, during the Monsoon Session of Parliament in New Delhi on Sep 19, 2020. In between the Congress crediting Rahul Gandhi for predicting the Covid-19 pandemic well before a spike in infections and the Trinamool objecting to the amendment to the epidemic legislation saying it gives unqualified power to the Centre to meddle into state issues, the upper house passed the Epidemic Diseases Amendment Bill, 2020 on Saturday. The Centre also gave a peek into a new legislation that it is working on. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan informed the House that the government is working on a National Public Health Act for the past few years and it will be brought to the House. (Photo: IANS)

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Tuesday chaired ‘Aarogya Manthan’ 2.0 to celebrate the second anniversary of Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY), which he called a “historic step”.

Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) is a Central government scheme to provide free access to healthcare for all people in the country. People using the programme access their own primary care services from a family doctor. When anyone needs additional care, then the scheme provides free secondary health care for those needing specialist treatment and tertiary health care for those requiring hospitalisation.

Part of the National Health Policy, the programme was launched on September 23, 2018 by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the National Health Authority was subsequently set up to administer it.

Lauding AB-PMJAY, Harsh Vardhan said: “As the world’s largest public-supported health assurance scheme, it provides financial risk protection to over 53 crore Indians from economically and socially disadvantaged backgrounds by assuring them with a health cover of Rs 5 lakh per eligible family per year to avail cashless inpatient secondary and tertiary healthcare.”

It has provided treatments worth more than Rs 15,500 crore, he said, adding crores of lives have been saved and households helped from getting wiped out due to catastrophic expenditure on health that pushed an estimated six crore families below the poverty line each year.

He also added that in these two years, the scheme has provided free treatment to more than 1.26 crore beneficiaries. Over 23,000 hospitals have been empanelled so far and more than 12.5 crore e-cards have been issued. 57 per cent of the total amount utilised has been for tertiary procedures related to treatment of major illnesses like cancer, cardiac ailments, orthopaedic problems, and neo-natal issues.

Harsh Vardhan said that 45 per cent of the empanelled hospitals are private facilities providing 52 per cent of the overall treatments and raising 61 per cent of the hospital admissions claims amount.

He also outlined the scheme’s portability as one of its outstanding feature. “An eligible patient from any state implementing PMJAY can avail of cashless treatment anywhere in India, in any empanelled hospital. Portability has been built into the design of the scheme and enabled 1.3 lakh citizens of the migrant population to avail of care at the nearest hospital.”

The Health Minister added that PMJAY’s capability building approach would go a long way in making Prime Minister’s dream of Aatmanirbhar Bharat a reality.

On the way ahead, he said: “The focus this year will be on expanding the reach of the PMJAY network and services to other left-out population groups such as manual scavengers, road traffic victims, truck drivers, among others through convergence with other Central health schemes.”

“Along with the recently launched National Digital Health Mission, which will build the necessary digital health ecosystem to enable enhanced access to safe, timely, quality and affordable healthcare for 1.3 billion Indians, Ayushman Bharat will become a pillar of the country’s healthcare system.”

Delhi-based public experts also welcomed the achievements. Dr Shuchin Bajaj, Founder-Director of Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, said: “Ayushman Bharat is truly a game-changer in the way it has brought about access to healthcare to the most deprived communities.”

“Unfortunately, 6 million people in India are still below the poverty line every year just because of the healthcare costs. For such people, Ayushman Bharat has played a great role in ensuring that this kind of abject poverty doesn’t occur in communities.”

Kamal Narayan, CEO of IHW Council, also said that the scheme lifted crores of people out of poverty caused by the burden of medical expenses, brought them under the safety net of health insurance and freed them from the crowded public hospitals.

“In this time of Covid, more beneficiaries chose private hospitals over government ones during lockdown is a testimony to the fact that people were looking for measures that ensure quality treatment at affordable price in private hospitals. Ayushman Bharat has saved lakhs of lives from people belonging to the weaker section of the society not only by providing free treatment, but also through attending to their queries, addressing a long-standing gap,” he said.

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Australian state stalls easing Covid-19 curbs

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Sydney, Aug. 8, 2020 (Xinhua) -- People rest in front of the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia, on Aug. 6, 2020. (XinhuaBai XuefeiIANS)
Sydney, Aug. 8, 2020 (Xinhua) -- People rest in front of the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia, on Aug. 6, 2020. (XinhuaBai XuefeiIANS)

Sydney, Oct 15 (IANS) Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) has stalled easing Covid-19 restrictions after new cluster outbreaks were reported in the state capital of Sydney, authorities said on Thursday.

On Thursday morning, the state registered six new locally acquired infections, which followed 11 local transmissions the day before, Xinhua news agency reported.

State leaders have described the present situation it as the most concerning since mid-July, when an outbreak at a western Sydney pub resulted in over 50 cases and a clampdown on the hospitality sector.

“This is the most concerned we’ve been since that first incident when the Victorian citizen came up, infected his colleagues and went for a drink at a hotel,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a briefing.

Health officials flagged several new areas where a person had been while infected with the virus, including public transport services, a tutoring service and shopping mall.

On Tuesday, the government announced that up to 500 people would be allowed to attend outdoor music performances, as long as they remained seated and groups remained four meters apart.

Restrictions for outdoor dining venues were also relaxed, allowing one patron per two square meters, as long as venues use an electronic contact tracing system to record patrons’ contact details.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard urged anyone with even the slightest of symptoms to get tested, as well as to cooperate fully with questions to assist health officials with contact tracing.

“We are aiming to have at least 20,000 (tests) a day and while we have these positive cases still amongst us the emphasis is… Please get tested,” he added.

Of Australia’s 27,341 overall case tally, NSW accounts for 4,310 infections.

The country’s death toll stands at 904.

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Andhra registers 3,892 more Covid cases, tally 7.67 lakh

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future covid related stories
future covid related stories

Amaravati, Oct 14 (IANS) Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday registered 3,892 new Covid positive cases, increasing the state’s tally to 7.67 lakh cases, even as 5,050 recoveries outnumbered fresh infections.

East Godavari accounted for the highest number of cases at 607, followed by West Godavari (518), Krishna (458), Chittoor (405), Guntur (345), Kadapa (332), Anantapur (290), Nellore (219), Visakhapatnam (163), Srikakulam (154), Vizianagaram (151), Prakasam (146) and Kurnool (104).

East Godavari continues to battle the highest number of infections at 1.07 lakh. At the lower end, Krishna district has witnessed 32,910 cases so far.

Not just having the highest Covid tally among the 13 districts, East Godavari is also shouldering the highest active cases at 7,135.

Meanwhile, 28 patients succumbed to the virus in the past 24 hours, one of the lowest daily Covid death counts in the recent past.

With the new additions, the statewide Covid death toll has reached 6,319.

As always, the positive trend of higher recoveries continues to occur in the southern state. On Wednesday, 5,050 more patients recovered from the virus, raising the total number of recoveries to 7.19 lakh.

Of the total 7.67 lakh cases, the number of active cases currently stands at 41,669.

The state’s positivity rate stands at 11.3 per cent at present.

Andhra Pradesh tested 69,463 samples on Wednesday. In total, the state has tested 67.7 lakh samples for Covid until now.

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After Sputnik V, Russia approves another Covid-19 vaccine: Putin

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Moscow, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin (Sputnik via XinhuaIANS)
Moscow, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin (Sputnik via XinhuaIANS)

Moscow, Oct 14 (IANS) Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday announced that the country has registered the second Covid-19 vaccine, according to media reports.

Russia became the first country to give regulatory approval to a Covid-19 vaccine in August when Sputnik V was officially registered ahead of large-scale clinical trial, drawing criticism from some quarters in the scientific community.

The second Russian vaccine to get regulatory approval has been developed by the Vector State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology.

Vector’s vaccine, dubbed “EpiVacCorona”, relies on chemically synthesized peptide antigens of SARS-CoV-2 proteins, conjugated to a carrier protein and adsorbed on an aluminum-containing adjuvant, according to details posted at ClinicalTrials.gov, a database of privately and publicly funded clinical studies conducted around the world.

Putin said that a third Russian vaccine against Covid-19, developed by the Chumakov Centre, would also be registered in the near future, Sputnik news agency reported.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said that she tested EpiVacCorona vaccine herself and experienced no side effects, said the report.

“The Vector centre is also initiating post-registration clinical trials in the various regions of Russia that would include 40,000 volunteers,” she was quoted as saying.

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European countries impose new Covid-19 curbs as cases spike

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London, Sept. 22, 2020 (Xinhua) -- A woman wearing a face mask walks at Covent Garden in London, Britain, on Sept. 21, 2020. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday that Britain is facing a "tipping point" regarding the coronavirus pandemic and more restrictions are possible to cope with the spread of virus. (Xinhua/Han Yan/IANS)
London, Sept. 22, 2020 (Xinhua) -- A woman wearing a face mask walks at Covent Garden in London, Britain, on Sept. 21, 2020. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday that Britain is facing a "tipping point" regarding the coronavirus pandemic and more restrictions are possible to cope with the spread of virus. (Xinhua/Han Yan/IANS)

Countries across Europe were imposing a series of new restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic amid a spike in the number of fresh cases and deaths across the continent.

As of Thursday, the continent’s overall caseload stands at 4,301,247, while the death toll has surged to 197,075, according to the latest update by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The agency said that Europe’s infection rate “has been increasing for 77 days” and there were more than 700,000 new coronavirus cases last week, which was a 36 per cent weekly increase.

In France, one of the worst-hit European countries, President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday announced that a curfew will be introduced in big cities as a reaction to the recent resurgence of new cases.

Starting from Friday midnight, a four-week 9 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew will be imposed in the greater Paris region and the eight major cities of Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Aix-Marseille, Rouen, Toulouse, Montpellier and Saint-Etienne, Xinhua news agency reported.

These regions are already on maximum alert, with bars and gyms shut down, theatres and restaurants under strict health protocol.

Gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited in public spaces such as beaches and parks.

Anyone violating the curfew would be fined 135 euros, and permissions will be available for those who have health emergencies and work at night.

Presently, France has a total of 779,063 Covid-19 cases, Europe’s second biggest tally after Spain, with 33,037 deaths.

In the UK, a new three-tier Covid-19 alert system came into force across England on Wednesday.

The alert system comprises three levels: “Medium”, “High” and “Very High” with the level being decided according to local infection rate.

The UK has so far reported a total of 654,644 coronavirus cases, with 43,155 fatalities, the highest death toll in Europe.

On Wednesday, Italy, the once epicentre of the pandemic in Europe, reported its largest single-day spike, with more than 7,300 cases, which took the overall tally to 372,799, while the death toll surged to 36,289.

The grim milestone came a day after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree putting new limits on gatherings, sports and school activities.

But bars and restaurants are still allowed to operate until midnight, but only for table service, NPR news reported.

The Catalonian region of Spain has ordered all bars and restaurants to close their on-premises operations, saying they can only sell to-go items for the next 15 days.

Shopping areas, theatres and gyms will have to operate at reduced capacity.

While the Czech Republic, has closed schools, restaurants and bars, The Netherlands is enacting a partial lockdown due to a recent resurgence.

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UK’s 3-tier coronavirus alert system kicks in

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London, Oct. 13, 2020 (Xinhua) -- A man wearing a face mask walks past a shop in London, Britain, on Oct. 13, 2020. The coronavirus-related deaths in Britain rose by 143 to 43,018, marking the highest daily figure since June, according to official figures released Tuesday. Another 17,234 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 634,920, the latest data showed. (Xinhua/Han Yan/IANS)
London, Oct. 13, 2020 (Xinhua) -- A man wearing a face mask walks past a shop in London, Britain, on Oct. 13, 2020. The coronavirus-related deaths in Britain rose by 143 to 43,018, marking the highest daily figure since June, according to official figures released Tuesday. Another 17,234 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 634,920, the latest data showed. (Xinhua/Han Yan/IANS)

A new three-tier Covid-19 alert system set out by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come into force across England as the country struggles to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The alert system comprises three levels: “Medium”, “High” and “Very High” with the level being decided according to local infection rates, reports Xinhua news agency.

The Liverpool City Region is placed in the “very high” level which sees venues such as bars and pubs closed unless they can operate as restaurants, while people are also banned from socializing with other households.

Currently, most of England is placed in the first tier of the government’s three-tier system, which means an alert level of “medium”.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has announced that he now supported a complete two or three weeks of lockdown across England as a “circuit breaker” to halt the spread of the virus.

He proposed a temporary set of restrictions, designed to get the infection rate down, with every pub, bar and restaurant in England closed for two-to-three weeks.

Starmer said it could be timed to coincide with school half term holidays to minimize disruption.

According to a paper by two of the government’s leading scientific advisers, a “short, sharp” two-week lockdown over the October half term break could prevent more than 7,000 deaths.

On Wednesday, Johnson told MPs at Parliament that he rules out nothing in the fight against coronavirus, but that he wants to “avoid the misery of another national lockdown”.

“I rule out nothing, of course, in combating the virus but we’re going to do it with the local, regional approach that can drive down and will drive down the virus if it is properly implemented,” he said.

Also on Wednesday, Northern Ireland announced that the region is set to begin a four-week “circuit breaker” lockdown from Friday.

Among other restrictions, the hospitality sector in the region will be required to close apart from deliveries and takeaways for food, with the existing closing time of 11 p.m. remaining.

Meanwhile, no overnight stays in a private residence will be allowed unless in a bubble; close contact services such as hairdressers and beauticians are not permitted to open, apart from those relating to the continuation of essential health interventions and therapeutics.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford on Wednesday announced that the country will ban travellers from rest of the UK’s coronavirus hotspots from Friday, adding that the evidence suggests Covid-19 is “moving from east to west across the UK and across Wales”.

The measure will apply to tier-two and tier-three areas of England, according to Drakeford.

On Wednesday, the UK reported 19,724 new Covid-19 cases, which took the overall infection tally in the country to 654,644, according to official figures released Wednesday.

The death toll increased to 43,155 after 137 new fatalities.

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Hand hygiene for all in corona times (Oct 15 is Global Handwashing Day)

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Hand hygiene for all in corona times
Hand hygiene for all in corona times

October 15 is Global Handwashing Day, a global advocacy day, dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.

The Covid-19 pandemic provides a stark reminder that one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of a virus is also one of the simplest: hand hygiene, especially through handwashing with soap. To beat the virus today and ensure better health outcomes beyond the pandemic, handwashing with soap must be a priority now and in the future.

This year’s theme, Hand Hygiene for All, calls for all of society to achieve universal hand hygiene.

The link between handwashing and health was first established less than two centuries ago.

Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor working in Vienna General Hospital, is known as the father of hand hygiene. In 1846, he noticed that the women giving birth in the medical student/doctor-run maternity ward, in his hospital, were much more likely to develop a fever and die, compared to the women giving birth. He noticed that doctors and medical students often visited the maternity ward directly after performing an autopsy.

Taking cognizance of the seriousness, Semmelweis imposed a new rule mandating handwashing with chlorine for doctors. The rates of death in his maternity ward fell dramatically. This was the first proof that cleansing hands could prevent infection.

A few years later in Scutari-Italy, the Crimean War brought about a new handwashing champion, Florence Nightingale. At a time when most people believed that infections were caused by foul odors called miasmas, Florence Nightingale implemented handwashing and other hygiene practices in the war hospital in which she worked.

Sadly, handwashing promotion stood still for over a century. It was not until the 1980s, when a string of food-borne outbreaks and healthcare-associated infections led to public concern.

SITUATION IN INDIA

Communicating the importance of washing hands with soap to avoid Covid-19 spread is a daunting task in India as only 35.8 per cent households in the country practice hand-washing with soap or detergent before a meal, while 60 per cent households wash hands only with water.

The National Sample Survey (NSS) 76th round report-2019, reveals that 25.3 per cent households in rural India and 56 per cent in urban wash hands with soap or detergent before a meal. Also, 2.7 per cent households wash hands with ash, mud, and sand before meals.

In rural areas, 70 per cent people wash hands with water without soap or detergent, before a meal, and in urban areas, 42 per cent of people follow this practice.

What is more alarming is that about 26 per cent people in India don’t wash their hands with soap or detergent after defecation. 13.4 per cent households (15.2 per cent rural and 9.8 per cent urban) wash hands only with water after defecation. Two-third toilets in India have water and soap/detergent available in or around the toilets.

Diarrhoea and pneumonia are leading causes of death for children under the age of five. Handwashing can save lives and can decrease diarrhoea by almost one-half and acute respiratory infections by nearly one-quarter.

Handwashing with soap impacts not just health and nutrition, but also education, economics, and equity.

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