With more than 30,000 positive cases — including over 12,000 which are active and 10,000 surfacing in the last few days alone — it is quite clear that Hyderabad and Telangana need a different kind of strategy to deal with COVID-19. Even if it had a strategy earlier, it calls for a review, and the government has to come out of its stupor to take some proactive steps, suggest senior health specialists, epidemiologists and scientists.

Overwhelming opinion among them is that the government should immediately constitute a high-powered committee of public health experts dealing with epidemics along with internal health specialists from both the public and private sector along with scientists. The next possible steps of the government should be based on the suggestions made by this panel rather than leaving the entire planning to a combination of bureaucrats and execution to the already overburdened public hospital doctors.

“This is a pandemic and it calls for a different set of strategies and execution of testing, tracing and isolating. While it is true cases are rising everywhere, it is not enough to deal with this highly contagious virus like we have dealt with swine flu and other communicable diseases,” says a senior health professional.

After shrugging off the possible spread of coronavirus, the government did show alacrity in constituting a five-member committee in the last week of March “to study global developments with regard to novel coronavirus and suggest measures on how to contain the spread of the virus”. Health Minister Eatala Rajender was the leader of the committee which consisted of directors of top national scientific research institutes, Vice-Chancellor of University of Health Sciences, a professor of a public health institution and and another expert from the private sector. “How many times has the committee met, what suggestions has it given to the government, how have they been implemented? There is no information available so far,” points out a senior health official, also seeking anonymity.

Neighbouring States have experienced epidemiologists, specialists like virologists, pulmonologists and others in advisory panels to forecast the transmission trajectory of COVID-19 and it is not too late to involve them in the exercise to complement health professionals currently involved, they opine. “Problem is those deciding the containment strategy have little experience in handling outbreaks and there has been little or no exchange of information or domain knowledge with national teams or neighbouring States. This has led to ad hocism of public hospitals having their own treatment protocols and private hospitals having their own agenda,” says another health professional.

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