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Before the next pandemic strikes on our doorsteps, let’s utilise this Coronavirus pandemic to our best advantage and prepare a foundation for tackling any of such future emergencies effectively. Without further ado, let me share some of the significant steps that we can carry on:
- India should chart out a new “Health Emergency Code”, just like Singapore has prepared a detailed set of guidelines to be followed in such times. Because the question to generate workforce for resource mobilisation, allocate funds for medical assistance assumes crucial importance in times like these.
- India can also make the “right to health” as an explicit right within the ambit of our constitution under Article 19. This may take a huge toll on the state’s resources, but the current pandemic calls for extra-ordinary measures too.
- Parliament can come out with a Constitutional Amendment Act to provide the imposition of “Emergency on medical grounds”. In the Act, the detailed and integrated provisions should be jotted down. As in present times, various Acts like Epidemics Act 1897, IPC, Essential Commodities Act 1955 touch down the components of handling extra-ordinary situations. This creates a sense of confusion, unaccountability and authoritative blunder on parts of implementing agencies.
- Concept of “mock medical drills” should be introduced in schools and institutions and offices as a part of an emergency preparedness plan on the lines of mock fire drills.
- A new dedicated institution, such as “Medical Emergency Response Authority Center” (MERA Center) can be installed on the central level to issue directions and conduct training of workers to deal with the situation better. Such authorities can be installed at the district and state level as well.
- Include a certain percentage of mandatory provision “medical assistance from CSR provisions”. Such funds can be appropriated with the MERA, as mentioned above.
- Re-visit the option of making “thermal screening mandatory” at every airport and major checkpoint in the nation. This can serve as an additional layer of security to prevent the spread of such a notorious virus.
- “Compulsory sanitisation” of every package from foreign nations should be carried on a high priority basis.
- Expanding the hospital infrastructure and spending heavily on education can help the nation in the long run.
Whenever India can contain the virus, I think these are some of the agendas that need our careful assessment. We have to understand that the world will never be the same after the COVID-19 situation. Till then, all we need to is give our support to the government in containing the spread.