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COVID-19 and rapid development in India’s Health Infrastructure

COVID-19 and rapid development in India’s Health Infrastructure


  • India has entered into a critical unlocking phase of in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • This editorial looks into the rapid infrastructure development in the health sector by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), as a part of India's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


2.1 The new phase in COVID-19 battle

  • After going through three successive lockdowns wherein the severity of restrictions was lifted successively and normalcy was restored in most of the areas, India is now in the unlocking phase.
  • Recently the Hon’ble Prime Minister talked of expanding the vision from "preventing loss of life” to “saving lives and protecting livelihoods”
  • However, for the people whose lives and livelihoods are put on hold due to the epidemic, there is a certain amount of fatigue.
  • The rising number of active COVID-19 cases is also causing a sense of worry in the general public even though the number of recoveries has taken over the number of active cases in the country.
  • The Prime Minister on April 6 warned that the battle against Covid-19 would be a long one and it would take the combined and tireless effort of the nation to emerge victorious.

2.2 Indian Response to the COVID-19 epidemic

  • The Indian government was well aware of the scale of pandemic and the economic cost to the nation in the initial days of the lockdown itself.
  • This early recognition of the gravity of the COVID-19 situation enabled the government to prepare the health care infrastructure to deal with the rising number of cases.
  • Hence, it was imperative for the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to step up and build the foundation, protocol and infrastructure to test, track and treat cases.

23. Global Response to the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Nations throughout the world have had their own way of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with varying degrees of success.
  • The most common element of the response by all nations who have 'flattened the curve' has been to test more and more number of people.
  • The response of ICMR too been to rapidly ramp up testing capabilities to meet the needs of the huge population of India.
  • This rapid increase in the testing capabilities of India is in accord with the vision of “saving lives and protecting livelihoods”.


3.1 Present testing capability of India

  • Today, India is testing over 200,000 everyday.
  • The ICMR has validated over 1,000 laboratories covering every district of the nation.
  • This shows a rapid development and ramping up of health infrastructure given the fact that India’s daily testing capacity was 100,000 in 555 laboratories just over a month ago.

3.2 Evolving response of the ICMR

  • The India strategy underwent iterative calibration to keep pace with the changing epidemiology and extent of infection to ensure inclusive and equitable access to testing.
  • The ICMR has coordinated and worked closely with the state governments to ramp up the development of testing laboratories to ensure the inclusiveness of thousands of economic migrants returning to rural areas.
  • The ICMR has also been in close contact with state governments to frame a strategy to monitor, investigate, and treat new cases.
  • In the quest of Atmanirbhar Bharat several Union ministries came out will meticulously crafted economic stimulus and an unlocking plan to prevent the loss of livelihood.
  • At the same time, ICMR kept on ensuring that the expertise, materials, staff, and capacity to carry out testing safely, successfully and reliably were being put in place to prevent the loss of life.


4.1 COVID-19 and Atmanirbhar Bharat

  • As response to the COVID-19 epidemic, the government has worked in close coordination with the domestic health care industry to make India self-sufficient in testing making ICMR’s Covid-19 programme a flag-bearer of Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative.
  • The nationwide lockdown had forced industries to shut and the industries had to face severe operational challenges related to the movement of human resources and procurement of material and machinery.
  • To deal with these challenges and enable the industry to accelerate production a task force was setup to realise the goal of Atmanirbhar Bharat.

4.2 Success stories

  • The development of swabs for Covid-19 was started domestically within six days of forming the task force. Today, three companies manufacture up to 200,000 swabs daily.
  • The production of viral transport medium (VTM) kits increased from 500,000 units per year to 500,000 units per day despite a nationwide lockdown.
  • Private players in the health sector have developed 10 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and five million viral extraction kits after expedited approval from the Central Drug Standard Control Organisation.

4.3“Mission Lifeline Udan”

  • This was a combined mission of the ministry of civil aviation and their airline partnersin the government and private sector to ensure safe and timely delivery of supplies to every laboratory.
  • Under Mission Lifeline Udan, airlines carried consignments of diagnostic material developed and procured by the ICMR to laboratories across the country.
  • 150 flight operations transported and delivered 40 tonnes of testing material to even the remotest corner of India.
  • Courier companies and state governments joined hands to ensure doorstep deliveries.
  • The India Post with its wide network of countrywide operations proved to be very helpful as the network of laboratories expanded.
  • A network of 16 storage depots were developed in a phased manner to cut down transit times, logistical complications and risks of stock outs and ensure decentralised storage.


  • ICMR has encouraged the use of indigenously developed TrueNAT and CBNAAT testing protocols along with internationally accepted reverse transcription (RT)-PCR test kits.
  • TrueNAT and CBNAAT testing protocols are very cost effective and can be more easily used in rural areas where migrants are returning.


  • The collaborative efforts of ICMR and state and central government ministries have facilitated testing laboratory construction in the remotest corner of India.
  • The construction of 1,000 laboratories with a testing capacity of 200,000 tests per day within three months has made sure that the economic activity associated with the construction, procurement and staff for these has built an ecosystem that protects and provides livelihoods.
  • Scientific and data-driven inputs from the best minds and leading epidemiologists and scientists of India at ICMR have been also been instrumental in formulating the protocols and procedures for Unlock 1.0 to kick start the economic engine and take Indian lives and livelihood back to normalcy.
  • While our brave soldiers are securing India's territorial integrity at the borders, the warriors at ICMR are saving lives and protecting the livelihoods of those living in this territory.


Truenat TB Test

  • The Truenat TB test is a new molecular test that can diagnosis TB in one hour as well as testing for resistance to the drug rifampicin.
  • The TrueNat test has been developed by the Indian firm MolBio Diagnostics Pvt Ltd Goa. It’s development has been funded by Bigtec Labs, India.
  • This test for TB uses a sputum sample taken from each patient.
  • Only about 0.5 ml of the sample is required.
  • The test works by the rapid detection of TB bacteria using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique.

CBNAAT (Cartridge Based Nucleic Acid Amplification Test)

  • The Genexpert test is a molecular test for TB. The Genexpert diagnoses TB by detecting the presence of TB bacteria, as well as testing for resistance to the drug Rifampicin.
  • In India Genexpertis known as the CB-NAAT
  • The test is a molecular TB test which detects the DNA in TB bacteria.
  • It uses a sputum sample and can give a result in less than 2 hours.
  • The Genexpert has been developed by the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), who have partnered with the Cepheid corporation and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Source: Hindustan Times -