Union Cabinet clears Rs 23,123 crore COVID relief packageThe Union Cabinet has approved additional Rs 23,123 crore COVID relief package, which was announced in June 2021 by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharman. This Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Package will be allocated to the states in consultation with them.

Of this total fund, Rs 15,000 crore will be the Centre’s contribution and the balance Rs 8,123 crore will have to be borne by the states.

This fund will be used to set up paediatric care centres in 736 districts, provide 20,000 ICU beds to deal with the pandemic, install liquid medical oxygen tanks of 10,000 ltr in all districts and augment the existing fleet of ambulances. Nine months for implementation of the relief package is the maximum time limit.

The allocation will be utilised to augment 20,000 ICU beds in public healthcare system out of which 20 percent will be Pediatric ICU beds. Provide care closer to the community due to the ingress of COVID-19 in rural, peri-urban and tribal areas, by creating pre-fabricated structures for adding additional beds at the existing CHCs, PHCs and SHCs (six 20-bed units) and support will also be provided to establish bigger field hospitals (50-100 bedded units) depending on the needs at Tier-II or Tier-III cities and district HQs.

Install 1,050 numbers of Liquid Medical Oxygen Storage Tanks with Medical Gas Pipeline System (MGPS) with an aim to support at least one such unit per district. Augment the existing fleet of ambulances — 8,800 ambulances will be added under the package.

Engage undergraduate and post-graduate medical interns and final year MMBS, BSc & GNM nursing students for effective COVID management. As ‘Test, Isolate and Treat’ and following-up COVID Appropriate Behaviour at all times, is the national strategy for effective COVID-19, support is provided to the states to maintain at least 21.5 lakh per day.

Flexible support to the districts for meeting the requirement of essential medicines for COVID-19 management, including creation of buffer stock.

The government’s initial allocation of Rs 15,000 crore to fight COVID helped boost the number of COVID dedicated hospitals from 163 to 4,389. In category 2, 8,038 health centres and over 10,000 dedicated COVID-care centres have been set up and beds with oxygen support have increased to 4,17,396 from around 50,000 during pre-COVID times.

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