India, Sweden agree to cooperate in the fight against COVID-19

New Delhi: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and his Swedish counterpart Lena Hallengren on Tuesday discussed via video link the status and plans to handle coronavirus and decided to co-operate in the field of health and medicine.

They discussed the containment measures for Covid-19 in the two countries and agreed to hold the Joint Working Group’s (JWG) next meeting by autumn and stay in touch digitally till the end of the crisis.

They directed their senior officials to do the follow-up.

Hallengren congratulated Vardhan on being elected Chair of the WHO Executive Board and praised India for increasing the testing capacity to diagnose and treat the cases early.

Vardhan spoke about the decade of vibrant Indo-Swedish partnership that oversaw 10 JWG level bilateral meetings and mentioned recent achievements of India, like the Ayushman Bharat Yojana that covered 550 million people.

Maternal and infant mortality had been reduced and India had made giant strides in its target to eliminate tuberculosis by 2025, he said. The digital health programme promised to integrate IT with the healthcare system, he said and mentioned pioneering research by India in antibiotic resistance.

On the lessons learnt in handling the Covid-19 pandemic, Vardhan said India had over 61 per cent recovery rate and the mortality rate was as low as 2.78 per cent despite being a country of 1.35 billion people. “2.5 lakh people are being tested every day. From a single lab four months back, the country has over 1,100 labs for testing Covid-19,” he said.

“India’s pro-active, pre-emptive and graded approach ensured a plateaued graph and the significant number of unoccupied beds at any point of time in the three-tiered COVID health infrastructure assembled by the government,” the Minister said.

Vardhan said India had used the outbreak as an opportunity and since January 8, a day after China alerted the world on the novel pathogen, the government had coordinated among its different branches for point of entry surveillance at sea, land and airports.

It strengthened community surveillance, issued detailed health and travel advisories, and also evacuated thousands of citizens and foreign nationals.

India now has over 100 PPE manufacturing units producing 500,000 PPE kits a day. It also ramped up production of N95 masks and ventilators. India has supplied hydroxychloroquine to more than 100 countries, Vardhan informed Hallengren, Swedish Minister for Health and Social Affairs.