COVID-19: Cabinet Secy gives specific directives to ministries

To prevent the spread of coronavirus in India, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba has written to secretaries on department-specific rules to be followed.

Gauba said, “A public health situation of this scale requires a concerted and whole of Government approach in order to prevent further importation of cases and to build up a comprehensive and robust response system. All Central ministries/departments are required to step up their efforts and fully mobilize their resources to support the efforts of the M/o Health & family Welfare in preparedness, control and containment measures.”

Gauba called for “expeditious action” by officials concerned.

Home Ministry: Gauba has listed specific tasks for not just Home Ministry but also NDMA, NDRF, CAPFs and Bureau of immigration. He asked for identification of facilities and buildings that can be used as quarantine centres or can be converted temporary hospitals with isolation facilities.

Bureau of Immigration has been tasked to provide regular and timely information on international travellers arriving in India through airports, ports and land border crossings. NDMA and NDRF are asked to ensure continuity of essential services, conduct training and workshops, even mock drill and awareness generation exercises, particularly at point of entry in coordination with the CISF. It is also asked to ensure prompt and strict implementation of visa restrictions. The MHA has also been categorically tasked to tackle law and order.

External Affairs Ministry: Similarly, MEA is tasked to convey “situation from affected countries in terms of number of cases, their spatial and temporal distribution and trends”. Gauba asked MEA to provide information on travellers arriving from affected countries, especially Indians. Responsibility of issuance of advisories to Indians in other countries has also fallen on MEA.

Gauba said prompt and proper implementation of visa restrictions are also asked to be ensured by the MEA. The ministry is also supposed to advise on the impact of trade and travel restrictions for India.

However, unnecessary travel or trade restrictions are not imposed on India by other countries also needs to be ensured by the MEA. Gauba also advised the ministry to maintain contact with Indian citizens in foreign countries and ensure provisions of appropriate medical treatment to them.

Defence Ministry: Defence ministry too is tasked to identify facilities and buildings that can be used as quarantine centres or can be converted temporary hospitals with isolation facilities.

It has also been asked to extend support in extending network of hospitals and lab facilities by permitting the use of facilities by civilians. The pool of health experts in armed forces also needs to be identified to pitch in, said the letter.

“Train faculty of armed forces medical colleges/cantonment hospitals/state health officers on COVID-19 preparedness and response,” read the instruction to Defence ministry.

Meanwhile, other ministries like Railways, Labour and even Civil Aviation too have been given specific tasks to comply.

For instance, the Railway Ministry is asked to extend support of network hospitals and transportation of essential commodities including medical supplies. The Civil Aviation Ministry is asked to ensure all airlines follow the direction to make adequate in-flight announcement or are trained to manage onboard suspect cases. Even Shipping Ministry is asked to strictly comply the screening procedures.

COVID-19 emerged in early December 2019 in China and has now spread to over 100 countries. The reported cases of coronavirus in India rose to 73 on Thursday. Of these, 56 are Indian nationals and 17 are foreigners.

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