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Opinion

House Panel on Covid-19 Suggests Review of Epidemic Act

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The parliamentary panel of Internal Affairs, in its deliberations on the pandemic of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in the country, said that it is necessary to review the provisions of the Law on epidemics of 1897; advised prudence in the approval of vaccines; and admitted that micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) have been among the companies most affected by the pandemic and the closure.

“The Committee notes that the provisions of the 1897 Epidemic Diseases Law have helped to control Covid-19, but this law is outdated since it was framed in the colonial era, long before the Spanish flu of 1918,” said the panel. he said in his report, the content of which has been reviewed by the Hindustan Times. “Therefore … the Act must be reviewed, updated and amended so that it is fully equipped to respond to the challenges posed by the unforeseen onset of a pandemic or epidemic in the future.” The panel does note that the Law is already being reviewed by the Ministry of the Interior.

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The panel is one of two parliamentary committees that will present a report on the Covid-19 crisis. It has also promoted a comprehensive public health law, with adequate legal provisions, to guarantee checks and balances on private hospitals to prevent them from selling hospital beds; and black drug marketing.

The Center implemented the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance of 2020 to enable the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 to provide protection to health care service personnel, their living quarters, and their workplaces from any violence during the course of a pandemic. The measure came as a result of attacks against health personnel after the start of the pandemic.

“There are parts of the Epidemic Law that can suppress civil liberty and lead to the invasion of a person’s privacy,” said Dr. Sumit Ray, Head of Department (Intensive Care Medicine) at Holy Family Hospital in Delhi. “So far, since earnings should be limited, that’s a good thing. But it will be necessary to see how it is implemented. There is also concern that the government is not responsible for actions carried out under the guise of this law.

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The panel also intervened in the large-scale exodus of migrant workers to their homes in the interior of the country after the businesses they worked for had shutters down during the shutdown. It has recommended a revision of the Interstate Migrant Workers (Employment Regulation and Conditions of Services) Act to address the gaps and lapses that arose during the exodus. It has also recommended the creation of a database of migrant workers to allow the extension of relief measures and the delivery of rations to these workers.

The panel also noted that the unprecedented shutdown led to “grave social and economic consequences.” In his report, which will be presented at the next session of Parliament, he affirms that the MSMEs sector has been one of the most affected. The sector, according to the report, did not have access to “low-cost institutional financing,” leading to a lack of cash flow, demand, labor, technology-based production activity and a reduction in working capital that resulted in stress at work.

“Sectors under stress are in dire need of working capital to sustain the impact of Covid-19,” the report states. “The Committee further notes that MSMEs can also seek new avenues and possibilities for expansion by customizing quality products and innovations that will help them meet changing customer needs and placing them as part of the solution that is needed in the new normal. . ”

Part of this problem of access to credit has been addressed in the Atmanirbhar Bharat package announced by the government in May. On September 13, the Ministry of Finance said that banks had approved loans worth more than 1.63 lakh crore rupees to more than 42 lakh crore from business units under the Emergency Line of Credit Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS). ) of Rs 3-lakh crore for the MSMEs sector that was affected by the Covid-19 pandemics and consequent lockdowns. The scheme is the largest fiscal component of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan package of Rs 20 lakh crore.

The Committee has also noted that several plans introduced by the government for farmers and non-agricultural MSMEs, such as the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan package, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana and the monetary and liquidity measures adopted by the RBI, need better levels of ground. implementation.

The panel emphasized that emergency authorization of any vaccine should be done in the rarest cases, as the Central Drug Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) has not granted any emergency use authorization in the past. “… When conducting the vaccination tests, all necessary and mandatory requirements must be duly met and all phases must be completed. Small animal testing, human testing must be performed with a sufficient sample size … Therefore, if an emergency authorization is granted, the government must grant it after due consideration and caution, and this provision must used in the rarest cases. cases. “

The use of Ayurveda has also been recommended for a “holistic approach” to treating Covid-19 patients in the absence of a vaccine.

“The Committee is of the opinion that in the absence of a certified vaccine / medications, the AYUSH Ministry has enormous potential to prevent and provide curative medical care during this pandemic,” the report states. “To increase the immunity of patients and common people, the Ministry of Health, AYUSH and AIIMS can suggest and promote kadha / herbs / spices as part of their diet and Yoga.”

The panel suggested the creation of a separate wing under the National Disaster Management Authority that will specialize in handling / managing pandemics such as Covid-19, with stakeholders from the government, corporations, NGOs and others.

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