Shortage of COVID-19 vaccines is staring many Indian states, including Odisha, in the face. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is likely to raise the issue during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s interaction with the nation’s chief ministers to review the pandemic situation in the country. Many other chief ministers may share his concern and join him in urging the Prime Minister to boost the supply of vaccines to states which have launched a massive inoculation programme as a preventive measure against coronavirus.
However, even as Odisha raises the red flag over the paucity of vaccines, it is far ahead of other Indian states in fighting the pandemic with precautionary measures and improved health infrastructure. Like last year, when the state government had mounted defensive measures much ahead of the onslaught of COVID-19, the chief minister is taking adequate precautions this time, too, to ensure that the spread of infection is kept well under control.
All the district administrations have been put on alert but there is special focus on districts bordering Chhattisgarh where the pandemic has assumed serious proportions. Since some of these bordering districts have already reported a spurt in cases, checking at border posts have been intensified and concerned district administrations are insisting on testing. District administrations have been given a free hand in deciding on the issue of creating containment zones where necessary.
The Ganjam district administration, which is almost always in news when COVID-19 cases rise, is being particularly strict about implementing COVID guidelines and the entry of outsiders into the district. This can be understood since a large number of people from Ganjam go out to work in the cotton mills of Surat and in many other parts of the country. Their return is always a possibility when things become difficult on the corona front.
The farsighted leader that he is, the Chief Minister has issued express instructions to the state police to launch a statewide drive to ensure compliance with COVID guidelines. It is a two-pronged strategy. While habitual offenders will be punished, the focus is on creating awareness among people about the need to wear masks and maintain social distancing.
Simultaneously, steps are being taken to strengthen the state’s healthcare infrastructure with upgrading of health centres and hospitals and establishment of new ones. Health facilities even in far-off areas like Koraput and Malkangiri have been ramped up sufficiently to ensure that people do not suffer in any way. The dependence of people of these districts on hospitals in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh has been substantially reduced with upgradation of local health facilities by the government.
The best thing is that the management of COVID-19 in the state has been brought under the ambit of ‘Mo Sarkar’, a transformative initiative of the government under the 5-T programme to ensure good and transparent governance. This way the five-time Chief Minister, who is himself monitoring the COVID situation, has put an almost fail-proof system in place. Now it is up to the people of the state to cooperate with the government and make the system work efficiently.