India took all necessary steps well in time to combat COVID-19 pandemic: Harsh Vardhan

New Delhi, May 18 (PTI) India took all the necessary steps well in time to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, Union Health minister Harsh Vardhan said on Monday, asserting that the country has done well in dealing with the disease and is confident of doing better in the months to come.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally monitored the situation and ensured a preemptive, proactive and graded response, leaving no stones unturned to contain the deadly virus from spreading, Vardhan said, addressing the 73rd World Health Assembly via video conferencing.

India undertook the COVID-19 challenge with the highest level of political commitment, he added.

Therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines for the whole world is the only way out of this pandemic, Vardhan asserted.

'Global collaboration is paramount. Governments, industry and philanthropy must pool resources to pay for the risk, the research, manufacturing and distribution, but with the condition that the rewards should be available to everyone, regardless of where they have been developed,' he said.

His remarks come after India on Monday joined nearly 120 countries at the crucial conference of the World Health Organisation in pushing for an impartial and comprehensive evaluation of the global response into the coronavirus crisis as well as to examine the origin of the deadly infection.

The two-day 73rd session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) of the WHO began in Geneva amid growing calls including by US President Donald Trump to investigate how the virus originated in China's Wuhan city and subsequent action by Beijing.

Taking to Twitter, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) -- the first ever to be convened virtually -- is an opportunity for health leaders to commit to 'fight COVID-19 together, in unity, in solidarity!' This is the time when humankind must come together, Vardhan said in his remarks at the conference, urging all governments, industry and philanthropy to prioritise the long-term and pool their resources, to ensure everyone benefits.

'On our part, India is playing a key role in fostering bilateral and regional partnerships. Under our prime minister's able leadership, India has supplied essential medicines to 123 nations as an expression of solidarity,' he said.

Talking about India's response to the COVID-19 battle, Vardhan said the country took all necessary steps well in time, including surveillance at points of entry, evacuation of nationals stranded overseas, massive community surveillance through robust disease surveillance network, strengthening of health infrastructure, capacity building of over two million frontline human resources, risk communication and community involvement.

'I think we did our best and we did well. We are learning and we are confident of doing better in the months to come,' Vardhan said.

Underlining that there are compelling circumstances that have forced WHO member states all to meet virtually, he said the 73rd WHA is the first ever virtual health assembly, it is unprecedented, but it's also perhaps the most important one because the pandemic is continuing to kill thousands of people and also causing a deep global recession.

'Today, in the two-day deliberations, we should share our learnings from how each one of us has tackled this catastrophe since January, how we can support the financial or technical gaps that some of our member states may have and agree to continue R&D in an aggressive and collaborative way,' Vardhan said.

'In congratulating all those who are striving to save humanity, we welcome efforts to make all International Institutions more reflective of 21st century realities. India will always stand with such efforts to foster meaningful and broad-based change,' the minister asserted.

Closing his speech, Vardhan stood up to give a loud applause for all those across the world who are in the forefront of the battle against the deadly virus.

'I stand here to honour the doctors, the nurses, the paramedics, the scientists, the journalists, the delivery boys, security staff, sanitation staff and the police personnel - the forgotten roles who are today playing 'super humans'. They are our real heroes,' he said after he stood up from his chair in a heartwarming gesture to honour the 'COVID warriors' Vardhan also expressed his deepest condolences at the loss of lives across the world due to COVID-19.

The WHA is also expected to delve into pooling in additional resources to deal with the pandemic that has killed over 310,000 people and infected nearly 4.7 million besides wrecking the global economy.

A draft resolution pushed by the 27-nation European Union and supported by a large number of countries for deliberations at the WHA has called for a step-wise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the WHO-coordinated international response to COVID-19.

It, however, did not mention China. The coronavirus pandemic was first reported in Wuhan, a port city in China in December last year. Since then, it has spread to over 180 countries. PTI ASK TDS TDS