Azad asks CMs to take steps to tackle swine flu

Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad holds up printed guidelines on swine flu during a press conference in New Delhi on Monday. AFP

Assuring all help, Azad told the Chief Ministers that central teams will be sent to advise state governments in identifying private and public hospitals as well as labs to treat and test suspected cases.

The Minister spoke to around 25 Chief Ministers, including those of Maharashtra, Punjab and Tamil Nadu, last night impressing upon them the need to take measures to tackle spread of the pandemic, a top Ministry official said on Tuesday.

He also briefed the Chief Ministers on sprucing up the healthcare infrastructure to contain further spread of the disease.

Azad assured them central facilities and asked them to monitor it at the best of their abilities, the official said adding he also informed them about plans to procure two crore tablets of Tamiflu, used to treat swine flu.

The Minister also held meetings with senior officials of the Ministry this morning to take stock of the situation as the toll in the pandemic rose to eight.

Azad will hold a meeting with around 35 Additional and Joint Secretaries in various central ministries before they proceed to state capitals for stepping up their efforts to contain further spread of the disease.

Azad is understood to have informed the chief ministers about the steps taken by the Central government to tackle swine flu and the guidelines for allowing private labs and hospitals to conduct tests and treat suspected cases.

With the situation worsening, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had asked Azad to augment the response mechanism in the wake of the rapid spread of swine flu, which has affected around 1,000 people.

Following a meeting he had with Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar and senior Ministry officials, Azad has unveiled a slew of measures like allowing private labs and hospitals to conduct tests and treat suspected cases, stockpiling another two crore tablets of Tamiflu and installing thermal scanners at all international airports to screen passengers.

On the decision to rush senior officials to states, he has said, "as of now, we have been corresponding with the states only through letters, but it now seems that this is not enough, so we have decided to send them to various states."

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