Hong Kong pained at being a laggard as far as COVID-19 vaccination goes is luring its residents with a vaccine lottery ticket once vaccinated. Apart from a USD 1.4 million apartment, other freebies include a Tesla, gold bars, a diamond Rolex, and a USD 100,000 shopping spree. And the odds of winning, 1 in 2.1 million are considered pretty good. And, this is not a government initiative, though the Inland Revenue Department is waiving off betting duty. It is an offer by Sino Group and Chinese Estates.
The Indian health ministry, from the recent Cabinet shuffle has at its helm a new minister, Mansukh Mandaviya who has a strong vision of how the healthcare sector has to be taken forward. Funds to the tune of Rs. 23,123 crore for FY21-22 have been approved. The aim is to accelerate health system preparedness for immediate responsiveness for early prevention, detection and management, with the focus on health infrastructure development including for pediatric care, with measurable outcomes. Phase-II of the package has Central Sector and Centrally Sponsored Schemes components, the central share being Rs. 15000 crore and the states’ Rs. 8123 crore. The central sector component includes providing support to government hospitals, NCDC, HMIS, IT interventions and expanding National Architecture of eSanjeevani tele-consultation platform to 500,000 tele-consultations per day. Under the CSS components, pediatric units in all 736 districts are being created, 20000 ICU beds being augmented, 1050 LMOs installed, 8800 ambulances added, among other initiatives.
In the meantime, hospitals seem to be looking upward. ICRA, the credit rating agency expects that with the occupancies and in-patient procedures now at pre-COVID levels, complicated elective cases yielding a higher ARPOB and ALOS, the sector is poised for a revenue growth of 20 percent in FY2022, and at least a 200 bps improvement in profitability.
India however remains on tenterhooks, as it sees another COVID-19 wave looming ahead. The second wave devastated one and all, with a total of 420,996 COVID deaths till date, each citizen is still grappling with grief, having lost at least one near-and-dear-one. The country does seem to be better equipped since April 2020 with 36,008 ICU beds at present compared to 27,360, additional 10,461 ventilators and 94,880 oxygen-supported beds from 62,458 beds with oxygen. Vaccine supplies are also being upped, though Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson are still waiting for the legal indemnity clause waiver against adverse events post vaccination, a global norm. ICMR’s recent serosurvey that 67.6 percent of the Indian population surveyed has coronavirus antibodies is reassuring, although that still leaves 400 million vulnerable.