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An estimated 65 percent of the country's 1.3 billion population lives in rural areas. Pixabay

Free or subsidized testing, treatment, and vaccination along with the provision of uninterrupted essential health services are essential to fight Covid-19 in rural India, public health expert Poonam Muttreja said on Tuesday.

Compared to the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, this year has witnessed a rapid rise in the number of infections and deaths in rural India. An estimated 65 percent of the country’s 1.3 billion population lives in rural areas. Citing the data repository website How India Lives, Muttreja said 714 districts in India have reported coronavirus cases, putting 94.76 percent of the population at potential risk.

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“The perception in some regions is that Covid-19 is a myth, perpetuated by permissions by authorities for large gatherings for elections as well as religious congregations and religious and political leaders flouting Covid-19 protocols,” said Muttreja, who is also executive director of national NGO Population Foundation of India, in a statement.

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“A lack of awareness and reluctance to submit to testing, treatment, and vaccination makes the rural population more susceptible to Covid-19. The problem is compounded by the fact that medical infrastructure is concentrated in urban areas. Community Health Centers are not always easily accessible,” Muttreja added.

There is an urgent need for increased surveillance and testing in rural areas to ensure early detection and diagnosis, she said. Moreover, in the long run, greater investment in public health infrastructure, capacity building of frontline health workers, and prioritizing universal health coverage are must to ensure that India’s response to health emergencies is robust, Muttreja noted. (IANS/JC)


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