India has experienced a substantial increase in COVID-19 transmissions in recent weeks. The increase of COVID-19 cases in Bihar is a particularly worrying development, as this Indian state has a fragile healthcare system that will likely be rapidly overwhelmed.
Bihar is one of the poorest states in India and, with around 100 million inhabitants, one of the most populated. MSF is focused on ensuring everyone has access to treatment, particularly those from marginalised backgrounds. MSF staff have supported the Nalanda Medical College Hospital by converting a sports hall for use by patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms. The centre began admitting patients on 18 June.
With the rapid spread of COVID-19 in Mumbai, MSF has increased training of healthcare staff and prioritised infection prevention and control measures, screening, and triage. We are establishing an improved referral process for treatment and isolation of patients with COVID-19 symptoms within 28 informal settlements.
In Kashmir, outpatient departments at all hospitals—including MSF mental health clinics—are currently closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. MSF teams are continuing to provide psychological support via mobile phone consultations. In Manipur, MSF is distributing food to the homeless and to intravenous drug users. Our HIV and TB clinics are operating under reduced hours, and staff are working to ensure all patients have a three-month supply of their essential medications.
MSF India has opened a 24-hour mental health telephone hotline in India, operating in both English and Hindi. Starting with five counsellors recruited and trained by MSF, the project will be scaled up based on requirements.