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Corona test not mandatory for newborn, maternal services, says Health ministry

New Delhi: Essential services related to reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health should be continued in a restricted manner in areas defined as containment and buffer zones, the Union Health ministry said, underlining that COVID testing is not mandatory for providing such services.

The ministry also said the mother and newborn should be nursed together as far as possible and breastfeeding must be initiated within one hour of delivery, irrespective of COVID-19 status.

However, the mother should put on a face mask and practice hand hygiene before feeding the child.

In its 'Guidance note on Provision of Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, Adolescent Health Plus Nutrition (RMNCAH+N) services during and post COVID-19 pandemic' released on Wednesday, the ministry stressed that critical services for women, children and adolescent should be provided irrespective of their COVID-19 status.

"Under no circumstances should there be a denial of essential services," it highlighted.

The guidance note elaborates that services such as antenatal and newborn care, immunization, family planning and adolescent health among others are to be provided at different levels in accordance with the zonal categorization of containment zones, buffer zones and beyond these zones.

In its document, the ministry said that in India, with the second-largest global population, the growing epidemic of Coronavirus requires that special efforts have to be made to continue the essential routine services.

"With more than 2.5 crore pregnancies each year in the country, it is important to ensure the availability of services during this period as any denial of services can have an impact on maternal and newborn mortalities, morbidities as well as the health care costs," it said.

Also, unwanted pregnancies have a negative impact on maternal and newborn health and thus regulating fertility is thus a necessity. There is a need to enhance the provision of safe abortion services besides post-partum and post-abortion contraception, the ministry highlighted.

According to the guidance note, any area exiting a 'containment/buffer zone' can start such activities as listed in 'areas beyond the buffer zone' after a minimum gap of 14 days following delisting.

Not for Profit/private sector hospitals can be involved in the provision of non-COVID essential services, wherever public sector capacity needs to be supported, it said. Even though India's COVID-19 count crossed the 1,50,000-mark, the country's recovery rate has improved to 42.45 per cent on Wednesday. Out of total 1,51,767 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 64,426 have been discharged from hospitals.

As per the Health ministry's data, 3,935 patients have recovered in the last 24 hours while 170 deaths reported in a single day that too the death toll tally to 4,337.

Meanwhile, the ICMR has conducted 32,42,160 tests so far at its 624 labs that include 435 diagnostic centres in the ICMR network and 189 private labs. The ICMR has conducted 1,16,041 tests in the last 24 hours.

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