New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: In order to prepare for a possible third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that might hit India in September this year, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Thursday announced a Rs 23,123 crore emergency package to fight the crisis.

Addressing the media following the first Union Cabinet meet after the rejig, Mandaviya said that the emergency package would be jointly used by the Centre and state governments. He also announced that the Centre will form pediatric care centers in around 736 districts, adding that nearly 20,000 ICU beds will be created under the COVID relief fund.

"In April 2020, Rs 15,000 crores were given as emergency Covid response fund. Covid dedicated hospitals have increased from 163 to 4,389. Using this fund, 8,338 dedicated Covid health centres were set up. We have 10,011 dedicated Covid care centres now," Mandaviya was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

"We have to collectively fight against COVID. The limitation period is a maximum (9 months). We have to get it done quickly. State governments will have to do it quickly. Our duty is to help the state in every possible way," Mandaviya added.

The annoucement from Mandaviya came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a Union Cabinet meet a day after the reshuffle. Meanwhile, Mandaviya on Thursday took charge as Union Health Minister, replacing Dr Harsh Vardhan. His portfolio assumes utmost significance as the country is battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier, he was holding the independent charge of the Shipping Ministry and was MoS for the Chemicals and Fertilizers Ministry. He was first inducted in the Union cabinet as MoS for Road Transport and Highways, Shipping and Chemicals and Fertilisers on July 5, 2016.

On May 30, 2019, he was again sworn in as MoS for Chemicals and Fertilisers with an independent charge of Ports, Shipping and Waterways. Earlier, Mandaviya had served as chairman of the Gujarat Agro Industries Corporation Limited.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma