Govt declares COVID-19 a 'notified disaster', takes U-turn on aid for victims' families

Coronavirus: Govt announces Rs 4 lakh ex-gratia for deaths
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New Delhi: Moments after the Central government on Saturday notified coronavirus (COVID-19) as a 'notified disaster' and announced to provide ex-gratia relief of Rs 4 lakh to the families of the deceased, the government reissued a fresh "modified order" with no mention of any ex-gratia compensation.

The earlier order read, "Rs 4 lakh for deceased person including those involved in relief operations or associated in response activities, subject to certification regarding the cause of death from an appropriate authority."

In the updated order, which has been "partially modified", there is no mention of any such compensation.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, raised his objections to the modifications and requested the central government to restore the earlier version.

“By deleting these clauses, the spirit behind relief/assistance intended by State Disaster Response Fund is defeated,” Pinarayi said.

The Ministry of Home Affairs in a letter to the states and Union Territories also stated: "Keeping in view the spread of Covid-19 in India and the declaration of it as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the Central government has decided to treat it as a notified disaster and announced to provide assistance under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)."

Earlier, the Centre also said that the cost of hospitalisation for COVID-19 patients would be at the rates fixed by the state governments. The state government can use SDRF fund for providing temporary accommodation, food, clothing and medical care to people sheltered in quarantine facilities, other than home quarantine, or for cluster containment operations.

The state executive committee will decide the number of quarantine camps, their duration and the number of persons admitted to such camps.

"The period can be extended by the committee beyond the prescribed limit subject to condition that expenditure on this account should not exceed 25 per cent of SDRF allocation for the year," the notification issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs stated.

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The cost of consumables for sample collection would be taken from the funds, which can be used to support for checking, screening and contact tracing.

Further, funds can also be withdrawn for setting up additional testing laboratories within the government set up. The state has also to bear the cost of personal protection equipment for healthcare, municipal, police and fire authorities.

Further, SDRF money can also be used for procuring thermal scanners and ventilation and other necessary equipment.

(With inputs from IANS)

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