India notifies COVID-19 a national 'disaster', announces compensation

The central government on Saturday declared COVID-19 as a national ‘disaster’ and announced to provide ex-gratia relief of Rs 4 lakh to the families who died of the virus.

The Ministry of Home Affairs in a letter to states and union territories stated: “Keeping in view the spread of COVID-19 virus in India the declaration of it as pandemic by World Health Organisation, the Central government has decided to treat it as a notified disaster and announced to provide assistance under State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).”

The Centre said that cost of hospitalization for managing COVID-19 patients would be at the rates fixed by the state governments. The state government can use SDRF found for providing temporary accommodation, food, clothing and medical care for people affected and sheltered in quarantine camps, 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 in such camps. “Period can be extended by the committee beyond the prescribed limit subject to condition that expenditure on this account should not exceed 25 percent of SDRF allocation for the year,” the Ministry of Home Affairs notification stated.

The cost of consumables for sample collection would be taken from the funds which can be sued 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Further, funds can also be withdrawn for setting up additional testing laboratories within the government set up.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.