PM reviews vaccination progress, asks states to step up pace

Written by eveningindia

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday reviewed the public health response to covid-19, as India faced a national health emergency from the second wave of the pandemic.

“The prime minister noted that an advisory was sent to states to identify districts of concern where case positivity is 10% or more and bed occupancy is more than 60% on either oxygen supported or ICU beds,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

The Union health ministry had earlier asked states and Union territories to identify districts for taking intensive and local containment measures.

The meeting was attended by top officials and ministers, including defence minister Rajnath Singh, home minister Amit Shah, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, health and family welfare minister Harsh Vardhan, railways, commerce and industry, consumer affairs and food and public distribution minister Piyush Goyal, and minister of state for chemicals and fertilizers, ports, shipping and waterways Mansukh Mandaviya.

“The prime minister also reviewed the availability of medicines. He was briefed about the rapid augmentation of production of medicines, including Remdesivir,” it said.

India is facing a massive surge in covid cases and the Union government has been facing increasing criticism from the opposition and censure from courts for its mishandling of the second wave.

This comes against the backdrop of a second wave continuing to rage across the country, with 412,262 covid cases registered in the past 24 hours. Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Haryana, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Rajasthan accounted for 72.19% of the new cases.

“The prime minister reviewed the progress on vaccination and the roadmap for scaling up production on vaccines in the next few months. He was informed that around 17.7 crore vaccines have been supplied to the states. The prime minister also reviewed the state-wise trends on vaccine wastage. He was briefed that around 31% of the eligible population over the age of 45 has been given at least one dose. The prime minister spoke about the need to sensitize states so that the speed of vaccination doesn’t come down,” the PMO said.

The severe second wave has exposed the faultlines in India’s creaking health care system, with acute shortages of oxygen, ventilators, vaccines, testing kits, hospital beds, and intensive care units across the states. “The need to ensure quick and holistic containment measures were also discussed,” the PMO said.

The Union government has been trying to find solutions with plans of building temporary hospitals, setting up oxygenated beds near industries that produce gaseous oxygen, and repurposing existing nitrogen plants to produce oxygen. Also, around 1,500 pressure swing adsorption (PSA) oxygen plants are being set up through contributions from the PM CARES Fund and state-run firms.

Meanwhile, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, in a letter to finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, has asked the Centre to exempt covid vaccines from goods and services tax (GST) and give fiscal support to states to fight back the pandemic.

Patnaik said in the letter that states have been asked to purchase vaccines for people in the 18-45 years age group and that GST on vaccines would make the purchases costly for the states. “Hence GST needs to be exempted completely. It will reduce the cost for states and facilitate our drive towards universal immunization,” the chief minister said. Mint has seen a copy of the letter.

Gireesh Chandra Prasaid contributed to this story.

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