Prime Minister Narendra Modi today held a virtual meeting with the chief ministers and state representatives in view of the rising COVID-19 cases in India.
While the overall countrywide figure has dropped below 50,000 for several days now, the situation in certain states has given rise to concern. "There is a need to increase testing," said Modi in the meeting that was held with the eight worst affected states. Chief Ministers of Maharashtra, Kerala, Delhi, West Bengal, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh were present for the meeting, wherein the PM emphasised that "our priority is to make vaccine(s) available for all. States should put in the necessary mechanism including cold storage."
"Safety is as important as speed for us, whichever vaccine India will give to its citizens will be safe on all scientific standards. Vaccine distribution strategy will be chalked out in collective coordination with states. States must also start working (on) coldstorage facilities," PM Modi added.
This statement is in light of the varying efficacy rates for different vaccines: While the Moderna and Pfixer vaccines have higher efficacy rates than the Oxford-SII one, the latter vaccine can be stored at much more convenient temperatures of 2 to 8 degree Celsius. The vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India has promised 50 per cent of all doses for the domestic market.
Modi also mentioned the steps of "testing, confirmation, contact tracing and data" to be given top priority in order to bring the positive rate to less than 5 per cent and the fatality rate to under 1 per cent.
Confirming as to who will receive the vaccines first at their arrival, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said, "PM made it clear that in the first stage the vaccine will be given to the frontline health workers, in the second stage to the police personnel, sanitation workers etc, to those above 50 years of age in third stage and to those with comorbid conditions in the fourth stage."
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that "the high severity of (the) third wave is due to many factors. Pollution is an important factor," seeking the Prime Minister's intervention to stop stubble burning in the neighbouring states of Haryana and Punjab. Delhi clocked 4,454 cases over the past 24 hours and the number of deaths in the national capital touched an all-time high of 121, pushing the total number of fatalities to 8,512.
Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot said that his state had completely switched to the RT-PCR tests and gotten rid of the often inaccurate, rapid antigen tests. The state is testing 30,000 plus people everyday and has also taken precautions like banning crackers, increasing stringency on mask usage, resorting to night curfews, and having a general restraint on gatherings.
Over the past 24 hours, the country recorded 37,975 fresh COVID-19 cases, which is a 13 per cent drop from yesterday's figures. The government data also reported 480 COVID-related deaths in this period, marginally lower than yesterday's 511.