May 2021
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PM asks states to observe COVID ''vaccine festival'' from Apr 11-14
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said states should observe a ''vaccine festival'' between April 11-14 to inoculate the maximum number of eligible beneficiaries against COVID-19 even as Health Minister Harsh Vardhan called for an end to "fear mongering" about shortage of vaccines after some states complained of lack of supplies. The calls by Modi at yet another interaction with chief ministers where they were urged to strengthen efforts for the next 2-3 weeks to check the spread of the virus on a "war-footing", and Vardhan came on a day when the daily count of new COVID-19 cases hit a record high of over 1.26 lakh. The prime minister also lamented that administration was appearing lax in many states. Modi asked the chief ministers to focus on micro-containment zones and reiterated his call to work on the mantra of test, track, treat besides pushing COVID-appropriate behaviour and COVID-management to bring down the peak. He asked states to not bother much about positive cases and focus on more testing.

"Our efforts should be to inoculate maximum eligible people during the ''Tika utsav'' (vaccination festival) between April 11-14," he said, asking youngsters to help those above 45 years of age to get the jab. April 11 is the birth anniversary of noted social reformer Jyotirao Phule, he noted. Vardhan took to Twitter to say that 9.1 crore vaccine doses have been utilised, while 2.4 crore are in stock and 1.9 crore vaccines are in the pipeline, indicating there are sufficient doses available for all states. Ten states including Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Kerala and Punjab have shown a steep rise in the daily COVID-19 cases accounting for 84.21 per cent of the 1,26,789 new infections, the Union Health Ministry said. The national weekly COVID-19 positivity rate has increased by 6.21 per cent from 2.19 to 8.40 per cent in the first seven days of March and April, it added.

As more states like Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka and the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir imposed night curfew in several districts up to the end of this month, Modi defended this measure saying it has been an experiment globally to contain the COVID-19 spread, and proposed to call the night restriction as "corona curfew" to maintain public awareness about the pandemic. Taking a cue from Modi, Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa used the term "night corona curfew" while announcing this restriction between 10 pm to 5 am in seven district centres including Bengaluru. In his virtual interaction with chief ministers to discuss the pandemic situation and the ongoing vaccination drive, Modi strongly defended the current eligibility criteria for the vaccination amid demand by some states, ruled by opposition parties, to make the shot open for all above 18 years. India''s criteria is no different from the most prosperous countries in the world, and it will have to prioritise the vaccination, he said. As of now, those above 45 years are eligible for the jabs.

With the debate assuming political overtones in some cases, Modi said wryly that those doing politics over the matter may do so but he will not join issue and asked chief ministers to work together with the Centre to prevail over the pandemic. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray told the prime minister that the state was not lagging behind in the fight against COVID-19, and urged him to affirm there should be no politics in this effort. A statement issued by the Chief Minister''s Office (CMO) in Mumbai said Thackeray requested the prime minister to address the leaders of all political parties, asking them to refrain from indulging in politics on the issue. Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said the fight against coronavirus is not a Centre versus state issue and it should not be politicised, Some senior functionaries of the Maharashtra government had recently hit out at the Centre over the alleged low availability of vaccines in their state, inviting a sharp rebuke from Vardhan.

Vardhan on Wednesday accused Maharashtra and some other states of doing politics over the vaccine issue by trying to cover their "failures" and spreading panic among people by demanding vaccination of all without inoculating enough of eligible beneficiaries. Stating that the country had brought down its active cases to 1.25 lakh from 10 lakh earlier with a similar approach, Modi expressed confidence that the nation will win over the crisis as it now has better resources, more experience besides vaccines. Modi said the situation is more worrisome in some states with people becoming much more casual in their behaviour and administration appearing lax in many states. This sudden surge had created difficulties, he acknowledged. "There is a need to improve the governance system. I understand that because of the one-year battle, the system can experience tiredness and there can be laxity, but we must tighten it for 2-3 weeks and strengthen the governance... To stop the spread of the virus, there is a need to work on a war-footing," he added. In his address, Modi underlined that the corona cases have surged past the peak during the first wave and their growth is also higher and mentioned that states like Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat are now reporting more cases than seen in the last year.

"Some other states are also moving in that direction. This is a matter of worry." Minister Vardhan dismissed as "farce" the "hue and cry" by certain states about partisanship by the Centre and called it an attempt to hide their own incompetence, saying non-BJP ruled Maharashtra and Rajasthan figured among the top three states based on allocation of vaccines. "Hue and cry by certain states about partisanship by the Union government is just a farce, an attempt to hide their own incompetence. Maharashtra and Rajasthan are 2 of the top 3 states based on allocation of COVID-19 vaccine doses. "Both are non-BJP governed states," Vardhan said in a tweet. Releasing the figures, he said in another tweet, "Let''s put an end to fear mongering now! #COVID19 vaccine doses: total administered: 9 cr+ In stock/nearing delivery to states: 4.3 cr+ Where does question of shortages arise? We''re continuously monitoring and enhancing supply." Vardhan also said the allegations of vaccine shortage are utterly baseless and the states, including Maharashtra need to improve the implementation of their testing and containment strategies and vaccination drive. He said the "lackadaisical" attitude of the Maharashtra government has "singularly bogged down" the entire country''s efforts to fight the virus.

Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope sought to know why the state was getting fewer number of COVID-19 vaccine doses as compared to some other states, including Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, even as it is leading the vaccination drive and has the highest number of active cases in the country. The ongoing COVID-19 vaccination drive in Mumbai will come to a halt from Friday as the stock of vaccine doses in the city is about to end, Mayor Kishori Pednekar said. Talking to PTI, she said the vaccination drive could continue only if the city receives enough number of doses. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh urged the Centre to give flexibility to states to devise their local strategies for COVID-19 vaccination within the broad parameters of the central government''s approach. In a letter to the prime minister, he also sought a review of norms in order to allow all adults in high-risk areas to be immunized, along with people below the age of 45 suffering from liver and kidney diseases. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel requested the prime minister to allow all people above 18 years to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

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