Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today he empathised with people's pain and suffering because of Covid and described the virus as an invisible and quick-changing enemy that was challenging the whole world.
"Because of this coronavirus, we have lost people close to us. The pain that citizens have suffered, that many experienced, I am feeling it equally," PM Modi said in his online address at a farmers' event.
"As your Pradhan Sevak, I share your every sentiment."
The country is dealing with an invisible and shapeshifting enemy, he said of the virus that has spawned multiple mutant strains including one that is said to have pushed India's deadly second surge.
"The pandemic, the worst in 100 years, is testing the world at every step. There is an invisible enemy before us."
"The blocks in our resources are being removed on a war-footing," PM Modi said.
He assured that his government's effort was to make sure that maximum people were vaccinated.
"So far, around 18 crore vaccine doses have been given. Government hospitals are giving free shots across the country. So please do get the vaccine when it is your turn," he urged.
"This vaccine will be our shield against the coronavirus and will protect us from serious infection. And even after vaccination, we cannot abandon precautions like masks and social distancing... We will fight and win this battle against Corona."
The Centre has faced fierce criticism in India and abroad over the recent Covid spiral that took the country by surprise, overwhelming its health resources and infrastructure. Amid almost daily reports of crises in the supply of oxygen, beds, vaccines and medicine, PM Modi's government was accused of declaring victory over Covid too soon and failing to anticipate or prepare for the second wave.
The government has been fighting that perception and PM Modi has held a series of meetings over the past few weeks, with Chief Ministers, policy-makers, officials and other stake-holders over the Covid crisis.
The situation has improved in bigger cities like Mumbai and Delhi, but rural areas and parts of south India remain a cause for concern.
PM Modi said: "I want to alert our people living in villages against the growing threat posed by Corona. Corona is spreading fast in our villages too. Gram Panchayats have an important role to play in sensitizing people in villages."
Today, the country reported 3.43 lakh new cases - a dip since yesterday - but the number of deaths remained above 4,000 for the third straight day.