- Situation in certain states, including Delhi, has given rise to concern
- Since last week, the Centre has rushed special teams to eight states
- PM Modi has asked Chief Ministers to share feedback on Covid strategy
Here are the top 10 points in this big story:
"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 cold storage facilities," PM Modi said amid reports of the Oxford vaccine showing 90 per cent efficacy in late-stage trials..The vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India has promised 50 per cent of all doses for the domestic market.
Warning the states not to let any laxity creep in, PM Modi asked them to work towards bringing the positive rate to less than 5 per cent and the fatality rate to under 1 per cent."We need to speed up our efforts to reduce transmission of the virus. Testing, confirmation, contact tracing and data must be given top priority," he 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 co-morbid conditions in the fourth stage," Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said.
Chief Ministers of eight worst Covid-hit states -- Maharashtra, Kerala, Delhi, Bengal, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh -- had attended today's meeting.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said his state has cut out the Rapid antigen tests whose results are often inaccurate. All Covid tests being conducted in the state are RT-PCR and the number has touched 30,000-plus every day. Rajasthan said it is also taking other precautions, including a ban on crackers, law on mask usage, night curfew, restraint on gatherings.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal attributed the current surge in Covid cases to air pollution and sought the Prime Minister's intervention to stop stubble burning in the neighbouring states. "The high severity of third wave is due to many factors. Pollution is an important factor," Mr Kejriwal said at the meeting.
At the meeting, the Prime Minister also hit out at Congress's Rahul Gandhi, who has recently criticised the government over the vaccine issue. Without naming him, PM Modi accused him of "playing politics", sources said. "We cannot decide when the vaccine will come. It is not in our hands, It is the scientists who are dealing with the issue," sources quoted PM Modi as saying. "Some people are playing politics over it. Nothing can stop anyone from playing politics," he had added.
Delhi, where Covid cases have been on a surge since the last week of October, logged 4,454 cases over the last 24 hours owing to the customary low number of tests over the weekend. The number of deaths in the national capital touched an all-time high of 121, pushing the total number of fatalities to 8,512. This is the sixth time in the last 12 days that the daily number of deaths has crossed the 100-mark.
Ahead of today's meetings, PM Modi had issued directions for a time-bound action plan for speedy regulatory clearances and timely procurement for early rollout of the vaccination drive. The government is readying a database of healthcare and frontline workers, procuring syringes, needles, and the augmenting the cold chain and transportation mechanism.
The country recorded 37,975 fresh COVID-19 infections over 24 hours -- 13 per cent below yesterday's figures -- government data showed this morning. The country also reported 480 Covid-related deaths in this period, marginally lower than yesterday's 511. The overall coronavirus count now stands at 91.77 lakh, with 1,34,218 fatalities.