As mercury falls below freezing point, Kashmiris with chest problems have nowhere to go - The Daily Guardian
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As mercury falls below freezing point, Kashmiris with chest problems have nowhere to go

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Hundreds of old people, including a large number of women, are facing a new problem as the Chest Disease Hospital of Srinagar, situated at Dalgate, is a Covid-designated hospital and they have nowhere to go.

With mercury falling below the freezing point, it is an alarming situation for all those having problems related to the chest and these problems get multiplied due to the cold wave.

“I came twice with my parents to Chest Disease hospital of Srinagar but was sent back by doctors asking me to buy oxygen cylinders for them and to keep them at home,” said Muhammad Afzal Malik of Kulgam who is now treating his parents at home instead of in the hospital.

Reports said that dozens of patients who need hospitalization having low oxygen levels and other brochette problems, have no hospital available and many of them even avoid coming for day consultation due to the Covid patients being treated in the same hospitals.

Most of the J&K health services officers refused to comment and Director Health Services was not available for any comments over this situation in the Chest Disease Hospital of Srinagar.

According to the MET official, on Friday mercury plunged by two degrees in Srinagar, while the minimum temperature elsewhere in the valley stayed mostly 10 degrees below freezing point.

According to the MET official Srinagar recorded minus 7.7 degrees Celsius while the Qazigund known as gateway of Kashmir recorded a minimum of 10.8 degrees Celsius down from minus 10.5 degrees Celsius.

Gulmarg Ski resort and Pahalgam health resort continued to witness further dip in sub-zero temperatures while the rest of the valley including all the border districts especially Baramulla minus 13.4 degrees Celsius.

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TIME TO CALL OFF RALLIES AND MASS RELIGIOUS GATHERINGS

Priya Sahgal

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I am sure this is the one irony that has not escaped any citizen of India. As state after state announces lockdowns and curfews, we are all staring at the picture of the kumbh Mela going on in full swing, violating all norms of social distancing. Not to mention the election rallies in West Bengal. The politicians make these decisions, and it is the ordinary citizens that suffer. We are told that the lockdown could not have been avoided. Is that really the case? And what is worse, in some cases, the rules keep changing without even a day’s notice. After office-goers have left for work, suddenly at mid-day they get a notice that there will be a curfew from 10 pm, or in some cases as in Uttar Pradesh, from 8 pm that same evening. How do they rush back home in time without making prior arrangements? What about those who have the evening shifts? How can our politicians be so callous towards a population that’s hit the hardest during these Covid times, ie the salaried class? 

Yes, there is a crisis. We have all heard and seen the horror stories of beds being unavailable, of lines of ambulances filled with patients inside waiting to be admitted, of vaccinations running out, of key medicines like Remdesivir being unavailable, of cremation grounds running out of wood. As a journalist, in one day I got three frantic calls. One from a friend asking me if I could “arrange” Remdesivir for his dad as the hospital he was admitted to had run out; the second from a doctor friend asking if I knew anyone who could help him get plasma for a patient; and the third incident happened when I went to the neighbourhood chemist where the customer (who it turns out was a doctor from a nearby hospital) was desperately waving a chit in front of the chemist saying he needed this “Covid medicine” but the chemist had no solution. As he told the doctor, “Daam toh baad mein negotiate karna, medicine black mein bhi nahin milega” (Forget negotiating the price, the medicine is not available even in the black market). 

And try booking something as simple as a routine blood test. In the capital, the wait to get a Covid test done is at least four days (and then the additional wait for the results). But overstressed labs now cannot even handle routine blood tests. Once again as is what happened last year, routine and in some cases life-threatening ailments are being ignored to handle the Covid onslaught. Most labs have drive-in centres for Covid testing to take the pressure of house calls but while the timing of these is from 10 am onwards, the slots are all filled up by 10.02 am.

It is easy to blame the politicians and trust me they do deserve a fair share of the blame for not preparing for this second wave. We saw it in Europe, in the UK and even China so we should have expected this. And done the needful instead of opening up Kumbh Melas and other such super-spreader events. And what about the Election Commission that is still to crack down on rallies with crowds without masks being addressed by mask-less leaders on the dais. In fact, even as I write this, there is a plea to club all the remaining phases of the West Bengal polls in one phase, at the first available date and end this dangerous exercise. However, let’s see if this plea pricks the EC’s conscience. 

Like I said, it is easy to blame the politicians—but what about the rest of us? In the midst of this rising second wave, we hear that parties are still taking place; in fact, the beginning of the second wave happened soon after the Holi festival (just as we saw a rise in cases after Diwali). In the capital itself, a young 35-year-old lawyer hosted a dinner after which all his 45 guests tested positive for Covid. The lawyer himself needs critical care as he didn’t make the vaccine age group. 

Even those who have got their shots feel as if they have been given a magic wand to party. Now this is not the case as we all know now. Some doctors feel that because the virus is mutating so rapidly the vaccinations cannot handle the mutations; others claim that while the vaccine does not give you 100 percent protection it does make the attack milder. But the truth remains: A vaccine is not a “get out of Covid-free card. Double masks, hand sanitising and social distancing are. And please call off the rallies and mass religious gatherings. For the love of God, if not for the love of your fellow citizens this is a plea that needs to be heard by our vote-bank hungry politicians. It doesn’t matter what my religion is, I am making this prayer as a concerned citizen of India.

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PM MODI’S UNRELENTING FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19

The mammoth vaccination drive, the quick manufacturing and imports of required supplies, the PM CARES Fund, the schemes launched to provide for the needy during last year’s lockdown—all point towards the dedicated efforts of the Modi government to counter the deadly pandemic. However, there are some state governments not willing to be equal and responsible stakeholders in this fight against the pandemic.

Sanju Verma

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Amid India’s second Covid-19 wave, a question which is being asked often is if the state elections and political rallies could have been avoided. The hard fact is that under the Representation of People’s Act,1951, elections to State Assemblies due for expiration can indeed be postponed, but only for six months. That too, if only there is a national emergency. However, had the Modi government declared a full-fledged political lockdown, banning the Assembly elections for six months, the entire Lutyens’ cabal would have been up in arms, calling a Covid-induced halt on elections an upturning of democracy. What about virtual rallies instead of mammoth physical gatherings, some are asking? Well, reportedly, the Election Commission had suggested virtual rallies but the proposal was struck down by a debilitated Opposition that felt that virtual rallies would give the BJP an added electoral advantage due to its massive social media presence. Also, under Article 326 of the Indian Constitution, the decision to hold elections and the modalities thereof are vested with the Election Commission, an autonomous body which has nothing to do with the BJP whatsoever. Hence, for opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee to question the need for physical political rallies is nothing short of unfettered hypocrisy.

Of late, a false narrative is also being peddled by a vanquished Opposition, leftist academicians and self-styled experts. According to it, the Modi government has not done enough to stem the rising second wave of Covid, which is again an absolutely baseless allegation. Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, with efficacy of 91.6%, and to be manufactured in India by Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, is the third Covid vaccine approved in India after Covaxin and Covishield. More Covid vaccines such as Novavax, Zydus Cadila’s vaccine and Bharat Biotech’s intranasal vaccine are also likely to receive the Modi government’s nod soon to ensure adequate supply for India’s mega vaccination drive, amid the surge in cases. Till April 15, 2021, 832 million doses had been administered globally, at an average of over 18.6 million doses per day, across 152 countries, with the USA administering 195 million doses at an average of 3.35 million doses per day. India, with over 117 million doses, has the highest vaccination rate globally, at over 4 million doses per day. While it took India only 85 days to vaccinate 100 million people, it took the USA 89 days and China102 days, to vaccinate the same number of people. Hence, allegations that the pace of inoculation is slow in India are also completely unfounded.

The issue at this stage is not a supply side one, but a governance-centric one. Eight out of the ten high-risk zones reporting the highest number of daily cases are from Maharashtra, Delhi and Chhattisgarh. Maharashtra has had the unique distinction of wasting 5 lakh vaccine doses due to improper planning by the inept state dispensation. Maharashtra, with an average weekly positivity rate of 24.7%, Delhi with 20%, and Chhattisgarh with a positivity rate of over 30.63%, account for well over 50% of India’s active caseload and over 50% of overall nationwide mortalities. To conveniently blame the Modi government for inadequate supplies when the problem is actually that of inadequate management by some of the Opposition-ruled states reeks of an irresponsible attitude. For instance, despite adequate supplies of Remdesivir being made available by the Central Government and a ban on its export, the thriving black market for the drug in Maharashtra has led to its prices skyrocketing, with a vial costing as high as Rs 50,000, despite the official price being between Rs 900 and Rs 3,500.

Another glaring example of gross mismanagement is seen in Punjab. On February 3, 2021, Punjab had only 2,122 active cases. Two months later, that number exceeded 28,250. In fact, with a weekly positivity rate of over 13.8%, Chandigarh, like Maharashtra, is a textbook case of how shoddy governance can cause irreparable damage. Chhattisgarh, another Congress-led state, even refused to use Covaxin, despite it being given Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by DCGI, thereby promoting fear and vaccine hesitancy among its people. It is pertinent to note here that despite having a population that is half the size of Gujarat, Chhattisgarh has witnessed more Covid mortalities than Gujarat. Similarly, West Bengal has half the population of Uttar Pradesh, but has seen a higher number of Covid deaths. Unfortunately, large swathes of the biased, leftist media in India are unwilling to call out the incompetence of either Uddhav Thackeray, Amarinder Singh or Bhupesh Baghel. Let the truth be told—the BJP-governed states have done a far superior job than non-BJP-ruled states in handling and tackling Covid-19.

Another false narrative is the one surrounding the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM-CARES) Fund that was launched in 2020. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs had clarified that any company’s contributions to the PM-CARES Fund, over and above the minimum prescribed corporate social responsibility (CSR) expenditure, could be offset against that company’s CSR obligations of subsequent years. Further, any contribution made to the PM-CARES Fund before March 31, 2020 qualified for 80G exemption under the Income Tax Act, 1961 (I-T Act). For contributions made, with effect from April 1, 2020, all those companies that have chosen to stay within the old tax structure would be eligible for this benefit. Further, the government has stated that the PM-CARES Fund will be audited by one or more qualified independent auditors who will be appointed by the trustees. Hence, claims from opposition leaders like Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee that this fund lacks transparency are simply for fearmongering and creating unnecessary confusion in the minds of people when they are rallying strongly behind PM Modi as he leads both India and the world in the biggest fight in 103 years—the fight against the Chinese Wuhan virus.

But was PM-CARES needed when we already had PMNRF, some have been asking? The simple answer to that is, the PMNRF was initially established as a deemed trust to assist displaced persons from Pakistan through public contributions by Jawaharlal Nehru. Assistance from PMNRF, besides dealing with natural calamities, is also rendered to partially defray the expenses for medical treatment like heart surgeries, kidney transplantation, cancer treatment, acid attacks, etc. However, with the launch of Ayushman Bharat, the biggest healthcare scheme globally, such needs that were earlier looked after by PMNRF have now been minimised. Also, PMNRF, which always had the Congress president as one of its key trustees, still has many remnants of the decrepit Nehruvian ideology associated with it. On the other hand, PM-CARES, set up as a public charitable trust, is an emergency fund that is entirely dedicated to the fight against Covid, and to that extent, has a very specific, targeted approach, which is the need of the hour. It is bereft of any dynastic or “high command” style culture, typical of the Congress. It is completely within the bounds of the law, transparent, and additionally, it will not have the overarching hand of or interference from the Congress, whose track record, in any case, in the past six decades of governance, has been rather dubious, opaque and abysmal. 

In effect, India’s vaccine roll-out is not only the largest in the world but also the most affordable, with no compromises whatsoever on any standard operating procedures (SoPs). The PM-CARES Fund will bear the entire cost of the first phase, which will inoculate 30 million or 3 crore frontline Covid workers. Earlier, in June 2020, over Rs 2000 crore was allocated from this fund for the supply of 50,000 ‘Made in India’ ventilators to government-run Covid hospitals in all states and UTs. Out of the 50,000 ventilators, 30,000 were manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited, yet again showcasing India’s indigenous manufacturing prowess. While a jaded, directionless and clueless Rahul Gandhi keeps taking needless jibes at the Modi government, the fact of the matter is that for over six decades India just had 47,000 ventilators, whereas in one go, in June 2020, the Modi government made available 50,000 ventilators to ensure no life is lost for want of life-saving equipment.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s food security scheme for the needy, called the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), provided free ration to 81 crore or 810 million people, every single month for nine months in a row, during the pandemic. Effectively, this means that a population 2.5 times the size of the USA was fed every single month for months together, showcasing the Modi government’s generous, welfarist and people-centric approach. Of late, comparisons between India and Brazil have been abound, which is like comparing apples and oranges. The entire population of Brazil, at 21 crore, is equal to just one state in India, Uttar Pradesh which also has a population of 210 million. However, while Uttar Pradesh, with a population density of 828 persons per square kilometre, has reported about 9,500 deaths, Brazil, with a population density of barely 25 persons per square kilometre, has reported over 3.65 lakh deaths. 

To rein in Covid, super spreader events also need to be controlled. The hue and cry over the Kumbh Mela, without showing any outrage over the massive religious congregations outside mosques in Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad during Ramadan, is sheer hypocrisy. We need to shed our selective outrage to overcome this pandemic. While out-of-work Bollywood starlets are sharing old pictures of the Kumbh at Prayagraj in 2019, there was not even a tiny squeak from them last year, when the Tablighi Jamaat members ran amok, spitting into food and thrashing doctors and nurses. 

Coming to universal vaccination, it is neither practical nor desirable for a country like India, which has 1.38 billion people and a population density of 455 persons per square kilometre. A vaccine is not some kind of a life jacket that can prevent a person from getting infected. However, it certainly reduces the severity of the infection and helps in breaking the transmission chain. It is therefore important to inoculate vulnerable age groups first. Quacks fail to realise that the vaccine has to be given at this stage to those who need it, not necessarily to all those who want it. Not everyone who wants the vaccine needs it! 

India is set to inoculate 300 million people within July this year, which is akin to vaccinating almost the whole of the US or equal to vaccinating the combined populations of Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and France, and in record time! India, with a population over four times that of the USA, has a case fatality rate (CFR) of just 1.25%, the lowest globally, which is noteworthy. In sharp contrast, the US, with a population density of just 36 people per square kilometre, has reported a staggering 31.5 million coronavirus cases and over 5.65 lakh deaths. 

India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has led a frontal, global attack against the Wuhan virus, exporting over 60 million doses to 85 countries via the Gavi alliance. Those arguing that India should not have exported those vaccines should remember that on humanitarian grounds, a global pandemic deserves a collective effort on an international scale, and that is precisely what the Modi government deftly and rightfully engaged in via “vaccine maitri”. Don’t we help neighbouring countries during earthquakes, cyclones or floods? So, why should assistance provided during a debilitating pandemic be viewed any differently? Moreover, most of the exports had been committed to much before the vaccine roll-out, as part of bilateral agreements between India’s vaccine manufacturers and the Gavi alliance. Gavi is a public-private partnership that provides about 50% of the world’s children with vaccines.

In the final analysis, having a calibrated approach is the right thing at this stage. India’s mega vaccination drive is centred around “Education, Emergency Response and Enforcement”. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commendable war against Covid has been indefatigable and unrelenting, states need to be equally responsible stakeholders now. Remember, health is a state subject and while policymaking and procuring and distributing the vaccine are things that the Central Government has graciously decided to take charge of, enforcing Covid protocols and administering the vaccine without wastage is a localised issue which state governments have to be responsible for. India is a union of states, not a confederation of states. What this implies is that states have adequate powers at their disposal. Clearly, the Modi government is doing more than its fair share. Should the states not chip in too? For instance, is it fair on the part of Chhattisgarh or Maharashtra to indulge in criminal lethargy, leaving hapless citizens at the mercy of a negligent and insensitive regime, with the respective Chief Ministers having lost the plot completely? Is it not moral turpitude on the part of the mainstream media to always look for reasons to take jibes at the Central Government, but conveniently looking the other way and not question Arvind Kejriwal?

At a time when Delhiites need beds and oxygen, why is Chief Minister Kejriwal busy spending hundreds of crores on futile advertisements that jump at you every few minutes from television screens? To cut to the chase, Prime Minister Modi has done an outstanding job and will continue to relentlessly fight back against Covid, but other stakeholders need to wake up and smell the coffee too!

The author is an economist, national spokesperson for the BJP and the bestselling author of ‘Truth & Dare: The Modi Dynamic’. The views expressed are personal.

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HOW EDUCATION UPLIFTED THE LIFE OF TRIBAL GIRL PURNIMA

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“Education is the third eye of a child,” as rightly told by Prof Achyuta Samanta, Founder – KIIT University and KISS and now we feel it. KISS is the world’s largest residential tribal University, home to 30,000 indigenous students who are provided nutrition, holistic, formal, and vocational education from KG to PG free of cost. It was established in 1992-93 by renowned educationist and social activist Prof Dr Achyuta. It is the embodiment of empowerment of the marginalised, underprivileged students who have become change agents for their communities.

Purnima Singh is one such example. She is the daughter of Suna Singh and Minati Singh of the Bhumija tribal community in the Mayurbjanj district of Odisha. She had spent her childhood days in the Khalia village of Balasore district at her maternal uncle’s place. Time took a U-Turn in her life as her mother came back to her maternal grandfather’s house with her and her three months old brother. She was a victim of domestic violence. Purnima’s father Suna is a chronic alcoholic and used to physically abuse her mother regularly.

Her mother had no idea how to bring up her two small children amidst acute poverty and deprivation. Problems multiplied as she was incapable of working hard enough to make both ends meet. Further, as ill-luck could have it her mother became the victim of scorn and physical abuse even at her own father’s place.

A ray of hope started shining for Purnima’s mother when she came to know about KISS from other villagers and its mission to provide quality education to disadvantaged children. She heaved a sigh of relief to know that children from marginalised communities are provided with free formal/ vocational education, lodging, boarding and other facilities at KISS. She somehow got Purnima admitted with the help of villagers. Simultaneously, she migrated to Tamil Nadu to work in a factory with her little infant son.

Purnima is a class VI student at KISS. In addition to formal education, it has also introduced her to life skills, develop her culture and craft. She is hopeful about the future and has nurtured dreams of ending the sorrow of her suffering mother by studying hard. In the summer vacation, like many of her classmates, Purnima never goes to her village. Since her mother could not come back from Tamil Nadu so her uncle and aunt visit her during the Guardians Meet at KISS.

She hopes to become a change agent for many disadvantaged children of her community and village. Purnima feels indebted to Prof. Achyuta who has played the role of a father figure by handholding her to change her fate. During the pandemic, Purnima’s mother came back to the village and she is staying with her. Purnima says that the regular supply of study materials and food items at her doorstep by the KISS authorities at the behest of Achyuta sir has helped her family to survive. She hopes to return to KISS at the end of the pandemic and pick up the pieces of life anew.

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CAPT AMARINDER SHOWCASES PUNJAB AS SAFEST PLACE TO DO BUSINESS

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Reiterating the firm commitment of the State government in facilitating investments from Japan through the Invest Punjab, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday highlighted his vision of having a “Little Japan” in Punjab that builds upon the current thriving presence of over 100 Japanese business establishments in the state.

In his virtual address to the ‘Indo-Japan Investment Symposium: Investment Opportunities in the State of Punjab’ organised by the Japan Desk at Invest Punjab in coordination with the Embassy of India, Tokyo, the Chief Minister pointed out that Punjab is the safest place to do business having witnessed no lockouts and strikes in the last 30 years.

“Invest Punjab has been rated as the “Top Performing” State IPA by Government of India and a dedicated Japan Desk has been formed at Invest Punjab for facilitating Japanese investors willing to invest in the State and would be the ‘matchmaking’ platform for Japanese and Punjab based companies”, asserted Capt Amarinder.

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PUNJAB POLICE BUSTS ILLEGAL WEAPON MANUFACTURING AND SMUGGLING MODULE

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In a major bust of illicit Pistol manufacturing and supply racket, the Punjab Police on Friday busted an inter-state illegal weapon smuggling module with the arrest of three Madhya Pradesh-based Arms suppliers involved in large scale illegal manufacturing and supply of weapons from MP into Punjab as well as other States.

The arrested persons have been identified as Crore Singh and Ram Singh Patwa, both residents of village Pachori at Burhanpur district in Madhya Pradesh while Chander Pal belongs to village Khakhnaar in the same district. The accused persons were arrested on 15 April by the Amritsar Rural Police during a special operation carried out at the Burhanpur district of MP.

The Police have also recovered 30 illegal Pistols including twenty-five .32 bore Pistols, five .30 bore Pistols and thirty-two magazines from the trio besides recovery of an Alto Car and a Splendor Motorcycle.

DGP Punjab Dinkar Gupta said that acting on specific inputs, a Police team from Amritsar Rural led by ASP Majitha Abhimanyu Rana and DSP Detective Gurinder Nagra arrested Crore and Chander from near the Bus Stand in Burhanpur on 10 April. Ten .32 bore Pistols and ten magazines were recovered from their possession while the third accused Ram was nabbed from near Gurudwara Badi Sangat in Burhanpur along with fifteen .32 bore Pistols, five .30 bore pistols and twenty-two magazines.

The DGP said that Ram had revealed that the weapons consignment had been supplied to him by Rahul, a notorious MP-based weapons manufacturer and smuggler, who has figured earlier also in seizures of weapons consignments by Punjab Police within the last six months. The DGP thanked DGP MP for the support provided by the Madhya Pradesh Police to the Punjab Police in carrying out the above arrests and huge weapon recoveries. DGP Punjab had personally requested DGP MP to assist in the above operation.

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KARNATAKA CM REINFECTED, OVER 1 LAKH ACTIVE COVID CASES

R. Jayaprakash

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On a day when Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa called for an emergency meeting involving the Health Minister and senior bureaucrats to take stock of the Covid situation, little did he know that he would be spending the rest of the day in the hospital after getting reinfected. The 76-year-old Lingayat strongman has tested positive for the second time in the last eight months and is currently being treated at the Manipal Hospital in Bengaluru. On Friday, speculation was rife after the call for an emergency meeting at the official quarters that Karnataka would see further restrictions to break the chain in the form of weekend lockdown and what not. After an hour and half of the meeting, all that came out was that existing restrictions of night curfew in seven districts would continue and on 20 April he would review the situation. Now as far as the Covid caseload is concerned, there were 14,859 fresh cases and 78 deaths on Friday, taking the total number of active cases to 1,07315 with the positivity rate at 11.11%. When it comes to Bengaluru, the city has been logging over 8,000 fresh cases daily with 9,917 cases on Friday and 57 deaths. Speaking to reporters after the meeting with Chief Minister, Health Minister Dr Sudhakar said that a range of issues were discussed including ramping of medical infrastructure, availability of oxygen cylinders, stocks of Remdisvir drugs, setting up of covid care centres in all districts and taluks and also vaccination programme. “The technical advisory committee had given a detailed report on the second wave and also its recommendations to contain the situation. The government is doing whatever is required to mitigate the situation. We will review the situation again in a couple of days. We have enough stocks of vaccines to last for a week and after which we will receive another batch,’’ he said. Karnataka Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai, who is said to be in the closed coterie of BSY, too reviewed the situation and warned distributors to not hoard Remdisvir drug and create artificial scarcity. “We are closely monitoring the situation. Increasing cases are a big worry but there are no plans of lockdown. over 60% cases are from Bengaluru. We are focused on micro containment zones. If the caseload increases further, we will go for larger containment zones and seal down. We will give charge of these containment zones to senior officials to manage them.”

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