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Health, frontline workers to get covid vaccine first: PM Modi to CMs

The Prime Minister says that it is the ‘duty’ of the nation to vaccinate frontline workers first. He also stresses the need for the vaccine distribution system to be transparent to allay the fears of many Indians.

Brijesh Pandey & Sabyasachi Roy Chowdhury

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P rime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said that health and frontline workers would get priority in getting the Covid vaccine when it arrives. Seeking better Centre-state cooperation for a seamless vaccine distribution mechanism, PM Modi subtly showed his displeasure over the politics being played visà-vis the issue. “Our priority is to make vaccine available for all. States should put in the necessary mechanism including cold storage,” he said.

PM Modi said this while chairing a meeting with CMs of all states and UTs via video conferencing, to review the status and preparedness of Covid-19 response and management, with special emphasis on eight high focus states Haryana, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and West Bengal.

The Prime Minister, during the interaction, made it amply clear that it is the “duty” of the nation to vaccinate frontline workers first. He also stressed that the vaccine distribution system must be transparent, to allay the fears of many Indians.

The Prime Minister also mentioned how the reaction of people to the situation of pandemic can be broken down to four stages. “The first was of fear, when people reacted in panic. The second stage saw cropping up of doubts about the virus, when several people tried to hide that they had been afflicted by it. The third stage was of acceptance, when people became more serious about the virus and displayed greater alertness. In the fourth stage, with increasing recovery rate, people have developed a false notion of security from the virus, thus leading to rise in instances of negligence. Prime Minister emphasized that it is of utmost importance to increase awareness about the seriousness of the virus in this fourth stage.”

PM Modi reassured that the government is keeping a close watch on the development of vaccines and is in contact with Indian developers and manufacturers, along with global regulators, governments of other countries, multilateral institutions and international companies. He added that it will be ensured that the vaccine for citizens will meet all necessary scientific criteria. He underlined that just like the focus in the fight against Covid has been on saving each and every life, the priority will be to ensure that the vaccine reaches everyone.

The PM said that the priority of vaccination is being decided in consultation with the states. The requirements of additional cold chain storages have also been discussed with the states. He asked the Chief Ministers to ensure regular monitoring of the State Level Steering Committee and state and district level task force to ensure better results. He forewarned that past experience tells us several myths and rumours are spread around vaccines. Rumours about side effects of the vaccine may be spread. He emphasised that such attempts need to be tackled through spreading greater awareness by taking all possible help including civil society, students of NCC, NSS and the media.

He said that it is important to increase RT-PCR tests, ensure better monitoring of patients, especially those inhome isolation, better equip health centres at village and community level and keep running awareness campaigns for safety from the virus. He said the target should be to bring down the fatality rate below 1%.

The Prime Minister also hit out at some leaders, who has recently criticised the government over the vaccine issue. “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 added.

Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani said: “The 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.”

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal informed the Prime Minister that Delhi saw a peak of 8,600 cases on 10 November in the third peak. Since then, cases and positivity rate are steadily decreasing. He 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,” Kejriwal said. The CM also sought reservation of additional 1,000 ICU beds in Central government hospitals till the third wave lasts.

Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray said he is in a constant touch with Adar Poonawalla of Serum Institute and that the state has formed a task force to ensure timely distribution of vaccine and executing the vaccination programme.

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee said on Tuesday that the state government will collaborate with the Centre in the implementation of the vaccination programme. She added that figures in her state reflected the fact that hers was a border state with patients coming in from Bangladesh and Bhutan and also from other Indian states.

Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel said that his state had already set up 630 cold chain points, with 80 more to be set up with a capacity of 85,000 litre storage. His state had also put in place 8,192 vaccinators and 27,931 spot workers for the endeavour.

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The decision to bring out the new combat dress for the force was taken at the recently held Army Commanders’ Conference, the officials said. These camouflage uniforms would be totally different from the existing dress and the shirts would not be required to be tucked in by troops. The new camouflage dress would include a mix of colours including earthen and olive.

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“WHO continues to call on all countries to optimize public health and social measures and ensure that high risk and vulnerable individuals in all countries are fully vaccinated,” Tedros said at a press briefing. Tedros suggested against blanked ban on travel and said the variant can be kept in check by mandatory quarantine of international travellers.

On Thursday, the Omicron variant was reported to have reached 24 countries, including Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Press Agency said the citizen carrying the variant came from a North African country.

Amid the scare, the government made RT-PCR mandatory at Delhi airport, for all flyers coming from abroad.

Tedros said: “We are learning more all the time about omicron but there is still more to learn about its effect on transmission, severity of disease and the effectiveness of tests therapeutics and vaccines.” Tedros was keen to call on all countries to rational proportional risk reduction measures in keeping with international health regulations, this includes measures to delay or reduce the spread.

“Several WHO advisory groups have met over the last couple of days to evaluate the emerging evidence, and prioritise the studies needed to answer these questions,” he added. Amid the new variant, many countries have imposed ban on travel since the new strain was discovered at the end of last week.

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The Union Minister mentioned the point as it was the major concern of various Opposition parties. Shekhawat said 90 per cent of India’s dams are built on inter-state rivers. He explained that when water is released by a state then the states downstream are affected due to this. “There have been several efforts undertaken to ensure a national body on dams has been constituted since the last 40 years. The Centre is trying to ensure that the body is constituted to ensure dam safety,” Shekhawat said.

The Bill proposes the constitution of the National Committee on Dam Safety and the National Dam Safety Authority. The National Committee on Dam Safety will form policies and recommend regulations to the National Dam Safety Authority.

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According to the official, 6,327 tourists had visited Kashmir in November 2020 which is way lower than the current figure of nearly 127,000. Director, Tourism Kashmir, Dr G.N. Itoo said, “On the direction of the LG, we conducted some of the iconic festivals like houseboat festival, the Sufi festival in which the national level celebrities had participated and also literary festival because of which a buzz was created at the national as well as the international level. So the tourists from all over the world preferred visiting Kashmir. Almost 1,27,000 tourists have visited in November and almost 93,000 tourists have visited in October. It is the first time in the past 7 years, that tourists in such large number have turned up in October and November.”

Itoo further said that this is the result of a vigorous campaign including the roadshows in the country to promote tourism in Kashmir along with other measures to attract the tourists after the second wave of Covid-19. “The department has started a vigorous promotional campaign after the first wave of Covid-19. We have conducted almost 21 roadshows within the country. When the second wave hit the country, we vaccinated all the members of the tour and travel fraternity as a confidence-building measure,” he said.

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During the summit, the leaders will review the state and prospects of bilateral relations between the two nations and will discuss ways to further strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries. The last India-Russia annual summit took place in 2019 during the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Vladivostok city in Russia. The annual summit could not take place in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic situation.

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