Cannot afford to drop guard during festive season, warns health ministry

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Health ministry officials on Thursday warned against any laxity in Covid-19 protocols during the coming festival season, saying that any kind of complacency would be an invitation to the novel coronavirus.

“Irresponsible behaviour can lead to another wave with the same intensity seen during the second wave,” VK Paul, member, health, NITI Aayog, said.

Paul said the government is prepared to face 4.5 to five lakh daily new cases, if such a situation were to arise. As part of preparations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated 35 PSA oxygen plants to the nation. There are 1,200 PSA plants operational and the country will have 4,000 plants when the programme is fully implemented, Paul said.

The country has 8,36,517 Covid-19 dedicated hospital beds, 9,69,885 additional isolation beds in dedicated Covid-19 centres, 4,86,000 beds with oxygen and 1,35,000 ICU beds available at private, state and central government hospitals, he said. Similar preparedness is being ensured in drug stock availability and testing capabilities.

As of now, there are no new variants of concerns detected in the country. There are 280 sentinel sites and 30 labs tracking mutations or variants, Paul said.

He expressed confidence in vaccinating the country by the end of the year, and said the programme is on track with Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin remaining the mainstay.

Zydus Cadila’s vaccine is getting ready to roll out, with training under way to use the applicators for the injection-free ZyCovD vaccine, Paul said. While the Sputnik V vaccine technology transfer has been completed, supplies are limited as the pandemic situation in Russia had worsened.

Bharat Biotech has been carrying out a study on booster shots, and its result is expected in the next few days, he said. There is no issue with vaccine availability, Paul said, urging those eligible to take both doses.

Total vaccinations on Thursday reached 93 crore, with 71% of the population getting their first dose and 27% getting both doses. In five states — West Bengal, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland — vaccination has been less than 60%, and they need to catch up with the national average.

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