Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya, on Saturday, held a discussion with principal secretaries and mission directors (National Health Mission) of all major states and reassessed the progress of the covid-19 vaccination drive.

He said the latest achievement in India’s Covid-19 vaccination drive is the completion of the administration of 100 crore doses. India has so far administered 94 crore doses.

He also noted that festivals, usually linked with auspiciousness, joy and large gatherings, if not celebrated with due attention to COVID protocols can hinder the containment of the pandemic. 

“The twin-pronged solution is to follow COVID protocols very strictly and speeding up of vaccination,” said the health minister, citing results of experiments that pegged the number of first dose recipients not developing severe covid-19 to be 96% which rises to nearly 98% for those who have taken both the doses of the vaccine.

Noting that more than 8 crore doses were available with states, he enquired about difficulties, if any, faced by them in boosting the pace of vaccination among the target population. 

States such as Uttar Pradesh, organizing mass vaccination drives, pointed out the comparatively limited supply of Covaxin and its shorter span between the doses as an inhibiting factor.

The minister requested states to augment the pace of vaccine administration.

Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan advised state health administrators to be serious about following COVID appropriate behaviour during festivals and gatherings to prevent an increase in cases. 

The central guidelines that have been issued so far advise ‘No Mass gatherings’ in areas identified as Containment Zones and in districts reporting more than 5% case positivity.

The Centre has advised gatherings with advance permissions and limited people (as per local context) to be allowed in districts with a positivity rate of 5% and below. Relaxations and restrictions will be reviewed based on weekly case positivity.

“People to be strongly discouraged from physical visits and intermingling. Provision for “online darshans” and virtual celebrations to be encouraged. All rituals like effigies burning, Durga Puja pandal, “dandia”, “garbas” and “Chhatt Puja” should be symbolic. Regulation of the number of people allowed to participate in gatherings/ processions. Separate entry and exit points at places of worship and use of common prayer mats, offering of “prasad”, a sprinkling of holy water, etc. to be avoided,” the centre said.

The meeting also discussed prompt utilisation of Emergency COVID Response Package (ECRP) II financial resources provided to states.

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