Uddhav defends curbs in Maharashtra; state to undertake genome sequencing amid vaccine shortage

By PTI
MUMBAI: Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday demanded that every state be allowed to developits own app for the registration of people for COVID- 19 vaccination.

He also defended the existing lockdown-like restrictions in Maharashtra, saying in their absence, active cases would have touched 10 lakh.

In a televised address on the eve of the state’s foundation day, he said the vaccination drive for those in the 18-44 age group will start from Saturday.

Currently, people have to register to receive a COVID-19 vaccine jab through the Co-WIN app of the Centre.

“All states should be allowed to develop their own apps for registration. The state apps can be linked to the main Co-WIN app and this will help streamline the registration process and stop crowding at vaccination centres,” Thackeray said.

He has made this demand in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he added.

“The Co-WIN app had crashed yesterday (as registration for those above 18 began),” Thackeray pointed out.

The state government was all geared up to vaccinate the 18-44 years age group, which numbers around six crore, from Saturday, he said.

“We will need 12 crore doses for this category and we are ready to make one-time payment by cheque to procure them. Today we have got three lakh doses,” the chief minister said.

“We are talking to the Serum Institute, Bharat Biotech and also the manufacturer of Russian vaccine Sputnik. We have been told by the Centre that we will get 18 lakh vaccines in Mayfor the 18-44 group out of which three lakh doses have been received,” he said.

ALSO READ | COVID-19 surge: Maharashtra added as many cases in April as in 196 days

Vaccine doses for the 18-44 age group will be administered as per availability and people should not crowd vaccination centres, he said.

“Register and then go to take the vaccine, otherwise I fear the centres may become COVID-spreaders,” he said.

His government had prepared for a second wave of the pandemic but did not realise it would be so ferocious, Thackeray said.

“We are gearing up to tackle a third wave which is expected in June-July,” he said.

So far 1.58 crore persons in the above-45 years age group have been vaccinated, he said.

The chief minister lamented that though Maharashtra leads in the number of tests and vaccination and has the best health infrastructure, it also has the highest number of positive cases.

He defended the latest lockdown-like curbs, saying they helped stabilise the number of cases.

“If not for the curbs, the number of active cases would have been nine to ten lakh. Due to the curbs, the active cases have stabilised at 6.5 lakh,” Thackeray said.

A Rs 5,500 crore package to provide relief to the poor sections of society in view of the curbs will be implemented, the CM said.

“Complete lockdown may be necessary but I don’t think that situation will arise,” he said.

The government was upgrading oxygen plants and procuring medicine stocks to tackle a third wave, he said.

Mumbai reported 89 deaths due to coronavirus on Friday, the highest one-day toll since June 30 last year, which pushed its fatality count to 13,161, the data released by the civic body said.

With the addition of 3,925 new COVID-19 cases during the day, the city’s infection tally rose to 6,48,624.

This is for the second time this month, the city has reported less than 4,000 cases in a day.

On April 26, it had recorded 3,876 cases.

But the number of deaths has been on the rise in the city over the last few days and Friday’s toll is the highest since June 30 last year, when it had recorded 93 fatalities.

ALSO READ | ‘Journalists be given priority in COVID-19 vaccination’: Editors Guild

On Thursday, Mumbai had reported 4,192 cases and 82 deaths.

With 43,525 tests, the city’s overall test count increased to 54,23,998, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said in its update.

As many as 6,380 patients were discharged from hospitals during the day, which took the number of recoveries to 5,72,431.

Mumbai’s recovery rate is 88 per cent now, it said.

The number of active COVID-19 cases in the country’s financial capital dipped to 61,433 in the last 24 hours from 64,018.

According to the BMC, the city’s average growth rate of COVID-19 for the period between April 23 and 29 is 0.78 per cent, while the case doubling rate is 87 days.

There are 112 containment zones in the city, where 1,017 buildings have been sealed to break the chain of coronavirus transmission.

has decided to send coronavirus samples from the state to the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) for genome sequencing, an official order has said.

Samples of 25 COVID-19 patients from each district will be sent every week to the institute, said a Government Resolution (GR) issued on Thursday.

It also informed that `double mutation’ in the virus that has been found in the country was detected in the samples from Yavatmal and Amravati.

Samples from the two eastern Maharashtra districts had been sent to the B J Medical College in Pune for examination.

The Kerala government had earlier roped in the IGIB, affiliated to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), for genome sequencing, the GR noted.

The study will be conducted in three rounds over three months at an estimated cost of Rs 1.62 crore which would be met from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.

Maharashtra has witnessed a steep increase in coronavirus infections since February.

The daily numbers of new cases, which had declined to as low as 2,000 at one point, are regularly crossing 60,000 now.

Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Friday said that two COVID-19 vaccine makers in the country have told the state government that they could provide up to 18 lakh vaccine doses to the state in the month of May.

He also said that there was no clarity from the Centre over the distribution of vaccines to the state and private hospitals for vaccinating people in the age group of 18 to 44 years.

Two days back, the Maharashtra government had made it clear that the nationwide exercise of vaccinating people in this age bracket cannot be launched in the state on the first day of May as it does not have enough quantity of vaccines.

ALSO READ | COVID-19: BMC acts against bride-groom kin, hall for marriage in south Mumbai

At present, vaccines of two manufacturers are available in the country – Covishield made by Serum Institute of India (SII) and Covaxin by Bharat Biotech.

“The Union government has announced that it would be buying 50 per cent of vaccines from both the manufacturers. Rest of the 50 per cent vaccines have to be bought by the states, private hospitals and industrial private hospitals,” Tope told reporters.

But if any state places a very high quantity order of vaccines before these two manufacturers, then whom they would supply is a question, he said.

“A question also arises whether the Union government will have to intervene and regulate the whole distribution of vaccines. There is no clarity on how and on what basis vaccines will be distributed to all the states,” Tope added.

The SII has told the state government that it could supply up to 14-15 lakh (Covishield) vaccines in May, whileBharat Biotech’s supply would be around four lakh, the minister said.

“We would get around 18 lakh vaccines. If we limit the number of centres for vaccine distribution, we can maintain consistency in COVID-19 inoculation,” he said.

On the 18-44 age group vaccination drive, Tope said, “Maharashtra CM genuinely feels that the state can start the vaccination drive from May 1.”

May 1 is also the state foundation day, hence he is inclined to start this drive from that day, he said, adding, “But we need to maintain consistency in the drive.”

“There are 4,200 inoculation centres in the state, including some private ones. If the Centre asks us not to carry out vaccination at private hospitals, then we will abide by that order as it is a national programme (for 18-44 age group). Whatever instructions are issued, we will have to implement,” he said.

On a question how the state plans to carry out vaccination of people above 45 years of age, including those who have taken first dose in private hospitals, he said, “If someone has taken the first dose at a private centre, it is necessary for that person to take the second jab as well. That person can take the jab either at a private or a government- run centre.”

Tope said that people should visit the vaccination centres after taking prior appointment.

“It will avoid crowding and everyone will get a dose,” he added.

Every state is reporting a surge in COVID-19 cases, which means there will be more demand for vaccines, he said, adding that the central government needs to come up with some policy so that every state gets an equal share of doses.

Vaccination for the 18-44 age group will start at 19 centres in Pune district from Saturday, a district health official said.

Three of these centres will be in Pimpri Chinchwad, two in Pune city and 14 in rural parts of the district.

In Pune city, the vaccination for this age group will take place at Kamla Nehru Hospital and Rajiv Gandhi Hospital.

Those who register themselves on the Co-WIN portal will be given the vaccine, said a release from the Pune Municipal Corporation.

Vaccination for the above-45 age group will remain closed on Saturday and Sunday on account of non-availability of doses.

“If fresh vaccine stock is received before May 3, the inoculation drive for the above-45 age group beneficiaries will resume,” said the release.

The district administration said that in rural areas, vaccination for the 18-44 age group will take place between May 1 and May 7 at 14 locations, and per day 100 doses will be given at each centre.