Centre emphasises need to curb proxies ahead of COVID-19 vaccination drive; free jab in Bengal, vows Mamata

The Central government said on Saturday that India will launch its COVID-19 vaccination drive from 16 January, and priority will be given to nearly three crore health care and frontline workers

FP Staff January 10, 2021 22:58:23 IST
Centre emphasises need to curb proxies ahead of COVID-19 vaccination drive; free jab in Bengal, vows Mamata

Representational image. PTI

As part of the preparations for the country-wide rollout the anti- Coronavirus vaccine from 16 January, the Union Health Ministry on Sunday held a virtual meeting with states and Union Territories on the CoWIN software, an online platform for monitoring COVID-19 vaccine delivery.

Ram Sewak Sharma, the chairman of Empowered Group on Technology and Data Management to combat COVID-19 , chaired the meeting and said robust, dependable and agile technology shall form both the foundation and the back-up for the country's COVID-19 vaccination drive.

Sharma also stressed on the caution which needed to be exercised to ensure that there are no proxies during the vaccination drive and that only identified beneficaries are immunised.


The meeting was attended by principal secretaries of states, National Health Mission Directors, state immunisation officers and senior officers of the Union Health Ministry.

The Central Government said on Saturday that India will launch its COVID-19 vaccination drive from 16 January, and priority will be given to nearly three crore health care and frontline workers.

Meanwhile, officials and ministers of several states expressed readiness to carry out the vaccination and detailed the preparations undertaken on Sunday. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said the state government is making arrangements to provide free COVID-19  vaccines to all people of the state while Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain said the AAP government has finalised 89 hospitals as vaccination sites.

Karnataka health minister K Sudhakar said he will volunteer for vaccination in the Centre permits, to instil public confidence in the vaccine.

Health ministry holds meeting on CoWIN

In a meeting to discuss feedback from states and UTs on the CoWIN software and its operational use gathered from the vaccination dry runs, Sharma, also a member of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration of COVID-19 , gave an overview of the CoWIN software and the principles that shall underpin the technology backup for the vaccination exercise.

"The process should be citizen-centric and built on an approach that the vaccine shall be available anytime and anywhere," Sharma was quoted as saying in a statement.

He stressed on the need for flexibility without compromising on quality and reiterated that inclusivity, speed and scalability have been kept in mind while designing the digital platform with all its components being portable, synchronous without excessive and unnecessary dependencies.

Sharma underscored the importance of capturing the vaccination data in real-time, saying it was “non-negotiable."

He also highlighted the caution one needs to exercise to ensure there were 'no proxies' at all, while reiterating that the beneficiaries of the vaccination drive need to be uniquely and undeniably identified.

It is extremely important to clearly identify a person who is getting vaccinated and keep a digital record on who gets vaccinated by whom, when and which one, Sharma stressed.

About the use of the Aadhaar platform, Sharma advised the states to urge the beneficiaries to seed their current mobile number with Aadhaar for registration and consequent communication through SMS.

Vaccine free, says Mamata Banerjee

In an open letter to frontline workers, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said the COVID warriors, including police, home guards, civil defence volunteers, correctional home and disaster management employees, will be administered the vaccine on a priority basis.

"I am happy to inform that our government is making arrangements for reaching the vaccine to all people of the state free of any charge," the chief minister said in the letter.

The chief minister's announcement comes months ahead of the state Assembly elections, which are likely to be held in April-May.

Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani said the state has created a database of 1.2 crore people under four priority groups who will be administered the vaccine as per the Centre's guidelines. Nearly 11 lakh people engaged in COVID-19 duties, including health care and frontline personnel, will be vaccinated on priority, Rupani said, adding, that 16,000 personnel have been trained for administering the shots.

Rupani said six regional depots as well as other infrastructure for the storage and supply of vaccines, including cold chains, have been established.

Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain asserted said 40 government hospitals and 49 private ones in the National Capital will have a vaccination site each. There will be one COVID-19 vaccination centre each in every hospital. Around 10 health care staff will be deployed at each centre, he said.

The first batch of vaccines will arrive by Tuesday or Wednesday and health care workers will be vaccinated in the first phase, Jain informed. “Thereafter, frontline workers and those aged above 50 will be given the doses," Jain told reporters, adding that teachers will be included as frontline workers.

"We are fully prepared to roll out the vaccination programme. We will administer the vaccine as soon as the doses arrive," he said. The minister said the Delhi government has already requested the Centre to provide vaccines free of cost.

While inaugurating a Mukhyamantri Arogya Mela at Sankisa in Farrukhabad, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath said: "The vaccination drive will start from 16 January and we aim to cover each and every person under it. It will also be ensured that all guidelines of the Union government are followed during vaccination.”

The chief minister also reviewed preparations for the drive, the Uttar Pradesh government said in a statement.

Andhra Pradesh health commissioner Katamaneni Bhaskar said the state machinery has successfully completed three dry runs of the vaccination programme so far and everything required for the actual drive has been put in place for a smooth run.

A total of 1,940 sites will be used for the vaccination programme, of which 1,659 have cold chain points within premises. For the rest of the sites, the vaccine will be brought from the nearest cold chain point, Bhaskar said in a release.

A State Vaccine Store was set up at Gannavaram near Vijayawada while four regional stores were opened in Kurnool, Kadapa, Guntur and Visakhapatnam apart from 13 district vaccine stores.

He said 100 health workers would be vaccinated at each session site per day. In the first round only healthcare facilities would be used as session sites and private facilities with more than100 health staff would also be used.

According to the health commissioner, the state requires at least 10 crore doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to be administered to five crore people over a period of eight months. Bhaskar said a total of 1,31,75,000 vials would be required till September 2021. Each vial has 10 doses of the size of the Measles and Rubella vaccines and 25 percent wastage was expected, he said.

“Except in May, the vaccination programme is scheduled to be taken up from January to September 2021 and arrangements have accordingly been made," the health commissioner said.

Rajasthan health minister Raghu Sharma said the state is prepared for the vaccination programme and around 4.5 lakh health workers will be vaccinated in the first phase.

Sharma said the data of 4,36,146 government and private sector health workers had been uploaded on COWIN software till 1 pm on Saturday.

He said the first phase of vaccination will be conducted at 282 sessions sites from 16 January and two of the sites including Jaipur and Ajmer will be interactive.

“Rajasthan is all prepared for the vaccination programme... 3,689 medical institutions in the government sector and 2,969 medical institutions in the private sector have been identified for the vaccination programme in the first phase and 5,626 vaccination parties have been trained,” he said at a press conference.

He said the government has set up three state-level, seven divisional-level, 34 (medical) district-level vaccine stores, and 2,444 cold chain points are functional at community and primary health centres.

Sharma said 18,654 vaccinators have been trained so far. Orientation of 1,66,188 people in 10 categories including public representatives has been done so far, he added.

Karnataka health minister K Sudhakar said the state has two major vaccine storage houses — one in Bengaluru and another in Belagavi and they have a storage capacity of 45 lakh doses of vaccines.

Besides, there are five regional and district level storage facilities, the minister said adding the state has also roped in 900 logistic vehicles to transport vaccines to various parts of the state. The minister noted that the state would get about 13.9 lakh doses of vaccine in the first phase.

"The first batch to take the Covaxin will be the healthcare workers, but if the Government of India allows us to take, I will be the first to get it as a health minister," Sudhakar told reporters during the inspection of the state vaccine store in Bengaluru

Stressing that volunteering for the vaccine was necessary to instil confidence among the people, he said, "See, we have to imbibe, infuse confidence in the public. So, why not (I take it)?".

The minister stated the prime minister will be holding a meeting with all chief ministers on Monday to review the preparedness for vaccination drive.

He added that on Sunday 289 passengers arrived in Bengaluru from the UK and four among them have been found positive for coronavirus .

"Infected persons will be traced and admitted to hospital," he said, adding that a system for effective management of data of passengers arriving at airports has been put in place.

On Saturday, Sudhakar had said that the first flight from the United Kingdom to Bengaluru would come at around 4 am on Sunday.  India had suspended all passenger flights between the UK and India from 23 December to 7 January as a new variant of coronavirus emerged there.

India's coronavirus cases reach 1,04,50,284 

On Sunday, India’s Coronavirus caseload rose to 1,04,50,284 with 18,645 infections being reported in a day, while the recoveries surged to 1,00,75,950, pushing the national COVID-19 recovery rate to 96.42 percent, as per the health ministry’s morning update.

The toll reached 1,50,999 with 201 more succumbing to the disease in a span of 24 hours, the data updated at 8 am showed. The case fatality rate dropped to 1.44 percent. "Less than 300 new COVID-19 deaths are being recorded in the country for the last 16 days," the ministry said.

"India has one of the lowest deaths per million population (109). Countries like Russia, Germany, Brazil, France, the USA, the UK and Italy have much higher deaths per million population," it said.

The COVID-19 active caseload remained below three lakh for the 20th consecutive day. There are 2,23,335 active coronavirus infections in the country which comprise 2.14 percent of the total caseload, the data showed. Recovery of 19,299 patients in 24 hours has led a decline of 855 cases from the total COVID-19 active caseload.

Maharashtra recorded the maximum positive change with an addition of 1,123 cases, whereas Rajasthan shows maximum negative change with a reduction of 672 cases.

Ten states and UTs contributed 79.12 percent of the new recoveries. Kerala saw 5,424 people recovering from COVID-19 in a day, followed by 2,401 in Maharashtra and 1,167 in Uttar Pradesh.

Also, 10 states and UTs have contributed 82.25 percent of the 18,645 new cases recorded in a day across India. Kerala reported 5,528 new cases in the last 24 hours, followed by Maharashtra 3,581 and Chhattisgarh reported 1,014.

The ministry said that 73.63 percent of the 201 fatalities reported in a span of 24 hours were from seven states and UTs. Maharashtra reported the maximum 57 deaths, followed by 22 in Kerala and 20 in West Bengal.

According to the ICMR, 18,10,96,622 samples have been tested so far with 8,43,307 samples being tested on Saturday.

Education ministry recommendations for out of school children

The Education Ministry has asked the states to conduct a door-to-door survey to identify out-of-school children in the 6 to 18 years age group and prepare an action plan for their enrolment as part of efforts to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially on migrants, reported news agency PTI quoting officials.

The ministry has also recommended relaxing detention norms to prevent drop-outs this year as well as a slew of measures to address learning loss due to the coronavirus -induced shutdown of schools, including identifying students across different grades based on their learning levels.

The move is particularly aimed at identification, admission and continued education of migrant children who have been affected during the pandemic, they said.

"In order to mitigate the impact of challenges thrown by the COVID-19 pandemic for out of school children, it was felt necessary for every state and UT to devise a proper strategy for preventing increased dropouts, lower enrolments, loss of learning and deterioration in the gains made in providing universal access, quality and equity in the recent years," a senior ministry official said.

The ministry has also issued guidelines for offering support to students during the closure of schools and when they reopen.  Exploring the option of classroom-on-wheels and classes in small groups at the village level, increasing the access of children to online and digital resources, use of TV and radio to reduce learning losses and ensuring easy and timely access to the provisions of uniforms, textbooks and mid-day meals are among the recommendations made by the ministry for student support during the closure of schools.

Similarly, the guidelines for student support when schools reopen after prolonged closure include preparation and running of school readiness modules and bridge course for the initial period so that they can adjust to the school environment and do not feel stressed or left-out. The ministry has also suggested encouraging children to read books beyond the syllabus and indulge in creative writing and problem solving for ensuring reading with comprehension and numeracy skills.

Large-scale remedial programmes and learning enhancement programmes should be held to mitigate learning loss and inequality, it recommended.

No negative test report for entry Puri Jagannath temple from 21 Jan

Meanwhile, the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) announced that the devotees will not be required to produce COVID-19 negative report for getting entry into the 12th century shrine in Puri from 21 January.

The decision in this regard was taken at a meeting attended by SJTA chief Krishan Kumar, Puri district magistrate-cum collector Samarth Verma and SP KB Singh. At present devotees entering the temple have to show COVID-19 negative report.

Kumar said the decision will remain in force till 21 February and officials added that the temple management committee will
review the situation and take future course of action after that.

But, all the other COVID-19 protocols like wearing of mask, social distancing will continue to be mandatory in the temple, officials said.

The decisions to relax the restrictions (no COVID-19 report) will facilitate more devotees to get a darshan of the deities, officials said.

The Puri Collector Samarth Verma said that special arrangements and queue system will soon be introduced for elderly/senior citizens coming to the Temple. The SJTA and district administration is making arrangements to allow 30,000 devotees to visit the temple on a daily basis from 23 January adhering to COVID-19 protocol, officials said. Verma said the temple will remain closed on Sundays to
carry out sanitisation and disinfection measures.

The temple was opened in a phased manner from 23 December, 2020. While the servitors and their family members were allowed to enter the temple from 23 December to 25 December evening, the local residents of Puri got opportunity to have darshan of the deities between 26 and 31 December .

The temple was finally opened to the public for darshan of the sibling deities - Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath- from 3 January, 2021 adhering to COVID-19 guidelines.

With inputs from PTI

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