Prime Minister Narendra Modi today warned the nation against any laxity in the vigilance against coronavirus ahead of a series of Hindu festivals like Navratri, Diwali and Chhath Puja — an exercise of caution he had forgotten to urge before thousands of Muslims flocked to every market for shopping for the two Eids as coronavirus infection was peaking in the country. The prime minister said today all safety measures must be observed till a vaccine for the contagion was found.
In July, a minister from the Indian National Congress (INC) in Maharashtra, Aslam Sheikh, had exerted pressure on the state government to get an exemption from lockdown for Muslims so that they could observe Bakrid “as usual”. He had raised the issue with Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar as well. That flew in the face of the Shiv Sena-NCP-INC government’s apathy towards the Hindu community on which the state government has imposed restrictions before the Ganeshotsav. Today, Prime Minister Modi came across as hardly different.
In a special address to the nation at 6 PM, the prime minister said, “Till the time we get a vaccine shot, we absolutely cannot be complacent about the pandemic”.
India, Prime Minister Modi said, was working on two or three possible vaccines and “we are trying our best to get a vaccine, as is the rest of the world”.
“I want to let you know that once we get a vaccine, everyone will get it in a planned, phased and fast manner,” the prime minister said.
“Till the time we do not get the vaccine, if behave even a little irresponsibly, we can harm ourselves and all those around us. Wear masks, maintain ‘Do gaz ki doori (six-feet distance), wash hands regularly, use sanitisers and do not venture out unless absolutely necessary,” Modi said.
On 18 October, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan had said that two firms — the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech — were expected to begin late-stage clinical trials of their vaccines receiving approval for the same.
A day before, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd and the Russian Direct Investment Fund had said they had received fresh approval for clinical trials of the Russian vaccine.
Last week, Prime Minister Modi had suggested that preparations for distribution of the Covid vaccine should be as thorough as any election.
Access to the vaccine should be “fast” for all members of the population. He asked officials to test out the logistics, including cold storage, monitoring of clinics, and keep the supply of ancillary equipment, like syringes, ready.
Data from the health ministry shows that Covid-19 figures have been tapering off over the last couple of weeks. It dropped to fewer infected people than 50,000 over the last 24 hours for the first time in three months.
Meanwhile, a government-appointed committee has said, with the rider that all safety protocols have to be followed, that by February-end of 2021, the global pandemic of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) — an epidemic in India — will have been controlled with minimal active symptomatic infections.
But if the second wave of infections strikes, the figures can go as high as “up to 26 lakh cases within a month,” the committee said, adding that only 30% of the population has developed immunity so far.
The committee said its apprehensions were borne out by the situation in Kerala where after the recent Onam festival a sharp rise in daily Covid figures were observed. The spike started on September 8 – days after the Onam celebrations that stretched from 22 August to 2 September.
Prime Minister Modi observed today that with the onset of the festive season, people had relaxed their vigilance over Covid-19. “Videos show that people are being irresponsible and not taking the steps advised to a very large extent. This cannot happen,” he said.
“We must not think that things are normal again. You are putting yourselves, your families, children and elders in your home in grave danger by not taking the proper precautions,” the prime minister added.