No New UK Variant Detected in 24 Hours, West Bengal Latest to Announce Free Vaccine

Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Jan 10: While 18,645 new Covid cases were reported in the last 24 hours on Sunday, there was not a single fresh case of the new strain of coronavirus that was first located in the UK and was causing concern because of its reported 70 per cent more transferability, was recorded anywhere in the country.

According to the union health ministry, the total number of Corona cases with the UK variant stood at 90 on Sunday.

After the new strain of Covid-19 detected in the UK, the government had banned flights between India and UK from December 22 which, however, was resumed with restricted schedules from January 8 but with the condition that all the passengers would have to undergo RT-PCR tests both while boarding and disembarking at the two ends.

With the addition of fresh infections, the overall cases in the country reached 1,04,50,284 including 2,23,335 active cases. After 19,299 discharges in the last 24 hours, the cumulative recoveries reached 1,00,75,950. The death toll with 201 more deaths in the last 24 hours climbed up to 1,50,999. At present, there are 64,516 active cases in Kerala, the highest in the country, followed by Maharashtra with 54,129 cases.

Meanwhile, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, facing state Assembly elections in the next few months, on Sunday announced that her government was arranging to provide free Corona vaccines to all residents. “I am happy to announce that our government is making arrangements to facilitate the administration of covid-19 vaccine to all the people of the state without any cost,” Banerjee said.

In an open letter, 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.

The state government has prepared a list of healthcare staff first in line to receive the dosage. For this, Oxford- Astrazeneca’s “Covishield” vaccine is likely to arrive in Kolkata from Pune’s Serum Institute of India soon.

Before Bengal, several states including Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh have announced free vaccines for their citizens once the roll out starts.

He union health ministry which on Saturday announced that the mass vaccination programme in India would be kicked off on January 16, said on Sunday that the Centre had been proactively preparing for the nationwide Covid-19 vaccination drive

Ram Sewak Sharma, the chairman of the Empowered Group on Technology and Data Management to combat Covid-19 and member of the National Expert Group on vaccine administration of Covid-19, while talking about the Co-WIN software which would be the backbone for the vaccination drive, said a “Robust, dependable and agile technology shall form both the foundation and the back-up for the country’s Covid-19 vaccination.

He told a meeting of the empowered group that the vaccination drive should be citizen-centric, and built on the approach that the vaccine shall be available anytime and anywhere. Sharma also stressed on the need to be flexible without compromising on quality. “The inclusivity, speed and scalability have been kept in mind while designing the unique digital platform with all components being portable, synchronous without excessive and unnecessary dependencies,” he reiterated.

The Empowered Group chairperson emphasised on the critical importance of capturing the vaccination data in real time, stating that this was non-negotiable; while the posting of data on the portal may be online or offline in view of connectivity issues being highlighted by few states.

He cautioned the members against proxies and asked them to ensure the beneficiaries were “uniquely and undeniably” identified.

Sharma advised states to urge the beneficiaries to seed their current mobile number with Aadhar for registration and consequent communication through SMS as there cannot be any proxies for Aadhar authentication. He pointed out that it is extremely important to clearly identify the person who is getting vaccinated and keep a digital record on who gets vaccinated by whom, when and which vaccine.

Underlining the magnitude of the task as senior government official pointed out that 23 government departments were being geared up for co-operating and co-ordinating activities to make the massive immunization programme a success.