NEW DELHI: With concerns rising over an accelerated spread of Covid-19 during the festival season, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday called for extra vigil and said that no religion or God lays down that religious events must be celebrated in an ostentatious manner. The minister on Sunday urged people to avoid large gatherings and warned that the country may head for “big trouble” if precautionary guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are not followed diligently.
“Extraordinary circumstances must draw extraordinary responses. No religion or God says that you have to celebrate in an ostentatious way, that you have to visit pandals and temples and mosques to pray,” Vardhan said during an interaction with social media followers. On emergency use authorization of Covid vaccines in India, the minister said this will depend on data produced by ongoing trials. “Adequate safety and efficacy data is required for emergency use authorization vaccine approval for ensuring patient safety. Further course of action will depend on the data generated,” he added.
Vardhan also said Feluda test – named after Satyajit Ray’s famous detective – will soon be rolled out to test Covid-19. The test, priced at Rs 500, can deliver a result in 45 minutes. Though active cases have been on the downslide and are less than 9 lakh for the last three days, government experts are worried about an escalation in cases during the festival season along with the onset of winters.
Highlighting the possibility of increased transmission of coronavirus during winters, Vardhan said, “These viruses are known to thrive better in cold weather and low humidity conditions. In view of these, it would not be wrong to assume that the winter season may see increased rates of transmission of the novel coronavirus in the Indian context too.” He emphasized on the need to adhere to Covid-appropriate behavior of wearing masks, especially when in public places, regularly washing hands, and maintaining respiratory etiquette to contain the spread of the diseases. The Centre has also launched a campaign on these lines with Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking a lead on Saturday.
On the issue of how the government plans to roll out Covid-19 vaccines by prioritizing target groups in the entire population, he clarified that it is anticipated that supplies would be available in limited quantities in the beginning. He said, “In a huge country like India, it is critical to prioritize vaccine delivery based on various factors such as per risk of exposure, comorbidity among various population groups, the mortality rate among Covid Cases, and several others.”
India is looking at the availability of several different types of vaccines, of which some may be suitable for a particular age group while others may not be, he added. Categorically denying rumors of government prioritizing young and working-class for the Covid-19 vaccine for economic reasons, Vardhan said, “The prioritization of groups for Covid-19 vaccine shall be based on two key considerations: Occupational hazard and risk of exposure to infection, and the risk of developing severe disease and increased mortality.”