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Free vaccine will cost Punjab Rs 1,000 crore: CM tells PM Modi

CM Capt Amarinder Singh said the new vaccination policy for the 18-plus age group as unfair to the states, and sought Centre-state parity in vaccination for 18-plus age group from May 1, while calling for urgent steps to ensure adequate oxygen supply.

By: Express News Service | Chandigarh |
Updated: April 23, 2021 11:18:56 pm
Punjab covid cases, Punjab news, Punjab positivity rate, Punjab covid deaths, Indian expressCovid testing at the Civil Hospital in Ludhiana on Friday. (Express Photo by Gurmeet Singh)

A day after Punjab decided to give vaccine free-of-cost to all those taking vaccine in government facilities, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh told Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday that Punjab government will have to bear a cost of Rs 1,000 crore for extending this facility.

The Chief Minister said at the rates declared by one manufacturer, the cost to the Punjab government will be over Rs 1,000 crore. He sought central government funding for vaccination, with permission to make the cost a fit charge on SDRF funds in the interim.

He said the new vaccination policy for 18-plug age group as unfair to the states, and sought Centre-state parity in vaccination for 18-plus age group from May 1, while calling for urgent steps to ensure adequate oxygen supply.

Expressing concern over the fact that Punjab had not received any fresh results on viral genome sequencing in the last almost a month, when the last results showed over 85 per cent UK strain, Amarinder urged the Prime Minister to order escalation of efforts to understand the mutations, and their implications for proper policy response.

He also urged the Centre to build a consensus on Covid appropriate behaviour to check the spread of the virus.

He demanded that while his government has adopted all measures to minimize demand for oxygen, given the criticality of it as the most essential drug for treatment of serious Covid patients, the Union government must ensure that all commitments as per the allocation are complied with by liquid oxygen manufacturers in other states.

“Punjab’s supplies come from Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and there are reports of supplies being ‘hijacked’,” he said at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s virtual conference to discuss the Covid situation with chief ministers of the worst hit states.

Regular vaccine supply must be ensured to maintain the supply chain to the last vaccination booth, he further said, adding that due to supply shortage, the vaccination in last one week has been slightly low. While Punjab received fresh supplies yesterday the current stocks can last only 3 days as demand for vaccine is increasing, he stressed.

Amarinder also expressed concern over lack of clarity on the quantity of vaccine to be made available by Centre after May 1, and how the manufacturers will regulate supplies to different states and private purchasers. The state government, on its part, has constituted an Expert Group under virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang to advise on vaccination strategy for 18-45 years, he disclosed.

The Chief Minister also pointed to the shortage and blackmarketing of Covid medicines, which he said was creating great panic in the media and general public.

Citing the increase in the number of cases to around 5,000 per day, with 10 per cent positivity in the last one week, from around 3000 per day with 8 per cent positivity during the last virtual meet on April 8, the Chief Minister urged the Prime Minister to direct central institutions like AIIMS Bathinda, PGI Satellite Centres and Military Hospitals in Punjab to provide additional Covid beds. Pre-fab structures on offer by CSIR could be used for this purpose, he said, pointing to the grave situation in the state, with a case fatality rate of 1.4%.

He pointed out that the state was getting patients from Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, Haryana and Delhi – possibly relatives of local persons.

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