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Punjab, Himachal to provide free Covid vaccines in govt hospitals starting May 1

The decisions were taken at a high-level Covid review meeting chaired by Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and a state Cabinet meeting in Himachal respectively, on Thursday evening.

By: Express News Service | Chandigarh, Shimla |
April 22, 2021 10:54:42 pm
Punjab COVID-19 cases, Himachal Pradesh COVID-19 cases, COVID-19, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, india news, indian expressA woman receiving a Covid vaccine jab in Punjab. (Express Photo by Kamleshwar Singh/File)

The Punjab and Himachal Pradesh governments on Thursday announced that they will provide free vaccinations to those aged above 18 years in all government hospitals and vaccination centres from May 1 onwards.

The decisions were taken at a high-level Covid review meeting chaired by Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and a state Cabinet meeting in Himachal respectively, on Thursday evening.

Those getting vaccinated in private hospitals will have pay.

Capt’s Covid review meeting

The Punjab government has already been supplying vaccine free of cost to those above 45 in government health facilities. With the Centre extending the vaccination to those aged between 18 and 45 from May 1, Punjab will be providing the vaccine free those within this age group as well.

In view of limited supplies of the vaccine expected initially, the CM constituted an ‘expert group’ comprising eminent virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang, Dr Jacob John, Professor of Community Health at CMC in Vellore and Dr Rajesh Kumar former head, School of Public Health, PGIMER, in Chandigarh to suggest prioritisation in the 18-45 age group.

The CM tasked the expert group to chalk out a vaccination strategy and submit a detailed plan to the state government within a week.

Eminent virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang, who attended the meeting as a special invitee, emphasised the need to have a proper strategy to combat the current second wave of Covid, with geographical saturation in high caseload cities such as Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Mohali, and Patiala besides prioritisation on the basis of medical need (serious co-morbidity) and on the basis of professional groups such as teachers.

The chief minister was informed that the state received 4 lakh more doses of Covishield vaccine from the Centre Thursday. As these were likely to last the state for only 3 or 4 more days as per the pace of the ongoing vaccination drive, he asked the health department to vigorously pursue with the Union government for ensuring requisite supply of more Covishield vaccine besides getting requisite stock of Covaxin doses as well.

Referring to the reports of black marketing of anti-viral drugs like Remdesivir and Tocilizumab in the country, the chief minister said the experts have given clear protocols on the use of such medicines, which must be duly publicised and followed in right earnest.

Health Adviser Dr KK Talwar referred to the World Health Organisation (WHO) studies have shown that Remdesivir may not have any impact on the mortality due to Covid. Further, there were alternatives for Tocilizumab and such information is being regularly shared in the expert group of doctors.

Amarinder directed that the state should, however, continue to procure such drugs for patients who may benefit from their use, and provide the same to the government hospitals and also support the private hospitals, as was already being done.

Cabinet meeting in Himachal

“Although it will be a huge burden on the ex-chequer, the decision (to provide free vaccines) has been made keeping in mind general public welfare. The free vaccine will be provided in government health institutions,” said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Suresh Bhardwaj after a Cabinet meeting in Himachal Pradesh.

“The Cabinet decided to form mobile health teams at the block level to provide better treatment to Covid patients under home isolation. Each team will be given one vehicle exclusively to transfer the serious patients. Moreover, each medical college will now have a dedicated team headed by a senior doctor to monitor Covid cases. Each outsourced employee engaged in Covid duty will be given an incentive of Rs 200 per shift and Covid patients under home isolation will be provided with a nutrition kit,” he said.

Bhardwaj added that deputy commissioners have been permitted to impose Covid-related restrictions in their districts but with prior consultation with the state government.

No night curfew in HP, govt flags ‘fake news’

No night curfew has currently been imposed in Himachal Pradesh, the state government said on Thursday while reacting to fake news about night curfew on the social media.

“News which is being circulated in a certain section of social media regarding night curfew in the state is baseless and devoid of facts. As of now, there is no plan of any night restriction or curfew in the state. Only a few night restrictions have been imposed in Kangra district due to a sudden increase in Covid cases there,” said a government spokesperson, adding that in case there is a sharp surge in Covid cases, the concerned district administrations will make the final call regarding night restrictions in their districts after consulting with the state government.

Other Cabinet decisions

*The services of daily/contingent government workers who have completed or will be completing five years of continuous services as on March 31 or September 30 this year will be regularised against available vacant posts in various government departments

*Services of contractual employees who have completed or will be completing three years of services as on March 31 or September 30 will be regularised in various state government departments

*Similarly, part-time government workers completing eight years of continuous services will be converted into daily-wagers

*19 posts of technical and ministerial staff in newly-opened State Seri Entrepreneurship Development and Innovation Centre at Balichowki in Mandi district to be filled up

*A new government industrial training institute (ITI) with a staff of 26 persons will be opened at Baroti in Dharampur tehsil of Mandi district

*The chief minister and other ministers in the cabinet contributed their one-month salary towards the CM Covid Fund

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