June 16, 2021 6:01:31 am
Rejecting the Opposition’s allegations of vaccine profiteering and irregularities in procurement of Fateh kits for Covid patients, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Tuesday said there was no question of the state government making profits amid the pandemic, adding that “quick and unusual decisions have to be taken in an emergency war-like situation”.
All decisions were taken in the interest of the people of the state, and all due procedures were followed, he said, terming media reports on alleged scams as nothing but sensationalism.
Lashing out at Akalis and AAP for “spreading misinformation to further their political ambitions and weakening the state’s war against Covid by raising non-issues”, the chief minister accused the two parties of making a “motivated hue and cry to push their electoral agendas with an eye on the 2022 Assembly elections”.
The CM said he was with his officials 100 per cent on these issues, adding that all the right steps were taken and no amount of “Opposition hullaballoo” can undermine the true intent of his government, which was focused on protecting the lives of the people. “The 40,000-odd doses made available to some private hospitals was a one-time measure as a step to provide some vaccination options to non-priority groups in 18-45 category,” he said, adding that the hospitals were provided vaccines at the price at which they were to buy from manufacturers. He said the decision was taken as there were initially only two private hospitals in Punjab that had managed to procure the vaccine from the 25 per cent quota reserved by the central government. “Students and others travelling abroad needed vaccine urgently, and were willing to pay, so the state government had decided to make it available to private hospitals as an emergency measure,” he said.
“However, since the decision of the government was not being taken in the right spirit, it was withdrawn, but there was no question of any irregularity as the entire money went into the health department’s vaccination fund and was to be used to buy vaccines given free by the state,” he added.
On the issue of Fateh Kits, the CM said it was creditable that the health department, which had been working day and night to provide the best possible care to the people, had ensured timely supplies were ensured even at the peak of the wave. Pulse oximeters were made available in these kits even though there was a shortage as there was no supply from international markets, he said, adding that Punjab in fact managed to purchase these at a lower price than many other states.
“My government has always prioritised human lives and playing politics and spreading misinformation in times of a pandemic is extremely unfortunate and ill-conceived,” said Amarinder.
The state government has distributed 7,475 Fateh kits, covering 80.92 per cent of the currently active cases in home isolation.
Health Secretary Hussan Lal later said that of the 42,000 vaccines given to private hospitals, only 1,300 were used and the remaining had been returned to the state government. The government was asking the Centre to give the unallocated quota of private hospitals to the state, following the revised vaccination policy, as per which the Centre will procure 75 per cent vaccines manufactured. Under the revised policy, GoI will provide vaccine to states and UTs for vaccination of 18+ from June 21, and the same will be given to the people free. Manufacturers have been requested to supply state-procured vaccines before June 21.
On SAD gatherings
Amarinder called large-scale gatherings being organised by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) against the state government a “brazen violation” of Covid safety protocols. “In their desperation for power, Sukhbir Badal and his party colleagues were endangering the lives of the people through such gatherings,” he added.
“Sukhbir & Co. saw scams everywhere because their own government had been seeped in all kinds of scams, and had pocketed crores of rupees at the cost of the people’s hard-earned money,” said the CM.
Vaccinate teachers first
At a Covid review meeting, the CM directed health authorities to start vaccinating teachers, non-teaching staff and students (18-45 age group) of all schools and colleges starting June 21, to enable educational institutions to open safely.
He instructed the department to ensure that all persons with co-morbidities as well as disabilities, and government employees, are vaccinated on priority. Staff in hospitality industry, parlours, service outlets including shops, restaurants, gyms etc. should also be vaccinated at the earliest, he said.
Judicial officers and lawyers should also be prioritised so that normal court functioning can safely resume, said Amarinder, directing the health department to reach out proactively to nursing mothers, who have been declared eligible for vaccination. Expressing concern over the gender gap in vaccination, he directed health experts to identified the reasons and rectify the situation.
The CM also ordered ward and village wise campaigns in cities/towns/rural areas that saw higher positivity/ mortality, in order to prioritise them for vaccination.
Amarinder said Punjab was perhaps the only state in the country to have put in place a vaccination strategy for the 18-45 age group that prioritises the poor and vulnerable, adding that almost 1 lakh co-morbid youth, and 3.5 lakh young construction and other workers, had been vaccinated free of cost by the state government. Over 70,000 young family members of healthcare workers have been prioritised, while rehriwalas, bus drivers, shop workers and other deserving categories are also receiving vaccination from state supplies, he noted.
Lal said that the number of Covishield doses received by the state so far for the 18-45 age group stood at 5,86,000, of which 5,30,610 had been used and the state had a balance stock of 55,390. Meanwhile, of 1,50,850 Covaxin doses received, 66,040 had been utilised.
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