Updated: December 28, 2021 6:08:55 am
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Monday held a high-level meeting with the five poll-bound states to review public health response measures for containment and management of Covid-19 and vaccination status in these states.
Monday’s meeting with Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab came just hours after the Election Commission of India (ECI) met Bhushan to review the Covid-19 situation ahead of Assembly elections next year.
During his meeting with officials of the five states, Bhushan directed the authorities to draw up “district-wise weekly vaccination implementation plans” to ramp up first and second dose vaccine coverage.
In view of the emergence of the highly transmissible Omicron in several pockets of the country, Bhushan urged the states to “exponentially increase testing….to ensure that infected cases are identified promptly for timely initiation of public health response measures, and to ensure that there is no sudden upsurge in numbers due to low testing”.
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“The state authorities were strongly advised to ensure that recommended Covid-appropriate behavior is strictly followed and adequate measures are undertaken for their effective enforcement,” the Health Ministry said.
The meeting with EC came days after Allahabad High Court urged the poll panel and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to postpone Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, given the threat posed by the Omicron variant. “The Commission will proceed to Lucknow on Tuesday afternoon for a scheduled poll preparedness review meeting there and return on the afternoon of December 30,” an EC official said.
“While Uttarakhand and Goa have reported vaccination coverage for first and second doses higher than the national average, UP, Punjab and Manipur have vaccination coverage numbers below the national average,” the Health Ministry stated. It said 142.38 crore vaccination doses have been administered as on date, “of which more than 83.80 crore vaccine doses are for first dose and more than 58.58 crore are second dose”.
The ministry has sent multidisciplinary teams to UP and Punjab to report on vaccination below the national average. The teams, which will remain stationed in these states for the next three to five days, will assess the situation, suggest remedial actions and submit a report every evening by 7 pm, it was informed.
Last Friday, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra had said that the poll panel will take a call after reviewing the situation in UP.
During the review meeting with all states, Bhushan also raised a red flag that people in pockets with low vaccination coverage may be more vulnerable to the Omicron variant, and that district administrations have to pay special attention to ramp up vaccination in these pockets.
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