West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the state government was prepared to work with the Centre and other stakeholders to speedily implement a Covid-19 vaccination programme in West Bengal. Banerjee also assured Modi that the pandemic was under control in Bengal.
The comments were made at a video conference that the prime minister held with chief ministers to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and a vaccination programme.
The review meeting came a day after Oxford-AstraZeneca announced that interim trial data from the crucial phase-3 trials showed that its Covid-19 vaccine candidate was 70.4 per cent effective. In Pune, Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, the founder of the Serum Institute of India (SII) said the vaccine would be available in India “very soon”. The SII is testing and manufacturing the candidate under licence.
The Bengal chief minister joined Tuesday’s meeting, which was also attended by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, from Bankura district. Assuring Modi that West Bengal was prepared with trained manpower and required infrastructure, including a cold chain, for a vaccination programme, Banerjee said, “We are ready to work with the Centre and all other stakeholders to ensure speedy and universal vaccination for everyone as soon as the vaccine is available.”
Despite the festival season and massive urban rail movements, West Bengal was successful in reducing the positivity rate and the death rate, and improving the discharge rate, Banerjee added.
“Despite sharing several international and inter-state borders and bearing the burden of patients from neighbouring states, West Bengal has been performing remarkably well as compared to other parts of the country,” the chief minister said, according to a statement issued by the state government.
Lauding the efforts of health workers to contain the pandemic, Banerjee said, “ASHA workers have already made 45 crore visits to households in a great public health campaign.”
The chief minister again reminded the prime minister that the Centre had not released adequate funds to states even though expenses were increasing on every account amid the pandemic. West Bengal was still owed Goods and Services Tax (GST) compensation worth Rs 8,500 crore, she added, while the state administration had spent around Rs 4,000 crore for Covid management. Banerjee said till now the Centre had given Bengal only Rs 193 crore.
Taking a cue from her Maharashtra counterpart Uddhav Thackeray, Banerjee said “political gamesmanship and competitive rallies” must be avoided in the greater public interest.x
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