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Ex -PM Manmohan suggests 5 points to tackle COVID-19 crisis in letter to Modi

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday wrote a letter to prime minister Narendra Modi suggesting several ways to fight Covid-19 pandemic in the country

Shivani

ShivaniBy Shivani

Published on 18 April 2021 11:11 AM GMT

Ex -PM Manmohan suggests 5 points to tackle COVID-19 crisis in letter to Modi
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Manmohan (FILE PHOTO)

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Former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday wrote a letter to prime minister Narendra Modi suggesting several ways to fight Covid-19 pandemic in the country, which is currently in its second wave.

In the letter, Singh highlighted a pertinent point of vaccination drive, suggesting an expansion of COVID vaccination programme further as it a big part of pandemic management.

He wrote, "We must resist temptation to look at absolute numbers vaccinated and instead focus on percentage of population vaccinated."

He also suggested that Centre should tell COVID vaccine orders placed for next 6 months, how vaccines will be distributed to states.

Singh's letter to Modi comes at a time when India is reeling under the second wave of Covid-19, hitting record-high number of daily positive cases for the past few days. A new variant, which has a so-called double mutation, is thought to be fueling India's deadlier new wave of infections that has made it the world's second worst-hit country.

"There are many things we must do to fight the epidemic but a big part of this effort must be ramping up the vaccination programme. I have some suggestions in this regard. In making them I want to emphasise that I am putting them forward for your kind consideration in a spirit of constructive cooperation in which I have always believed and acted upon," Singh wrote.

Here are the excerpts of the key points suggested by Singh in a letter to Modi:

1) The government should publicise what are the firm orders for doses placed on different vaccine producers and accepted for delivery over the next six months. If we want to vaccinate a target number in this period, we should place enough orders in advance so that producers can adhere to an agreed schedule of supply.

2) The government should indicate how this expected supply will be distributed across states based on a transparent formula. The central government could retain 10 percent for distribution based on emergency needs, but other than that, states should have a clear signal of likely availability so that they can plan their roll out.

3) States should be given some flexibility to define categories of frontline workers who can be vaccinated even if they are below 45 years of age. For example, states may want to designate school teachers, bus, three-wheeler and taxi drivers, municipal and panchayat staff. and possibly lawyers who have to attend Courts as frontline workers. They can then be vaccinated even if they are below 45.

4) Over the past few decades, India has emerged as the largest vaccine producer in the world. thanks to policies adopted by the government and robust intellectual property protection. The capacity is largely in the private sector. At this moment of a public health emergency, the Government of India must proactively support vaccine producers to expand their manufacturing facilities quickly by providing funds and other concessions. In addition, I believe this is the time to invoke the compulsory licensing provisions in the law, so that a number of companies are able to produce the vaccines under a licence.

This, I recall, had happened earlier in the case of medicines to deal with the HIV/AIDS disease As far as Covid-19 is concerned, I have read that Israel has already invoked the compulsory licensing provision and there is an overwhelming case for India to do so as well quickly.

5) Since domestic supplies are limited, any vaccine that has been cleared for use by credible authorities such as the European Medical Agency or the USFDA, should be allowed to be imported without insisting on domestic bridging trials. We are facing an unprecedented emergency and I understand, experts are of the view that this relaxation is justified in an emergency. The relaxation could be for a limited period during which the bridging trials could be completed in India. All consumers of such vaccines could be duly cautioned that these vaccines are being allowed for use based on the approval granted by the relevant authority abroad.

Stressing on these points, the former PM of India also mentioned that currently, India has vaccinated only a small fraction of its population. "I am certain that with the right policy design, we can do much better and very quickly."

He concluded the letter hoping that the government will "accept these suggestions immediately and act on them promptly."

Meanwhile, as many as 2,61,500 more people tested positive for Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, taking the cumulative cases to 1,47,88,109, said the Union health ministry on Sunday morning. The country has been reporting over two lakh new cases for the last four days.

The number of new fatalities has reached a record high too with 1,501 more people succumbing to the disease in the last 24 hours. With this, the cumulative death toll in the country has reached 1,77,150.

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Shivani

Shivani

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