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Manmohan Singh writes to PM Modi, offers 5-point guide to tackle Covid-19 crisis

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New Delhi, Apr 18: Amid COVID-19 surge, senior Congress leader Manmohan Singh has offered five suggestions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to better manage the fresh wave of the pandemic.

In a letter to PM Modi, Singh said that the government must resist the temptation to look at absolute numbers vaccinated, and instead focus on the percentage of population vaccinated.

Manmohan Singh

Expansion of the vaccination programme should be a big part of pandemic management, Singh said.

Manmohan Singh offers 5-point guide to help Modi deal with the pandmic

  1. The Centre should publicise vaccine dose orders placed and accepted for delivery over the next six months. The government should indicate how vaccine supplies are to be distributed to states.
  2. The government should give clear indication of how these doses will be distributed across states. The centre can retain 10% for emergencies, but states should be clearly told about the likely availability of vaccine doses.
  3. States should be given some flexibility to define categories of frontline workers who can be vaccinated even if they are below 45 years. Some 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, and they can then be vaccinated even if they are below 45 years.
  4. Government must help vaccine makers to raise their manufacturing capability by providing funds and other assistance. Compulsory licencing rules should be invoked to enable more companies make vaccines under a licence.
  5. Vaccines that have been approved by credible foreign authorities should be allowed to be used in India without insisting on bridging trials.

Noting that India has emerged as the largest vaccine producer in the world, he said at this time of a public health emergency, the government must proactively support vaccine producers to expand their manufacturing facilities quickly by providing funds and other concessions.

"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," he said.

Citing Israel''s example, which has already invoked the compulsory licensing provision, he said there is an overwhelming case for India to do so as well quickly.

With domestic supplies being limited, Singh said 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," he said.

A warning to all consumers of such vaccines be given that these vaccines are being allowed for use based on the approval granted by the relevant authority abroad, he said.

Singh said he is forwarding his suggestions for consideration in a spirit of constructive cooperation in which he has always believed and acted upon.

"I hope the government will accept these suggestions immediately and act on them promptly," he said.

Singh recalled how over the year, the world and India have been grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic with many parents not seeing their children in over a year.

Many have lost their source of livelihood, and several millions have been pushed back into poverty, he said, noting that with the second surge being currently witnessed, "people are beginning to wonder when their lives will get back to normal".

India has seen a massive surge of COVID-19 cases with over two lakh cases being reported every day in the past four days.

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has expressed the hope that the government will adhere to the suggestions.

"Whether the government is open to good suggestions will be known from the action taken on the letter. Also, whether the government is serious about containing the spread of the pandemic will also be known from its response," he said.

Manmohan Singh's letter comes on a day, India record single-day rise of 2,61,500 coronavirus infections, taking the county's total tally of COVID-19 cases to 1,47,88,109, while active cases have surpassed the 18-lakh mark.

The death toll increased to 1,77,150 with a record 1,501 new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.

Registering a steady increase for the 39th day in a row, the active cases stand at 18,01,316, comprising 12.18 per cent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has dropped to 86.62 per cent.

The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 1,28,09,643, while the case fatality rate has further dropped to 1.20 per cent.

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