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India says it has millions of COVID-19 vaccines in hand, denies shortage

swab sample India children covid
A health worker takes swab sample of children to test for COVID-19 in Prayagraj, India, Thursday, April 8, 2021.
Image Credit: AP

New Delhi: India’s health minister said on Thursday the country had more than 43 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in stock or in the pipeline, after many states complained of having to close inoculation centres due to a lack of supplies.

“Let’s put an end to fear mongering now!” Harsh Vardhan said on Twitter. “Where does question of shortages arise? We’re continuously monitoring & enhancing supply.” India has so far administered more than 90 million doses.

Record cases

India reported a record 126,789 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday as several states struggled to contain a second surge in infections, complaining of vaccine shortages and demanding inoculations be expanded to younger people.

Daily infections surpassed 100,000 for the first time on Monday and have now exceeded that mark three times, the biggest daily rises in the world.

The government blames the resurgence mainly on crowding and a reluctance to wear masks as shops and offices have reopened.

New Zealand on Thursday suspended entry for all travellers from India, including its own citizens, for about two weeks.

With 12.9 million cases, India is the third-worst affected country, trailing the United States and Brazil. Deaths rose by 685 – the most in five days – to 166,862, data from the health ministry showed.

Vaccine centres in several states, including hardest-hit Maharashtra, have been shutting early and turning people away as supplies run out.

Mumbai’s Mayor Kishori Pednekar said the vaccination drive could continue only if the city receives enough number of doses.

Odisha state said it had closed half its vaccination sites.

Random testing

In India’s Andaman Islands, authorities said they would conduct random testing at the airport in the capital Port Blair, due to a sudden surge in cases and complaints over passengers carrying fake test reports.

The Serum Institute of India, which has supplied about 90% of the 88 million vaccine doses administered in the country, has sought a federal grant of 30 billion rupees ($400 million) to increase its capacity to make the AstraZeneca shot.

India is also using a homegrown vaccine developed by a government institute and Bharat Biotech, which is struggling to boost its output.

Some of the big states, including Maharashtra, have imposed stricter curbs including night curfews and shut down malls, restaurants and places of worship. The federal government has refused to impose another national lockdown.

Night curfew

Amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, a night curfew has been imposed in Gautam Buddh Nagar and Ghaziabad districts of Uttar Pradesh, both adjoining Delhi, according to official orders issued on Thursday.

The restrictions will be in force from 10 pm to 5 am till April 17 from Thursday night, but the movement of essential goods or commodities and medical and other essential services shall be exempted, the orders issued by the district magistrates of Ghaziabad and Gautam Buddh Nagar stated.

The Tamil Nadu government has brought in a series of measures to restrict the surge in COVID-19 cases. The measures include banning of religious events from April 10 onwards.

E-Pass will continue to be implemented for those travelling from other states and countries and public worship will be permitted till 8pm only.

Total lockdown will be implemented in containment zones without any relaxations across the state.

– with inputs from Reuters and PTI

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