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

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Former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the COVID-19 crisis, stressing that ramping up vaccination was the key to battling the pandemic.

In a letter to the prime minister, the veteran Congress leader said one must not look at absolute numbers but the total percentage of population vaccinated.

“The key to our fight against COVID-19 must be ramping up the vaccination effort. We must resist the temptation to look at the absolute numbers being vaccinated, and focus instead on the percentage of the population vaccinated,” he said in his letter.

Noting that India currently has vaccinated only a small fraction of its population, Singh said he is certain that with the right policy design, “we can do much better and very quickly”.

“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,” he said while making several suggestions.

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

The suggestions come a day after the Congress Working Committee met and discussed the efforts required to fight the COVID pandemic.

Singh said the Centre should publicise vaccine dose orders placed and accepted for delivery over the next six months. He said the government should indicate how vaccine supplies are to be distributed to states.

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

In his letter, the former PM offered Modi five suggestions to better manage the fresh wave of the pandemic.

1) First, the government should make public the info on the number of doses for which orders have been placed with manufacturers for delivery within next 6 months.

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 have flexibility to define the priority beneficiaries that can be vaccinated even if they are not 45 years of age. Some of them could include

school teachers, bus/taxi/auto drivers, municipal workers and lawyers.

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.

Singh’s 5-point suggestion comes in the backdrop of a rapidly worsening second wave of the pandemic in India. A record single-day rise of 2,61,500 cases has taken India’s total tally of Covid cases to 1,47,88,109 as of Sunday. Active cases have surpassed the 18-lakh mark, according to Union Health Ministry data.

India’s death toll increased to 1,77,150 with a record 1,501 new fatalities, data from today’s morning showed.

With ET Online inputs

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