Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal urged the Centre on Thursday to relax the norms that currently govern the country’s Covid-19 vaccination drive— the world’s second-largest at this time, only behind the United States— to make way for everyone above the age of 18 years, and also to ease the opening up of more vaccination centres. “I would request that since the production of vaccines in the country has gone up, the process should be opened up. Instead of preparing a list of those who are eligible, we should prepare one on those who are not eligible. Except for those under the age of 18 years or those who have a medical condition, anyone should be able to walk in for taking a shot,” he said.
In a significant promise, the chief minister said that if the central government allows everyone to be vaccinated and if it gets sufficient vaccine supply, a plan has been readied to ensure that all Delhiites are vaccinated within three months.
India kicked off the Covid-19 vaccination exercise on January 16. In phase 1, only healthcare workers were eligible to get the shots; frontline workers were added to the list in February. From March 1, in phase 2, senior citizens and persons aged between 45 and 59 years with specified comorbidities were allowed to take the jab. A provisional report of the union health ministry released Monday evening showed that more than 30 million citizens have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and 31.8 million doses have been administered.
The chief minister also requested the central government to relax norms that govern vaccination centres while the Delhi government would look to tackle its own systemic weaknesses to enable more and more people to get vaccinated. “I would appeal to the Centre to relax guidelines; the present guidelines are very strict, which is why it is difficult to open new centres. Now we have two months of experience in vaccination. We are writing a letter to the central government to relax parameters so that more centres can be opened up,” the chief minister said.
The aim of the government is to raise the number of those getting a shot of the vaccine from thirty to forty thousand a day to one lakh twenty-five thousand a day, the CM informed. Detailing his plans, Kejriwal further said that the number of centres would be doubled from five hundred to a thousand, government hospitals would be open from 9am to 9pm, instead of 9am to 5pm, and more centres that remain open 24 hours a day would come up.
Earlier in the day, the chief minister chaired a review meeting with Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain and other senior officials of his government on the Covid situation in the capital. The emergency meeting came a day after the daily caseload crossed 500 for the first time since January 9. The CM assured that though there has been a spike, especially over the past three days, it is marginal in terms of numbers and the government is closely monitoring the situation
Apart from launching the vaccination drive on a “war footing”, the Delhi government has also passed orders for stricter implementation of protocols such as contact tracing, tracking, surveillance and strict monitoring of rules of wearing masks and social distancing.
The Delhi CM also disclosed that the government is talking to experts within and those associated with the Centre, and acting on their opinion.