Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Thursday said the state is preparing itself to face a possible third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is likely to come by July or August. In view of the ongoing oxygen crisis, the state is also working to set up oxygen plants and arrange oxygen concentrators. “Crises of oxygen should not happen in future, we have informed all officials. Huge oxygen plants are being set up," the minister said.
Maharashtra on Thursday reported 66,159 fresh coronavirus cases and 771 fatalities, taking the tally of infections to 45,39,553 and the toll to 67,985, the state health department said. Also, 68,537 patients were discharged from hospitals during the day, taking the number of recoveries to 37,99,266.
The Maharashtra government extended the lockdown-like restrictions in the state till May 15 amid the continued threat of COVID-19. Under its ‘Break the Chain’ campaign aimed at tackling the surge in coronavirus cases in Maharashtra, the state government said the existing COVID-19 restrictions will continue to be in place till 7 am on May 15.
Ahead of the fourth phase of the vaccination drive, set to begin on May 1 as stipulated by the Centre, the state health minister reiterated that those belonging to the 18-44 age group will have to wait for getting inoculated due to shortage and delay in vaccine supply. “Vaccination for 18-44 ages cannot begin on May 1. The Serum Institute of India has given purchase order for just three lakh doses. It is not enough. We need at least 20 lakh doses, only then vaccination can be started," Tope said.
“For two-three days, the inoculation drive will be paused in Mumbai because vaccines are not available. We have seen large crowd at vaccination centers and people have to go back due to non-availability of vaccines. We have full infrastructure to speed up the drive but vaccines are not available," he said.
Maharashtra has placed several requests with the Centre, the health minister said. “We have written so many times to the prime minister."
“We have informed all that we need 12 crores doses of vaccines in Maharashtra," he added. Talking about the other possible vaccine options, Tope said, “Pfizer is costly. It costs Rs 1,400 per dose. The Chinese vaccine costs Rs 750 per jab. We are in touch with Zydus Cadila and Johnson & Johnson. J&J have a vaccine, of which only one dose is required."
“In India, Maharashta is at number 1 in vaccination," he said.
Maharashtra’s daily COVID-19 vaccination figure has dropped by 1.5 lakh amid the current shortage of vaccine doses, an official said on Thursday. The state’s overall inoculation count currently stands at over 1.55 crore, he said. As per the data released on Thursday, the state had inoculated 3,88,247 persons on Tuesday, while it could administer 2,37,700 vaccine doses on Wednesday. The daily vaccination count has witnessed a drop of 1,50,547 due to limited supply of vaccine doses, the data revealed.
With this, the state’s cumulative vaccination figure reached 1,55,94,640, it said. A total of 11,02,382 healthcare workers have so far received the first dose of the vaccine and 6,16,703 have taken the second dose. As many as 12,88,374 and 4,69,644 people in the frontline category have received first and second doses respectively, the data revealed. The state has vaccinated 1,08,08,426 people above the age of 45 with the first dose, while 13,09,111 have received their second dose so far.
“For 18 to 44 age group, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray clearly said that we are ready to pay full cost in one go, but vaccines are not available. We are continuously having conversation with vaccine providers," he said.
The minister went on to welcome SII and Bharat Biotech’s move to reduce the price of their anti-coronavirus vaccines Covaxin and Covidshield. Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech on Friday slashed the price of its Covaxin vaccine to Rs 400 per dose for state governments. The earlier price of the dose was capped at Rs 600 for state governments and Rs 1200 per dose for private hospitals. Bharat Biotech’s move came a day after the Serum Institute of India reduced the price of its Covishield vaccine from Rs 400 to Rs 300 per dose for states.
Further, addressing the fear of fire incidents, Tope said, “Fire audits have to be conducted in each and every hospital, be it private or government hospital. The collector has to ensure that the audits are done." The state has witnessed several cases of fire in hospitals recently, some of which have also resulted in deaths.
The Maharashtra government is setting up medical facilities in two-tier cities, where education and huge hospitals are not available, he said.
Speaking on the restrictions imposed in the state to contain the spread of coronavirus, Tope said, “We have asked the police to step up measures to ensure proper lockdown."