Centre, states should work as team to combat pandemic, rise above politics: PM at all-party meet on COVID

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New Delhi, Jul 20 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday called for the Centre and states to work together as a team and rise above politics to combat the pandemic, as he addressed an all-party meeting on the COVID-19 management that was skipped by several opposition parties including the Congress.

Modi said India is in a better position than many other countries in terms of the ratio of the population hit by the disease but underlined the need to remain vigilant as he cited the resurgence of the infection in some countries like the UK, sources said.

Later an official statement quoted Modi as saying that the pandemic should not be a matter of politics as it is a matter of concern for the entire humanity. He said mankind has not seen such a pandemic in the last 100 years.

Prime Minister also spoke about the need to stay vigilant looking at the situation in various countries. He added that mutations make this disease very unpredictable, and 'hence we all need to stay together and fight this disease,' the statement said.

On the issue of Oxygen availability, Modi said efforts are being made to ensure one oxygen plant in every district across the country along with prison.

A detailed presentation was given by Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan in the meeting, called by the central government, that lasted nearly three hours.

A number of opposition parties, including the Trinamool Congress, NCP and Samajwadi Party, attended the meeting chaired by the prime minister, while the main opposition Congress, the Akali Dal and the Left parties skipped it.

During the meeting, former prime minister HD Deve Gowda lauded Prime Minister Modi for his constant monitoring and working tirelessly through the pandemic, the government said in the statement adding that leaders across parties thanked the prime minister for his efforts through the pandemic.

Leaders also spoke about their own unique experiences with the disease while talking about the pandemic and vaccination drives in their respective states, the statement said. PM Modi said vaccines from more companies are likely to be available in some time and spoke about the push being given by the government to vaccination.

Emphasising the need to properly plan vaccination drives, Modi suggested that they should be based on the advance availability indicated by the central government to ensure no inconvenience to the people.

Modi also expressed concern that a significant number of healthcare workers and frontline workers are yet to get the vaccine even after six months since the drive commenced while underlining that states need to be more proactive towards this, the statement said.

In a tweet, the prime minister later said, 'At today’s All-Party meeting, we discussed the various steps being taken to mitigate the COVID-19 situation and strengthening health-related infrastructure.' Health Secretary Bhushan informed the meeting that as of date, only eight states have more than 10,000 cases with a majority of the caseload in Maharashtra and Kerala. Just five states have a positivity rate of more than 10 percent.

On the availability of drugs, the government informed that Remdesivir production capacity increased from 38 to 122 lakh vials per month. While cases are declining at present, states have been advised to maintain buffer stocks of drugs to address any future surge, it said.

The presentation was followed by queries and suggestions from leaders of various parties.

Shiv Sena and TMC demanded more vaccines for Maharashtra and West Bengal, respectively.

The BJD, TMC and few others also demanded that the government expedite the process for getting international recognition for the indigenous vaccine, Covaxin.

TRS leader Nama Nageswara Rao urged the government to boost the vaccination drive and noted with concern that the second wave had affected the rural population as well.

He said that Modi has injected extra seriousness in the campaign to fight the pandemic by chairing over 20 meetings in this regard.

Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh were among those present in the meet for the floor leaders of all parties. Other Union ministers included Piyush Goyal and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

NCP's Sharad Pawar, Samajwadi Party's Ramgopal Yadav and BJD's Pinaki Misra were among the opposition leaders who attended the meeting. Leaders of the BSP and TRS also attended the meeting. While many non-NDA regional parties attended the meeting, the BJP's former ally, Akali Dal, skipped it. The Left parties and RJD also did not attend the meeting. Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said the Congress is not boycotting the meeting but it will not attend as his party wants the government to present the facts on the floor of both houses of Parliament.

On Monday, Modi had said he has requested all the floor leaders to take some time out on Tuesday evening when he would like to give detailed information regarding the pandemic.

'We want a discussion in the House as well as outside the House with all the floor leaders. I am constantly meeting the chief ministers and all kinds of discussions are happening in different forums.

'So I also want to meet the floor leaders as House is going on and it will be convenient and we can talk about it (the pandemic) face-to-face,' he had said. PTI JTR/KR PYK BJ PK RT RT

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