Centre under pressure due to COVID-19 spike in states: Ajit

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Pune, May 1 (PTI) Maharashtra Deputy ChiefMinister Ajit Pawar on Saturday said the Union government is under pressure due to the surge in coronavirus cases in several states as it has to supply oxygen and other material.

He was speaking to reporters after the state foundation day event in Pune, of which he is the guardian minister.

'During the first wave of the pandemic, Maharashtra was hit hard. But in the second wave, some other states have also been impacted badly, possiblydue to the poll gatherings and Kumbh Mela. Therefore, theCentre is under pressure as it has to supply oxygen and other material to these states,' he said.

'I feel the Centre should not have exported COVID-19 vaccines to othercountries,' he added.

Experts have also predictedthe third wave of the pandemic, he said, adding, 'Therefore, we are developing healthcare facilities across Maharashtra.' The government is trying to set up infrastructure for the supply of oxygen, he said.

'The Centre as well as the state governments have learnt a lot from this situation,' the NCP leader added.

Speaking about the vaccine availability, he said the government has discussed the issue with Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla and Bharat Biotech.

'We are keen to import vaccines from foreign manufacturers with the permission of the Union government. We have to vaccinate 5.71 crore people in the age group of 18 to 45 years,' he said.

According to Pawar, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has discussed the issue of vaccine supply with Poonawalla.

However, it seems difficult for them to supply such huge number of vaccines, he said.

'We are not depending on one vaccine manufacturer only. We have also placed an order with Bharat Biotech. We are trying to vaccinate people as early as possible,' he said.

Pawar said the state has sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's permission for import of vaccines from abroad.