People's Laxity Main Reason Behind Rise in Covid-19 Cases, Says Health Minister

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Holding the laxity shown by people in following safety protocols as the reason behind the recent surge in coronavirus cases, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Saturday urged them not to let their guard down against the infection, else the situation may turn "dangerous". "With vaccines available now, people feel they should not wear masks. Maximum people hang their masks around their neck, some keep it in their pocket and some do not use it at all," the minister said here on Saturday evening.

COVID-19 cases have again started rising at some places in the country for the past some time and the laxity shown by people towards the infection is the basic reason behind it, Vardhan said, adding that the situation may turn "dangerous". "If we do not follow COVID appropriate behaviour, then coronavirus will go away slowly from the country and the world," he said.

"I want to appeal to people of the country that they should not let the COVID appropriate behaviour get weakened at any cost. Maintaining social distancing, wearing masks properly and washing hands with soap probably are the biggest tools to win the fight against COVID-19," said Vardhan. The Union health minister further said the two vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, which had been made available in the country are the second tool in this fight against contagion.

He also said there was no need for vaccination for all from the scientific point of view while asserting that the two vaccines developed in the country are completely safe and effective. The vaccination drive should also be turned into a mass movement, he said, adding that the vaccines are available at 50,000 government and private health facilities in the country.

The Union health minister said the priority groups have been set after keeping in the mind the scientific criteria and studying the behaviour of COVID-19. "You know that the behaviour of COVID virus is dynamic and the vaccination process is also dynamic. Under this dynamic process, the criteria will be expanded as and when the time requires," he said.

Asserting that saving lives is a priority for the government, the minister said Rs 35,000 crores had been earmarked in the Union Budget for the COVID-19 vaccination. While expressing concern over the rise in cases in Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula, Vardhan said there was no doubt that coronavirus cases were rising in six to seven states, including Punjab and Maharashtra, and stressed that these states should be more careful.

He also said sequencing of the virus and its mutants was going on and one of the two vaccines was also effective against mutants. Earlier, addressing a gathering to mark World Oral Health Day, Vardhan said the premier institutes like PGIMER have a bigger responsibility of mentoring and hand-holding, of creating successful models which contribute towards the ultimate goal of 'health for all.' "The year 2020 may go down in history as the 'Year of COVID', but it will also be remembered as the 'Year of Scientific Community'. "The way our medical professionals and scientific community rose to the occasion, and even after one year still fighting without any trace of fatigue, thereby successfully managing the pandemic in a country of 1.3 billion, is a testimony that we have the DNA, sincerity, commitment and passion to accomplish the vision of good quality health for everyone," he said.

Complimenting PGIMER for its initiatives, the minister stated that the state-of-art facilities and equipment inaugurated are a major step forward in healthcare innovation and will go a long way in addressing the healthcare needs of the community of the region. Vardhan also inaugurated a national resource centre for oral health care of children and elderly, an advanced PET-CT facility, 384 slice dual-source CT scan and a refractive surgery suite at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research.