The Union government on Friday stressed on vaccination and following COVID-19 protocols as it noted that the second wave of the pandemic is not over yet and people should not lower their guard.
Though daily new CPVOD-19 cases continue to show a declining trend, 71 districts reported a case positivity rate of more than 10 per cent from June 23 to 29, Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry Lav Agarwal said at a press conference.
"The second wave of COVID-19 is not over yet," he said.
NITI Aayog Member (Health) Dr V K Paul said, "We are not safe till the entire nation is safe. There cannot be a lowering of guard. Virus keeps evolving."
He said multi-disciplinary teams of the Central government have been sent to Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Manipur in view of high number of COVID-19 cases being reported daily by these states.
About tackling a possible third wave of COVID-19 infection, Paul said, "We will be prepared for the third wave in rural areas and for children with testing facilities, ventilators, medicines and containment measures."
"At the same time, if we are disciplined then the third wave will not come."
Responding to criticism over the pace of the vaccination drive, Agarwal stressed that an average India is vaccinating 50 lakh individuals daily since June 21, and it is equivalent to inoculating the entire population of Norway every day.
"So far, 34 crore people -- which is equal to the entire population of the United States -- have been vaccinated with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine since the drive began on January 16," he said.
"We are running a marathon, not a 100-metre race."
Agarwal asserted that the COVID-19 inoculation drive has picked up pace since the revised vaccination guidelines came into effect from June 21.
From administering 2.35 lakh vaccine doses each day on an average in January, the vaccination coverage increased to an average of 16.39 lakh doses daily in March and then to 29.96 lakh per day in April, said the joint secretary in the health ministry.
"A dip in the vaccination rate was witnessed with the change in policy in May when the states were allowed to purchase vaccines. On average, 19.69 lakh vaccinations took place each day in May," he said.
But from June 21, India has been inoculating an average of 39.89 lakh people per day. Of the total 2,19,050 COVID-19 vaccination centres in the country 2,00,554 are in the public sector and 18,496 are private. Over 10 lakh vaccinator officers and other team members have been trained since January 16, Agarwal said.
Nearly 80 per cent of healthcare workers and 90 per cent of frontline workers have been administered both doses of COVID-19 vaccine in the country, he said.
Asked about the availability of vaccines between August to December, Paul said this should be viewed in a context.
"When we said that we are looking at 216 crore doses, the companies and manufacturers shared the optimistic estimates. We thought it was apt to share it with the country because there was a feeling at that time whether vaccines are available or not."
The government collated the roadmap by vaccine manufacturers and shared it with people, he said, adding that the visibility of the two manufacturers is 90 crore and it looks achievable.
"They can produce more. We have so much faith that we gave advanced orders. In the case of Zydus's vaccine, they said they plan to manufacture 50 million doses from August-December. Why will India (government) not think that they are getting 1 crore doses every month (from Zydus)? We are sharing the numbers with the same honesty.
"When we present a dynamic situation before you in a context... the first number is aspirational. We are not even counting two vaccines that are coming in the later part in October or November... The estimate is at its own place. Please see these two things in context," Paul said.
Asserting that the situation is dynamic, he said the situation will become more "liberal" in the coming days. "Even if we depend on our main supplier, we think the situation is satisfactory."
To a question on the Delta-plus variant, Agarwal said that so far, 56 cases have been detected in the genomes sequenced so far.
India saw a single-day rise of 46,617 new coronavirus infections, taking the tally of COVID-19 cases to 3,04,58,251. The national recovery rate has crossed 97 per cent, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Friday.
The death toll due to COVID-19 rose to 4,00,312 with 853 daily fatalities.