Health Minister Dr Mansukh Mandaviya replied to a marathon debate on COVID-19 situation in the country in Lok Sabha on Friday as Rajya Sabha saw both the question hour and zero hour going through smoothly after days of protests over suspension of 12 opposition members from the House.
Mandaviya said the government has taken several precautionary measures to meet the challenge of the new Coronavirus variant Omicron and instructions have been issued about testing and quarantine of passengers from "at risk" countries in India. Rubbishing opposition's allegations, he said the government has taken "proactive steps" under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to deal with the challenge posed by the pandemic.
In his 90-minutes reply to the debate in which 75 members participated, the minister said contact tracing has been done of two cases of new variant detected in India.
He said five samples that have tested positive for COVID-19 in contact tracing have been sent for genome sequencing. A person from South Africa, whose sample showed Omicron variant, has since returned back after a second test showed he was negative for COVID-19.
The minister said the government will go by scientific opinion on vaccination for children and on suggestions that a booster dose should be given to those who have taken two doses of vaccine.
He said the government has assisted all states in dealing with the pandemic challenge and was also preparing for boosting medical infrastructure for the future.
He said every district will have testing labs and medical facilities will be established at a cost of about Rs 100 crore. The minister said states will also have buffer stock of medicines.
Mandaviya said of 3,829 proposed PSA plants, 70 per cent had been put in place. He said of about 94 crore people above 18 years in the country, 79 crore had been given the first dose of vaccine and 22 crore doses are with the states.
He said India has one of the lowest COVID-19 cases and deaths per million population.
The minister said 125 crore doses have been administered so far and the country achieved a feat on vaccinating 100 crore people last month. He lauded the role of health workers in the fight against the pandemic.
Responding to the criticism of equipment supplied using PM-CARES, he said the allegations were politically motivated and states have given requisite certificates.
He said RT-PCR tests have been done of 16,000 passengers from 'at risk' countries and 18 samples have been sent for genome sequencing to determine if they have Omicron variant of the virus or not.
The minister said there are 373 cases of Omicron, classified as variant of concern by WHO, in 29 countries.
India is conducting RT-PCR tests of passengers from "at risk" countries and revised guidelines have been issued for travel from these countries.
He said the government has worked with faith and transparency and held a meeting of expert committee before the first case was reported in India on January 13.
"Task force and empowered groups were formed. There was a time when it took three years for approval if someone did research on a vaccine. So, nobody used to do research. We scrapped those rules and the nation got vaccine after research within a year," he said.
Mandaviya said the efforts of government and scientists had led to India producing two indigenous vaccines and a Made in India vaccine.
"India has never been deficient of brain power. The Prime Minister laid thrust on our scientists," he said.
Mandaviya said medical infrastructure has been ramped up and genome sequencing can now be done in 30 hours instead of 30 days.
The minister said India has been able to provide vaccination to large population because of Made in India vaccines. "We meet 70 per cent requirement of vaccines in the world," he said.
The Rajya Sabha, which faced disruptions over the past four days, saw members raising issues of their concern during the zero hour.
TRS members raised their demand for national policy on foodgrains procurement.Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu lauded the supportive attitude of all the members of the House.Both the Houses also took private members business later in the day. (ANI)