India’s Modi urges coronavirus caution ahead of festival season

In televised speech, Narendra Modi says the government is working rapidly to ensure the supply of COVID-19 vaccines to all citizens once they are available.

India has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world [Amit Dave/Reuters]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the government is working rapidly to ensure the supply of COVID-19 vaccines to all citizens once they are available.

In a televised address to the nation on Tuesday, Modi urged Indians to continue wearing masks and uphold physical distancing rules to prevent further spread of the epidemic ahead of the upcoming festival season.

“Whenever the corona vaccine comes, how it reaches to every Indian as soon as possible, the government is also working for that,” Modi said in a short speech in Hindi.

Over the last month, India has seen a trend of declining cases on a week-to-week basis even though the country’s overall virus caseload has neared 7.6 million, behind only the United States.

On Tuesday, India reported 46,790 infections of the coronavirus in the last 24 hours – the lowest number in three months, as new cases continued to decline from a peak in September. It also reported 587 deaths, taking the total to 115,197.

Experts have warned that infections could rise again when large crowds gather for public celebrations for the Hindu festivals of Durga Puja and Diwali this month and in mid-November, respectively.


“Friends, until the time there is a vaccine for this epidemic, we must not let our guard down,” Modi said.

“This is not a time for carelessness … I want everyone to remember that we cannot be complacent in our fight against COVID-19.”

The head of India’s clinical research body, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), told reporters on Tuesday that drugs such as the antiviral remdesivir and anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), touted as potential weapons against COVID-19, were not working as expected in India.

“Debate and discussion are ongoing and at the national task force and we will take into cognisance the results of these trials and issue advisories accordingly,” Balram Bhargava, director general of ICMR, said.

Women wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) sanitise a ‘pandal’ or a temporary platform ahead of the Durga Puja festival in Kolkata [Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters)

Meanwhile, India’s testing rate has remained constant with more than one million tests being carried out daily.

But experts say the true number of infections may be much higher as testing rates in the vast country – home to some of the world’s most crowded cities – are much lower than many other nations.

India imposed one of the region’s strictest nationwide lockdowns in March, forcing people to stay home and shut businesses, triggering an exodus of millions of migrant workers.

In June, the country started a phased reopening of economic activities.

Source: News Agencies