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NEW DELHI : With the second wave of covid-19 virus raging across India, the Union government has requested states to set aside 70% of vaccines received through the central government route for administration of second dose.

Also, 5.32 million vaccine doses are in the pipeline and will be supplied to the states shortly, said health and family welfare minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Saturday at the 25th meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM).

This comes against the backdrop of India’s healthcare system imploding due to the pandemic. With India facing a massive surge in covid cases, the Union government has been facing increasing criticism over its mishandling of the second wave, including censure from the courts.

“Reiterating the importance of full protection through two covid vaccine doses, he (Harsh Vardhan) again appealed to all citizens to get the second dose which boosts the immunity against covid manifold. He requested the states to set aside 70% of the vaccines received through GoI channel for administration of the second dose," according to a statement from health and family welfare ministry.

The severe second wave has exposed India’s creaking healthcare system, with acute shortages of oxygen, ventilators, vaccines, testing kits, hospital beds, and intensive care units (ICUs) across the states.

The GoM meeting was chaired by Harsh Vardhan and was also attended by other members of the GoM, including external affairs minister S. Jaishankar, civil aviation minister Hardeep S. Puri, minister of state for ports, shipping and waterways and chemical and fertilizers Mansukh Mandaviya, minister of state for home affairs Nityanand Rai, minister of state for health and family welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey and member (health), Niti Aayog Dr Vinod K. Paul.

“The number of patients in ICU beds is 488,861 while 170,841 patients and 902,291 patients are on ventilator and oxygen support," Harsh Vardhan said according to the statement.

“This translates to 1.34% of covid caseload being in ICU, 0.39% of cases on ventilators and 3.70% of covid patients on oxygen as on date," the statement added.

The Union health ministry had earlier asked the states and Union territories to identify districts that should be considered for taking intensive and local containment measures.

“The districts/metropolis of Bengaluru (Urban), Ganjam, Pune, Delhi, Nagpur, Mumbai, Ernakulam, Lucknow, Kozhikode (Calicut), Thane, Nashik, Malappuram, Thrissur, Jaipur, Gurgaon, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram, Chandrapur, Kolkata, anPalakkad are the top 20 contributors of active cases in the country," the statement said.

This comes against the backdrop of a second wave continuing to rage across the country, with 401,078 new covid cases registered in the past 24 hours. According to ministry of health and family welfare data, 4,187 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours.

The Saturday GoM meeting was also attended by road, transport and highways secretary Giridhar Aramane, Niti Aayog chief executive officer Amitabh Kant, foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, commerce secretary Anup Wadhawan, and health research secretary and director general ICMR Dr Balram Bhargava, among other officials.

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