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Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Saturday exhorted 19 states to escalate the pace of their Covid-19 vaccination drive so that India can achieve the target of administering 100 crore jabs in the next few days, reported news agency PTI.

Further, he noted that if festivals are not celebrated as per Covid-19 safety protocol, the containment of the virus can get derailed. 

The minister was reviewing the progress of Covid-19 vaccination with principal secretaries and mission directors of the national health mission from all major states.

Officials of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal took part in the meeting.

"The two-pronged solution is to follow Covid protocols very strictly and to speed up vaccination," the minister said, adding that administering 100 crore doses of Covid vaccine is the immediate milestone in India's inoculation journey.

He cited results of experiments that pegged the number of first dose recipients not developing severe Covid-19 to be 96% and further pointed out that the number increases to nearly 98% for people who have taken both doses of the vaccine.

Mandaviya said that over eight crore balance vaccine doses are physically available with states and enquired about specific hurdles, if any, faced by them in increasing their pace of vaccination.

India has so far administered over 94 crore Covid vaccine doses.

Many states are nearing saturation of coverage in urban areas and are catering to the floating population in the city, said the health ministry. 

Labour and time-intensive door-to-door vaccination is being undertaken in some geographically aloof pockets where first dose coverage is nearing saturation. 

"In consultation with the states, the minister exhorted each state to increase their target so that the administration of the last six crore doses for reaching the mark of 100 crore is achieved in the next few days," the health ministry stated.

Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan urged all the state health administrators to be strict with observance of Covid-appropriate behaviour during festivities to prevent a Covid-19 outbreak.

He underlined the need to adhere to a detailed standard operating procedure issued through a ministry's letter on 21 September.

It included no mass-gatherings in containment zones and in districts with over 5% case positivity. Gatherings with advance permissions and limited people to be allowed in districts with a positivity rate of 5 per cent and below. Relaxations and restrictions to be imposed based on weekly case positivity.

States should closely monitor case trajectories in all districts daily to identify any early warning signal to ensure the imposition of restrictions and adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour accordingly. 

All rituals like the burning of effigies, Durga Puja pandals, Dandia, Garbas and Chhatt Puja should be symbolic. The number of people allowed to participate in gatherings and processions should be regulated. Places of worship should have separate entry and exit points while the use of common prayer mats, offering of 'prasad', the sprinkling of holy water should be avoided.

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