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NEW DELHI : Prime Minister Narendra Modi will convene a virtual meeting with chief ministers of all states and Union territories on Monday to discuss the covid-19 situation and the mass immunization programme to end the pandemic.

Ahead of the vaccination drive, expected to start by next week, the government on Friday conducted a second nationwide dry run covering 736 districts across 33 states and Union territories.

“At 4 PM on Monday 11th January, PM @narendramodi will interact with Chief Ministers of all states via video conferencing. They will discuss the covid-19 situation and the vaccination rollout," the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted.

As the government gears up for the transport of vaccines, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Friday issued guidelines to airlines and other aircraft operators on the carriage of covid-19 vaccines.

“All scheduled operators who have been currently authorized to carry dangerous goods may carry covid-19 vaccine packed in dry ice, meeting the regulatory requirements," DGCA said in a circular.

“Non-scheduled operators, including aircraft engaged in general aviation that are required to participate in the carriage of covid-19 vaccines packed in dry ice shall seek specific approval before commencing such operations," the circular said.

A copy of the circular has been reviewed by Mint.

The vaccination drive is expected to start in the next few days, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said on Friday, adding that the government has requested stakeholders to help in its smooth rollout.

Indian airlines, including Air India, are currently working with vaccine manufacturers for distribution, a senior civil aviation ministry official said on Thursday, adding that airlines would use their cargo facilities to distribute the vaccines. The official requested anonymity.

The DGCA circular said that while dry ice with temperature varying from -8C to -70C is affordable for transporting vaccines, it added that all operators engaged in vaccine transportation would need to establish the maximum quantity of dry ice that can be loaded in cargo holds or passenger cabins if passenger aircraft are deployed for vaccine transportation.

The circular added that operators will need to prepare ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ guidance for handling vaccines, which would be handled only by trained personnel.

Regulator Drugs Controller General of India has approved AstraZeneca and Oxford’s covid-19 vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute in India under Covishield brand and the indigenously developed Covaxin of Bharat Biotech for restricted emergency use.

The total tally of covid-19 cases climbed to 10.41 million, and deaths rose to 151,791 on Friday. The total number of cases infected with the new strain of the novel coronavirus, first reported in the UK, now stands at 82. Apart from the cases of the new strain, 18,139 people were found positive in the past 24 hours.

Over 81.22% of the new cases are from 10 states and UTs. Kerala continues to report the highest daily new cases at 5,051. It is followed by Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh with 3,729 and 1,010 new cases, respectively, the health ministry said. At least 234 fatalities have been reported in the past 24 hours. Maharashtra saw the maximum (72). Kerala and Delhi follow with 25 and 19 daily deaths.

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