Daily Briefing: As vaccine doors open, states flag stock shortage; Mumbai’s Covid death rate rises

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Big Story 

Almost 1.33 crore people signed up for Covid vaccination on the Co-WIN platform after the government extended the drive to those in the 18-44 age bracket.  However, several cities in multiple states have reported the users could not book appointment slots and some displayed availability of slots for only those 45 years and above.

Meanwhile, the makers of Covishield vaccine have decided to reduce the price to the states by Rs 100 per dose as a “philanthropic gesture”. States will still have to pay double of what the Centre is paying.  At the same time, private vaccination sites have been told they should not expect deliveries for the next 5-6 months. 

In a significant shift in India’s foreign policy, which usually stresses on self-reliance, the country has now started accepting gifts, donations and aid from foreign nations as it battles shortages of oxygen, drugs, and other Covid related equipment. Though it is unlikely to accept aid from Pakistan, India has placed orders for 25,000 oxygen concentrators from China. 

A RSS Delhi state executive member called out the party members and lawmakers for  their “virtual absence” in public during the current Covid surge. Taking to Twitter, he wrote in Hindi: “There is fire everywhere in Delhi, has any Dilli wala seen BJP Delhi?”

Only in the Express 

K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Union government, speaks with The Indian Express on the pandemic, what went wrong, and whether the end is anywhere in sight.

In an interview with The Indian Express, economist and TMC leader Amit Mitra addressed the ongoing Assembly elections in West Bengal: “The battle for Bengal for the Sangh Parivar is part of a much bigger plan to redefine India in the image of the Parivar’s core values.” 

Shashi Tharoor and Salman Anees Soz write on the need for free vaccines for all: “We believe a good policy will seek to achieve maximum coverage, as close to universalisation as possible and do so as quickly and cost effectively as possible.”

In the National Capital, currently the Ground Zero of the fierce second wave, there appears to be a discrepancy between the number of people laid to rest and that put on paper as the official Covid death toll. In the last 10 days, 3,094 Covid deaths were reported. An almost equal number, 3,909, died suspected to have had Covid. “This gap indicates that there are many more cases in the city than those being tested,” said a senior doctor. 

A covid patient talks on the phone during his long wait inside an Ambulance at Civil hospital in Asarwa on Wednesday. (Express Photo by Nirmal Harindran)

Must Read 

In Gujarat’s tribal districts, Covid positive patients in need of emergency care face a long journey to get to oxygen beds, with the nearest hospitals out of reach — both in terms of distance, as well as the availability of beds. The state-run New Civil Hospital in Surat has been flooded with Covid-19 patients from as far as Bharuch, Narmada, Tapi and Dang districts.

Even as Mumbai’s Covid-19 daily caseload appears to have passed its peak in the second surge, there has been a grim rise in its death rate in the last few weeks. Until March first week, the death rate was as low as 0.2 per cent. It gradually rose in a month and touched 0.87 per cent last week. The state death audit committee estimates it might climb up to 1 per cent by the end of this week.

And Finally 

AB de Villiers has not been the 360-degree batsman he could be in this IPL. However, his largely 180 degrees canvas in this edition seems more than adequate to rattle out match-defining efforts. We explain how. 

Delhi Confidential: A post shared on Facebook by Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi, addressing the massive Covid surge, was translated to multiple languages, indicating that she is trying to reach out to people outside UP, the state of which she is in charge. 

Until tomorrow,

Leela Prasad G and Rahel Philipose

Express Cartoon by EP Unny.

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