Ninety people in India have so far contracted the new strain of coronavirus, which was first detected in the United Kingdom in September, the Health Ministry said. Across the country, 18,222 fresh Covid cases on Saturday took the tally to 1,04,31,639; 228 deaths took the total number of deaths linked to the disease to 1,50,798. The active caseload, however, is 2,24,190; more than 1 crore people have already recovered.
India’s coronavirus vaccination drive will begin January 16, the government said Saturday evening, hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting with senior officials to review the Covid situation in the country and finalise vaccine roll-out details. The Prime Minister called the news a “landmark step forward in fighting COVID-19”.
Priority will be given to around one crore healthcare workers and two crore frontline staff, like doctors, community health workers and police, who are directly involved in fighting the pandemic. The vaccine will be free of cost for this group, Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said last week. The next group will be people over 50, followed by those under 50 but with co-morbidities. Around 30 crore people will be vaccinated in the first phase.
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Pope Francis said he planned to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as early as next week and urged everyone to get a shot, to protect not only their own lives but those of others.
“I believe that ethically everyone should take the vaccine,” the Pope said in an interview with TV station Canale 5. “It is an ethical choice because you are gambling with your health, with your life, but you are also gambling with the lives of others.”
Vatican City, the smallest independent county in the world, home to about 450 people including Pope Francis, has said it will shortly launch its own vaccination campaign against the coronavirus. “Next week,” the Pope said, “we will start doing it here, in the Vatican, and I have booked myself in. It must be done.”
Britain said on Sunday it has helped raise $1 billion (818 million euros) from global donors towards the drive to help “vulnerable countries” access coronavirus vaccines, by match-funding contributions.
The UK said, in addition, it has committed £548 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), after matching with £1 every $4 pledged by other donors.
Canada, Japan and Germany are among the countries to make contributions that it matched, helping the AMC raise more than $1.7 billion in total so far.