PM Modi To Address The Nation At 5 PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the nation at 5 pm today and reports suggest he may speak on his government’s vaccine plan.

The Prime Minister’s latest address comes at a time Covid cases are on the wane after a deadly surge in April-May and parts of the country are emerging from strict lockdowns.

The Centre’s vaccination policy has been criticized by states and experts and has also been questioned by the Supreme Court. The slow roll-out has become a big concern as experts warn of the third wave of Covid.

Under a new liberalised policy that came into effect on May 1, states and private hospitals were allowed to buy vaccines directly from manufacturers.

At the same time, the Centre opened vaccinations to all adults and said it would continue to offer free inoculations for those above 45.

The Supreme Court last week called the policy of free vaccines for people who are 45 and above and paid doses for the 18-44 group, “arbitrary and irrational”.

Flagging other flaws like problems faced by rural people in accessing vaccines, the court asked the Centre to review its policy and “place on record a roadmap of projected availability of vaccines till 31 December 2021”. The Centre was asked to furnish complete details on its vaccination policy, including all documents and file notings, and also clarify how ₹ 35,000 crores announced in the Budget was used in procuring vaccines.

The Centre’s decisions on vaccines were seen to fall short when India was devastated by the sheer scale of virus cases in the second wave in March-April. The government had to pause exports of Covid shots under its “Vaccine Maitri” programme and scrambled to procure more doses to tackle the shortage in the country.

On Saturday, the Centre defended its new vaccine policy and said media reports suggesting inequities in the distribution of doses were “inaccurate and speculative”. It said the policy had reduced the “operational stress” on state-run vaccination facilities.

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PM Modi last addressed the nation on April 20, when cases were spiking. He had said that the second wave of the coronavirus had hit India like a storm and appealed to states to use lockdowns only as the last resort. “In a situation like today, we have to save the country from a lockdown. If you all work together, create awareness then there is no need for containment, never mind a lockdown. I appeal to states that they should use the lockdown as the last resort – our focus should be micro-containment zones. We will take care of economic health as well as the health of countrymen,” the Prime Minister had said.