India’s Modi urges coronavirus caution ahead of festival season

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the government is working rapidly to ensure the supply of COVID-19 vaccines to all citizens once they are available.

In a televised address to the nation on Tuesday, Modi urged Indians to continue wearing masks and uphold physical distancing rules to prevent further spread of the epidemic ahead of the upcoming festival season.

“Whenever the corona vaccine comes, how it reaches to every Indian as soon as possible, the government is also working for that,” Modi said in a short speech in Hindi.

Over the last month, India has seen a trend of declining cases on a week-to-week basis even though the country’s overall virus caseload has neared 7.6 million, behind only the United States.

On Tuesday, India reported 46,790 infections of the coronavirus in the last 24 hours – the lowest number in three months, as new cases continued to decline from a peak in September. It also reported 587 deaths, taking the total to 115,197.

Experts have warned that infections could rise again when large crowds gather for public celebrations for the Hindu festivals of Durga Puja and Diwali this month and in mid-November, respectively.

“Friends, until the time there is a vaccine for this epidemic, we must not let our guard down,” Modi said.

“This is not a time for carelessness … I want everyone to remember that we cannot be complacent in our fight against COVID-19.”

The head of India’s clinical research body, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), told reporters on Tuesday that drugs such as the antiviral remdesivir and anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), touted as potential weapons against COVID-19, were not working as expected in India.

“Debate and discussion are ongoing and at the national task force and we will take into cognisance the results of these trials and issue advisories accordingly,” Balram Bhargava, director general of ICMR, said.

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