Even as the Kerala government has decided to procure 70 lakh doses of the Covishield vaccine directly from the Serum Institute for free distribution for those between the ages of 18 and 44, top officials of the Kerala Health Department during an interaction with a media organisations reportedly said that they would likely have to wait for the vaccine shots till the end of July.
The Serum Institute is currently producing 11 crores of vaccine for the Central Government, the reason for the delay in receiving the vaccine in the State. Private hospitals trying to procure vaccines directly from the Serum Institute are most likely to face a similar delay as the production capacity by the Institute presently is six crore doses of vaccine per month. And while the Institute has promised to increase its monthly production by the end of May, officials say there would still be a delay as the samples of each new batch of vaccine needs to quality tested and approved at the Kasauli Central Drugs Laboratory in Himachal Pradesh.
The production of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin is much lower and will not meet the State’s required needs.
With a hike in the number of daily Covid-19 cases in Kerala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced that stringent restrictions would be put in place for a week, starting May 4. He said that people should observe a ‘self lockdown’.
While addressing the media, the Kerala CM said that shooting of television serials and documentaries are prohibited and that vegetable and fish market vendors should maintain two metre distance and wear double masks and gloves. Only shops selling essential commodities will be allowed to function. Door delivery of goods should be encouraged, he said.
Regarding vaccination, he said that the State would give priority to those who are eligible for the second dose of the vaccine.
Meanwhile, amid the rising demand for medical oxygen, Pinarayi said that an oxygen plant would be set up in Chattanchal Industrial Park in Kasargod.
“The CM has informed that an Oxygen plant will be set up in the Chattanchal Industrial Park under the Kasargod District Panchayat. Land and Rs 50 lakh will be allotted by the District Panchayat. #Covid19,” tweeted the Chief Minister Office.
Kanjikode is emerging as the ‘medical oxygen hub’ of the state as another major plant is being set up to the produce medical oxygen. Kottayam Medical College will have a fully functional Oxygen plant that can produce upto 2000 litres of medical oxygen per day on May 1. As per reports, the oxygen produced at the plant will be administered to patients via copper pipelines connected to each bed at the hospital.
The Kerala government has also slashed the cost of RT-PCR tests in the state from Rs 1,700 to Rs 500. From now on, all private centres doing the test should abide by the updated rate, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said.
“It is all inclusive of test kits, PPE, swab charges etc. Reduced rate is applicable to all ICMR & State Govt. approved private labs and hospitals. Govt. hospitals are conducting these tests for free (sic),” Pinarayi Vijayan said in a tweet.