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Asia India

Update

India: Modi says billion COVID-19 vaccine milestone ups economic optimism

PM urges people to follow COVID-19 protocols during celebration of festivals



India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeting a health worker during his visit to a vaccination centre at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in New Delhi as India administered its one billionth COVID-19 vaccine dose on October 21.
Image Credit: AFP

New Delhi: India’s milestone of administering a billion COVID-19 vaccines will boost optimism across various sectors of the country, including the economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a national address.

“This is not only a number, it reflects the country’s capacity and writes a new chapter in history,” Modi said in a televised speech Friday. “Experts and agencies are optimistic about India’s economy.”

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“Now not only are record investments coming to Indian companies, employment opportunities are being created for the youth,” he added.

His speech came a day after India reported having crossed the milestone, more than nine months after the country started its vaccination programme. About 31% of the adult population has been fully vaccinated, while more than three-fourth have had one dose.

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Still, with India’s size and population of nearly 1.4 billion, the country’s vaccine drive has some distance to cover.

The prime minister warned caution and asked people to follow social distancing and masking protocols as the country heads into the Hindu festival season over the next few weeks. Modi urged people to keep following COVID protocols and said: “No matter how good the armour is, no matter how modern the armour is, even if armour guarantees complete protection, weapons are not thrown while the battle is on. I request that we have to celebrate our festivals with the utmost care.”

“I appeal to all those who have not taken the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to give utmost priority to getting vaccinated. Those who are vaccinated should encourage others,” he added.

The Prime Minister also reiterated his clarion call of “Vocal For Local” and appealed to people to buy ‘Made in India’ products during the festival season.

“Emphasis should be given to buying made in India products. This will be possible only with the efforts of everyone. We have to put --buying things made by Indians, being Vocal For Local-- into practice,” he stated.

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Experts as well as national and international agencies are very positive about India’s economy with Indian companies not only getting record investments but employment generation also taking place, Modi said.

Along with record investment in start-ups, record start-up unicorns are also being developed, he said.

Modi said it is a matter of pride for all that India’s vaccination programme has been ‘science-born, science-driven and science-based”.

From the development of vaccines to inoculation, science and science-based approach have been involved in all processes, he asserted.

Taking a dig at critics of his government, the prime minister recalled that some people had asked how the ‘taali-thaali’ initiative and lighting of ‘diyas’ at the start of the pandemic would help eradicate the virus. The initiatives, he stressed, were a reflection of people’s participation and unity.

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Modi also talked about the apprehensions and doubts raised earlier on India’s capacity to fight the pandemic.

Pointing out that several questions were raised, such as will the people of India get the vaccines or not and will India be able to vaccinate enough people to stop the pandemic from spreading, he said the 100 crore vaccine dose milestone is the answer to every question.

Modi said the milestone was not just about a number but a symbol of the country’s capability and a picture of “new India”.

“’it is the writing of a new chapter, a country that knows how to set difficult targets and achieve them. It is a picture of that new India that has the strength to strive for achieving its goals,” the prime minister said.

One impact of this milestone would be that the world would consider India safer from coronavirus, he said.

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At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, fears were expressed that it would be very difficult to fight the disease in a democracy like India. It was also asked how would there be the restraint and discipline required to combat the pandemic ‘but for us democracy means ‘Sabka Saath’,’ Modi said.

Taking everyone along, the country had started the campaign of ‘Sabko Vaccine, Muft Vaccine’, he noted.

The country, he said, had only one mantra -- that if the disease does not discriminate, then there cannot be any discrimination in the vaccination.

“That’s why it was ensured that there is no VIP culture in the vaccination drive,” he said.

“No matter how big a post one holds, no matter how rich he or she is, they will get vaccination just as a common person will,” Modi said.

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The prime minister urged people to keep following Covid protocol during the festival season and not drop their guard.

“No matter how good the shield is, how modern it is, there may be a guarantee of protection from the shield, but weapons are not laid down till the battle is on,” the prime minister said, urging people to continue wearing masks and follow Covid appropriate behaviour.