Thiruvananthapuram: Days after being sworn in as Kerala’s new Health Minister, Veena George told NDTV the focus is on increasing supply of Covid vaccines in the state as soon as possible. She said the state – which has 2.78 lakh active cases – is “in desperate need” of vaccines to help break the chain of transmission.
“Kerala has received 91 lakh doses. This includes supply from the centre as well as recent arrivals directly from companies. We are pressuring (the centre) for more,” Ms George said on Monday.
“We have vaccinated 49 per cent of those above 45 with at least one dose each. Twenty per cent have got both doses. We are in desperate need of vaccines. The state is ready to buy… has floated tenders for three crore doses and June 2 is the last date for vendors to apply,” she added.
Kerala has seen a worrying surge in the number of Covid-related deaths but there is some good news.
“Daily deaths have been seeing an increase lately but the death rate is still low. For every 100 cases there are three deaths reported in Kerala. We expect daily count to reduce as well. The current increase must be seen in the context of the huge peak from recent weeks,” Ms George told NDTV.
There were fewer than 50 Covid-related deaths on May 1 but on Monday 188 deaths were recorded.
There is, however, a dip in the positivity rate and a decline in daily new cases – from over 40,000 on May 9 to fewer than 29,000 on Monday.
The Kerala High Court today took up the Covid situation in the state suo motu, and asked the centre to provide a timeframe for vaccinations, including supply of doses to states.
The centre told the court it had “no fixed target for dispensation of vaccines to states and UTs“.
Veena George – part of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s all-new cabinet for his historic second term – replaces KK Shailaja as the Kerala Health Minister. Ms George has big shoes to fill – her predecessor, fondly called ‘teacher’ – won international praise for her handling of the pandemic.
“Taking charge as a minister is challenging, and specially the health portfolio amid a pandemic. We are a team. The Chief Minister and former Health Minister have done a wonderful job. KK Shailaja is a senior party leader and is definitely around,” Ms George, a former journalist and two-time MLA, said.
The new Kerala Assembly – which is controlled by the Chief Minister’s CPM-led Left government that won the April-May election – has 11 women legislators. Ten of them are from the Left.