In a bid to speed up the pace of the coronavirus vaccination drive, the Centre has lifted the time restriction on receiving COVID-19 vaccine jabs. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday announced that citizens will now be able to take vaccines round the clock as per their convenience.

He emphasized that Prime Minister Narendra Modi understands the health of citizens of the country as well as the value of their time. Vardhan and his wife took the vaccine shot at Delhi Heart and Lung Institute on Tuesday. The minister's wife, Nutan Goel, first took the jab after which Vardhan received the vaccine shot. They paid Rs 250 each for the vaccine jab.

The minister took to the microblogging website Twitter and said: "The government has lifted the time restriction to increase the speed of vaccination. People can now get vaccinated 24x7 according to their convenience. Prime Minister Narendra Modi understands the value of health as well as the time of citizens".

The announcement comes a day after the Centre directed all the states and union territories to utilize all private hospitals - empaneled under government insurance schemes in full capacity to achieve optimum number of vaccinations.

The nation-wide vaccination drive was rolled out on January 16 with healthcare workers being inoculated against the virus. Vaccination of the frontline workers began on February 2.

The next phase of vaccination commenced on March 1 for those who are over 60 years of age and for people aged 45 and above with specified co-morbid conditions. A total of 1,56,20,749 vaccine doses have been given till now.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu were among the host of top leaders who took the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine on Monday.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and his Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and NCP president Sharad Pawar also took the jab on Monday.

(With agency inputs)

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