Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday hailed Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya's speech on Covid management as 'insightful' and urged the people to hear his remarks in Rajya Sabha. "This extensive speech by Shri @mansukhmandviya covers several aspects relating to COVID-19 in an insightful and sensitive manner. I would request you all to hear his remarks," he said in a tweet.

Today, Mandaviya put up a spirited defence of the Centre's handling of the pandemic and responded to questions ranging from vaccination to deaths.

He said the vaccine production in the country was increasing and the effort was to inoculate all adults at the earliest. He also informed that a package of over 23,000 crore had been approved for strengthening the health infrastructure, including setting up 2.4 lakh medical beds and 20,000 ICU beds, with a special focus on paediatric care to handle any possible third wave of the pandemic.

On the allegation of under-reporting of Covid deaths, Mandaviya said that the central government compiles and publishes data sent by the state governments.

He said states governments register deaths. "Our job is to publish that data and nothing else. We haven't told anyone to show fewer numbers (of deaths) or less positive cases. There's no reason for that," he added.

Mandaviya also said that Prime Minister Modi had repeatedly asked chief ministers to do large numbers of testing and record deaths. "There is no reason to hide deaths but whom are you blaming? Who does registration? States do. Who decides on statistics? States do. Government of India compiles and publishes data received from the states," the health minister said.

Responding to questions on the vaccine production, the health minister said the Serum Institute had started supplying 11-12 crore doses per month and Bharat Biotech will start giving 3.5 crore doses per month from August. He also said transfer of technology to several companies has started and they will begin production in the coming days to reduce vaccine shortage in the country.

The minister also said that India may become the first country in the world to develop a DNA-based vaccine. "Cadila has completed third phase trial of its DNA vaccine and has applied for emergency use authorisation before DCGI (Drugs Controller General of India). Our expert team is looking into it. When this will come in the market, India will be the only country where scientists have developed a DNA vaccine," Mandaviya added.

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