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MUMBAI: The government may need Rs 80,000 crore over the next one year for distribution of Covid-19 vaccine and immunization of the country’s population, Adar Poonawalla, CEO and promoter of the world’s largest vaccine producer, Serum Institute, said on Saturday.

Calling it the “next concerning challenge”, which needs to be tackled, Poonawalla posted a tweet tagging the Prime Minister’s Office, which read: “We need to plan and guide vaccine manufacturers both in India and overseas to service the needs of our country in terms of procurement and distribution.”

Serum has tie ups with global manufacturers AstraZeneca and Novavax for potential Covid-19 vaccines, which are currently undergoing clinical trials. The tweet, perceived by many as alarming, also raised concerns over the government’s ability to fund the massive vaccine programme.

“The government has assured that there will be plenty of funds available for vaccines. We have now been assured by the highest levels in the government that enough funds will be available for vaccine procurement, supply and logistics. This is good news,” Poonawalla told TOI, when contacted.

While addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday PM Modi said that as the world’s largest vaccine producing country, India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help people across the world.

Although further details on Poonawala’s calculations were not immediately available, sources said, it could be assuming the benchmark price of $3-5 per dose, and including two doses for the over 1.3 billion population.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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INDIA

Snowfall in Gulmarg, other areas of Kashmir

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SRINAGAR: Gulmarg and other places in the higher reaches of Kashmir received fresh snowfall on Sunday, causing the mercury to drop across the valley, officials said.

Gulmarg, the famous ski resort in north Kashmir‘s Baramulla district, received light snowfall in the evening. It continued for most part of the evening before making way for rain, they said.

Snowfall was also recorded in Sonamarg tourist resort in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district and Zojila Pass along the Srinagar-Leh highway, according to the officials.

There were reports of snowfall in several other areas in the higher reaches of Jammu and Kashmir including areas along the Mughal Road – the alternate roadway connecting the valley with Jammu, the officials said.

The road has been closed for traffic, they said.

The snowfall in the higher reaches of Kashmir led to a drop in temperature across the Valley.

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INDIA

All citizens in the country to get free Covid-19 vaccine: Union minister

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BHUBANESWAR: Union minister Pratap Sarangi on Sunday said that all people of the country will be given free Covid vaccine, amid the demand by opposition parties in the country for it and not only in poll-bound Bihar as announced by the BJP.

The BJP announcement of free Covid vaccine for Bihar, where assembly polls begin this week, had kicked up a controversy with the opposition parties tearing into the NDA government alleging that the ruling party was using the pandemic for political reasons.

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said the announcement was in order as it was an election manifesto announcement.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that all people will be provided free of cost vaccines. An estimated Rs 500 odd will be spent on vaccination of each person, Sarangi told reporters after addressing a campaign meeting for the November 3 assembly by-poll in Balasore.

Modi had in a televised adddress to the nation on October 20 said that Indian scientists are in the process of developing several vaccines that are at different stages of clinical trials and the results seem encouraging.

Sarangi, the union minister of state for animal husbandry, dairy, fisheries and micro, small and medium enterprises spoke in reply to question raised by Odisha Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Minister, R P Swain.

Swain had earlier in the day sought clarification from Dharmendra Pradhan and Sarangi, the two union ministers from Odisha questioning them for their silence on their party BJP’s stand on free Covid-19 vaccination for the people of the state along the lines of the one being promised in Bihar.

The governments of Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Puduchchery have already announced free of cost Covid vaccines for the people of their states, while Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has demanded free vaccine for all citizens across the country.

Swain had tweeted “I am asking questions to two Odisha union ministers from Balasore soil to clarify as to why the people of the state will not get free of cost Covid vaccine. The union ministers should clarify BJPs stand on the corona vaccination in Odisha.

On the state governments steps for vaccination, Swain said it has signed an agreement with a vaccine manufacturer and is committed to extend the facility to all people of the state.

He, however, did not say whether the state government will provide the vaccine to the people free of cost.

BJP deputy leader in Odisha Assembly Bishnu Charan Sethi said the Centre has been supporting Odisha fully during the pandemic and has granted Rs 22,000 crore for the purpose.

“But large scale lapses have been detected in the utilisation of the fund,” he alleged.

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INDIA

Wheels up for trip to India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Indonesia: Pompeo

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WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Sunday boarded the flight for the trip to India for the third edition of the two-plus-two ministerial dialogue, that begins in New Delhi. The visit comes a week before the American presidential election scheduled on November 3.

The State Secretary will be travelling along with Secretary of Defence Mark T Esper from October 25 to 29. Pompeo will also visit Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia to engage the countries in discussions on how free nations can work together to thwart threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Taking to Twitter, Pompeo said, “Wheels up for my trip to India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Indonesia. Grateful for the opportunity to connect with our partners to promote a shared vision for a free and open IndoPacific composed of independent, strong, and prosperous nations.”

Wheels up for my trip to India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Indonesia. Grateful for the opportunity to connect with ou… https://t.co/DtIxmxpQUK

— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) 1603642892000

This will be the third India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. They will be meeting Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on October 27 and will also have bilateral meetings with their counterparts.

They will also be meeting NSA Ajit Doval and will jointly call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The India-US 2+2 talks will focus on four themes — regional security cooperation, defense information sharing, military-to-military interactions, and defense trade, said the US State Department on Friday. The first two 2+2 Ministerial dialogues had been held in New Delhi in September 2018 and Washington DC in 2019.

Besides, Pompeo will be urging the Sri Lankan officials to make decisions about its relationship with China and to review the option that the United States offers for transparent and sustainable economic development, according to an earlier statement by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Dean Thompson.

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