In an effort to ramp up the vaccination drive, the Himachal Pradesh cabinet on Thursday decided to provide vaccination free of cost to all people between 18 and 44 years at government health institutions.

The state claimed that so far 12.33 lakh people have been vaccinated in the state of whom 1.55 lakh, including frontline health workers, have also taken the second dose.

Among 1,241 Covid deaths, only two persons had taken both doses. One of them died just four days after the second dose, said mission director, National Health Mission, Dr Nipun Jindal, adding that full vaccination provides protection against fatalities.

He said of the total deaths in the state, 1,109 people, that is, 90 per cent of them were above 45 years of age.

Of the 18 deaths on Thursday, the youngest was a 16-year-old boy in Mandi district.

Altogether 1,774 fresh cases were registered in the state, again the highest in the current wave of the pandemic.

The state government ruled out the imposition of night curfew in the state.

Three deputy commissioners at Una, Kangra and Solan have imposed curbs at night while Hamirpur and Chamba deputy commissioners have ordered the closure of the markets on weekends.

The cabinet meeting also decided to constitute mobile teams at the block level to provide better treatment to the Covid-19 patients under home isolation. A dedicated vehicle would be provided exclusively to shift serious patients to hospitals.

Each medical college would have a dedicated team headed by a senior doctor to supervise the Covid-19 cases for better treatment.

“It was decided to provide incentives to the outsourced employees engaged in Covid-19 pandemic Rs 200 per shift. The government besides providing better treatment to patients under home isolation will also be provided a nutrition kit to the Covid patient,” said an official release here.

Meanwhile, criticism is growing against the government over the handling of the Covid situation in the hospitals which are over-crowded and tripping on testing of new cases. It is taking a minimum of 48 hours for the labs to send the reports and in some cases, it is stretching to three days.

Former Shimla mayor Sanjay Chauhan said it was horrifying to see loved ones dying due to Covid and many patients not properly attended to in the Covid wards. Low testing or delays in the reports have further aggravated the situation in many towns, not to talk about Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC) Hospital.

“I wonder why the government is not creating a portal or app to guide the patients as where the beds are actually available so that they don’t have to run from pillar to post,” he said.

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