For the fifth day, India has reported below 60,000 new coronavirus cases as the promise of a free COVID-19 vaccine turned into a key state election issue.
The Health Ministry says 54,366 new cases took the overall tally past 7.7 million on Friday.
It also reported 690 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising total fatalities to 117,306, reports AP.
India recorded a daily average of more than 61,000 cases last week. The ministry also said India’s active caseload was below 700,000.
A political row erupted after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party promised free vaccination to people in Bihar where voting is scheduled to begin next week. Bihar is India’s third-largest state with a population of about 122 million people.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, releasing the party’s election manifesto, said every Bihar resident will be given free vaccination when it becomes available.
She said at least three vaccines have reached the last trial stage and are on the cusp of production.
The promise angered the Congress and other opposition parties, which accused Modi’s party of politicising the pandemic and playing on people’s fears.
Last week, the regulators permitted Bharat Biotech to start the phase-3 trial of its coronavirus vaccine in India.
Covaxin is the first indigenous vaccine candidate and was developed in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research.
On Sept 29, Bangladesh and India “agreed in principle" to go for the clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccines in Bangladesh soon after India launched these trials there.
Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar last week conveyed to Bangladesh that they are ready to start phase-III clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccines in Bangladesh soon after they launch these trials in India.
Bangladesh "agreed in principle" on the proposal, a source at the Indian High Commission in Dhaka told UNB.
Coronavirus cases were first reported in China in December last year. The World Health Organization declared it a pandemic in March.
Bangladesh has so far reported 394,827 cases with 5,747 deaths.
There is currently no vaccine for the virus.
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