Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said on Tuesday that COVID-19 vaccination for the elderly population (over 50) is expected to start soon and the vaccination program would see greater participation from the private sector.

Speaking at a health ministry press conference, Mr Bhushan said more private hospitals would be used to increase the speed and coverage of COVID-19 vaccination in the coming days.

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New Delhi

“ Unable to establish a direct relationship between the recent outbreak of cases with detection of mutant virus strains ”

VK Paul, member of NITI Aayog (health), said there was no scientific data available to establish a direct relationship between the recent outbreak of cases in Maharashtra and other states with the mutant viral strains N440K and E484Q detected in the country. Dr Paul said that in addition to the British strain (187 cases), the South African strain (6) and the Brazil strain (1 case), India has also found cases with N440K and E484Q. “The variants have now been detected in Maharashtra, Kerala and Telangana,” he added.

ICMR chief executive Balram Bhargava said the two strains have also been detected in other countries and are not specific to India.

“In addition, they were found earlier in some states in India. The E484Q strain was detected earlier in four sequences in Maharashtra as early as March and July 2020. The N440K mutation was reported 13 times between May and September 2020 in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Assam. The current upsurge in Maharashtra cannot be attributed to the point mutations currently being discussed, ”he said.

The statement comes amid an increase in the number of COVID cases, with Maharashtra and Kerala reporting 75% of active COVID cases.