Modi says India set to mass produce COVID-19 vaccine, launches digital health mission
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India is ready to mass produce COVID-19 vaccines when scientists give the go-ahead, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his Independence Day speech on Saturday, also launching a national project to roll out health identities for each citizen.
In annual celebrations held at the 17th-century Red Fort and scaled down due to the pandemic, Modi identified health and economic self-reliance as the key priorities for his government.
"Not one, not two, as many as three coronavirus vaccines are being tested in India," he said from the ramparts of the red sandstone palace in the old quarters of Delhi, wearing a flowing orange and white turban and covering his mouth and nose with a scarf of the same colours whenever anyone came close to him at the ceremony.
"Along with mass-production, the roadmap for distribution of vaccine to every single Indian in the least possible time is also ready," Modi said.
At the event, soldiers who ceremonially welcomed Modi had been under quarantine days before the event. Only around 4,000 guests were allowed and made to sit six feet apart, while medical booths with ambulances were set up for any attendee showing COVID-19 symptoms during entry.
Launching a National Digital Health Mission for the country of 1.3 billion, Modi said in his seventh Independence Day speech that records of every health test, disease, medication and other details will be kept under a health ID.
"Whether it is making a doctor's appointment, depositing money or running around for documents in the hospital, the mission will help remove all such challenges," he said.
Without mentioning China, with whom ties have hit a low following the worst border clash in decades that killed 20 Indian soldiers in June, Modi said the country's sovereignty was supreme.
"Anyone who has raised eyes on the sovereignty of the country, the army of the country have responded to them in the same language," he said.
Modi also said it was important to raise India's economic might to increase its international influence, emphasising the need to cut imports and increase exports of value-added products.
The prime minister reiterated plans to improve India's infrastructure by spending more than 110 trillion ($1.47 trillion) rupees on around 7000 projects, saying it will help revive economic growth by creating jobs and boosting small businesses.
(Reporting by Abhirup Roy, Aftab Ahmed and Krishna N. Das; Editing by William Mallard & Shri Navaratnam)