In what UN Secretary-General António Guterres described as “a heart-wrenching milestone”, the world surpassed two million COVID-19 fatalities in recent days.
The “vicious virus”, as Guterres described the novel coronavirus which causes COVID-19, has claimed 2,041,232 lives since the pandemic began at the time of writing. “Behind this staggering number are names and faces: the smile now only a memory, the seat forever empty at the dinner table, the room that echoes with the silence of a loved one,” Guterres said.
The grim milestone of two million COVID-19 fatalities came amidst mass rollout of vaccines across the world. India’s own immunisation campaign commenced on Saturday. A group of healthcare and sanitation workers became the first in the country to receive a vaccine. The first ever person in India to be inoculated was sanitation worker Manish Kumar, who received the shot at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi.
“Such a vaccination drive at such a massive scale was never conducted before in history,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “There are over 100 countries having less than three crore population and India is administering vaccines to three crore people in the first phase itself. In the second phase, we will take this number to thirty crore.”
He touted the role of ‘Make in India’ vaccines, stating “India’s vaccines enjoy much credibility world over. We’ve earned this with our track record. Most children in the world get their vaccine shots of those made in India. The world’s trust is on [sic] our ‘Made in India’ vaccines will rise soon. These Indian vaccines are cheaper than foreign shots and easy to use.” India has long been anticipated to be at the centre of the global immunisation campaign against COVID-19, being home to the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer – Pune, Maharashtra-based Serum Institute of India.
The Prime Minister also spoke out against vaccine misinformation and hesitancy, urging people to discount rumours. He also encouraged continued adherence to safety protocols such as mask-wearing and physical distancing.