Centre forms a high-level task force on coronavirus vaccine, drug testing

A man wearing protective suit checks the temperature of people standing in a queue to get free food at IYC headquarters, during the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, in New Delhi
The government has formed a high-level task force for vaccine and drug testing for coronavirus disease (Covid-19) on Sunday, as the death toll from the pandemic increased to 519 and the cases reached 16,116. 
The objective of the task force is to speed up national and international efforts towards vaccine development to treat Covid, Lav Agarwal, joint secretary, health ministry, said.

The task force — co-chaired by Vinod Paul, member NITI Aayog, and Professor K Vijay Raghavan, principal scientific advisor to the government — will also include representatives of Ayush ministry, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), department of biotechnology, and drug controller general of India, among others. 
Besides, the department of biotechnology would act as a nodal agency “to identify the pathway for vaccine development, monitor progress of efforts at both national and international level in this area, and provide government facilitation, where needed”. 

The task force would also form clinical cohorts, which would focus on long-term follow up of the disease and its management. The government will collect bio-specimen that will form the basis for further drug and vaccine trials. “This is different from sample testing protocol,” Agarwal said. 

The government will take a decision on the relaxations that would be allowed in lockdown curbs in non-containment areas on April 20. As on Sunday, there were 54 districts where no new case had been reported in the past 14 days.

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