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Maharashtra's new COVID-19 guidelines: E-commerce firms examine norms for vaccination, testing of delivery personnel

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on April 5 wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him to expand the vaccination drive to those above 25 years of age.

April 06, 2021 / 11:39 AM IST
File image: A Zomato delivery worker waits to collect an order from a restaurant during the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 in New Delhi, India on May 21, 2020. (Image: Reuters/Anushree Fadnavis)

File image: A Zomato delivery worker waits to collect an order from a restaurant during the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 in New Delhi, India on May 21, 2020. (Image: Reuters/Anushree Fadnavis)

E-commerce companies are studying the new COVID-induced restrictions in Maharashtra, and are working on the logistics of complying with orders.

On April 4, the Maharashtra government said delivery executives will be required to get vaccinated at the earliest, or carry negative RT-PCR reports that will be valid for 15 days.

Starting from April 10, delivery personnel who are neither vaccinated nor carrying a negative COVID-19 test report will have to pay a penalty.

However, the order poses a conundrum as currently only those above 45 years of age are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

Read | Maharashtra’s new COVID-19 guidelines: All your questions answered

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

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There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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"We are studying the latest state government guidelines to continue deliveries during curfew hours and on weekends in Maharashtra. We continue to practice stringent preventive measures for the safety of our associates such as adherence to social distancing norms, mandatory use of face covering and daily temperature screenings for our delivery associates and people working in operations sites," an Amazon India spokesperson told Moneycontrol.

"We are covering the cost of vaccination as well as the RT-PCR tests required for our delivery fleet. Safety remains our top priority and therefore we are working with the authorities to ensure we continue to safely deliver food to those in need," a spokesperson for Zomato, a restaurant aggregator and food delivery startup, told Moneycontrol.

Mint separately reported that online retailers and and food-tech companies are expected to make a joint representation to the Maharashtra government, seeking extension of the deadline for vaccination and COVID-19 testing for delivery executives.

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Swiggy had on March 24 said it will cover the vaccination cost of over 2,00,000 delivery partners across India.

"In light of the requirements for Maharashtra, we will also cover the cost of their RT-PCR tests. As an essential service, we are supporting the health and safety of our delivery partners and consumers, and are working with authorities to ensure safe deliveries," Swiggy said in a statement.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on April 5 wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to lower the age criterion for vaccination to 25 years.

On April 5, Maharashtra reported a total of 47,288 new COVID-19 cases and 155 deaths in the previous 24-hour period, the highest daily surge among all states in the country.

Click here for Moneycontrol’s full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic
Moneycontrol News
first published: Apr 6, 2021 09:07 am

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