India gets new ministers for health, IT, oil amid COVID crisis

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appointed new federal ministers for health, IT and oil as part of a reshuffle aimed at refurbishing his government’s image amid fierce criticism of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Modi appointed Mansukh Laxman Mandaviya as the country’s new health minister just hours after Harsh Vardhan, who was the face of the government’s efforts to fight COVID-19, was asked to step down along with his deputy.Official sources said Vardhan had to pay the political price for the government’s struggles to cope with a devastating second wave of coronavirus infections.

Modi’s government has faced sharp criticism for the chaotic rollout of a nationwide immunisation campaign that experts said had worsened the impact of the second wave, killing hundreds of thousands.

The official death toll after a surge in COVID-19 infections in April and May passed 400,000 last week.

More than half of those reported deaths – the third most of any country – occurred during the past two months as the Delta variant of the virus tore through the nation and overwhelmed its already strained healthcare system.Experts believe the actual number may be much higher and there are fears of a third wave soon. Millions remain unvaccinated.

Mandaviya, who belongs to Modi’s home state Gujarat, was previously a junior minister holding the portfolios for ports and chemicals and fertilisers.

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