Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said that 29 lakh people registered for coronavirus vaccination on Monday – the beginning of the second phase of India’s inoculation drive, NDTV reported. Vardhan also expressed confidence that the recent surge in coronavirus cases is not permanent and will soon be brought under control.

Vardhan told the news channel in an interview that the 29 lakh registrations were recorded till 8.30 pm on Monday. He added that the actual number could be greater since beneficiaries had the option to register four other family members.

“So, if you take the average of one person registering for two, then it becomes almost 60 lakhs,” the health minister said. “And, if you think everyone is registering for four of his family, then it crosses one crore.”

The Union health minister told NDTV that there was no link between coronavirus mutations and the surge in cases in some states. “The increase in the number of cases in Maharashtra, Kerala or any other state has nothing to do with the new Covid strains, either Brazilian, South African or from the UK,” he said. “I am hopeful things are going to settle down and the recent spurt is not a permanent thing.”

Vardhan urged the citizens not to let their guard down amid the public rollout of vaccines. He said that Covid-appropriate behaviour should be followed for a few more months at least. “The idea of vaccinating as many people as possible is to ensure that more and more people have antibodies, which you can get either from being infected or the vaccine,” he told NDTV. “This will strengthen our movement to herd immunity. Scientifically that helps in a big way... and ultimately that is the aim of vaccination – to protect people at individual level and at community and society level.”

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The health minister again emphasised that the country’s indigenous vaccine, Covaxin, was safe. He said that late-stage trial data for the vaccine will be available soon. Vardhan also highlighted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was given a shot of the vaccine.

Vardhan also said that India had enough vaccines to meet its own demands and the requirements of other countries.

India’s second phase of vaccination, covering people above the age of 60 and those above 45 with comorbidities, began on Monday. Modi took his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi. Union Home Minister Amit Shah and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also got vaccinated.

India on Monday registered 15,510 coronavirus cases, taking the overall count to 1,11,12,241. The new cases were 7.4% lower than Sunday’s count. The country’s toll rose to 1,57,157 after 106 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours. The country’s count of active cases stood at 1,68,627, while the number of recoveries reached 1,07,86,457.