Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday cautioned citizens against indiscriminate and excessive use of steroids, saying that it is leading to coronavirus-related complications.

“People are taking heavy doses of steroids even when they have not turned hypoxic,” Vardhan said. “Steroids are to be provided only when a patient is hypoxic, to be administered in small doses to prevent side effects and not more than a few days at a stretch. Recommendations of a doctor is must for the use of these medicines.”

Hypoxic is used to refer to patients who suffer from hypoxia, a condition in which the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply at the tissue level. The condition can affect the whole body or some region.

Vardhan made the statement during an inspection of a newly-installed oxygen plant and the construction progress of new Covid-19 blocks at Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi. The health minister said that he hoped his advice helps reduce the number of mucormycosis infections being reported countrywide.

Mucormycosis, or “black fungus”, has been found in several coronavirus patients across the country, mostly after they have recovered. The condition involves headache, fever, pain under the eyes, nasal or sinus congestion, and partial loss of vision. The rare infection is caused by a fungus named mucor, which is found on wet surfaces. Rajasthan, which has around 100 black fungus patients at Sawai Man Singh Hospital in Jaipur, has declared it an epidemic in the state.

During his inspection, Vardhan said that Safdarjung Hospital will soon be equipped with another oxygen plant with a capacity of 2 metric tonnes. “Similarly, 1,051 plants are in the process of being established with the help of DRDO [Defence Research and Development Organisation], CSIR [Council of Scientific and Industrial Research] and HITEC [Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference] all over the country.”

Centre says it will be able to vaccinate all adults by end of 2021

At a review meeting with nine states, Vardhan said that the central government will be in a position to vaccinate at least all its adult citizens against the coronavirus by the end of the year. The health minister said that the government was procuring vaccines in this regard.

“Between August and December 2021, India will have procured 216 crore vaccine doses while, by July this year, 51 crore doses will be procured,” he said, adding that one crore jabs were still in stock with the states.

The minister also urged the states to full vaccinate all their healthcare and frontline workers, as they form the vulnerable categories.

The meeting was attended by representatives of the northeastern states and West Bengal. In a statement, the health ministry said that these states were showing a higher growth rate in the number of daily coronavirus cases, high mortality and increasing positivity rate.

Vardhan said that now smaller states were showing an upward trend and that there was a need to remain cautious about it. He asked the states to focus on increasing testing in a timely manner along with improving the health infrastructure. The health minister said that more antigen tests can be done now so that mortality rates can be decreased and asked the states to focus on peri-urban and rural areas.

He stressed on the need to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour along with a focus on containment measures.

India on Wednesday registered 2,67,334 new coronavirus cases, taking the total count of infections to 2,54,96,330 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. The country reported 4,529 deaths, its highest single-day toll. This pushed the overall fatality count to 2,83,248.