The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has sent a letter to the Ministry of Health, arguing that frontline telecoms staff should be among the first first to receive the coronavirus vaccine

The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic is currently devastating India, which has now sadly recorded over a quarter of a million deaths from the virus. While all adults in India are now eligible to be vaccinated, currently only around 12% of the country’s 1.3 billion have currently received the jab, with supply shortages slowing the vaccine rollout.

Now, the COAI, whose members include Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtelm and Vodafone Idea, is urging the government to categorise telecoms engineers as front-line workers, thereby giving them priority for when it comes to receiving the vaccine. 

“There is fear in the minds of these professionals," read the letter, sent by COAI Director General SP Kochhar. “Hence, it is essential that they are categorised under the frontline workers category so that they are given priority for getting the COVID-19 prevention vaccine, which would motivate them to continue their work.”

The letter highlighted the importance of the smooth operation of telecoms infrastructure during a national health crisis.

“It would be impossible for people to function – conduct everyday business, bank, learn, utilise telehealth services and simply communicate, all while minimising exposure – if the frontline workers had not been at the forefront,” said the letter.

This is not the first time that the Indian telecoms sector has made such an appeal. This is the second letter the COAI has sent to the Health Ministry on this topic, the first being delivered back in April. Earlier still, in March, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had voiced its support for prioritising front-line telecoms staff for the vaccine. 

Another issue raised in COAI’s letter is that of mobility. In an effort to reduce disease transmission, many Indian states are enforcing movement restrictions, which could leave telecoms staff unable to operate communications networks effectively. The industry association suggests that the government make these key workers exempt from these restrictions, allowing them to carry out network maintenance unhindered. 

Naturally, the importance of connectivity during times like these cannot be understated and telecoms organisations are certainly correct to seek vaccination priority for their front-line staff. India recorded over 300,000 new Covid cases yesterday alone and the spread of the virus unfortunately shows little signs of slowing.


Also in the news:
What’s the score? Total Telecom’s quarterly financial Score Board
FCC approves $7.17bn broadband fund
SoftBank invests $60m into Axiata’s AI unit