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COVID-19 cases surge: Centre flags gaps in containment measures of three states, bans Remdesivir exports

FP Staff
·9 min read

The multi-disciplinary teams deployed by the Centre to 50 districts across Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Punjab, have flagged several problems with the states' approach to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, in view of increased demand for Remdesivir due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, the government banned the export of the antiviral injection and its Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) has been banned till the situation improves.

The active COVID-19 cases in India breached the 11 lakh mark for the first time after a record high of 1.52 lakh new infections while a massive vaccination push, dubbed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the beginning of another major war against coronavirus, was launched on Sunday in a bid to abate the surge.

The active caseload till now was at its lowest at 1,35,926 on 12 February and at its highest at 10,17,754 on 18 September, 2020.

Amid an unprecedented burden on health infrastructure in 15 states and Delhi, which are witnessing an upward trajectory, authorities have started reserving more COVID hospitals and taking steps to address any shortage of medical supplies, besides enhancing curbs on the movement of people.

India's COVID-19 tally of cases climbed to 1,33,58,805, and the toll increased to 1,69,275 with 839 daily new fatalities, the highest since October 18, 2020, the data updated by Health Ministry on Sunday morning showed.

While the cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the country has crossed 10 crores after 85 days, the 'Tika Utsav' or a special 'vaccination festival' which was started today, will go on till 14 April.

"Anyone eligible for the vaccine should get the jab, and for this, the society and administration have to make full efforts," Prime Minister Modi said pitching for "zero vaccine waste" and urging the people to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour

"This festival is, in a way, the beginning of another major war against corona. We have to lay special emphasis on personal hygiene as well as social hygiene," he said

Five states €" Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala €" cumulatively account for 70.82 percent of India's active COVID-19 cases, while Maharashtra alone accounts for 48.57 percent, the Union Health Ministry said.

Besides these states, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal are displaying an upward graph in daily new cases

Most of these states have reimposed restrictions, including the closure of schools, night curfew, weekend and local shutdowns while ruling out a total lockdown, but as the latest wave of patients continues to flood hospitals, there are some signs of a rethink.

Centre bans export of antiviral drug Remdesivir

The Centre announced a ban on the export of Remdesivir, used in coronavirus treatment and its Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients, and asked all domestic manufacturers to display on their website details of their stockists and distributors. There were some reports of shortage of drugs from a few states.

In addition, to ensure easy access of the drug, which is used in the treatment of coronavirus , to hospitals and patients, all domestic manufacturers of Remdesivir have been advised to display on their website details of their stockists and distributors, the Union Health Ministry said.

Drugs inspectors and other officers have been directed to verify stocks, check malpractices and also take other effective actions to curb hoarding and black marketing. State health secretaries will review this along with drug inspectors of the respective states and UTs, it said.

Situation in Delhi 'very serious', says Kejriwal

Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and his Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal have both said that a lockdown will be the only option if the infections don't abate and the health system shows signs of collapsing. Kejriwal on Sunday said the COVID-19 situation in the National Capital is "very serious"

The city recorded 10,774 fresh COVID-19 cases on Sunday, the highest single-day spike so far, with 48 more fatalities

"The fourth wave is more dangerous than the previous wave," he told a press conference and urged the people not to step out unless there is urgent work.

The chief minister said that his government does not want to impose lockdown in Delhi but such a situation may arise if there is a rush to the hospitals and beds are unavailable for serious patients

"We need your cooperation. If your cooperation is received and the situation of hospitals is under control, there will be no need to impose a lockdown in Delhi. But, if beds in the hospitals fell short and are unavailable, then lockdown may have to be imposed," he said

Decision on Maharashtra lockdown after 14 April

Speaking after an all-party meeting held virtually to discuss the COVID-19 situation in Maharashtra on Sunday, state health minister Rajesh Tope said an appropriate decision regarding imposing a lockdown in Maharashtra will be taken after 14 April.

The state has already announced a slew of curbs, including a night curfew.

"Duration of the lockdown and how to handle its economic fallout was discussed during today's meeting. The task force is of the view that the prevailing coronavirus situation in the state is such that a lockdown is required," Tope said.

A tweet from the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) said, "In a meeting with the State Task Force, the chief minister discussed the availability of oxygen & beds, use of Remdesivir, treatment protocols, increase in capacity of facilities, imposition of restrictions & fines for violating COVID protocols."

This comes on a day when Maharashtra recorded 63,294 new coronavirus cases, its highest single-day rise since the pandemic broke out, pushing the caseload to 34,07,245, the health department said.

States grapple with pressure on health facilities

As the number of active cases reaches a new high, states are grappling with the pressure on health facilities

The Chhattisgarh government has directed that 80 percent of the total oxygen produced will be supplied for medical purposes to hospitals

The state health department on Sunday issued a notification in this regard under the Epidemic Diseases Act

On Saturday, Chhattisgarh recorded 14,098 new cases of coronavirus, the highest single-day spike

Several areas in Madhya Pradesh have been witnessing harried people queuing up outside medical stores for Remdesivir, a drug used in the treatment

A senior Madhya Pradesh official on Sunday said a sizeable batch of the drug has arrived and will be distributed to medical facilities as per requirement

Madhya Pradesh recorded 4,986 fresh coronavirus cases on Saturday, its biggest single-day spike

In Maharashtra, Pune was also witnessing a huge demand for the drug

Delhi government hospitals have been directed to engage fourth and fifth-year MBBS students to meet the increased demand for manpower, while the tenure of senior and junior residents is being extended and vacant posts will be filled, officials said

The Punjab Health Department has asked private hospitals to defer elective surgeries till 30 April to meet the increasing demand for beds and charge government-fixed rates for the treatment of coronavirus patients

The Uttar Pradesh government announced imposing night curfew in districts reporting over 100 daily cases or 500 active cases and extended closure of all schools till 30 April.

At the meeting chaired by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, it was decided to conduct at least one lakh RT-PCR tests daily

Ahead of Navratri and Ramzan, the state government has said that not more than five persons should be allowed to enter religious places

The state recorded the highest-ever single-day spike of 15,353 cases, while 67 fresh deaths pushed the toll to 9,152

The Gujarat government has already imposed restrictions on people's movement during the night in 20 cities of the state, including Surat

The latest surge of COVID-19 has also sparked concerns of a repeat of migrant workers' exodus from the worst affected states

Industry sources in Tamil Nadu said the sector was recovering from the jolt of the first wave of coronavirus but now some workers have again reportedly left for their natives early last week as they feared being stranded if a lockdown was imposed

A severe spike in COVID-19 cases in Mumbai and talk of a "complete lockdown" like last year, has made the national highway number 3 skirting past Madhya Pradesh's commercial hub Indore a prime route for wary migrants returning home to states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar

The number of motorcycles, black-and-yellow mini trucks and autorickshaws, teeming with migrants, have been on the rise over the past few days on a bypass road connected to this route, popularly known as Mumbai-Agra road

"The virus outbreak has once again got very severe in Mumbai. There might be a lockdown and it may, like last year, render us jobless. So we have decided to return home," said Ramsharan Singh (40), who was on his way back to Ballia in Uttar Pradesh in an autorickshaw

Similar is the case with Mohammad Shadab, who is returning to his hometown in Bihar's Bhojpur district

"I work in a restaurant in Mumbai. I will think of returning there if the situation improves. Or else, I plan to stay back in Bihar and look for work," he said

While there are no clear answers to the COVID flare-up, top scientists say the complex interplay of mutant strains, a hugely susceptible population made more vulnerable by-elections and other public events and the lowering of the guard are primarily to blame

Virologists Shahid Jameel and T Jacob John said that not following COVID-19 protocol, including informing people they must continue with precautions even after being vaccinated, and a sluggish vaccination drive are among the factors responsible

Jameel said the interplay of mutants and vaccines over the next couple of months will decide the future of CIVUD in India and the world

"The intensity of the surge also suggests that there were a huge number of susceptible people after the first wave?," the director of the Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University in Haryana told PTI.

The Centre had warned last week that the next four weeks are critical

In a statement, the prime minister on Sunday urged people to keep four things in mind €" "each one, vaccinate one", "each one, treats one" and "each one, save one"

Elderly people or those who may not be much educated should be helped in getting the vaccine, he said and also asked people to help those COVID-19 patients in getting treatment who may lack resources or information

By wearing masks, people can save themselves and others, Modi added.

"Our success will be decided by how much aware we are about micro containment zones. Our success will be decided by not stepping outside homes when not needed. Our success will be decided by ensuring that those eligible for the vaccine get it. Our success will be decided by how much we adhere to wearing masks and following other protocols," the prime minister said.

With inputs from PTI

Also See: As COVID-19 cases surge, Centre bans export of antiviral drug Remdesivir till 'situation improves'

Lack of testing, COVID-19 appropriate behaviour not being followed in three states, says Centre

Decision on COVID-19 lockdown in Maharashtra to be taken after 14 April, says Rajesh Tope

Read more on India by Firstpost.