India registered 54,069 fresh coronavirus infections, 5.9 percent higher from Wednesday when 50,848 cases were recorded, pushing the cumulative total over 3.82 crore. The COVID-19 toll in the country increased to 3.91 lakh on Thursday with 1,321 new fatalities.
Meanwhile, India's test positivity rate continued to decline. For the 17th straight day, it remained below the 5 percent mark at 2.91 percent.
The decline in positivity rates, after a devastating second wave in April and May, has resulted in a gradual reopening of activities, however, the unlocking may be shortlived with experts warning people and authorities against the Delta Plus variant of the coronavirus.
A mutant of the highly infectious Delta variant, which brought the second wave of COVID-19 in India, the Delta Plus has been labelled as a "variant of concern" by the Union Health Ministry.
Cases of the new variant have started to surface in Maharashtra, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The health ministry has especially advised Maharashtra, Kerala and MP to ramp up containment measures in the affected districts. Apart from India, the Delta Plus variant has been detected in the US, UK, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, Nepal, Poland, China and Russia so far.
Madhya Pradesh records first death from 'Delta Plus' COVID-19 variant
Five persons have so far been found infected with the 'Delta Plus' variant of coronavirus in Madhya Pradesh and one of them has died, state Medical Education Minister Vishwas Sarang said on Thursday.
The other four persons, who were vaccinated against COVID-19, are fine, he told PTI.
"One person from Ujjain, who died, was not inoculated," he said.
"So far, three persons from Bhopal and two from Ujjain have been found infected with the 'Delta Plus' variant in Madhya Pradesh," the minister said.
Pfizer says its vaccine highly effective against Delta variant
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is highly effective against the Delta variant of COVID-19, a Pfizer official in Israel said on Thursday.
First identified in India, Delta is becoming the globally dominant version of the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization.
A second mutation of the variant, called Delta Plus, has also been reported in India and in some other countries, including the UK and the US. Hence, all vaccine makers are relooking their data on the effectiveness of vaccines.
"The data we have today, accumulating from research we are conducting at the lab and including data from those places where the Indian variant, Delta, has replaced the British variant as the common variant, point to our vaccine being very effective, around 90%, in preventing the coronavirus disease, COVID-19," Alon Rappaport, Pfizer's medical director in Israel said.
Andhra Pradesh cancels Class 10, Intermediate board exams
After being pulled up by the Supreme Court, the Andhra Pradesh government on Thursday announced the cancellation of Class 10 and Intermediate (Class 11 and Class 12) board exams.
In view of the Supreme Court orders on 24 June, requiring states to complete exams before 31 July, it has been decided that the Board of Intermediate exams for 2021 will stand cancelled, state education minister Audimulapu Suresh said at a press meet.
After consulting with the Andhra Pradesh Board of Intermediate Education officials, who informed that conducting exams, evaluation and results declaration would take at least 40 days, apart from having to notify students of the exam schedule 15 days beforehand, it was decided that it is not feasible to conduct exams in such a tight schedule before 31 July, he said.
The alternative grading method will be announced soon, he said.
Over 1.89 crore unutilised vaccine doses available with states/UTs: Centre
More than 1.89 crore balance and unutilised COVID-19 vaccine doses are still available with the states and Union territories, the health ministry said on Thursday.
Over two crore vaccine doses have been administered in the first 72 hours of the implementation of the revised guidelines of the National COVID-19 Vaccination Programme, the ministry said.
More than 30 crore (30,33,27,440) vaccine doses have been provided by the Centre to states/UTs so far. Of this, the total consumption, including wastages, is 28,43,40,936 doses, the ministry said.
Single dose of Pfizer, AstraZeneca vaccines offer 60% protection, reveals study
A single dose of Pfizer or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine offers around 60 percent protection against infection from SARS-CoV-2 in adults aged 65 years and above, according to a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
To obtain real-world data on the effectiveness of these vaccines in care homes, the researchers from the University College London (UCL) in the UK used data from the VIVALDI study.
That research investigated SARS-CoV-2 transmission, infection outcomes, and immunity in residents and staff in long-term care facilities in England for adults aged 65 years and older since June 2020.
This analysis included long-term care facility residents undergoing routine asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 testing between 8 December, 2020 - the date the first vaccine was administered in the study cohort - and 15 March, 2021, using national testing data linked within the COVID-19 Datastore.
This study was completed before the emergence of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 now dominating in the UK.
AIIMS Rishikesh gears up for third wave
The All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh, is imparting special training to its nursing staff and creating a separate 100-bed COVID-19 ward for children in view of the possibility of the third wave.
"With experts warning that the third wave may affect children more than others, we are leaving nothing to chance," AIIMS Director Ravi Kant said on Thursday.
The focus is on increasing the number of beds, equipment and trained manpower especially for children, he said.
An additional 100-bed Covid ward with 50 oxygen supported and 50 ICU beds is being created at the hospital exclusively for children, Dean, Hospital Affairs, UB Mishra, said.
A team of 55 trained resident doctors and 50 trained nursing staff has been kept ready for the treatment of children alone, he said.
"We have a team of 15 trained nursing officers in the neo-natal intensive care unit for newly born infants less than one month old. We have 30 beds in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit and 25 in NICU already. But we are also creating a 100-bed additional COVID-19 ward for children," Mishra said.
Over 2,000 people in Mumbai administered fake vaccines, Maharashtra govt tells HC
More than 2,000 people have fallen victim to fake COVID-19 vaccination camps in Mumbai so far, the Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court on Thursday.
The state government's counsel, chief public prosecutor Deepak Thakare told the court that at least nine fake camps had been held in the city till now, and four separate FIRs registered in this connection.
The state government also submitted before a bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni, a status report on the ongoing probe.
The state also said that the police had recorded the statements of 400 witnesses so far and the investigators were in the process of finding the whereabouts of a doctor, who was an accused in the incident that took place at a housing society in suburban Kandivali, where one such camp was held.
"At least 2,053 people fell victim to these fake vaccination camps. Four FIRs have been registered in relation to these camps. While some accused persons have been identified, several unknown persons, too, have been booked in these FIRs," Thakare said.
While the bench accepted the state's report, it said that the state and municipal authorities must, in the meanwhile, take measures to get the victims tested for any ill effects caused by fake vaccines.
With inputs from agencies