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COVID-19 Latest News and Updates: Maharashtra's daily COVID growth rate is half of national average, says health minister

·16 min read

India Covid LATEST News and Updates: Maharashtra's per day COVID-19 growth rate is 0.8 percent, which is half of the country's average of 1.4 percent, state Health Minister Rajesh Tope said on Wednesday.

The Karnataka government on Wednesday decided to import vaccines, as a shortage of dosages hit the state and the demand went up substantially with an alarming rise in COVID cases. The state government also decided to suspend the vaccination for people between 18-44 years age group, which had started symbolically on May 1, till further orders.

Those working at crematoriums will be considered as COVID-19 frontline workers and will get all related benefits, the Gujarat government said on Wednesday. The benefits include Rs 25 lakh for the family if a worker dies due to the virus infection.

Tamil Nadu recorded 30,355 new COVID-19 cases in the single biggest day spike so far on Wednesday, pushing the caseload to 14,68,864 while 293 deaths in the last 24 hours took the toll to 16,471

Supreme Court judge Justice DY Chandrachud has tested positive for COVID-19, said reports. Justice Chandrachud is currently heading the bench which is hearing the suo motu case concerning COVID-19 issues.

The top court meanwhile issued a notice which said the scheduled hearing on Thursday before a three-judge bench headed by Justice Chandrachud in the suo motu case for ensuring distribution of essential supplies and services during the COVID-19 pandemic stands deferred as one of the judges of the bench has tested positive for coronavirus.

The Maharashtra govt has temporarily suspended the vaccination programme for those in the 18 to 45 age group, due to a shortage of vaccine, say reports. According to news agency ANI, state health minister Rajesh Tope said all vaccine doses will be diverted to those above the age of 45.

Leaders of 12 Opposition parties in a joint letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the government should implement nine measures, including procuring vaccines from all available sources centrally and immediately starting a universal and free mass vaccination programme, on a war footing.

Other measures suggested by the Opposition leaders include spending Rs 35,000 crore budgetary allocation for the vaccines and releasing all money in the PM CARES for the purchase of more vaccines, oxygen, and medical equipment.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee writes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling for a liberal, pro-active import of COVID-19 vaccines. Banerjee also asked the prime minister to consider encouraging global and national manufacturers to set up franchise operations in the country. The Bengal govt is ready to provide land and support in this regard, she says in the letter.

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday said if the Union government had started door-to-door vaccination programme for senior citizens a few months back, then lives of many of them, including prominent persons, could have been saved.

The Karnataka HC directs the state government to prepare an action plan and vision statement outlining its preparedness for dealing with possible third wave of COVID-19, said reports.

With the coronavirus infection spreading rapidly in rural areas of Rajasthan, the state government has decided to conduct rapid antigen tests to detect COVID-19 cases at an early stage. Health Minister Raghu Sharma said on Wednesday that the rapid antigen test will be conducted in community health centres and other hospitals to check the spread of the virus in rural areas.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK. Stalin on Wednesday announced an ex-gratia of Rs 25 lakh each to the families of 43 doctors who died while performing their duty in the COVID-19 pandemic, said reports.

India's COVID-19 active cases dipped to 37,04,099 with a net decline of 11,122 cases in a span of 24 hours, the Union Health Ministry said on Wednesday. This is the second consecutive day that active cases have dipped.

Kultar Singh Sandhwan, AAP MLA from Punjab's Kotkapura, has alleged that ventilators supplied under PM Cares Fund are lying unused in the Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital in Faridkot.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said Delhi's reserve stock of vaccines is exhausted, adding that while centres administering Covishield vaccines are functioning, 100 centres across 17 schools administering Covaxin will be closed down.

As many states raise the issue of deficient supply of COVID-19 vaccines, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan will hold a meeting with the health ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Punjab, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Telangana.

India recorded 3,48,421 new COVID-19 cases, 3,55,338 discharges and 4,205 deaths in the last 24 hours.

The Centre on Tuesday said that an early trend of decline in daily new COVID-19 cases and deaths has been noted in India even as hospitals and crematoriums in several cities remained full.

Addressing a press conference, Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry Lav Agarwal said Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana were among 18 states and Union Territories showing continued plateauing or decrease in daily new COVID-19 cases.

However, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Punjab, Assam, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and Tripura were among 16 states and Union Territories showing a continued increasing trend in daily new COVID-19 cases.

The claim comes in the backdrop of an alarming news report from Bihar's Buxar, where local authorities claim as many as 71 bodies of suspected COVID patients floated downstream from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. Another bunch of over 40 bodies were found floating in the river in UP's Ballia and Ghazipur districts.

While there was no clarity on the circumstances surrounding the deaths of these unidentified people, their sheer numbers in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic instilled fear that these were bodies of COVID patients either abandoned by resource-starved family members or dumped by callous officials at a time when crematorium and funeral homes are overburdened.

On the other hand, as per this Firstpost report, in the national capital, the administration has been forced to build makeshift crematoriums at public places, as Delhi is running out of space to cremate its dead. Public parks and other empty spaces are also being utilised for cremations.

In other development, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not travel to the UK to attend a summit of the G7 grouping in person in view of the prevailing coronavirus situation, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Tuesday. The G7 summit is scheduled to take place in Cornwall in the UK next month.

"While appreciating the invitation to the Prime Minister by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to attend the G7 Summit as a special invitee, given the prevailing COVID situation, it has been decided that the Prime Minister will not attend the G7 Summit in person," MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

The numbers

India has been reeling under a calamitous second wave of coronavirus infection. However, according to official data, the daily numbers of deaths and infections have started to go down. New cases of coronavirus in India fell to 3.29 lakh after 14 days, taking the infection tally to 2,29,92,517, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Tuesday. The toll climbed by 3,876 to 2,49,992.

After registering a steady rise for two months, the active cases have reduced to 37,15,221, accounting for 16.16 percent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate was recorded at 82.75 percent.

Replicate Mumbai, Pune models at national level, says govt

Appreciating models of containment used in Mumbai and Pune, the Union health ministry called it a "fine example" that shows how containment measures can help restrict the spread of the disease. The Centre also said that these models should be replicated at the national level.

"Around 800 SUVs were refurbished to convert them into makeshift ambulances. A software platform was created to track and manage these ambulances. All these systems work together to ensure that patients do not face problems in finding a bed." Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said, appreciating the systematic efforts of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, in fighting COVID-19 in Mumbai.

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"We have observed that strict measures like restrictions on mass gatherings and on the intermingling of people along with the closing of non-essential activities for a period of 15 days reduce the rate of growth of cases and cases start plateauing", said the Joint Secretary.

Covaxin shortage in Delhi, Mumbai

The Delhi government Tuesday said it will have to shut a large number of Covid-19 jab centres due to a shortage of shots and urged the Centre to use its special power to allow more firms to manufacture vaccines. The Aam Aadmi Party government also announced that it will float a global tender to procure additional doses.

As many as 125 centres administering Covaxin to 18-44 age group are likely to be closed down Wednesday as the Delhi government did not receive new stock of the vaccine till Tuesday evening.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying the Centre should share the vaccine formula of the two manufacturers with other capable pharmaceutical companies to scale up production in the country.

In his letter to Modi, Kejriwal said the entire country can be provided a safety cover by allowing more companies to manufacture the vaccines on a war footing in preparation for an anticipated third wave of the pandemic.

He said the Centre can also terminate the monopoly on vaccine production through the patent law.

Similarly, citing a shortage of COVID-19 vaccine does, the Maharashtra government on Tuesday decided to divert three lakh vials of Covaxin meant for the 18-44 age group for the use of the people aged 45 years and above.

Speaking to reporters, state Health Minister Rajesh Tope also said more than five lakh people above 45 years are awaiting the second dose for the want of the vaccine.

"Efficacy of the vaccine is largely affected if the second dose is not administered in a stipulated time. To avoid such health crisis, the state government has decided to divert three lakh vials (of Covaxin) purchased for the 18-44 age category for the people above 45 years," Tope said.

In south India, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy asked the Centre to direct Bharat Biotech and ICMR-NIV to transfer the Covaxin manufacturing technology and provide the viral strain to "whoever is interested and capable of manufacturing the vaccine" so that the production could be ramped up.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Jagan claimed that the present total manufacturing capacity of Covaxin did not cater to the country's requirement.

"It may take several months to get all vaccinated at this pace. Please explore the possibility of involving all such production firms and enable them with the technology, intellectual property rights to deliver the vaccine as quickly and as affordable as possible," the Chief Minister said.

"Anyone who can manufacture or is interested in manufacturing the vaccine should be encouraged to do so in the larger public interest. Entire manufacturing capacity should be mobilised and put to use in this testing times," Jagan added.

Taking note of these vaccine shortages, many states took other measures to keep up with rising measures.

States issue global tender for COVID vaccine procurement

The governments of Delhi, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana on Tuesday joined several other states which have decided to issue global tenders for procurement of COVID vaccines as the domestic supply fails to keep up with the rising demand amid the fierce second wave of the pandemic.

The Centre said it has so far provided more than 18 crore vaccine doses to states and UTs free of cost, but many of them have complained of an acute shortage of the jabs and are now prioritising people who need to be given their second dose within a prescribed period.

Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Odisha have also taken the global tender route for procuring vaccines swiftly.

Two crore COVID vaccine doses will be procured through global tender to meet the increased demand and to facilitate vaccination of the age group of 18-44 years, Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister and state COVID task force head C N Ashwath Narayan said.

"Till now, we had depended only on vaccines supplied by the central government and it was not procured from the open market by floating tender. Now, it has been instructed to float the tender and to complete the process within seven days," Narayan said.

Delhi government too said it will float a global tender for procuring coronavirus vaccines.

Addressing a press conference, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia alleged that the BJP-ruled Centre was "forcing" state governments to invite global tenders for vaccine procurement.

The Telangana cabinet also decided to invite global tenders for procurement of COVID-19 vaccine, an official statement said.

Officials said the Andhra Pradesh government will float a global tender in a day or two for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines from foreign manufacturers to complete the vaccination process as quickly as possible.

WHO warns against use of Ivermectin

World Health Organisation has warned against the use of Ivermectin, an orally administered drug in treating COVID-19 patients. The move comes one day after Goa government decided to administer the drug to its entire adult population, notwithstanding the fact whether they are COVID positive or not.

Chief Scientist of the WHO said that the organisation recommends against the use of the drug in the treatment of those with COVID-19, with the only exception for its use being during clinical trials.

"Safety and efficacy are important when using any drug for a new indication," chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said.

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US Food and Drug Authority and European Medical Agency (EMA) have both advised against the use of 'ivermectin' to treat COVID-19 patients.

Even the Union ministry of health and family welfare had also opted out from including Ivermectin in its official Clinical Management Protocol for COVID-19 last year. Experts of the central government's joint monitoring group and the Indian Council of Medical Research's COVID-19 task force held a meeting to deliberate upon the issue and decided not to include Ivermectin in the clinical management protocol "because of lack of sufficient evidence on its efficacy based on randomised trials held in India and abroad," news agency PTI had reported, citing ministry sources.

71 bodies fished out from the Ganges in Bihar so far

The Bihar government on Tuesday said altogether 71 bodies have been fished out from the Ganges in Buxar district, where these were found floating in the river, triggering suspicion that the abandoned corpses could be those of COVID-19 patients.

State Water Resources Minister Sanjay Kumar, a key aide of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, came out with a series of tweets, asserting that the bodies had flown downstream from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.

"The Bihar government is seized of the matter of unfortunate case of floating mortal remains in river Ganga... The bodies have floated into Bihar from UP," said Jha, adding, doctors have confirmed upon post-mortem that the deaths had taken place "four-five days" ago

Bodies were also seen floating in the Ganga in Uttar Pradesh's Ballia and Ghazipur districts, according to local residents and the authorities on Tuesday. Ironically, the authorities here blamed the state of Bihar.

Superintendent of Police Vipin Tada said he did not know how many bodies were found. "The bodies were old. In Bihar, there is a tradition of disposing of dead bodies in the river," he said, adding that seeing the wind direction, it seems the bodies came from Bihar.

24 COVID patients in Goa, 11 in Andhra die in govt hospitals

Goa Health Minister Vishwajit Rane on Tuesday said 26 COVID-19 patients died at the state-run Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) in the early hours and sought an investigation by the High Court to find out the exact cause.

He said these fatalities occurred between 2 am and 6 am "which is a fact", but remained evasive about the cause.

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, who visited GMCH, said the gap between the "availability of medical oxygen and its supply to COVID-19 wards in the GMCH might have caused some issues for the patients" even as he stressed that there is no scarcity of oxygen supply in the state.

Meanwhile, in Andhra Pradesh, 11 COVID-19 patients have died due to a problem with oxygen supply inside the ICU in Ruia hospital late on Monday night. The state government has announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each to the kin of these COVID-19 patients, who died at the government-run Ruia Hospital in Tirupati.

Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy announced this during a videoconference with district Collectors. There was a five-minute lag in reloading liquid medical oxygen, which caused the pressure to drop, resulting in the deaths, Chittoor district Collector M Hari Narayanan had said.

Telangana announces 10-day lockdown from tomorrow

The Telangana Cabinet on Tuesday decided to impose a 10-day lockdown beginning 12 May from 10 am to prevent further spread of COVID-19, with four hours of relaxation in the morning.

From Wednesday onwards, all southern states €" except Andhra Pradesh, where there is a partial curfew €" will be under lockdown. Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are under lockdown till 24 May. In Kerala, the curbs are in force till 16 May.

The Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao-led cabinet meeting, which was held at Pragathi Bhavan has decided to give a relaxation period from 6 AM to 10 AM for the people for their general activities and needs, an official release said.

The Cabinet also decided to invite global tenders to procure the Covid-19 vaccines on a war footing, it said.

Works related to agriculture produce, allied sectors, work undertaken with the agriculture machines, running of rice mills, transport of the paddy and rice, supplying paddy to FCI, fertiliser and seeds shops and manufacturing companies and other agri-based sectors are exempted from the lockdown, it said.

"The State Cabinet will meet again on 20 May, would review the situation on the continuing of the lockdown and take a decision accordingly," the release said.

With inputs from PTI

Also See: India sees record 4,205 deaths in 24 hrs: Karnataka, Maharashtra suspend vaccination for 18-44 group

COVID-19 grips Kashmir as authorities limit testing, allow tourists, markets remain chock-a-block ahead of Eid

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