Coronavirus LIVE Updates: During a hearing against an Allahabad HC which allowed strict restrictions in five UP cities amid a rise in COVID-19 cases, the state government told the SC that lockdown by judicial order may not be the right approach
Coronavirus LATEST News and Updates: During a hearing against an Allahabad High Court which allowed strict restrictions in five Uttar Pradesh cities amid a rise in COVID-19 cases, the state government told the Supreme Court that lockdown by judicial order may not be the right approach.
The Centre on Monday announced that the third phase of India’s coronavirus vaccination programme will begin from 1 May. Everyone above the age of 18 will be eligible to receive shots in this phase.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called a meeting with vaccine manufacturers on Tuesday, sources told PTI.
The decision came as 25 lakh cases were added in just 15 days in the country and after several states including Maharashtra, Delhi, Punjab and Rajasthan demanded that the age restriction of 45 years be removed for the vaccination.
On Monday, India reported 2,73,810 new coronavirus cases, another highest single-day rise since the pandemic broke out in January 2020, taking the country’s tally to 1,50,61,919. With 1,619 deaths, the toll jumped to 1,78,769.
Several states like Kerala and Punjab have announced partial lockdowns, while Delhi on Monday announced a complete lockdown till 5 am next Monday.
The Punjab government on Monday announced stricter curbs including the extension of night curfew by an hour and closure of bars, cinema halls, gyms, spas, coaching centres and sports complexes in the state till 30 April. The fresh restrictions will come into effect from Tuesday, officials said, adding that curfew timings will now be from 8 pm to 5 am, instead of the earlier 9 pm to 5 am.
The Kerala government on Monday decided to impose a night curfew from 9 pm to 6 am from April 20 in view of the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in the state. The government has also directed all domestic travellers coming to the state to undergo RT-PCR tests.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced a six-day lockdown in the National Capital from Monday night, saying that the city’s healthcare system has been stretched to its limits to the growing burden of coronavirus cases.
Meanwhile, India has been added to Britain’s travel “red list” due to concerns over a new COVID-19 variant, said United Kingdom’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock. This bans all arrivals from India apart from British or Irish citizens, who have to pay to stay in a UK government-approved quarantine hotel for 10 days on their return.
Pakistan also decided to ban for two weeks travellers coming from India due to a record surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
The raging COVID-19 crisis cast its long shadow in West Bengal, which is in the midst of its long-drawn Assembly election, as all schools were ordered on Monday to close early for summer vacation and political parties announced that they would shun mega rallies for the remaining three phases of the poll.
The state also reported the highest single-day spike of 8,426 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and 38 people died of the infection in the state, as per the health department.
India opens up vaccination for all above 18
With the COVID-19 curve showing no signs of easing across the country, the Centre on Monday announced that the third phase of the coronavirus vaccination drive will open for all persons above age 18 from 1 May.
The decision was taken during a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
During the meeting, Modi said that the government had been working hard for over a year to ensure that maximum numbers of Indians are able to get the vaccine in the shortest possible time. He added that India is vaccinating people at a world record pace and will continue this with even greater momentum.
The government issued a press release stating that the decision was taken as part of the ‘liberalised and accelerated Phase 3 strategy of COVID-19 vaccination’.
Under the third phase of the vaccination drive commencing next month, the vaccine manufacturers would supply 50 percent of their monthly Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) released doses to the central government and would be free to supply the remaining 50 percent doses to state governments and in the open market.
Boris Johnson cancels India visit
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has cancelled his planned visit to India next week due to the coronavirus situation there, Downing Street announced on Monday, the day it was also confirmed that the country has been added to the UK’s COVID-19 travel ban “red list”.
Johnson, who admitted it was frustrating but only sensible to call off the visit, will instead speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi later this month to launch their plans for the future UK-India partnership, with their physical meeting expected later in the year.
“Narendra Modi and I have basically come to the conclusion that, very sadly, I won’t be able to go ahead with the trip,” Johnson told reporters, during a visit to Gloucestershire soon after the Downing Street announcement.
“I do think it’s only sensible to postpone, given what’s happened in India, the shape of the pandemic there. Countries around the world including our own have been through this I think everybody’s got a massive amount of sympathy with India, what they’re going through,” he said.
UK adds India to COVID-19 travel ‘red list’
Hours after Johnson announced his decision to cancel his planned visit to India, Hancock told MPs in the House of Commons that effective 4 am local time on Friday, there will be a travel ban in place for India and any returning British residents must complete a 10-day hotel quarantine in order to track and trace a new variant of coronavirus first detected in India.
“We’ve been analysing samples from these cases to see if this variant has any concerning characteristics like greater transmissibility or resistance to treatments and vaccines meaning it has to be treated as a variant of concern. After studying the data and on a precautionary basis, we’ve made the difficult but vital decision to add India to the red list,” Hancock said.
“India is a country I know well and love. Between our two countries, we have ties of friendship and family. I understand the impact of this decision, but I hope the House will concur we must act because we must protect the progress we have made in this country in tackling this awful disease,” he added.
The minister confirmed that 103 cases of the Indian variant, of which the “vast majority have links to international travel”, have been detected in the UK so far.
Pakistan bans travel from India for two weeks
Following the UK, Pakistan on Monday decided to ban for two weeks travellers coming from India due to a record surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
Pakistan’s National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) took the decision to impose a two-week ban on travel from India in a meeting chaired by its chief Asad Umar who is also the Minister for Planning and Development, according to a statement.
“The forum decided to place India in the list of Category C countries for two weeks. There will be a ban on inbound passengers coming from India via air and land routes,” the statement read.
Other countries already listed in the Category C include South Africa, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Comoros, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Chile, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Malawi, Seychelles, Somalia, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Lockdown imposed in Delhi till 26 April
This sudden measure was taken to contain the spread of the deadly COVID-19 after the city recorded over 25,000 cases on Sunday. The lockdown will take effect from 10 pm tonight till 5 am on 26 April.
Amid the rise in cases, Delhi is reeling under an acute shortage of beds and oxygen. “We are going to impose a lockdown for six days. For the next six days from 10 pm tonight, we will have a lockdown. Please do not step out during the lockdown,” said Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. “ICU beds are almost full in Delhi. Medicines are under severe shortage; especially remdesivir. We have requested the Centre to augment oxygen,” he added.
Meanwhile, according to PTI, the number of ICU beds available for coronavirus patients in Delhi hospitals on Monday dropped to 54, according to government data. Of the 4,377 ICU beds for COVID-19 patients in government and private hospitals across the city, 4,323 were occupied around 8 pm on Monday, according to data from the city government’s Delhi Corona application.
Only two hospitals – Sir Ganga Ram City Hospital and Madhukar Rainbow Children Hospital in Malviya Nagar – have more than 10 ICU beds available. Of the 19,322 normal beds available for COVID patients, 3,288 are unoccupied, it showed.
Johnson & Johnson seeks to conduct phase 3 trials for vaccine in India
Multinational pharma giant Johnson & Johnson has applied to India’s drug regulator seeking permission to conduct a phase-3 clinical trial of its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine in India as well as import licence, sources told PTI.
They said the company has sought an early meeting of the subject expert committee on COVID-19 of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) to take a decision on its application.
This comes close to the heels of the central government last week deciding to fast-track emergency approvals for all foreign-produced coronavirus jabs that have been given a similar nod by the World Health Organization or regulators in the United States, Europe, Britain or Japan.
Such vaccines will be given emergency use approval mandating the requirement of post-approval parallel bridging clinical trial in place of conduct of local clinical trial under the provisions of the New Drugs and Clinical Trials Rules 2019, the health ministry had said.
According to sources, Johnson & Johnson had applied on April 12 in the Global Clinical Trial Division through the Sugam online portal, instead of applying to the biological division which deals with vaccines and other biologicals.
“Due to the technicalities involved, Johnson & Johnson has resubmitted its application on Monday,” a source said.
The J&J vaccine can be stored for up to three months in a temperature between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius.
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is a single-dose jab, whereas the three vaccines cleared by India so far are of doubles doses.
‘Allocation of Remdesivir has to be need-based’
The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Monday said the distribution of Remdesivir injections has to be on the basis of need and asked the Centre and the Maharashtra government what parameters are followed while allocating the drug to different states and districts.
A division bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and S M Modak said if Maharashtra was contributing to 40 per cent of the COVID-19 cases in India, then the allocation of Remdesivir injections to the state should also be in the same percentage.
Remdesivir is listed for use in serious COVID-19 patients. In view of a sudden spike in demand of the drug due to the surge in COVID-19 cases, the Centre last week banned its export till the situation improves.
“If contribution towards COVID-19 cases is 40 per cent from Maharashtra, then it is only right to say that 40 per cent of Remdesivir injections are allotted to this state. The allocation has to be need-based and not on any other factors that are not relevant,” Justice Shukre said.
The court directed the Union and the state governments to file their affidavits by April 21, pointing out the parameters followed for the regulation and distribution of Remdesivir vials.
Oxygen demand higher in second wave, say experts
Top medical experts in the government said oxygen demand is higher in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic as compared to the first, while the ventilator requirement is lower.
According to data of hospitalised patients during the first and second wave, the requirement of oxygen is in the second wave at 54.5 percent as compared to the first wave at 41.1 percent, while the demand for mechanical ventilation in the second wave at 27.8 percent in comparison to the first at 37.3 percent.
The experts also said over 70 percent of the patients in both waves have been above 40 years and there is no major difference in deaths among hospitalised patients in the two waves.
NITI Aayog Member (Health) V K Paul said in the first wave 31 percent of patients were aged less than 30 years and this time it was up to 32 percent.
Oxygen continues to remain an important tool in the management of COVID-19 disease, ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava said, and stressed on its rationalised utilisation.
The Centre had on Sunday banned the supply of oxygen for industrial purposes except in nine specified industries in view of the shortage of the essential public health commodity in several states.
Allahabad HC pulls up UP govt over COVID surge, orders lockdown
Amid a surge in coronavirus cases, the Allahabad High Court Monday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to impose strict restrictions including the closing of malls, shopping complexes and restaurants till 26 April in five cities, but stopped short of calling it a “complete lockdown”.
The court also slammed the state government for “not planning” for a second wave of the pandemic and criticised the State Election Commission for holding the panchayat elections at this time and “exposing” poll officials to the threat of the virus.
Passing restrictions for Allahabad, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur Nagar and Gorakhpur cities, the two-judge bench comprising justices Siddhartha Varma and Ajit Kumar, said these curbs are “nowhere close to a complete lockdown”.
The court said in its order, “If we have not imposed a lockdown it does not mean that we do not believe in it. We are still of the view that if we want to break the chain a lockdown for a duration of at least two weeks is a must.”
“It is a shame that while the Government knew of the magnitude of the second wave it never planned things in advance,” observed the two-judge bench.
It also directed the government to “consider the imposition of a complete lockdown in the entire state for at least a period of two weeks”.
Parties shun mega poll rallies in Bengal COVID cases surge
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday announced that it will limit attendance at its leaders’ public rallies for the West Bengal Assembly election to 500 people. The party in its press release said this move comes in view of the rise in COVID-19 cases.
However, the BJP, in the press release on Monday, said, “It has been decided that only small public meetings, with not more than 500 people, will be held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Central ministers in West Bengal. All these public meetings will be held in open spaces following COVID-19 guidelines.”
The saffron party has sent six crore masks and bottles of sanitiser to the poll-bound state, the press release further stated.
Even TMC supremo and state chief minister Mamata Banerjee while addressing an election rally earlier in the day, urged the Election Commission to reconsider its decision to stick to the original poll schedule of eight phases.
She stressed that wrapping up the last three phases of polls on a single day or at the most in two days will check the spread of the pandemic to some extent.
Banerjee declared that henceforth she will not hold any mega poll rally in the city and her public meetings in other parts of the state will be smaller compared to her previous ones.
Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien tweeted:
Mamata Banerjee will NOT campaign in Kolkata anymore. Only one ‘symbolic’ meeting on the last day of campaigning in the city on April 26.
Slashes time for all her election rallies in all districts. Restricted to just 30 minutes. #BengalElection2021#Covid
— Derek O’Brien | ডেরেক ও’ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) April 18, 2021
In the wake of Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan alleging that Congress-ruled states have not done enough vaccinations against COVID-19 , here is the data of inoculation as announced by some states and UT governments:
Total vaccination done in Maharashtra as on 18 April: 1,22,83,050
Number of beneficiaries given first dose: 10,968,117
Number of beneficiaries administered second dose: 1,314,933
Total vaccination done in Rajasthan: 1,10,35,511
Number of beneficiaries given first dose: 95,57,254
Number of beneficiaries administered 2nd dose: 14,78,255
Total number of people vaccinated: 10,742,219
Number of beneficiaries given first dose: 9,125,397
Number of beneficiaries administered second dose: 1,616,822
Total number of people vaccinated: 26,21,295
Number of beneficiaries given first dose: 21,62,311
Number of beneficiaries administered second dose: 4,58,984
Total number of people vaccinated: 1,04,51,246
Number of beneficiaries given first dose: 89,92,115
Number of beneficiaries administered second dose: 14,59,131
With inputs from PTI