Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said about 88 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the country are in the age group of 45 years and above, making them the most vulnerable section that needs to be protected
A new “double mutant variant” of SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in India in addition to the several “variants of concern” that have already been found in at least 18 states, the Union Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
Some of these “variants of concern” had earlier been detected abroad. The ministry, however, said it could not be sufficiently established yet if these variants were behind the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in some states.
This, as India recorded 47,262 fresh coronavirus cases in a day, the highest single-day rise so far this year, taking the nationwide COVID-19 tally to 1,17,34,058, the Union health ministry said on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said about 88 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the country are in the age group of 45 years and above, making them the most vulnerable section that needs to be protected. Addressing a press conference, Bhushan said the case fatality rate in this age group is 2.85 percent.
Bhushan added that the situation in Maharashtra and Punjab is of ‘grave concern’ due to the recent surge in cases.
Maharashtra reported more than 31,000 cases in the last 24 hours and Punjab is reporting a huge number of cases in proportion to its population. He added that Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are also of concern. Gujarat is reporting around 1,700 cases daily and MP around 1500 cases.
After Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat have also banned Holi festival celebrations such as gatherings and processions, amid a continuing rise in COVID-19 cases across the country.
The active caseload registered an increase for the 14th day in a row and reached 3,68,457, comprising 3.14 percent of the total infections, while the recovery rate further dropped to 95.49 percent, the ministry data updated said. The daily rise in infections was the highest recorded in 132 days, while the country’s COVID-19 toll increased to 1,60,441, with 275 new fatalities, the highest in around 83 days.
‘88% deaths in age group of 45 years and above’
About 88 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the country are in the age group of 45 years and above, making them the most vulnerable section that needs to be protected, the Union Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
Addressing a press conference, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the case fatality rate in this age group is 2.85 percent.
“About 88 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the country are taking place in the age group of 45 years and above, making them the most vulnerable group that needs to be protected,” he said, adding that this is the reason behind allowing vaccination for those above 45 years from 1 April.
Speaking about the new coronavirus variants, National Centre for Disease Control director SK Singh said 771 variants of concern (VOCs) have been detected in 18 states and Union territories, which include 736 samples positive for viruses of the UK (B.1.1.7) lineage.
Till now, no linkage has been established to say that the surge being witnessed in some states is direct because of only mutations.
There are various reasons behind a surge.
States having a larger pool of susceptible population are prone to witness the rise in cases. Whenever the susceptible population will lower their guard and not follow COVID-19 -appropriate behaviour, they will get the infection, be it the normal virus or the mutants, he said.
There are only three variants of concern, detected in the UK, South Africa and Brazil. In addition to these, some other variants of interest have also been found in some states, including Maharashtra and Delhi, which need to be further analysed and investigated, he added.
Bhushan said there are roughly three per cent active cases of COVID-19 and these active cases are concentrated mainly in 10 districts – nine in Maharashtra and one in Karnataka.
“Two states are of grave concern which showed a recent surge in cases. First is Maharashtra which reported over 28,000 cases. The top five districts are Pune, Nagpur, Mumbai, Thane and Nashik,” he said.
Bhushan said Punjab is another state of grave concern because, considering its population, a very high number of cases are being reported by it.
Jalandhar, SAS Nagar, Ludhiana, Patiala and Hoshiarpur in Punjab are reporting a high number of cases, he said.
“Gujarat reporting around 1,700 cases daily and Madhya Pradesh around 1500 cases,” Bhushan said. “Most cases in Gujarat concentrated in Surat, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot and Bhavnagar [districts]. In Madhya Pradesh, it is concentrated in Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Ujjain and Betul.”
New double mutant variant of COVID-19 found in 18 states, says Centre
A new “double mutant variant” of SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in India in addition to the several “variants of concern” that have already been found in at least 18 states, the Union Health Ministry said on Wednesday. Some of these “variants of concern” had earlier been detected abroad.
The ministry, however, said it could not be sufficiently established yet if these variants were behind the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in some states.
It said genome sequencing by Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG) has identified variants of concerns (VOCs) in several states and a new double mutant variant. Genomic sequencing and epidemiological studies are continuing to further analyse the situation.
The Ministry of Health had established on December 25 INSACOG which is a grouping of 10 national laboratories for carrying out genomic sequencing and analysis of circulating COVID-19 viruses and correlating epidemiological trends with genomic variants.
Genomic variants of various viruses are a natural phenomenon and are found in almost all countries, the ministry highlighted.
“Since INSACOG initiated its work, 771 variants of concerns (VOCs) have been detected in a total of 10,787 positive samples shared by states and UTs (union territories).
“These include 736 samples positive for viruses of the UK (B.1.1.7) lineage. Also,34 samples were found positive for viruses of the South African (B.1.351) lineage.
One sample was found positive for viruses of the Brazilian (P.1) lineage. The samples with these VOCs have been identified in 18 states of the country,” the ministry said.
Genome sequencing and analysis have been carried out on samples from arriving international travellers, contacts of those positive for VOC and community samples from most of the states at INSACOG partner laboratories, it stated.
The analysis of samples from Maharashtra has revealed that compared to December 2020, there has been an increase in the fraction of samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations, the ministry said.
States ban public celebrations on Holi
The Haryana government on Wednesday banned public celebrations of the upcoming Holi festival in the wake of the rise in the number of coronavirus cases in recent weeks.
During the past few days, Haryana has been reporting over 800 new cases daily.
“The Haryana government has banned public celebrations of Holi in view of (rise in a number of cases of) corona..,” Home and Health Minister Anil Vij said in a tweet.
हरियाणा सरकार ने कोरोना के मद्देनजर होली का त्योहार सार्वजनिक तौर मनाने पर रोक लगाई ।
— ANIL VIJ MINISTER HARYANA (@anilvijminister) March 24, 2021
Among the worst-hit districts which are witnessing a surge in cases include Gurugram, Karnal, Ambala and Panchkula.
The Gujarat government issued a notification banning the public celebration of Holi and said the ritual of “Holika Dahan” can be observed in small gatherings amid the COVID-19 situation in the state.
As per the notification issued by the home department, public celebrations and mass functions cannot be allowed on the day of Dhuleti on 29 March due to the prevailing pandemic.
On the eve of Holi, the traditional “Holika Dahan” is organised, in which pyre is lit, symbolising the victory of good over evil.
Pyres can be lit traditionally and ritualistic circumambulation will be allowed, but only a limited number of people will be permitted to participate, the notification stated.
The district and civic authorities in Pune on Wednesday announced that Holi celebrations in public and private places are banned amid a surge in the daily count of COVID-19 infections.
In an official order, district collector Rajesh Deshmukh said in light of the rise in cases of coronavirus , Holi celebrations in public spaces such as hotels, resorts and other public spots in the rural areas are banned.
Housing societies are also not permitted to hold Holi celebrations on their premises on 28 and 29 March, the order stated.
The Pune Municipal Corporation has also banned celebrations in resorts, hotels, open spaces and housing societies within the city limits.
Strict action will be taken against violators of the order under relevant provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, it was stated.
Rate of increase in cases tripled in Maharashtra, shows data
The rate of increase in coronavirus cases in Maharashtra between 14 February to 23 March was three times that recorded in the previous four months, data shows.
After a steady decline since October, the new cases surged noticeably since 14 February. On 20 March, Maharashtra reported over 30,000 new cases, the highest since the pandemic began.
Between 14 February and 23 March, in the span of 37 days, 4,68,748 cases were added in the state, taking the caseload to 25,33,026. On average, 12,668 cases were added daily.
In preceding months, it had taken 119 days for the addition of over 4.68 lakh cases. Between 18 October, 2020, and 13 February, as many as 4,68,897 new cases were reported, at an average daily rate of 3,940.
Maharashtra had gram panchayat elections in some 12,000 villages in January, followed by big political gatherings. Some health experts blamed the later surge in cases on these events.
“People continued flouting safety norms and during the same period the virus started mutating and became more infectious,” a senior health official said.
“The new strain is more infectious. We have to find out more about the strain and how it responds to the ongoing vaccination drive,” he added.
The average daily fatality count, however, is lower since 14 February compared to the earlier period. The COVID-19 death toll increased by 9,414 between 18 October to 13 February, at a daily average of 79. It went up by 2,060 up to 23 March, with a daily average of 55, the data shows.
Maharashtra sees highest single-day jump in cases
Maharashtra reported as many as 31,855 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, its highest ever single-day spike since the outbreak of the pandemic last year, a health official said. This took the state’s overall caseload to 25,64,881.
Before this, the state’s highest daily spike of 30,535 cases was recorded on 21 March. With 95 new deaths, the fatality count rose to 53,684, the official said.
As 15,098 patients were discharged during the day, the recovery count reached 22,62,593. The number of active COVID- 19 cases now is 2,47,299, he said.
Mumbai city reported its highest single-day tally of 5,190 cases, which pushed its overall tally to 3,74,641. As many as 11,610 people have died so far in the city.
Mumbai’s two neighbouring cities Navi Mumbai and Kalyan-Dombivli- reported 566 and 929 new cases respectively.
Pune city and its neighbouring industrial township of Pimpri Chinchwad reported 3,566 and 1,828 new cases respectively.
With inputs from PTI