This comes as India registered 2,40,842 new cases and 3,741 fatalities over the past 24 hours, marking the seventh straight day when coronavirus cases remained below the 3 lakh-level
Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Puducherry extended their lockdowns on Sunday as India continues to battle the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
In the National Capital, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, extending the lockdown for a further week, said the unlock process would proceed in a phased manner from 31 May if the number of COVID-19 cases continue to decline. The Rajasthan government, which extended the coronavirus lockdown by 15 days till 8 June, also said the state may allow some relaxations in commercial activities from 1 June in districts where the COVID-19 situation will show significant improvement.
The Haryana government, extending the lockdown till 31 May, said the positivity and fatality rates need to be brought down further, though it did allow some relaxations. In the Union Territory of Puducherry, where cases continue to soar, the government announced the extension of the lockdown till 31 May.
This, as India registered 2,40,842 new cases and 3,741 fatalities over the past 24 hours, marking the seventh straight day when coronavirus cases remained below the 3 lakh-level, the Union health ministry data showed. With the fresh cases, India’s tally of COVID-19 cases climbed to 2,65,30,132.
The toll due to the disease rose to 2,99,266 with 3,741 fresh fatalities, the ministry data updated at 8 am showed. The active cases further reduced to 28,05,399 comprising 10.57 percent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate improved to 88.30 percent. The number of people who have recuperated from the disease in the country surged to 2,34,25,467 while the case fatality rate stood at 1.13 percent, the data stated
Meanwhile, a high-level meet on CBSE Class 12 exams chaired by defence minister Rajnath Singh ended inconclusively with the Centre asking states to send by 25 May suggestions on protocols and education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal vowing to inform students and parents of the final decision ‘at the earliest.’
I thank all the Hon’ble Chief Ministers, Education Ministers, and officers associated with the world’s largest education system for participating in the high-level meeting chaired by Hon’ble Minister of Defence Shri @rajnathsingh Ji. pic.twitter.com/i4e8p5lH90
— Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank (@DrRPNishank) May 23, 2021
Terming the meeting as “extremely fruitful”, Pokhriyal said that the Centre had received valuable inputs from other stakeholders like state chief secretaries and education ministers. The virtual meeting was also attended by by Union ministers Smriti Irani and Prakash Javadekar as well as state-level authorities.
In a series of tweets after the meeting ended on Sunday evening, Pokhriyal sought to allay the fears and anger of Class 12 students who have been asking the government to cancel the exams in view of the COVID-19 situation.
‘Only deal with Central Govt’
Also on Sunday, US-based COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer Moderna refused to send vaccines directly to the Punjab government stating that it only deals with the Centre, a senior state official said. Punjab’s nodal officer for vaccination Vikas Garg said according to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s directions, all vaccine manufacturers were approached for direct purchase of COVID vaccines including Sputnik V, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.
A reply was received only from Moderna wherein the company refused to deal with the state government, he said. According to Moderna’s policy, it deals with the government of India and not with any state government or private parties, the Punjab government said in a statement.
Earlier, Singh had directed officials to explore possibilities of floating a global tender for the procurement of vaccines from all possible sources to ensure that people of the state are vaccinated against COVID-19 at the earliest. Notably, Punjab was forced to stop vaccination for phase 1 and phase 2 categories because of the non-availability of vaccine doses. All efforts would be made for the procurement of vaccines to meet the acute shortage in the state, which had received fewer than 44 lakh vaccine doses so far from the government of India, the statement said.
From the government of India’s allocation for phase 3 (18-44 age group), the state government has been able to buy only 4.2 lakh vaccine doses, including 66,000 received on Saturday, Garg said. A total of 3.65 lakh have already been used and only 64,000 are left, he said.
UK releases study on AstraZeneca vaccine
Meanwhile, officials in the United Kingdom said a double dose of COVID-19 vaccines is almost as effective against the fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus first identified in India as it is against Britain’s dominant strain. Britain’s health minister said the data was groundbreaking and he was increasingly hopeful that the government would be able to lift more COVID restrictions next month.
A study by Public Health England found the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88% effective against symptomatic disease from the B.1.617.2 variant two weeks after the second dose. That compared with 93 percent effectiveness against the B.1.1.7 “Kent” strain which is Britain’s dominant COVID variant. Two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were 60 percent effective against symptomatic disease from the B.117 variant compared with 66 percent effectiveness against the Kent variant, PHE said.
“I’m increasingly confident that we’re on track for the roadmap, because this data shows that the vaccine, after two doses, works just as effectively (against the Indian variant),” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told broadcasters. Under the government’s plans, a lifting of remaining coronavirus restrictions is due to take place from 21 June. Britain has rushed out Europe’s fastest vaccination programme so far but it has faced a new challenge from the spread of the variant first found in India.
Harsh Vardhan writes to Ramdev
Union health minister Harsh Vardhan called yoga guru Ramdev’s statement on allopathic medicines “extremely unfortunate” and asked him to withdraw it.
संपूर्ण देशवासियों के लिए #COVID19 के खिलाफ़ दिन-रात युद्धरत डॉक्टर व अन्य स्वास्थ्यकर्मी देवतुल्य हैं। बाबा @yogrishiramdev जी के वक्तव्य ने कोरोना योद्धाओं का निरादर कर,देशभर की भावनाओं को गहरी ठेस पहुंचाई। मैंने उन्हें पत्र लिखकर अपना आपत्तिजनक वक्तव्य वापस लेने को कहा है। pic.twitter.com/QBXCdaRQb1 — Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) May 23, 2021
In a letter to Ramdev, Vardhan asked him to withdraw his statement on allopathy.
“The statement disrespects the corona warriors and hurt the sentiments of the country. Your statement on allopathy can break the morale of healthcare workers and weaken our fight against COVID-19 ,” he said. Vardhan said that allopathic medicines have saved lives of crores and comments that it is responsible for death of lakhs is “extremely unfortunate”
Citing a video circulating on social media, the Indian Medical Association on Saturday had said Ramdev has claimed that allopathy is a “stupid science” and medicines such as remdesivir, faviflu, and other drugs approved by the Drugs Controller General of India have failed to treat COVID-19 patients.
The doctors’ body also quoted Ramdev as saying that “lakhs of patients have died after taking allopathic medicines”.
These remarks were denied as “false” by the Haridwar-based Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust.
With inputs from PTI