Meanwhile, the Telangana cabinet will meet on 8 June to take a call on the extension of lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19, among other issues, an official release said on Sunday
With India’s COVID-19 daily case count on a steady decline, a slew of states including Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are slated to ease lockdown restrictions from tomorrow.
“The state government is taking a calculated risk and hence people have to take care of themselves. Nothing is going to be eased immediately,” Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said ahead of the start of the ‘five-tier” unlock process based on weekly positivity rate and occupancy of oxygen beds in districts. Thackeray emphasised that the local administration will take decisions on whether to ease restrictions and further tighten them.
In financial capital Mumbai, shops selling non-essential items and public places are set to reopen from Monday but malls, theatres and multiplexes will continue to remain shut as the metropolis has been categorised under level 3 of the ”unlock” plan.
The Uttar Pradesh government announced that the ‘ COVID-19 curfew’ will be lifted across the state, barring Meerut, Saharanpur, and Gorakhpur districts, from 7 June. With this, curbs have been eased in 71 districts where shops and markets outside containment zones will be allowed to open for five days a week.
Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin announced the extension of the lockdown by a week till 14 June with some easing of restrictions from Monday, except in 11 districts where the number of new cases reported was still high.
The National Capital, which began the unlock exercise from 31 May will see further easing of restrictions from Monday with the government allowing resumption of metro services at 50 percent capacity and reopening of markets and malls on an odd-even basis. Officials said teams of police and district administration have been deployed across the city to enforce COVID-appropriate behaviour.
Meanwhile, Leh District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) Chairman Shrikant Suse issued new guidelines with certain relaxations to start gradual unlocking from 7 till 14 June.
Meanwhile, Haryana and Sikkim eased restrictions while extending lockdowns.
The Haryana government said it was extending the lockdown, clamped in the state on 3 May, till 14 June as a preventive and precautionary measure though the COVID positivity rate and the number of new Covid positive cases have declined. While further relaxations regarding the opening of shops and shopping malls have been given, religious places are also allowed to open now with 21 people at a time. The Sikkim government, while announcing the state-wide lockdown for one more week till June 14, also allowed relaxation for shops selling groceries and hardware.
This, as India reported 1,14,460 new coronavirus infections, the lowest in 60 days, while the daily positivity rate further dropped to 5.62 percent, according to the Union health ministry data updated on Sunday. With the fresh cases, the total tally of coronavirus cases in the country climbed to 2,88,09,339. The COVID-19 death toll climbed to 3,46,759 with 2,677 daily deaths, the lowest in 42 days, while the active cases dropped below 15 lakh, the data updated at 8 am showed.
Also on Sunday, the Haryana government asked the Centre “to help to check the credentials of a company from Malta that has offered to supply doses of Russian COVID vaccine Sputnik V”, NDTV reported.
“We had recently floated a global tender for COVID-19 vaccine in response to which we have received a letter of intent from a Malta based firm by the name of Pharma Regulatory Services Limited. You are requested to help us verify the credentials of the company esp in regards to previous work experience of similar nature and the bona fides of the firm in general,” the letter was quoted as saying.
The Haryana government on Saturday said it had received an expression of interest from an international pharmaceutical company headquartered in Malta to provide up to 60 million doses of Sputnik V vaccine. The state had floated a global tender for COVID-19 vaccine shots through the Haryana Medical Services Corporation (HMSCL) on 26 May.
The tender was closed on 4 June but no bid was received during the period, the government had said. However, the Pharma Regulatory Services Limited in Malta has given an expression of interest to the HMSCL to provide doses of Sputnik V vaccine manufactured by the Gamaleya Institute and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), it said.
Sputnik V is one of the three vaccines approved by India’s drug controller for use in the country. As per the offer made by the firm, each dose of the vaccine will cost Rs 1,120, the statement said. The firm has given a timeline of 30 days to supply the first batch of five lakh doses, followed by 10 lakh doses every 20 days till the supply is completed, against a letter of credit issued in its name, the government said.
Telangana cabinet to meet on 8 June
Also, the Telangana cabinet will meet on 8 June to take a call on the extension of lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 , among other issues, an official release said on Sunday. “The state cabinet will meet under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Sri K Chandrashekhar Rao on 8 June at 2 pm. The state cabinet is likely to discuss the situation in the state amidst the Corona, medical and health, agriculture operations, the economic situation in the state due to lockdown, etc,” it said.
The present lockdown is scheduled to end on 9 June. As on 5 June, Telangana has over 29 thousand active COVID-19 cases. The state has been under lockdown since 12 May. The cabinet may also review works going on various irrigation projects, measures to be taken, availability of water for irrigation during the monsoon and other irrigation related issues. The cabinet may also discuss the financial assistance being given under Rythu Bandhu, measures taken to control the sale of spurious seeds, availability of fertilisers and pesticides and other agriculture related issues, according to the release.
With the COVID-19 on the downtrend following the measures taken by the government, the cabinet may discuss the action to be taken department-wise. The cabinet may dwell on the preventive measures to be taken by the medical and health department and its readiness to face the third wave of COVID-19 , if any. The Cabinet will also focus on the impact of lockdown on the state’s economy and may take decisions accordingly, the release said.
Meanwhile, KCR has decided that the Diagnostic Centres to be launched from 7 June in 19 district headquarters will now be launched on 9 June, according to the release.
Phase II clinical trials of Niclosamide drug begin
The CSIR and Laxai Life Sciences Private Limited have initiated phase II clinical trials of anti-helminitic drug ‘Niclosamide’ for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, a statement said on Sunday. The trial is a multi-centric, randomised, open label clinical study to evaluate the efficacy, safety and tolerability of Niclosamide for treating hospitalised COVID-19 patients. Niclosamide has been extensively used in the past for treating tapeworm infection in adults as well as children. The safety profile of this drug has been tested over time and has been found safe for human consumption at different dose levels, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) said.
Ram Vishwakarma, advisor to Director General CSIR, pointed out that in a screen to identify drugs that can inhibit syncytia formation, Niclosamide was identified as a promising repurposed drug by a research group from King’s College London, which collaborated in this project. The syncytia or fused cells observed in the lungs of patients with novel coronavirus infection probably result from the fusogenic activity of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and Niclosamide can inhibit this syncytia formation. Independently, a collaborative research between CSIR-Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM), Jammu and the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru had recently demonstrated that Niclosamide was also a potential SARS-CoV2 entry inhibitor, blocking the viral entry through pH dependent endocytic pathway.
Given these two independent experimental studies, Niclosamide has now emerged as a promising drug candidate for clinical trial in COVID-19 patients. Srivari Chandrashekhar, director, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) Hyderabad highlighted that the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) is being made by Laxai Life Sciences based on improved technology developed at IICT and the lab is a partner in this important clinical trial which could provide cost effective therapeutic options for patients if the ongoing trial is successful.
Ram Upadhayaya, CEO, Laxai Life Sciences noted that realising the potential of Niclosamide, efforts were initiated last year itself to undertake the clinical trials. Having received approval from drug regulators, the clinical trial has been initiated this week at different sites and is expected to be completed within 8-12 weeks, the CSIR said. Based on successful clinical evidence generated during the clinical trials in Indian studies, emergency use authorisation may be sought so that more treatment options are available to COVID-19 patients, it added.
Bengal seeks public opinion on board exams
Three days after forming an expert panel to check the feasibility of conducting board exams amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the West Bengal school education department on Sunday shared email ids and sought public opinion on the matter within 24 hours. The six-member expert committee, comprising the head of the secondary board, the chief of state child rights protection panel, a doctor and academics, has already submitted its report to the government on Saturday, but its recommendations have not been made public.
A member of the panel, however, told PTI that he and the others have unanimously agreed that conducting offline exams, both for Class 10 and Class 12 students, was not realistic, under the present circumstances. Opinions, however, differed about the next course of action: if an open book examination system would be more apt for the students or an online assessment. The school education department, in a notice issued on Sunday, said, views of the public are being sought on “whether to conduct or not conduct the Madhyamik/Uchha Madhyamik examinations 2021. If yes, suggestions should be made on the mode of conducting the examinations.”
The department has also sought views about the possible criteria for assessment. “While the expert committee is considering and discussing the matter, the government of West Bengal invites views from the general public, guardians/parents, students on the above points by 2 pm tomorrow, 7th June 2021,” the notice said, sharing the email ids. Authorities had on 3 June cancelled a joint press conference, which was scheduled for announcing dates for Class 10 and 12 board examinations.
Arvind Kejriwal urges Centre to allow ration delivery in Delhi
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi why the doorstep ration delivery scheme by his government was stalled by the Centre and appealed to him to allow its implementation in the national interest. He said the scheme should be implemented across the country in view of COVID-19 , otherwise ration shops will act as super-spreaders.
“If pizza, burgers, smartphones and clothes can be delivered at home, then why can’t ration be delivered at their doorstep,” Kejriwal asked. He alleged that the Centre was fighting with everyone, including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Maharashtra, Delhi and Jharkhand governments, farmers and the people of Lakhsadweep.
“People are distressed that the central government is fighting everyone. If we fight like this, how will we tackle COVID-19 ,” the chief minister said in an online briefing. “The Delhi government did not require the Centre’s approval for the implementation of the scheme, but it sought permission five times to avoid any dispute,” Kejriwal said.
The Delhi government on Saturday had claimed the doorstep delivery of ration scheme was rejected by the Lt governor saying the Centre’s approval was not sought and that a litigation was pending in the high court regarding it. He said the scheme would have finished the powerful ration mafia in Delhi.
“If you stand with the ration mafia, who will stand with the poor people” the chief minister said, adding that the scheme was intended to benefit 72 lakh people in the National capital.
‘Delta variant more transmissIble’
The Delta variant of COVID-19 , or the B1.617.2 variant first identified in India, is around 40 percent “more transmissible” than the Alpha or so-called Kent variant of concern, making the unlocking plans set for June 21 “more difficult”, UK health secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday.
The senior Cabinet minister said the government was “absolutely open” to delaying the final lifting of England’s COVID lockdown on 21 June if necessary. Hancock insisted June 21 was a “not before” date to end restrictions and 10 Downing Street “would look at the data”.
He said the spread of the Delta variant was behind a recent rise in coronavirus infections in the country. However, he pointed out that a majority of those in hospital as a result of the Delta variant had not had a vaccine at all and only a “small minority” had had both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, which the minister said reflects the scientific advice that one vaccine is not quite as effective against the Delta variant of concern (VOC) as against the Alpha variant but both doses are just as effective.
“That figure, around 40 per cent more transmissible, is the latest advice that I have. That means that it is more difficult to manage this virus with the new Delta variant, but crucially we believe that with two doses of the vaccine you get the same protection as the old variant,” Hancock told Sky News.
With inputs from PTI