More than 6.5 crore vaccine doses have been administered across the country so far, including frontline and healthcare workers as well a section of the population aged 45 but with comorbidities and some above 60 years of age
As India recorded its highest daily rise in COVID-19 cases this year with 72,330 new infections in a span of 24 hours, Maharashtra alone accounted for more than half of the rise reporting 39,544 cases on Thursday. With the spike, which has hit almost all major regions of the state, stricter restrictions seemed more plausible in the financial capital Mumbai.
As Mumbai reported 8,645 new cases on Thursday, Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar said the government may implement restrictions such as closing malls and temples, capping wedding guests at 50 and allowing shows to open on alternate days, as per NDTV.
As per a report in News18, Pednekar also said that use of local trains may be allowed only for essential services and private officers may be asked to work in two shifts.
Reports of restrictions on shops and people also emerged from several other municipalities in the MMR region, including the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation.
Thursday also saw the opening of the COVID-19 vaccination for all people above the age of 45, which could likely add momentum to India’s fight against the second wave of the novel coronavirus both in Maharashtra and elsewhere.
Amidst this, the Kumbh Mela began in Uttarakhand’s Haridwar amid restrictions and tight security. The festival which usually goes on for four months, and is held once every 12 years, will be held over one month between 1 and 30 April.
Highest single-day rise in cases this year
Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Punjab, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh continue to show a steep rise in the COVID daily new cases accounting for 84.61 percent of the new cases reported in a span of 24 hours. Maharashtra has reported the highest daily new cases at 39,544.
It is followed by Chhattisgarh with 4,563 while Karnataka reported 4,225 new cases. India’s active caseload has reached 5,84,055 and now comprises 4.78 percent of the country’s total infections. A net rise of 31,489 cases has been recorded in the total active caseload in a span of 24 hours.
Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Chhattisgarh and Punjab cumulatively account for 78.9 percent of the total active cases in the country. Maharashtra alone accounts for more than 61 percent of the active caseload of the country. The Centre has been advising the States and UTs to increase the proportion of RT-PCR tests to more than 70 percent of the total tests.
Kumbh Mela kicks off
The Kumbh Mela formally began in Haridwar on Thursday with several restrictions amid the spike in COVID-19 cases. Officials associated with organising the event, including Mela Officer Deepak Rawat, Mela IG Sanjay Gunjyal and Haridwar SSP Janmejay Khanduri, worshipped in temples along the banks of the Ganga to pray for a safe and unhindered Kumbh fair.
Checking on Uttarakhand’s borders with Uttar Pradesh at Narsan in Roorkee and Kashipur in Udham Singh Nagar district has been intensified to ensure that only people with a negative RT-PCR test report proceed for the Kumbh Mela.
“Besides registering on our portal, it is compulsory for devotees to bring a negative RT-PCR test report with them,” Mela Officer Deepak Rawat said.
A negative RT-PCR test report not older than 72 hours before arrival has been made mandatory for devotees gathering for the Kumbh by the Uttarakhand High Court. In an order on Wednesday, the high court said a negative RT-PCR certification will be compulsory even in the case of devotees who have received the first dose of the corona vaccine.
Devotees who have taken the anti- COVID-19 vaccination will have to show their certificates and follow the anti- COVID-19 guidelines like wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and frequently undertaking hand sanitisation in the Kumbh kshetra.
The high court has also asked the health authorities in Haridwar to ramp up testing from 5,000 per day to 50,000. Uttarakhand reported 293 positive COVID-19 cases on Wednesday with Dehradun and Haridwar districts accounting for a majority of them. Dehradun reported 171 cases followed by Haridwar which reported 70, the COVID-19 Control room in Dehradun said.
It is for the first time in the history of the grand religious congregation held on the banks of the Ganga in Haridwar once in 12 years that its duration has been curtailed to just one month due to the pandemic.
In normal circumstances, Kumbh is held for nearly four months. Its last edition was held in Haridwar from 14 January to 28 April in 2010.
Between 1 and 30 April, there will be three major bathing dates (shahi snan or royal baths) on 12, 14 and 27 April. Besides the shahi snan dates when people descend in droves on the banks of the Ganga in Haridwar for a holy bath, a heavy turnout of devotees is also expected on the occasion of Chaitra Pratipada on 13 April and Ram Navami on 21 April.
The notified Kumbh Kshetra (Kumbh area) covers various places in Haridwar, Dehradun and Tehri districts. A total of 12,000 police and 400 paramilitary force personnel will keep an eye on the Kumbh Kshetra spread over an area of 670 hectares from Haridwar to Devprayag to maintain law and order and ensure that the anti-Covid protocol is followed strictly.
A total of 38 temporary hospitals with the deployment of 200 doctors and 1,500 paramedical staff have also been operationalised for devotees in the Mela area. The Mela Kshetra includes Neergarh, Tapovan, Bitthal Ashram Marg to Muni-Ki-Reti road and Rishikesh-Haridwar bypass in the north.
It includes Narendra Nagar-Rishikesh bypass, the forest check post on Rishikesh-Dehradun road, Rishikesh-Haridwar bypass, Mansa Devi, Billkeshwar Mandir, Tibri Mohand, BHEL residential buildings, Roorkee-Bahadarabad road and up to 13 km on Haridwar-Delhi road in the west. In the south, the Kumbh area extends from Bahadarabad-Haridwar bypass to Siddha Sot Setu and from Siddha Sot Setu to Neelkanth Mahadev temple in the east.
‘No students to be called in’: Delhi govt
The Delhi government on Thursday announced that students of any class should not be called to schools physically in the new academic session till further orders.
The Directorate of Education (DoE) also told schools that teaching and learning activities may commence from 1 April for students through digital mode for the academic session 2021-22.
“It is clarified that students of any class should not be called physically in school for the academic session 2021-22 till further orders. However, teaching-learning activities may be commenced from 1 April, 2021, for the students through digital modes for the new academic session,” the DoE said in official order.
The directive by DoE comes following a surge in coronavirus cases in the National Capital.
Schools in Delhi closed in March last year ahead of a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of novel coronavirus . While several states partially reopened schools in October, the Delhi government allowed schools to reopen for students in classes 9 to 12 for practical works and remedial lessons, from 18 January to 5 February.
“It is reiterated that the students of classes 9 to 12 (session 2020-21) may be called to school only for providing the academic guidance and support to the students for midterm exams, pre-board exams/ annual exams/ board examinations, practical exams, project work, internal assessment following the Standard Operating Procedure for COVID safety and with the consent of the parents,” the DoE added.
Vaccinates on all days in April: Centre
Seeking to exponentially expand the countrywide anti- Coronavirus inoculation drive, the Centre has decided to keep all public and private sector COVID-19 vaccination centres (CVCs) operational throughout April, including on gazetted holidays.
The Union health ministry has written to all states and Union Territories on Thursday and asked them to make necessary arrangements for this to optimally utilise all vaccination centres across the public and private sectors to ensure a rapid increase in the pace and coverage of COVID inoculation.
“This decision is in line with the graded and pro-active approach employed by the government of India along with the states and Union Territories for COVID-19 vaccination,” the health ministry said.
More than 6.5 crore vaccine doses have been administered across the country so far to frontline workers, healthcare workers, those above 60 and to people aged above 45 with specified co-morbid conditions.
The countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on 16 January with healthcare workers (HCWs) getting inoculated and the vaccination of frontline workers (FLWs) started on 2 February. The next phase of COVID-19 vaccination commenced on 1 March for those over 60 years of age and for people aged 45 and above with specified co-morbid conditions.
Andhra Pradesh CM gets vaccine
Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and his wife Bharati got the first dose of Covaxin administered in Guntur city on Thursday, marking the launch of the new phase of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
The Chief Minister said all persons above the age of 45 years would be administered the coronavirus vaccine in this phase in the next 90 days.
The state has targeted one crore people for vaccination in this phase.
With inputs from PTI