Updated: April 22, 2021 10:01:58 pm
Reeling under a brutal second wave, India today reported over 3 lakh new cases — the biggest daily spike for any country since the start of the pandemic. With 3,14,835 new cases, the total infections stand at 1,59,30,965. 2,104 deaths pushed the toll to 1,84,657.
The Centre has ordered the state governments to allow free inter-state movement of oxygen carrying vehicles amid growing complaints on blocking of oxygen tankers by police in some states. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said he will skip his visit to poll-bound West Bengal on Friday as he would be chairing a high-level meeting on the prevailing Covid situation.
Here is the top news of the day:
PM Modi asks states to act strictly against hoarding of oxygen
Chairing a high-level meeting to review oxygen supply across the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the state governments to act against any hoarding of oxygen and directed officials to ensure that the oxygen supply to various states happens in a smooth, unhindered manner, PTI reported. He also called for fixing responsibility with the local administration in cases of obstruction of supply.
“PM directed the officials to ensure that oxygen supply to various states happens in a smooth, unhindered manner. He spoke about the need to fix responsibility with the local administration in cases of obstruction. He also asked ministries to explore various innovative ways to increase production & supply of oxygen,” it said.
Tomorrow, will be chairing high-level meetings to review the prevailing COVID-19 situation. Due to that, I would not be going to West Bengal.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 22, 2021
In a tweet, PM Modi also said he will be chairing a high-level meeting on the prevailing Covid situation on Friday and would skip his visit to West Bengal.
The Election Commission (EC) Thursday banned roadshows, vehicle rallies, and public meetings of over 500 people in West Bengal, noting that political parties and candidates were “still not adhering to the prescribed safety norms” during campaigning. Permissions already given for all such events stands withdrawn, the poll body said.
The order, however, continues to permit gatherings of up to 500 people. Asked why the Commission hasn’t banned campaigning altogether, a senior official told The Indian Express, “We can’t impose a ban on campaigning since people in the state are free to move around even today.”
With reports of states hoarding on oxygen or stalling its supply to other states coming from across the country, the Centre Thursday issued orders under the Disaster Management Act that no state can hold up supplies of oxygen to another state.
Passing a series of instructions, the order issued by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said: “no restriction shall be imposed on the movement of medical oxygen between the States and transport authorities shall be instructed to accordingly allow free inter-state movement of oxygen carrying vehicles.”
The Supreme Court Thursday asked the Centre to put in place a national policy on issues relating to the supply of oxygen, essential drugs and method of vaccination. During the hearing, the court also said that it will examine the judicial power of the High Courts to declare lockdown amid the Covid-19 pandemic. A bench headed by Chief S A Bobde and also comprising of Justices L N Rao and S R Bhat issued notice to the Centre and said it would hear the matter on Friday.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury on Thursday said his son Ashish died of COVID-19 in the morning. Ashish, a journalist by profession who would have celebrated his 35th birthday on June 9, was recovering well at Gurgaon’s Medanta Hospital, people close to the family added. They described his sudden death at 5.30 am after a two-week battle with the disease as a shock. The CPI(M) Politburo issued a statement announcing the death and offering its condolences to the family.
With Delhi accusing Haryana and Uttar Pradesh police of diverting the supply of oxygen, the Delhi High Court Thursday directed the Centre to ensure oxygen is supplied to the national capital as per the allocation order and provide adequate security to lorries transporting oxygen.
The court told asked the Centre that its allocation of oxygen for Delhi from plants in other states like Haryana was not being respected by the local administration there and it needs to be resolved immediately.
The UAE has banned travel from India for 10 days from Sunday due to the worsening Covid-19 situation in the country, according to media reports here on Thursday. The travel ban will come into effect from 11.59 pm on Saturday, April 24, and is subject to review after 10 days, the Gulf News reported.
Passengers who have transited through India in the last 14 days are also not permitted to board from any other point to the UAE, the report said.
With the state battling a brutal second wave of coronavirus, the sixth phase of West Bengal Assembly elections was conducted amid stray incidents of violence on Thursday. The state witnessed a voter turnout of 79.09 per cent till 5 pm, the Election Commission said. Bengal has been reporting a record number of Covid-19 cases over the past few days, breaching the 10,000-mark of daily infections on Wednesday.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi Thursday said the Centre has “abdicated its responsibility of providing free vaccines to people between 18 and 45” in its new vaccination policy. In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she added, “At a time when medical resources are scarce, hospital beds are unavailable and oxygen supply and availability of essential medicines are dwindling rapidly, the government shouldn’t allow a policy that reeks of insensitivity. Even with regards to 50% quota for vaccines available with the Centre, the allocation must be transparent and equitable.”
Kerala stopped spot registration for Covid-19 vaccination amidst a dwindling stock of vaccines in the state, where a large number of people continued to jostle at vaccination centres to get the vaccine shots. Health department sources said spot registration was stopped not only due to the shortage of the vaccine, but to reduce the rush at vaccination centres. From Thursday onwards, tokens would be issued to only those who have registered their names with the Co-WIN portal.
Around 300 air passengers who landed at Assam’s Silchar airport on Wednesday skipped the mandatory Covid-19 testing and fled from the testing centre, authorities said.
“On Wednesday, 690 people landed at Silchar,” said Sumit Sattawan, ADC, Health, Cachar district, “Some were exempted since they were transit passengers travelling to other northeast states. A total of 189 took the test — out of which six tested positive.” The officer added that around 300 “went away”, skipping the test. “Regarding how they ran away and other details, we are still investigating what exactly happened,” he said, adding that the passengers concerned would be traced.
The Maharashtra government, meanwhile, announced fresh restrictions on office attendance, marriage ceremonies and travel. The new set of restrictions will come into effect from 8 pm on Thursday and will remain in force until 7 am on May 1. Even as it continued to shy away from the use of the word “lockdown” in official communication, the curbs, announced on Wednesday, were more stringent than any other restrictions put in place in the recent past in the state.
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