As the national capital struggles to contain an aggressive second wave of coronavirus cases amidst a severe oxygen crisis, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday extended the lockdown for another week till 5 am on Monday (May 3).
Meanwhile, to combat the nationwide shortage of medical oxygen, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) announced that the PM CARES Fund will be used to set up 551 oxygen generation plants in public health facilities across the country. The plants, which will be made operational “as soon as possible”, will ensure uninterrupted supply of oxygen in government hospitals at district headquarters, the PMO added.
India reported 3,49,391 new Covid-19 cases and 2,767 deaths in the last 24 hours. According to the Union Health Ministry, five states — Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Kerala — contribute 54 per cent of the cases.
With this, the country’s overall Covid caseload presently stands at over 1.69 crore (1,69,60,172), while the death toll has surged to 1.92 lakh (1,92,311).
US to send raw material urgently required to manufacture Covishield in India
Expressing “deep sympathy for the people of India following the recent spike in COVID-19cases”, the United States on Sunday said it will send across the raw material needed urgently for the manufacture of Covishield vaccine in India. “The United States has identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine that will immediately be made available for India,” the White House said in a statement. Earlier this month, Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla had appealed to US President Joe Biden to lift the embargo on export of vaccine raw material so that Covishield production can be fast-tracked.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday announced free vaccination for all people in the age bracket of 18-44 years. “Those in the age group of 18-44 years will not have to spend a single rupee for Covid vaccination as the state will pay for it,” Patnaik announced as he reiterated and emphasised on COVID-appropriate behaviour to avoid lockdown in the state.
As per the announcement made, around 2 crore people aged 18-44 years will be vaccinated for free. “Orders for the procurement have already been placed and the government will spend around Rs 2,000 crore for the purpose,” the CM said.
The state is also set to procure 377 lakh doses of Covishield vaccine from Serum Institute of India. The Odisha State Medical Corporation Limited (OSMCL), Bhubaneswar, will be the nodal agency for this procurement.
Rajasthan CM announces free anti-coronavirus vaccine to all above 18
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot Sunday announced the state government will provide administer coronavirus vaccine to people above 18 years of age, who will be inoculated beginning May 1, free of cost. He stated that his government will spend around Rs 3,000 crore on the exercise. “The state government will provide free coronavirus vaccine to all people above 18 years of age in the state at the cost of about Rs 3,000 crore,” Gehlot said in a tweet in Hindi.
He added it would have been better if the central government had agreed to bear the cost of immunisation for the 18-45 age category, as demanded by state governments.
Oxygen Express with 70 tonnes of oxygen to reach Delhi by Monday night
The first Oxygen Express train for Delhi carrying around 70 tonnes of the public health commodity will depart from Jindal Steel Works plant in Chhattisgarh’s Raigarh on Sunday night, a senior Railway official said. The train will reach Delhi with four tankers by Monday night, Railway Board Chairman Suneet Sharma said. He said that the railways has planned to transport medical oxygen from Angul, Kalingnagar, Rourkela and Raigarh to Delhi-NCR region, which is grappling with acute oxygen shortage amid rising Covid cases. The Delhi government has been asked to get road tankers ready to obtain the oxygen, he added.
Four states ruled by the Congress party and its allies on Sunday accused the Centre of “hijacking” vaccine stocks from manufacturers, and wondered if they would be able to launch the inoculation drive for those between 18-45 years of age from May 1, reported PTI. They also accused the Centre of providing a “step-motherly” treatment to them, and urged the Union government to provide them with free vaccine doses to immunise all adults.
Addressing a virtual joint press conference, the health ministers of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Jharkhand (ruled by Congress-JMM alliance) asked as to how they will vaccinate all adults when the Centre has already “taken away the stocks” and shots are not available to them.
As the state government is expecting a steady rise in the number of Covid-19 cases that would be overwhelming the healthcare infrastructure within two weeks, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Sunday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to immediately cancel the diversion of 80 MTs of oxygen from Tamil Nadu to Andhra and Telangana.
Citing the growing medical oxygen requirement in Tamil Nadu due to high level of oxygen dependent active Covid-19 cases in the state, Palaniswami’s letter said Tamil Nadu would require up to 450 MT oxygen shortly, which is more than the state’s production capacity. “As compared to the maximum case number of around 58,000 during the previous surge in 2020, the active caseload has already increased to over a lakh today. This has increased the oxygen demand…” said Palaniswami’s letter to Modi.
Calling the National Medical Oxygen Allotment plan a wrong move as it had allocated only 220MTs for Tamil Nadu, the letter said it was this wrong assessment made by the Centre about Tamil Nadu’s requirement that led to the decision to divert 80MTs of oxygen from Sriperumbudur plant, near Chennai, to Andhra and Telangana states. “This is based on the wrong position that the existing oxygen consumption in Tamil Nadu is lower than the manufacturing capacity.” Citing the Petroleum and Safety Organisations (PESO) data, the letter said the consumption of oxygen in Tamil Nadu has already reached 310MTs as against the “inadequate allotment” made by the Centre.
‘Will rapidly deploy additional support to India,’ says US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
During a news conference Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed to support India as it battled a devastating second wave of coronavirus cases. This comes a week after the United States indicated that it would not be lifting a ban on exports of key ingredients required in vaccine manufacture, in a major setback for Delhi.
“Our hearts go out to Indian people in the midst of the horrific Covid outbreak. We’re working closely with our partners in the Indian govt, and we’ll rapidly deploy additional support to the people of India & India’s healthcare heroes,” Blinken said. T
Meanwhile, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that the country was working “around the clock” to deploy supplies to help India during this crucial time.
Punjab records its highest single-day Covid toll this year with 92 deaths
Punjab recorded its highest single day death toll this year on Sunday, with 92 Covid-19 patients succumbing to the infection. The state recorded 5,724 fresh cases in the past 24 hours. With this, the toll due to Covid has reached 8,356. Earlier, the highest number of deaths recorded this year was 84 on April 19.
However, the highest single-day toll in the state, ever since the pandemic began, was recorded on September 2 last year when 106 persons died within a span of 24 hours.
The latest episode of PM Modi’s monthly radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’ was devoted entirely to the coronavirus pandemic. He emphasised that both the Union and the state governments were working together in the crisis.
“Never forget this mantra. We will soon prevail together over this calamity,” Modi said, and urged everyone to “get vaccinated and we also have to take full care”.
In the relentless second Covid surge marked by growing anxiety and anguish, there is one tentative glimmer: for the last few days, the case count in Maharashtra is showing signs of having peaked.
The state’s daily Covid count has remained in the 60,000s for the last two weeks now, the longest period of relative stability since the start of the second wave in the middle of February.
But more significantly, in the last two weeks, the state has also seen its transmission rate decline substantially, from a high of 1.38 in the middle of February to 1.13 now, according to analysis by a team of scientists led by Sitabhra Sinha at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai.