Coronavirus LIVE news updates:
In March, ventilators were considered vital to treat serious Covid cases, and with the countrywide inventory at an estimated 47,000, manufacturers raced to ramp up production. But now, with health experts pointing to a shift in treatment to non-invasive oxygenation, these manufacturers are staring at excess stocks and hoping for export channels to be opened.
That’s not all. Many smaller manufacturers, who tied up with majors like Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) and Maruti Suzuki India in anticipation of a surge in demand, say they are facing a crunch.
Says Dr V K Paul, the NITI Aayog member who heads the Centre’s Covid task force: “The lockdown gave us time to reassess the ventilator situation and we are in a comfort zone now. While we were largely relying on imports, India has shown that large volumes of ventilators can be manufactured indigenously within a short period and excess capacities can surely be exported later.”
Meanwhile, at least three of the hospitals – AIIMS in Delhi, SRM Hospital and Research Centre in Kancheepuram and King George Hospital in Vishakhapatnam — are learnt to still be awaiting ethics committee approvals to begin enrolling participants for the study. Other hospitals are awaiting site initiation visits and clearances to ensure their facilities are ready to conduct these trials.
Depending on the hospital, enrollment of participants is expected to begin between this week and the next, but the testing can only start once they receive stock of the vaccine. This will happen once Bharat Biotech receives a clearance from the Central Drugs Laboratory in Kasauli to use its vaccines in the trials.
In a bid to make the Covid-19 test “seamless and accessible” to all in Mumbai, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will from Wednesday allow testing for all, irrespective of whether they have symptoms or not, and without a doctor’s prescription or self declaration. The civic body will also conduct antigen tests in containment zones and hospitals.
This is the ninth time that BMC has changed its testing protocol, mostly in conformity with central guidelines. The latest change also came after the Union Health Ministry instructed states to increase their testing capacity.
The BMC said on Tuesday that all laboratories, including private ones, were free to conduct RT-PCR (real-time polymerase chain reaction) tests on any individual in accordance with Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines without prescription from a doctor, including for home testing.
While currently international air travel is restricted to repatriation missions being flown by Indian as well as foreign carriers, the Centre has indicated that it is in discussions with various countries to establish air bridges. These include the US, Canada and several European countries. The concept of air bridges is based on reciprocity with the said countries allowing Indian citizens to fly into their borders and India allowing their citizens to fly into its borders.
What can be a hurdle in way of establishing international air bridges?
Several countries that have already put in place these air bridges or travel bubbles have done so on the basis of their perception of the ability of the destination country to handle the Covid19 pandemic. For example, New Zealand, which was completely able to contain the disease was establishing a trans-Tasmanian air bubble with other countries that had managed the virus spread. The three Baltic nations of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia had also established an air bubble among themselves with virtually no restrictions on travel. However, the perception of India based on the rising number of cases, especially on account that it has become the country with third highest number of cases, could throw a spanner in the works for the government trying to establish air bridges.