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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Covid-19 HIGHLIGHTS: Compulsory test for passengers from UK on arrival, says Aviation Minister

The first phase of India's mass vaccination drive will likely be completed in August.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: January 6, 2021 8:47:50 am
Covid-19 vaccination dry run being conducted in Lucknow on Tuesday. (Express photo by Vishal Srivastav)

With 20 more infections, the number of people tested positive with the new UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 went up to 58 on Tuesday, the Health Ministry said. “All these people have been kept in single room isolation in designated healthcare facilities by respective state governments and their close contacts have also been put under quarantine,” the ministry said on Monday. Comprehensive contact tracing has been initiated for co-travellers, family contacts and others.

The Union Health Ministry Tuesday said based on the feedback of dry-run, the central government is ready to roll out Covid-19 vaccine within 10 days from date of emergency use authorisation. The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) had given emergency use authorisation to two vaccine candidates by Oxford Astrazeneca and indigenous Bharat Biotech on January 3.

India recorded the lowest Covid-19 cases in over 6 months with 16,375 new cases reported on Tuesday, taking the total number of infections to over 1.03 crore. Active cases further dropped to 2.31 lakh, while recoveries continued to rise and stand at over 99.75 lakh. A total of 201 deaths were reported on Monday, the toll currently stands at over 1,49,850. Results of a data cleaning exercise saw Maharashtra’s confirmed cases rise by 4,875 on Monday, though the day’s rise was only 2,765.  Kerala reported 3,021 new cases.

Amid questions raised by experts and Opposition over the restricted use approval given to Covaxin despite no efficacy data from Phase III trials, Bharat Biotech MD Krishna Ella Monday said the company had “tremendous experience” in developing vaccines and that criticism against it was a “backlash against Indian companies”. Addressing a virtual press conference, Ella said his company’s work was no less than Pfizer’s, which also came out with a vaccine for coronavirus.

India is set to commence its mass vaccination programme in the “near future” as the centre has told vaccine manufacturers of Covishield and Covaxin to prepare to ship “a significant amount” of doses to over 30 vaccination hubs in the country. In the first phase, India plans to vaccinate over 30 crore priority citizens — healthcare workers, people with comorbidities & people above the age of 50 — will likely be completed in August. Everything you need to know about approved Covid-19 vaccines here.

Live Blog

After vaccine nod, India's mass vaccination drive to likely commence in January; Total case tally over 1.03 crore. 

22:27 (IST)05 Jan 2021
Punjab records 4 Covid deaths; fatality rate 3.2%, over national average of around 1%

Four people succumbed to Covid-19 in Punjab on Tuesday. Punjab has the highest Covid fatality rate in the country, standing at 3.2 per cent as compared to the national average of about 1 per cent.

Punjab's nodal officer for Covid-19 Dr Rajesh Bhaskar said that the last time four Covid deaths were reported were on June 11 and 12. On June 9, Punjab recorded two deaths. On June 10 there were no deaths and on June 11 and 12 there were four deaths each on a single day.

The four deaths on Tuesday took the total count of Covid death in the state to 5,404.

A total of 211 new cases of infection were recorded in the state, driving up the total tally of persons testing positive for the contagion to 1,67,652. As per the official media bulletin issued by the Punjab government, 1,59,265 patients had been discharged, 2,983 were active cases out of which 84 were on oxygen support and three on ventilator support.

21:05 (IST)05 Jan 2021
Mumbai sees nine Covid-19 deaths, 539 new cases

After reporting three COVID-19 deaths each on two consecutive days, Mumbai on Tuesday saw nine new fatalities while the tally of cases went up by 539, the city civic body said.

Mumbai's cumulative caseload now stands at 2,95,524 and the count of fatalities is 11,147, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said.

On Sunday, Mumbai reported three COVID-19 deaths, which were the lowest in a single day since March last year. The city saw three COVID-19 deaths on Monday as well.

Meanwhile, the number of recoveries in Mumbai increased to 2,76,413 on Tuesday with 379 more patients getting discharged from hospitals. (PTI)

20:35 (IST)05 Jan 2021
China steps up Covid-19 vaccination for key groups ahead of holiday season

More Chinese cities have begun mass COVID-19 vaccinations after the New Year holidays, days after China granted conditional approval for its domestically produced vaccine as the country prepares for the Spring Festival holiday next month.

Given the goal of vaccinating 50 million people ahead of the Spring Festival, which also marks the Chinese New Year holidays, a number of cities -- including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen in South China's Guangdong Province, Luliang and Linyi -- have already started mass inoculations of the vaccine, covering nine key groups of people, the state-run Global Times reported on Tuesday.

The vaccination drive is taking place amid reports of sporadic COVID-19 cases in different cities.

China's National Health Commission on Tuesday said 33 new COVID-19 cases were reported from the Chinese mainland on Monday. (PTI)

20:29 (IST)05 Jan 2021
Delhi reports 442 fresh Covid-19 cases; positivity rate dips to 0.55%

Delhi recorded 442 Covid-19 cases and 12 new fatalities on Tuesday, even as the positivity rate slumped to 0.55 per cent, authorities said.

The overall infection tally in the city has now gone past 6.27 lakh and the death toll reached 10,609, they said.

The 442 new cases came out of the 79,777 tests conducted the previous day, including 41,633 RT-PCR tests and 38,144 rapid antigen tests, according to the latest bulletin issued by the Delhi health department.

The active cases tally on Tuesday dropped to 4,562 from 4,689 the previous day.

Delhi had recorded 384 cases on Monday, the lowest in over seven months, and the positivity rate was 0.76 per cent. (PTI)

19:32 (IST)05 Jan 2021
Flights to UK have been reduced from 60 a week to 30: Hardeep Puri

Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri: "We took a decision on limited resumption of civil aviation traffic between India and the United Kingdom based on an assessment of available facts. We decided that RT-PCR test which was done 72 hours ahead of travelling was not enough,

"So, we made it compulsory to test again on arrival. We will review the situation if any steps have to be taken. Total number of flights to UK have been reduced from 60 a week to 30." (ANI)

19:12 (IST)05 Jan 2021
Centre has not banned export of any COVID-19 vaccine: Health Ministry

The Union government has not banned the export of any Covid-19 vaccine that has been granted restricted emergency use approval by the drug regulator, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday, while urging the media to guard against the spread of such misinformation.

Responding to a question during a press briefing on Tuesday, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bushan said, "The Union government has not banned the export of any one of the Covid-19 vaccines and this should be absolutely clear."

"When I say Union government, it means there are three ministries --- Ministry of Health, Ministry of Commerce, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade with the Ministry of Commerce and Directorate General of Foreign Trade -- which can initiate, in a hypothetical scenario, such an action."

"But none of them have taken any such action. Therefore, our request to our media friends would be that we should be on guard when such misinformation is sought to be spread," Bhushan said. (PTI)

18:39 (IST)05 Jan 2021
J&K reports 137 new coronavirus cases, 6 deaths

Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday recorded 137 new COVID-19 cases, while six deaths took place in the last 24 hours, taking the total caseload to 1,21,923 and the death toll to 1,897, officials said.

Of the fresh cases, 71 were from Jammu division and 66 from Kashmir division of the Union territory, they said. The officials said Jammu district recorded the highest with 49 cases followed by 22 in Srinagar district.

While five districts -- Kulgam, Poonch, Rajouri, Shopian and Reasi -- did not report any fresh cases, 11 other districts had fresh cases in single digits. (PTI)

18:08 (IST)05 Jan 2021
Himachal govt decides not to extend night curfew in four districts

The Himachal Pradesh government on Tuesday decided to restore the usual six-day week schedule in government offices and not to extend the night curfew imposed in four districts of the state, an official spokesman said.

The state cabinet in its meeting chaired by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur decided not to extend the night curfew in Shimla, Kangra, Mandi and Kullu districts, he added.

In order to contain the spread of COVID-19, the state government had decided to impose night curfew in the four districts from November 23 to December 15 which was later extended till January 5.

The HP dispensation has decided to restore the usual six-day week schedule in government offices in the state.

It has also planned to allow coaching classes in Himachal Pradesh with 50 per cent capacity, the spokesman said, adding that the state education department would issue standard operating procedures (SOPs) in this regard. (PTI)

17:21 (IST)05 Jan 2021
Daily positivity rate on decline, says Health Ministry

Daily positivity rate of Covid-19 is continuously declining and has been less than 3 per cent from December 23, 2020 to January 5, 2021, says Health Ministry.

17:20 (IST)05 Jan 2021
Ready to roll out Covid vaccine by next week, says Health Ministry

The Union Health Ministry Tuesday said based on the feedback of dry-run, the central government is ready to roll out Covid-19 vaccine within 10 days from date of emergency use authorisation. The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) had given emergency use authorisation to two vaccine candidates by Oxford Astrazeneca and indigenous Bharat Biotech on January 3.

16:51 (IST)05 Jan 2021
Burden on country’s healthcare infrastructure due to Covid has declined, says Health Ministry

Health Ministry says the overall burden on healthcare infrastructure in country on account of COVID-19 has declined appreciably. Based on feedback of dry-run, govt said it is ready to introduce COVID-19 vaccine within 10 days from date of emergency use authorisation, the ministry added. (PTI)

15:41 (IST)05 Jan 2021
Maharashtra wants some clarifications from Centre on vaccines: Tope

The Maharashtra government will seek some clarifications from the Centre on the two COVID-19 vaccines approved for the restricted emergency use before launching a mass inoculation drive in the state, Health Minister Rajesh Tope said on Tuesday.

On the availability of COVID-19 vaccine, Tope said the Centre might inform the state government in the next 10 days about the largescale availability of the dosages.

He said cold storage facilities and supply chains are being set up in Maharashtra, which he said is ready to launch the mass vaccination.

"There are some clarifications we are seeking from the Centre about the approved vaccines, as they have been cleared for use citing the emergency situation. Maharashtra will raise its concerns about the vaccines during national video conference with Union health minister scheduled on January 7," Tope said. (PTI)

15:09 (IST)05 Jan 2021
Pledge to provide global access for our Covid-19 vaccine: SII, Bharat Biotech issue statement

Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech issue a joint statement saying: "We are fully aware of the importance of vaccines for people and countries alike, we hereby communicate our joint pledge to provide global access for our Covid-19 vaccines." (ANI)

13:52 (IST)05 Jan 2021
Explained: What next for Covid-19 vaccine rollout in India?

Covishield is the Indian variant of AZD1222, the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and University of Oxford. Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) developed and manufactured Covishield through a licence from AstraZeneca and Oxford.

It is a “non-replicating viral vector” vaccine, which means it makes use of another weakened and genetically modified virus — in this case a common cold chimpanzee virus — to help the body develop immunity against the coronavirus. The vaccine carries just the code to make the spike protein (the spike on the virus’s surface). The body’s immune system is supposed to recognise this protein as a threat, and work on building antibodies against it.

Covaxin, developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the National Institute of Virology, uses a different platform. It is an “inactivated” vaccine, which means it uses the killed SARS-CoV-2 virus, which has no potential to infect or replicate once injected and just serves to boost an immune response. Covaxin is expected to target more than just the spike protein — it also aims to develop an immune response to the nucleocapsid protein (the shell of the virus that encloses its genetic material). Read our explainer here
12:58 (IST)05 Jan 2021
UP conducts concluding phase of Covid-19 dry run

Uttar Pradesh Tuesday conducted its concluding phase of the Covid-19 vaccination dry run following the successful dry run held at 6 places in Lucknow on Saturday. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath visited the Lohia Institue in Lucknow to inspect the dummy vaccination exercise.

11:32 (IST)05 Jan 2021
UK PM Boris Johnson announces new national lockdown in England

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday ordered England into a new national lockdown to try to slow a surge in COVID-19 cases that threatens to overwhelm parts of the health system before a vaccine programme reaches a critical mass.Johnson said a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus was spreading at great speed and urgent action was needed to slow it down. “As I speak to you tonight, our hospitals are under more pressure from COVID than any time since the start of the pandemic,” Johnson said in a televised address to the country as he ditched his regional approach to fighting the pandemic.“We must therefore go into a national lockdown, which is tough enough to contain this variant. That means the government is once again instructing you to stay at home.”

09:58 (IST)05 Jan 2021
India records over 16,000 new cases, 201 deaths

India recorded 16,375 new Covid cases in the 24 hours ending 8 am Tuesday, taking the total number of infections to over 1.03 crore. Active cases further dropped to 2.31 lakh, while recoveries continued to rise and stand at over 99.75 lakh. A total of 201 deaths were reported on Monday, the toll currently stands at over 1,49,850.

09:41 (IST)05 Jan 2021
Watch| AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria answers your questions on Covid-19 vaccination

09:39 (IST)05 Jan 2021
Your most common questions about Covid-19 vaccines answered

Who gets the Covid-19 vaccine first, and how?

Priority groups such as healthcare workers, frontline workers are first on the list, followed by people over the age of 50 years and the persons under 50 years with co-morbid conditions. The eligible beneficiaries will be informed through the registered mobile numbers regarding the health facility where the vaccine will be provided, and the health schedule.

Will it be mandatory to take the vaccine?

The vaccine will be voluntarily. However, it is advisable to complete the vaccine schedule in order to protect ourselves, our near and dear ones, our close contacts, family members, and co-workers.

Is registration with the health department mandatory?

Registration is mandatory for vaccination. The information on the session site (where vaccination will take place) to visit, and the time will be shared with the beneficiary only after registration.

What documents does one need for vaccination?

Documents such as driving licence, health insurance, smart card issued by the Ministry of Labour, MNREGA guarantee card, MNREGA job card, official identity card issued by MPs, MLAs, PAN card, passbook of bank or post office, passport, pension documents, service identity card issued to employees by central/state government or public limited companies, and Voter ID cards can be used for registration.

Are there any preventive measures and precautions that one needs to follow at the session site?
You should rest for at least half an hour after taking the Covid-19 vaccine. Any symptoms or discomfort must be reported to the nearest ANM or ASHA worker.

Will the vaccine be safe?

Safety is the most important factor, and all standard precautions as have been followed in the past for giving vaccine approval will be followed in this case too.

Read our full explainer here

08:34 (IST)05 Jan 2021
38 UK variant Covid-19 cases now; strain isolated, NIV to test vaccines

The number of samples detected with the the new, more contagious strain of the novel coronavirus — the UK “variant under investigation” VUI-202012/01 — is now 38, the government said on Monday.

“All these persons (detected with the UK strain of the virus) have been kept in single room isolation in designated Health Care facilities by respective State Governments. Their close contacts have also been put under quarantine. Comprehensive contact tracing has been initiated for co-travellers, family contacts and others. Genome sequencing on other specimens is going on,” the Union Health Ministry said in a statement issued on Monday. 

This variant of SARS-CoV-2, first detected in Kent, England, has now reached over 30 countries around the world. The Ministry said that six labs have so far detected the UK strain during genome sequencing.

New Delhi: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan visits Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital to review the dry run drill for administering COVID-19 vaccine, in New Delhi. (PTI)

A day after India approved two Covid-19 vaccines, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday lauded the efforts of scientists and said that the country was proud of the research and work done by them to fight the virus. “We’re on the threshold of starting the largest vaccination programme in the world. The entire country is indebted to all scientists and technicians," Modi said. Modi Sunday hailed the two vaccine approvals as a "decisive turning point" for India’s vaccine development.

The DCGI in its presser on Sunday gave nod to the "emergency restricted" approval for two vaccine candidates in India, Bharat Biotech's Covaxin and Oxford-Astrazeneca's Covishield. The drug controller said that it is paying close attention to the increasing cases of UK’s Covid-19 new strain in the country and was prioritising its threat while conducting clinical trials.

Covid-19 testing on the first two days of the new year have been below one million. Only three states reported more than 1,000 cases on Saturday, but Kerala is still reporting over 5,000 cases. With 5,327 new cases on Saturday, Kerala has so far recorded over 7.71 infections.

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