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Thursday, October 21, 2021

71% of India’s adult population have received first Covid-19 vaccine dose: Govt

India reported 22,431 new coronavirus cases and 318 deaths on Thursday. Of the new cases and deaths recorded in the country since yesterday, Kerala was the biggest contributor — recording 2,616 cases and 134 deaths. 

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: October 8, 2021 12:33:55 am
A senior citizen getting vaccinated at a theatre hall converted into a jumbo vaccination center in Vashi. (Express Photo by Amit Chakravarty)

Seventy-one per cent of the country’s adult population have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine and 27 per cent have got both doses, the government said on Thursday as the cumulative vaccine shots administered in the country crossed 93 crore.

Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr V K Paul said there was no issue with vaccine availability in the country now as he urged people whose second dose were due to get fully vaccinated. Around 93 crore vaccine doses have been given, and second dose coverage is also picking up speed, he said, adding that it is very important to fully protect ourselves.

Prepared to tackle a surge of up to 5 lakh Covid-19 cases a day: Govt

The government on Thursday said it has made healthcare preparations to handle a surge of up to 5 lakh coronavirus cases a day, but stressed that it does not imply that such a high number of infections will be reported in the future.

Listing details of India’s preparations for a possible surge, NITI Aayog member (health) V K Paul said at a press conference that according to reports from states, 8.36 lakh hospital beds are available for COVID-19 patients in the country and almost one million (9,69,885) additional isolation beds are available in dedicated COVID-19 care centres that are complementing home care. In addition, 4.86 oxygen-supported beds and 1.35 lakh ICU beds are available, he said.

He said that though the number of cases is now low, preparedness is not low. “It is robust, sustained and being accounted for and catalysed and supported for on a daily basis,” he said.

He further said about 1,200 pressure swing adsorption (PSA) oxygen plants are functional now and there is no district in the country where a such a plant is not working. About 4,000 PSA plants will be established across the country, he said, adding that “this is our security before any future oxygen crisis”.

Govt opens India for foreigners; tourist visas from October 15

One-and-a-half years after India completely suspended tourist visas in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Centre on Thursday announced that it will begin issuing visas from October 15. However, for a month, tourists will be allowed entry into India only on chartered flights. Those wanting to visit India on scheduled commercial flights would have to wait till November 15, the government said.

“After considering various inputs, the MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) has decided to begin granting of fresh Tourist Visas for foreigners coming to India through chartered flights with effect from October 15, 2021,” the ministry said in a statement.

It added that foreign tourists entering India by flights other than chartered aircraft would be able to do so only with effect from November 15 on fresh Tourist Visas.

‘Please watch your Oct, Nov, Dec’: Govt warns of Covid-19 surge during festival, wedding season

The government on Thursday warned the people about the threat of Covid-19 surge during the upcoming festival and wedding season, and advised them to avoid crowded places and celebrate festivals virtually. Asserting repeatedly that the second wave of the pandemic is not over, the government said that though the situation is plateauing, the country is still reporting as high as 20,000-odd new infections every day.

“Please watch your October, November, December,” Health Ministry joint secretary Lav Agarwal said at a joint media briefing.

He also advised people to avoid crowded places and unnecessary travel and to stay home, celebrate festivals virtually and explore online modes of shopping.

“We cannot take the current stable situation for granted. We have to be mindful of the fact that the pandemic is going on and can take an untoward turn if we are not careful,” said another official.

India records 22,431 new Covid-19 cases, 318 deaths

India reported 22,431 new coronavirus cases and 318 deaths in the last 24 hours, ending at 8 am on Thursday. With this, the total number of cases rose to 3.38 crore (3,38,94,312), while the death toll increased to 4.49 lakh (4,49,856). 

Active cases in the country presently stand at over 2.44 lakh (2,44,198). Of the new cases and deaths recorded in the country since yesterday, Kerala was the biggest contributor — recording 2,616 cases and 134 deaths. 

Covid-19 protection wanes months after second Pfizer shot, studies show

Immunity provided by the Covid-19 vaccine from partners Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE weakens significantly within months, with men having less protection than women, according to research that supports the use of booster doses.

Protective antibodies decreased continuously during the six months after the administration of the second dose of the vaccine, according to a study of about 5,000 Israeli health workers, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The levels fell first at a sharp pace and later at a more moderate one.

Researchers worldwide are trying to identify the critical threshold of antibodies needed to prevent coronavirus infection, severe illness and death, said Gili Regev-Yochay, one of the authors of the study. Such studies will help assess risk levels for various groups and the measures needed to protect them, the researcher said.

‘Oxygen crisis was overcome with dedication; ramped up production by 10 times,’ says PM Modi

Lauding India’s efforts in combating the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted how the country tackled the oxygen crisis during the second wave by ramping up production of the lifesaving gas by 10 times. The obstacle was overcome due to the “dedication and hard work of our healthcare workers,” the prime minister said.

PM Modi, who completed 20 years in public office on Thursday, marked the occasion by inaugurating 35 new Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) oxygen plants funded by the PM CARES initiative across 35 states and Union Territories. With this, all districts in India will have commissioned PSA oxygen plants, as per a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office.

“India is currently leading the battle against Covid-19 which reflects the hard work, dedication and unity among our people & the government to combat any ‘vipda’,” PM Modi said in an event at AIIMS Rishikesh in Uttarakhand. The country will soon be able to get 4000 oxygen plants from the PM Cares fund, he added.

Airlifting of vaccine to continue during closure of Pune airport: IAF

The Indian Air Force has said it will ensure the transportation of Covishield vaccines even during the planned 14-day closure of the Pune International Airport’s runway, PTI reported. 

The airport will remain closed from October 16 to 29 as the IAF will be undertaking runway resurfacing work, the airport authorities informed on Tuesday.

“During the period of complete closure of the runway, the IAF will ensure airlift of vaccines from Pune to Mumbai by deploying suitable IAF assets for the purpose to ensure uninterrupted supply chain,” the IAF said in a statement on Wednesday.

Centre can’t deny PM-CARES is a govt fund, Delhi HC told

The PM-CARES Fund must follow the principle of transparency as required by the Constitution and be declared a State fund, the Delhi High Court was told Wednesday.

The highest government authorities had projected that the charitable trust had been set up by the Centre, said Senior Advocate Shyam Divan, representing the petitioner Samyak Gangwal. He was opposing the Centre’s stand that PM-CARES was not a government fund and that its amount does not go into the Consolidated Fund of India.

“You cannot say ‘look, let’s decide that the Constitution does not apply to us, that we are not State and that we fall somewhere else’,” he told the division bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh.

Temples in Maharashtra reopen today on first day of Navratri festival

All places of worship in Maharashtra are reopening on Thursday months after they were shut during the second wave of coronavirus pandemic. The Maharashtra Government had earlier announced that its decision to reopen the temples across the state on the first day of Navratri.

The Brihan-Mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said all restrictions put up by the state government should be followed, including no offering of prasad/sprinkling of water on visitors. Religious places have been asked to allow visitors through slot bookings and not to hold large gatherings.

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