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Omicron Coronavirus Highlights: India suspends international flights till Jan 31

Coronavirus Active Cases in India Today, COVID-19 New Variant Omicron Latest News 9 December 2021: This comes days after the Centre decided not to resume scheduled international flights from December 15, less than a week after announcing the date, in the wake of rising concerns over the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron.

By: Express Web Desk
New Delhi | Updated: December 11, 2021 10:23 IST
Passengers arriving at Delhi's international airport. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)

Omicron Covid-19 Variant Highlights: India will keep scheduled international passenger flights suspended till January 31, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said on Thursday. This comes days after the Centre decided not to resume scheduled international flights from December 15, less than a week after announcing the date, in the wake of rising concerns over the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron.

Meanwhile, the Union government on Thursday asked states and Union Territories to ensure adequate buffer stock of the eight critical drugs used for clinical treatment of Covid-19 and advised them to review the readiness of hospitals to deal with any possible surge in cases. Reviewing the public health preparedness for the Omicron variant and the progress of vaccination via video conference, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan urged the health Secretaries and NHM MDs of states and UTs to ensure that all health facilities have functional ventilators, PSA plants and oxygen concentrators.

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Omicron Coronavirus updates: India to keep scheduled int'l passenger flights suspended till Jan 31; Study suggests Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine may only partially protect against Omicron; India's active cases at 94,742; Follow for more updates

10:17 (IST)11 Dec 2021
India's active case decline to 93,277, lowest in 559 days

With 7,992 people testing positive for the coronavirus in a day, India's Covid-19 tally climbed to 3,46,682,736, while the number of active cases declined to 93,277, the lowest in 559 days, according to Union Health Ministry data updated on Saturday.

The death toll mounted to 4,75,128 with the addition of 393 fatalities, according to the data updated at 8 am. The daily rise in new coronavirus infections has been recorded below 15,000 for the last 44 days now. (PTI)

22:32 (IST)09 Dec 2021
FDA expands Pfizer COVID booster, opens extra dose to age 16

The US is expanding Covid-19 boosters, ruling that 16- and 17-year-olds can get a third dose of Pfizer's vaccine. The US and many other nations already were urging adults to get booster shots to pump up immunity that can wane months after vaccination, calls that intensified with the discovery of the worrisome new omicron variant.

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency authorization for 16- and 17-year-olds to get a third dose of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech -- if it's been six months since their last shot.

There's one more step: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must formally recommend the boosters for this age group and a decision is expected soon.

The Pfizer vaccine is the only option in the US for anyone younger than 18, either for initial vaccination or for use as a booster. It's not yet clear if or when teens younger than 16 might need a third Pfizer dose. (AP)

22:30 (IST)09 Dec 2021
Delhi records 55 new Covid-19 cases, positivity rate 0.09%

Delhi on Thursday recorded zero death due to COVID-19 and 55 fresh cases with a positivity rate of 0.09 per cent, according to data shared by the city health department. The number of cumulative cases stood at 14,41,569.

The death toll due to the coronavirus infection in Delhi stands at 25,100. Two deaths have been recorded in December so far due to coronavirus infection -- December 6 and December 8. Seven Covid-19 deaths were reported here in November this year, the highest count of fatalities due to the infection in the last three months in the national capital, according to official data. Delhi had recorded four Covid deaths in October and five in September.

The case positivity rate stood at 0.09 per cent on Thursday, according to the health bulletin. (PTI)

21:16 (IST)09 Dec 2021
WHO warns fears of omicron could spark new vaccine hoarding

The World Health Organisation expressed concerns Thursday that rich countries spooked by the emergence of the omicron variant could step up the hoarding of Covid-19 vaccines and strain global supplies again, complicating efforts to stamp out the pandemic.

The UN health agency, after a meeting of its expert panel on vaccination, reiterated its advice to governments against the widespread use of boosters in their populations so that well-stocked countries instead can send doses to low-income countries that have largely lacked access to them.

“What is going to shut down disease is for everybody who is especially at risk of disease to become vaccinated,” said Dr. Kate O'Brien, head of WHO's department of immunization, vaccines and biologicals. “We seem to be taking our eye off that ball in countries.” Meanwhile, the European Union's drug regulator said Thursday it is closely following the spread of the new variant and whether new vaccines will be required to fight it. Vaccine makers are racing to update their Covid-19 shots against the newest coronavirus threat even before it's clear a change is needed. (AP)

21:14 (IST)09 Dec 2021
Maharashtra logs 789 fresh infections, 7 deaths; no new Omicron case reported

Maharashtra recorded 789 new Covid-19 cases and seven fatalities, but no new patient of the recently discovered Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was found in the state in the last 24 hours, the health department said on Thursday.

With the fresh Covid-19 cases, the state's overall infection tally reached 66,41,677, while the toll rose to 1,41,211, it said. On Wednesday, Maharashtra had reported 893 new coronavirus cases and 10 deaths. A bulletin issued by the health department said 585 patients were discharged from hospitals in the last 24 hours, taking the number of recovered cases to 64,90,305. There are now 6,482 active Covid-19 cases in the state.

The Covid-19 recovery rate in the state stands at 97.72 per cent, while the fatality rate is 2.12 per cent. (PTI)

21:10 (IST)09 Dec 2021
Austrians who flout vaccine mandate face fines up to $4,000

Austria plans to impose fines of up to 3,600 euros (around USD 4,000) on people who flout a coronavirus vaccine mandate it aims to introduce in February for all residents age 14 and over, the health minister said Thursday.

The government announced last month that it would implement a general vaccine mandate early next year, becoming the first European country to do so. It has drawn up details of the draft legislation in recent weeks, with backing from two of the three opposition parties in parliament.

Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein said that there will be exemptions for pregnant women — though he stressed that vaccinations are recommended for them too — for people who can't get vaccinated for medical reasons, and for people who have recovered from COVID-19 in the previous six months. The legislation is due to take effect on February 1. (AP)

20:30 (IST)09 Dec 2021
Hawking at Nehru Place: HC pulls up SDMC for complaining about non-compliance by vendors

The Delhi High Court on Thursday pulled up the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) for “complaining” about non-compliance of hawking conditions by certain vendors at Nehru Place and said that it is for the authority to ensure that the orders are followed.

A bench headed by Justice Manmohan said that it was surprising that the ground reality was not brought to the notice of the committee constituted to look into such issues and questioned what the coordinator was doing.

“But what is your committee doing? What is your coordinator doing?… I will direct the committee to take action and file a status report,” said the bench, also comprising Justice Navin Chawla.

The court sought an action-taken report from the committee as well as the presence of the committee in charge on the next date of hearing. (PTI)

20:29 (IST)09 Dec 2021
India's vaccination coverage crosses 131 crore doses: Govt

The cumulative Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the country crossed 131 crore on Thursday, the Union Health Ministry said.

On Thursday, more than 67 lakh (67,11,113) doses were administered till 7 pm, the ministry said, adding the daily vaccination tally is expected to increase further with the compilation of the final reports for the day by late night.

The countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on January 16 with healthcare workers (HCWs) getting inoculated in the first phase. The vaccination of frontline workers (FLWs) started from February 2. The next phase of vaccination commenced from March 1 for people over 60 years of age and those aged 45 and above with specified co-morbid conditions.

The country launched vaccination for all people aged more than 45 years from April 1. The government then decided to expand the vaccination drive by allowing everyone above 18 to be vaccinated from May 1. (PTI)

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18:40 (IST)09 Dec 2021
India suspends international passenger flights till Jan 31

India will keep scheduled international passenger flights suspended till January 31, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said on Thursday.

In a press release, the aviation regulator said that 'in partial modification of circular dated 26-11-2021, the competent authority has decided to extend the suspension of scheduled international commercial passenger services to/from India till January 31, 2022.'

18:26 (IST)09 Dec 2021
Mumbai Covid-19 genome sequencing: Only 2 of 211 samples show Omicron presence

The Mumbai civic body on Thursday said the genome sequencing of 211 Covid-19 samples showed that two of them had the newer Omicron variant, while some 89 per cent had the Delta derivative and 11 per cent the Delta variant.

This was the fifth batch of samples sent for genome sequencing, and none of the patients from whom the samples were collected was deceased, a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation release said.

The overall results of the test make it clear the Covid-19 outbreak in Mumbai is completely under control as a result of vaccination, but, in the light of warnings by experts on the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, people must ensure they adhere to pandemic protocols like wearing masks, following hand hygiene and maintaining social distancing, the release said. (PTI)

18:00 (IST)09 Dec 2021
US FDA authorizes use of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 antibody cocktail Evusheld

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized the use of AstraZeneca's antibody cocktail to prevent Covid-19 infections in individuals with weak immune systems or a history of severe side effects from coronavirus vaccines.

The antibody cocktail, Evusheld, is only authorized for adults and adolescents who are not currently infected with the novel coronavirus and have not recently been exposed to an infected individual, the regulator said.

The authorization for the therapy, made up of two monoclonal antibodies tixagevimab and cilgavimab, marks a significant step for AstraZeneca, whose widely used Covid-19 vaccine is yet to be approved by U.S. authorities. AstraZeneca last month had agreed to supply the U.S. government with 700,000 doses of Evusheld, which had earlier shown to cut the risk of people developing any Covid-19 symptoms by 77% in a late-stage trial. (Reuters)

17:51 (IST)09 Dec 2021
Africa CDC: Nations might turn to Covid-19 vaccine mandates

African governments might have to resort to COVID-19 vaccine mandates if their citizens don't hurry to get the increasingly available doses, the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

The warning by John Nkengasong to reporters that governments “will not have a choice” came as the flow of doses to Africa's 54 countries grows but vaccine hesitancy — and the short shelf life of some donations — create new pressures to get them into the arms of the continent's 1.3 billion people. “We don't need to get there if we just do the right thing,” Nkengasong said of vaccine mandates.

He called any lack of interest in vaccine uptake “extremely unfortunate” after African officials have fought for months against dramatic vaccine inequality between their nations and richer ones around the world.

Africa remains the world's least vaccinated continent against Covid-19, with less than 8% of the continent's population fully jabbed. (AP)

16:05 (IST)09 Dec 2021
Covid-19: Govt to focus on cluster management, no hasty decision on imposing curbs, says K'taka CM

In the wake of new Covid-19 clusters emerging and the threats of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus, the Karnataka government on Thursday decided to focus on cluster management and to issue fresh guidelines to hostels, aimed at controlling spread of the infection.

Not wanting to take any "hasty decision" regarding imposing curbs, it said, a decision regarding such measures like night curfew and restrictions on Christmas and New Year celebrations will be taken after analysing the situation for a week.

"Regarding COVID, our Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) head Dr M K Sudarshan has informed about the current situation, he has shared details about the Omicron variant. According to him, looking at the current figures and the positivity rate, there is no need for any major concern or worry," Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said.

Speaking to reporters Bengaluru after the cabinet meeting, he said, still the government felt it is necessary to take certain precautionary measures, like issuing new guidelines for hostels and their management like- sanitising, letting people for food in a staggered way, restricting visitors, double dose vaccination for all staff working there, and setting up a separate isolation room. (PTI)

15:47 (IST)09 Dec 2021
Karnataka first among major states for first dose Covid-19 vaccine coverage: Health minister

Karnataka Health and Medical Education Minister K Sudhakar Thursday said that the state has moved up to the “first position among major states in the country” in terms of first-dose vaccination coverage against Covid-19. 

He explained that the state surpassed Gujarat on December 8 with 94.38 per cent of its adult population being confirmed to have received the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine. “While 4,89,16,000 is the adult population in Karnataka, 4,61,69,277 first doses of the vaccine have been administered as on December 8,” he said.

Later, in a tweet, Sudhakar shared statistics to indicate Gujarat (94.37 per cent) and Madhya Pradesh (93.77 per cent) were trailing behind the state in second and third positions respectively. (ENS)

14:27 (IST)09 Dec 2021
Acting now on COVID will help avoid lockdown later, Britain's Javid says

Britain's decision to impose restrictions to slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant will likely avoid the need to impose much tougher controls in the new year, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Thursday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed tougher Covid-19 restrictions in England on Wednesday, ordering people to work from home, wear masks in public places and use vaccine passes to slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Javid said the Omicron variant was spreading more swiftly than any other variant studied and could result in around 1 million infections across the United Kingdom by the end of the month if transmission continued at the current rate. (Reuters)

12:55 (IST)09 Dec 2021
Vaccine makers racing to update Covid shots, just in case

Vaccine makers are racing to update their Covid-19 shots against the newest coronavirus threat even before it's clear a change is needed, just in case.

Experts doubt today's shots will become useless but say it's critical to see how fast companies could produce a reformulated dose and prove it works — because whatever happens with omicron, this newest mutant won't be the last.

It's too soon to know how vaccines will hold up against omicron. The first hints this week were mixed: Preliminary lab tests suggest two Pfizer doses may not prevent an omicron infection but they could protect against severe illness. And a booster shot may rev up immunity enough to do both. 

Better answers are expected in the coming weeks and regulators in the US and other countries are keeping a close watch. The World Health Organisation has appointed an independent scientific panel to advise on whether the shots need reformulating because of omicron or any other mutant. (AP)

11:05 (IST)09 Dec 2021
Cuba detects first Omicron case, says state media

Cuba has detected its first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant in a person who had traveled from Mozambique, Cuban state media agency ACN reported late on Wednesday.

The traveller, a health worker that resides in Cuba's Pinar del Rio province, returned to the island on Nov. 27 and tested positive for Covid-19 the following day, according to the ACN report. Cuban health officials identified 18 people the traveler may have been in contact with since arriving in Cuba, but all were asymptomatic and had tested negative for the virus, the report said. (Reuters) 

11:04 (IST)09 Dec 2021
Coronavirus spreads in Australia's pubs; Omicron cases linked to party boat

Covid-19 infections have been spreading in pubs and clubs in Australia's biggest city, including three new cases of the Omicron variant found among people who went on a harbour party cruise, sending officials rushing to trace contacts.

Authorities have been easing restrictions in Sydney since early October when the city emerged from a nearly four-month lockdown to contain the Delta coronavirus variant after the population reached higher vaccination levels.

"We have seen recently increased transmission in larger social venues ... and that is certainly a contributing factor to the increase in cases," Marianne Gale, New South Wales Deputy Chief Health Officer, said in a video posted on Twitter. Dozens of people who attended a Sydney pub quiz tested positive for the coronavirus and officials are awaiting the results of genomic tests to see if they are infected with the Omicron variant. (Reuters)

11:03 (IST)09 Dec 2021
Pakistan detects first Omicron case, says health ministry official

Authorities in Pakistan have detected the first case of the Omicron variant of coronavirus in the South Asian nation, a provincial health ministry official told Reuters on Thursday.

The spokesperson in the southern province of Sindh said the infection was found in an unvaccinated patient being treated at a private hospital in Pakistan's most populous city of Karachi.The patient had travelled abroad, said the official, who gave no details of the location, but added that contact tracing was underway. (Reuters)

22:07 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Kerala logs 5,038 new Covid-19 cases, 112 deaths

Kerala on Wednesday recorded 5,038 new infections and 112 deaths, which took the caseload to 51,67,063 and the toll to 42,014. Of the 112 fataities, 35 were logged over the last few days and 77 were designated as Covid-19 deaths after receiving appeals based on the new guidelines of the Centre and the directions of the Supreme Court, a state government release said.

Among the 14 districts, Thiruvananthapuram recorded the highest with 773 fresh cases, followed by Ernakulam (764) and Kozhikode (615). Of the new cases, 53 were health workers, 17 from outside the state and 4,724 infected through contact with the source of it not being clear in 244.

There are currently 1,63,682 people under surveillance in various districts, of whom 1,58,990 are in home or institutional quarantine and 4,692 in hospitals, the release said. (PTI)

22:04 (IST)08 Dec 2021
2 airlines issued show-cause notices for not following Covid guidelines for int'l arrivals

Authorities in Delhi on Wednesday issued show-cause notices to Air India and Vistara for not complying with passenger boarding guidelines issued by the Centre following the emergence of Omicron variant of the coronavirus. They said four international passengers, one in Air India and three from Vistara, were allowed to board flights without filling their self-declaration forms (SDF).

According to the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on November 30, airlines are directed to allow boarding to only those international passengers who have filled up their personal details on Air Suvidha portal and uploaded the negative RT-PCR test report.

The Vasant Vihar sub-divisional magistrate under New Delhi district has asked the deputy general manager of Air India and the airport manager of Vistara to respond to the show-cause notices within 24 hours "without fail". (PTI)

21:00 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Mumbai reports 250 Covid-19 cases, one death

Mumbai reported 250 new coronavirus infections and a single fatality on Wednesday, a civic official said. The caseload of the country's financial capital rose to 7,64,444 and death toll reached 16,353.

The number of new cases surged over 200 after a gap of two days. On Tuesday Mumbai had logged 191 new Covid-19 cases and one death.

The growth rate of Covid-19 cases was 0.02 per cent for the period between November 11 to December 7, 2021, and average doubling rate -- period during which caseload doubles -- is 2,915 days.

Mumbai currently has 12 sealed buildings. The civic body seals a building as a containment measure if five or more cases are found on the premises. (PTI)

20:46 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Austria to end lockdown on Sunday but not for unvaccinated

Austria's fourth national lockdown of the pandemic will end on Sunday but lockdown restrictions will remain for unvaccinated people, the country's new chancellor said Wednesday.

Chancellor Karl Nehammer said the end of the lockdown will be a “opening with a seatbelt,” meaning some measures — such as an obligation to wear masks on public transportation and inside stores and public spaces — will stay in place also for people who are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19.

There will also be an 11 pm curfew for restaurants and limits on the number of people attending cultural events. Stricter measures can be implemented independently by regions that are especially affected by the pandemic, Nehammer said.

Nehammer stressed that unvaccinated people could end their lockdowns immediately by getting the jab, but also acknowledged that “it still takes a lot of convincing to get those who haven't even been vaccinated yet.” “The lockdown for the unvaccinated continues. I also understand that the people who are affected by it feel aggrieved," Nehammer told reporters in Vienna. (AP)

20:22 (IST)08 Dec 2021
SII to cut Covishield production by 50 per cent: Adar Poonawalla

With not enough orders for Covishield from the central government, Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla said the company is looking at slashing monthly production of vaccines by at least 50 per cent beginning next week.

In an interview to CNBC-TV18 on Tuesday, Poonawalla said, “The company is in a dilemma as supply is more than demand for Covishield and it has to dial down the production. We will complete our existing orders to the government by next week. The company has written to the government for guidance on volumes needed.”

The Pune-based firm has 500 million doses of Covishield in stock. “Half of that is finished product and half is bulk, which can be filled and finished in a matter of two months and it has a shelf life of nine months. It’s available on priority to the Indian government.” Read More

20:13 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Explained: What does WHO’s latest report spell out on Omicron?

In the latest weekly Covid-19 epidemiological update, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that given the predominant circulation of the Delta variant in many countries, it is too early to draw a conclusion on the impact of the new Omicron variant on the global epidemiology of Covid-19.

The global health body further highlighted that while several crucial questions about Omicron remain unanswered, more data will continue to emerge in the coming weeks.

At the same time, WHO has also presented an update on the current situation on four key issues on Omicron — transmissibility, clinical severity, risk of reinfection and the potential impact of the vaccines. Read More

19:57 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Karnataka names dedicated hospitals to treat Omicron cases

The Karnataka Health and Family Welfare Department Wednesday officially notified two dedicated hospitals to treat Omicron cases, if more international passengers test positive for the infection.

As per a circular issued by State Health Commissioner D Randeep, Bowring & Lady Curzon Hospital (in Bengaluru) and Wenlock Hospital (in Mangaluru) will serve as dedicated Covid-19 hospitals (including Omicron cases) if international returnees from 'at risk' countries test positive on arrival at the respective airports. (ENS)

19:34 (IST)08 Dec 2021
399 new Covid-19 cases, 6 deaths in Karnataka

Karnataka on Wednesday reported 399 new cases of COVID-19 and 6 deaths, taking the total number of infections to 29,99,098 and death toll to 38,249. Of the new cases recorded, 244 were from Bengaluru Urban, as the city saw 100 discharges and 3 deaths. Total number of active cases in the state is at 7,255.

While the positivity rate for the day stood at 0.34 per cent, case fatality rate (CFR) was at 1.50 per cent.

Cumulatively a total of 5,41,12,980 samples have been tested,of which 1,16,141 were tested on Wednesday alone. (PTI)

17:26 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Maharashtra CM orders speedy inoculation amid Omicron concerns

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday ordered "speedy vaccination" against coronavirus as the state cabinet expressed worry over the rapid spread of the Omicron variant across the world, an official statement said.

At a cabinet meeting, Thackeray instructed officials to ramp up vaccination, especially in areas where the proportion of inoculated persons in the eligible population is low, it said.

As many as 12,03,18,240 doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in the state, the statement said, adding that 4,37,46,512 individuals have been inoculated fully while 7,65,71,728 have received at least one dose. As much as 76.69 per cent people in the 18 to 44 years age group have received at least one dose, while 85.25 per cent individuals in the above-45 group have been jabbed at least once, it said.

The statement noted that the number of Omicron-infected patients across the world has gone up by 45 per cent in the last 12 hours and the variant has spread to 54 countries till now. Noting the rise in cases in countries like South Africa, France, Germany, Austria and the US, chief minister Thackeray stressed the need for taking precautions and strictly following health-related rules, the statement said. (PTI)

16:55 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Mizoram issues guidelines for international travellers

Mizoram issues guidelines for international travellers Aizawl, Dec 8 (PTI) International travellers entering Mizoram will have to undergo mandatory Rapid Antigen Test as per the new guidelines issued by the state government in the wake of detection of Omicron variant of Covid-19 in some states, an official said.

Following the recommendations of a State Level Expert Team on Covid-19 Management, the Mizoram government has issued guidelines for international travellers, the official said on Tuesday.
According to the guidelines issued on Monday, any person entering Mizoram with international travel history within the last 14 days prior to the date of arrival at the entry point will have undergo mandatory screening with Rapid Antigen Test.

Simultaneously, samples for RT-PCR or TrueNat tests will also be taken from such travellers regardless of negative RT-PCR test results prior to entry and vaccination status, it said. The guidelines said that if international travellers are found positive for Covid-19 through Rapid Antigen Test on their arrival or during isolation, they will be isolated or treated at facilities for international travellers and their swab samples will be sent for genomic testing. (PTI)

15:52 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Puducherry logs 23 fresh Covid-19 cases, overall tally rises to 1,29,128

The union territory of Puducherry registered 23 new coronavirus cases during the last 24 hours taking the overall tally to 1,29,128, a senior official of the Department of Health said on Wednesday.

The 23 fresh cases were identified at the end of the examination of 2,520 samples and were spread over Puducherry (14), Karaikal (4) and Mahe (5), Director of the Health Department G Sriramulu said in a release here.

The number of active cases stood at 230 which included 48 patients in hospitals and the remaining 182 in home isolation. As many as 22 patients recovered and were discharged during the last 24 hours taking the overall recoveries to 1,27,022. No fresh fatalities were reported from any of the four regions and the toll remained at 1,876, Sriramulu said the Department of Health has so far tested 20,01,419 and found 16,98,951 samples to be negative.

The test positivity rate was 0.91 per cent while the fatality and recovery rates were 1.45 per cent and 98.57 per cent respectively. (PTI)

13:47 (IST)08 Dec 2021
How much does RT-PCR cost at international airports in India?

With international airports across the country adhering to the Centre’s revised Covid guidelines in the wake of the Omicron variant, passengers from countries considered “at-risk” are required to undergo a mandatory RT-PCR test upon arrival, including those fully vaccinated. Amid these rules, the rates of the RT-PCR test, long queues, crowding and potential delays have been major concerns for international travellers, with some airports charging over Rs 3,000 for a rapid test.

Read more

13:09 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Arunachal Pradesh records one new Covid-19 case

Single-day recoveries outnumbered fresh Covid-19 cases in Arunachal Pradesh on Wednesday with five more people recuperating from the disease and one new case registered, a senior official said here. The death toll remained unchanged at 280 as no fresh fatality was recorded in the past 24 hours, State Surveillance Officer (SSO) Dr Lobsang Jampa said.

The frontier state has so far reported 55,295 Covid-19 cases and 54,984 recoveries, Jampa stated. Arunachal Pradesh currently has 31 active cases, he said. West Kameng district has 13 active cases, followed by the Capital Complex Region comprising Itanagar, Naharlagun, Nirjuli and Banderdewa areas  -- at 10, Lower Dibang Valley at five and Tawang district at three. (PTI)

12:41 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Karnataka govt caps Covid-19 RT-PCR test prices at airports

With Covid-19 testing measures enhanced in Karnataka airports, including Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru, for international arrivals in the wake of Omicron cases being diagnosed in the city, the state government on Tuesday capped the prices for various testing methods.

While the conventional RT-PCR test, which takes the most time (nearly five hours to obtain results) is priced at Rs 500, the Cepheid Gene Expert test (results expected in 25 minutes) costs Rs 2,750 per sample. The other testing methods available for international arrivals are the Abbott ID test (Rs 3,000), Thermo-Fisher Accula test (Rs 1,500), and Tata MD3 Gene fast/Tata MDXF test (Rs 1,200).

Read more

12:14 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Karnataka CM hints at new Covid-19 guidelines with cases appearing in clusters

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Wednesday hinted that new Covid-19 guidelines could be brought out in view of the infections appearing in clusters and the possible scenario this month and in January next year.

"Today I will collect details pertaining to Covid-19 in November from our officials, which would be presented before the cabinet tomorrow. Whatever is happening with regard to the Omicron variant and the developments taking place in Covid-19 clusters will be placed before the cabinet and accordingly a decision will be taken on issuing a fresh set of guidelines," the Chief Minister told reporters.

Asked whether the he was mulling a new set of guidelines, Bommai said he has to keep the current situation in mind because Covid-19 cases are seen in only a few districts whereas it is in control in other places. "If we have to bring any new guidelines it should be for the entire state. The Centre has also issued guidelines. Controlling Covid cases in December and January and the need for fresh guidelines will be discussed elaborately in the cabinet meeting," he explained. (PTI)

11:51 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Mumbai: BMC to procure S-gene RT-PCR kits for early detection of Omicron

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will procure S-gene RT-PCR kits that are used for the early detection of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus. Tenders will be floated to procure such kits for all BMC-run Covid testing centers, said health department officials.

The absence of S-gene in the sample is an indicator that the variant could be Omicron. Formally known as the S-gene Target Failure (SGTF) test, this proxy test can be used for early detection of the variant even before genome sequencing. A BMC official said that the genome sequencing results take at least four to five days and the machine requires around 350 samples to start the test.

Read more

11:33 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Chennai airport slashes Covid-19 testing prices

In a relief for international passengers, the Chennai International Airport has slashed the rates of Rapid PCR tests from Rs 3,400 to Rs 2,900, and RT-PCR tests from Rs 700 to Rs 600.

The decision, which comes into effect immediately, was taken days after the Centre and the state released fresh guidelines making it mandatory for international passengers arriving from at-risk countries to test for Covid-19 at the airport. Passengers making up 2 per cent of the total arrivals from non-at-risk countries will also be tested.

Read more

11:20 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Pfizer’s vaccine provides some protection against Omicron, a lab study suggests

A report out of South Africa offered a first glimpse at how vaccinated people might fare against the fast-spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus. Laboratory experiments found that omicron seems to dull the power of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, but also hinted that people who have received a booster shot might be better protected. The study, published online Tuesday, found that antibodies produced by vaccinated people were much less successful at keeping the omicron variant from infecting cells than other forms of the coronavirus.

Read the full story here

11:09 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Karnataka Covid-19 wrap: 299 new cases, Bengaluru doctor who recovered from Omicron tests positive again

The city-based doctor, one of the two earliest cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 to be detected in the country, has tested positive for the virus again, while the other, a South African national who flew out of the city without informing the authorities, has been booked by the police.

The South African, a man with Gujarati origin, who was quarantined here, later flew to Dubai. “It is true that the doctor who was infected with the Omicron variant has once again tested positive for Covid-19,” a Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike official told PTI. Requesting anonymity, the official said the doctor is under isolation but asymptomatic.

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11:02 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Goa: All passengers who arrived on flight from UK test negative for Covid-19

The Goa government on Tuesday said that all the 245 passengers who arrived in the state from the UK during the day tested negative for coronavirus infection. State Health Minister Vishwajit Rane made the announcement on Twitter. As per Goa Airport, the 97th Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) flight arrived with 245 passengers on board from London-Heathrow on Tuesday morning.

So far, five patients including two Russians have been isolated in the state on suspicion that they might be carrying the Omicron variant infection. Their samples have been sent for genome sequencing and results are awaited. (PTI)

10:43 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Four more international travellers sent to hospital from Delhi airport, to be tested for Omicron variant of Covid-19

Four more international travellers were sent to the Lok Nayak Hospital in Delhi on Tuesday to test them for the presence of the Omicron variant of novel coronavirus. Thirty international travellers are currently admitted at the hospital and among these, 25 have tested positive for Covid-19 and five are suspected cases or contacts of those who tested positive. There has been only one confirmed case of the Omicron variant in Delhi. Genome sequencing reports of around 18 people are awaited.

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10:33 (IST)08 Dec 2021
India records 8,439 new Covid-19 cases

India reported 8,439 Covid-19 positive cases on Tuesday, taking its toll to 3,46,56,822. The count of active cases declined to 93,733, the lowest in 555 days, according to the Union Health Ministry data. The death toll due to the disease rose to 4,73,952, with 195 daily deaths being recorded. The daily rise in new coronavirus infections has been recorded below 10,000 for 12 straight days and less than 50,000 for 164 consecutive days now.

10:14 (IST)08 Dec 2021
I am asymptomatic, feeling fine: First patient diagnosed with Omicron in Pune

A 47-year-old software engineer, the first person detected with the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in Pune city, on Tuesday said he was asymptomatic and feeling fine. “I am in my hotel room as part of the institutional quarantine, engaged with office work (online) and doing my daily exercises,” the techie, who tested positive for the infection on his return from Finland, told The Indian Express.

The software engineer said he had tested negative for Covid-19 before he left Finland on November 23. “I arrived in Mumbai early on November 25 and reached Pune the same day. On November 26, I even attended office. However, on November 28, I had a fever. Considering that I had travelled and had a fever, I decided to immediately isolate myself in my room and got tested on November 29. The laboratory had sent my sample for genome sequencing, which confirmed the presence of Omicron variant,” he said.

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09:48 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Omicron vs delta: Battle of coronavirus mutants is critical

As the omicron coronavirus variant spreads in southern Africa and pops up in countries all around the world, scientists are anxiously watching a battle play out that could determine the future of the pandemic. Can the latest competitor to the world-dominating delta overthrow it? Some scientists, poring over data from South Africa and the United Kingdom, suggest omicron could emerge the victor.

“It’s still early days, but increasingly, data is starting to trickle in, suggesting that omicron is likely to outcompete delta in many, if not all, places,” said Dr. Jacob Lemieux, who monitors variants for a research collaboration led by Harvard Medical School. But others said Monday it’s too soon to know how likely it is that omicron will spread more efficiently than delta, or, if it does, how fast it might take over.

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09:38 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Rates of rapid RT-PCR tests at Mumbai airport too high: state to Centre

Additional Chief Secretary of the state Health Department Dr Pradeep Vyas has written to the Union Ministry of Health that the rates of Rapid RT-PCR tests at Mumbai International Airport Limited run by Adani Airports are too high. In the wake of Omicron, Maharashtra has intensified Covid testing on the advice of the Centre. Vyas and his team have been having a series of discussions with the Centre and MIAL on this.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Vyas said there should be uniformity of rates across airports. The letter written by Vyas to Additional Secretary Arti Ahuja of the Union Health Ministry says, “At the Mumbai airport the rapid RTPCR test is being charged at Rs 4500, which operator has agreed to bring it down to Rs 3900 per test, but still it is very high compared to the rates of similar test at other airports like Bengaluru, Chennai and Kochi.”

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09:21 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Allow booster shots, bring down cut-off age for vaccinations to 15: Aaditya Thackeray to Centre

With rise in the number of new cases of Omicron variant of coronavirus in Maharashtra, state minister Aaditya Thackeray wrote a letter to the Centre Tuesday with three suggestions — allow booster shots, lessen the gap between vaccine doses and reduce the age eligibility for vaccination to 15 years.

On Monday, the state Covid-19 task force emphasised the need to provide booster shots and vaccinate the younger population who are more vulnerable to contracting Covid-19 with the opening of the schools.

The first suggestion in Thackeray’s letter to Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya was to ‘allow all those front-line workers and health care workers, who have received both their doses early in the year, a third shot at their studied desire.’ In the second point, he requested to reduce the age limit for vaccination to 15.

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09:15 (IST)08 Dec 2021
Study suggests Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine may only partially protect against Omicron

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus can partially evade the protection from two doses of Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine, the research head of a laboratory at the Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa said on Tuesday. Still, the study showed that blood from people who had received two doses of the vaccine and had a prior infection were mostly able to neutralise the variant, suggesting that booster doses of the vaccine could help to fend off infection.

Alex Sigal, a professor at the Africa Health Research Institute, said on Twitter there was 'a very large drop' in neutralization of the Omicron variant relative to an earlier strain of Covid-19.The lab tested blood from 12 people who had been vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, according to a manuscript posted on the website for his lab. (Reuters)

22:27 (IST)07 Dec 2021
Tamil Nadu govt announces Rs 50,000 ex-gratia for kin of Covid-19 victims

The Tamil Nadu government Tuesday announced an ex-gratia of Rs 50,000 for the families of those who died of Covid-19. The compensations will be paid from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and those involved in relief and preparedness activities will also be covered.

Based on the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Indian Council of Medical Research, the cause of death has to be certified as Covid-19 in order to avail the ex-gratia. Making the fund available will be in compliance with the guidelines of the National Disaster Management Authority. Read More

22:25 (IST)07 Dec 2021
Omicron more transmissible than Delta: UK PM to ministers

Early signs indicate that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is more transmissible than the Delta variant currently dominant in the UK, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told his Cabinet ministers on Tuesday. Johnson's official Number 10 Downing Street spokesperson told reporters in an account of the Cabinet meeting that Johnson reiterated it was still too early to draw conclusions on the wider impact of the new variant, which would depend on whether it causes severe illness.

Johnson's comments come as the UK recorded 101 more Omicron cases on Tuesday, taking the total for the variant first detected in South Africa up to 437. (PTI)

21:31 (IST)07 Dec 2021
Bengaluru doctor with Omicron tests positive again, recovering well

A 46-year-old Bengaluru doctor, who is among the first cases of Omicron variant of coronavirus in India, has again tested positive for Covid-19. His reports came late on Monday night.

The anesthesiologist had tested Covid-positive on November 22. Later, genome sequencing of his samples had revealed that he was infected with the Omicron variant. According to health officials, his last RT-PCR test was conducted on November 29 and as per the health ministry guidelines, he was subjected to the test again in which he remained positive for the virus. Read More

21:26 (IST)07 Dec 2021
Allow booster shots, bring down cut-off age for vaccinations to 15: Aaditya Thackeray to Centre

With rise in the number of new cases of Omicron variant of coronavirus in Maharashtra, state minister Aaditya Thackeray wrote a letter to the Centre Tuesday with three suggestions — allow booster shots, lessen the gap between vaccine doses and reduce the age eligibility for vaccination to 15 years.

On Monday, the state Covid-19 task force emphasised the need to provide booster shots and vaccinate the younger population who are more vulnerable to contracting Covid-19 with the opening of the schools. Read More

21:12 (IST)07 Dec 2021
Two persons who returned from abroad test positive for Covid-19 in MP

Amid concerns over the Omicron variant, two persons who returned here from the United Kingdom and Canada, respectively, tested positive for coronavirus infection on Tuesday, an official said. Following the test results, the two men, aged 41 and 42, were isolated and their samples were sent for genome sequencing to ascertain if they are infected with the Omicron variant, the health official added.

On Monday, a 28-year-old German national tested positive for coronavirus infection at Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh. His sample was sent for genome sequencing, said district contact officer Dr D Mohanty. As he had attended a marriage ceremony here on Sunday evening, his contact history was also traced and samples of at least 50 people were collected for testing.

The German national arrived in Bhopal on Sunday from New Delhi and tested negative in Rapid Antigen Test at the airport. But his RT-PCR test report came out positive the next day, officials said. (PTI)

20:54 (IST)07 Dec 2021
Active Covid-19 infections drop below 8,000 in Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu on Tuesday added 710 new Covid-19 infections including two returnees from West Bengal, pushing the tally to 27,31,945, while the death toll rose to 36,549 with 10 more fatalities. Recoveries eclipsed new infections with 731 people getting discharged in the last 24 hours, aggregating to 26,87,414 leaving 7,982 active infections, a medical bulletin said.

A total of 1,00,393 samples were tested in the last 24 hours, pushing the cumulative number of specimens examined to 5,49,85,621. Chennai and Coimbatore accounted for the majority of new infections with 126 and 122 cases, respectively, while the remaining were scattered across other districts.

As many as 23 districts reported new Covid-19 infections below 10, while Ariyalur, Pudukottai and Virudhunagar clocked zero new cases each, the bulletin said. (PTI)

20:20 (IST)07 Dec 2021
In pics | Covid vaccination drive underway at Kamala Nehru hospital in Pune

Covid vaccination drive underway at the Kamala Nehru hospital in Pune on Tuesday. Express photos by Ashish Kale

20:14 (IST)07 Dec 2021
Mumbai reports 191 new Covid-19 cases, 1 death, 235 recoveries

Mumbai on Tuesday logged 191 new coronavirus infections, a marginal rise from a day ago, and just one fresh fatality, while 235 patients recovered from the disease, a civic official said. With this, the tally of Covid-19 cases climbed to 7,64,194, while the death toll rose to 16,352, he added.

The city has witnessed a marginal rise in the new Covid-19 cases, but a dip in the fatalities as compared to Monday, when it had reported 168 infections and four deaths. According to the official, the number of active Covid-19 cases in the financial capital dropped to 1,668 after 235 patients were discharged from hospitals in the last 24 hours. The cumulative number of recovered patients in Mumbai rose to 7,43,600, he added. (PTI)

19:11 (IST)07 Dec 2021
Karnataka reports 299 new Covid-19 cases; 215 from Bengaluru alone

Karnataka on Tuesday logged 299 new Covid-19 cases out of which 215 were reported from Bengaluru alone.

18:30 (IST)07 Dec 2021
Kerala posts 4,656 new Covid-19 cases, 134 deaths

After seeing a dip in fresh Covid-19 cases a day ago, Kerala on Tuesday reported 4,656 new infections and 134 deaths, which took the caseload to 51,62,025 and the toll to 41,902. The state had reported 3,277 fresh Covid-19 cases on Monday.

Of the 134 deaths, 28 were logged over the last few days and 106 were designated as Covid-19 deaths after receiving appeals based on the new guidelines of the Centre and the directions of the Supreme Court, a state government release said.

With 5,180 more people recovering from the virus since Monday, the total recoveries reached 50,91,224 and the active cases dropped to 40,072, it said. As many as 67,437 samples were tested in the last 24 hours, it added.

18:25 (IST)07 Dec 2021
Delhi reports 51 new Covid-19 cases, zero death and 19 recoveries in last 24 hrs

Delhi on Tuesday reported 51 new Covid-19 cases, 19 recoveries and zero death in the last 24 hours.

18:01 (IST)07 Dec 2021
India adds Ghana and Tanzania to list of 'at risk' countries

India on Monday added Ghana and Tanzania to the list of "at risk" countries, passengers from where have to follow additional Covid-19 testing and quarantine measures. The Aviation Ministry Monday updated the list of "at risk" countries.

Countries in Europe, including the UK, and South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Ghana, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tanzania and Israel have been placed in the "at-risk" category, the Aviation Ministry noted. 

17:28 (IST)07 Dec 2021
Govt keeping close watch on Covid-19 situation: MoS Health

The government is keeping a close watch on the Covid-19 situation in the country by strictly observing the strategy of 'test-track-treat', Covid-appropriate behaviour and vaccination to mitigate the impact of resurgence in the disease's trajectory, Rajya Sabha was informed on Tuesday.

The Centre has also established the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Surveillance Consortium for genomic sequencing and tracking the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 variant strains, Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar said in a written reply. (PTI)

17:22 (IST)07 Dec 2021
Withdraw revenue share percentage for Covid-19 testing at airports: AAI to regional heads

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has written to all regional heads that the revenue share percentage for RT-PCR and Rapid RT-PCR tests at airports should be withdrawn. The letter dated December 6 is signed by the executive director of operations, VA Chourey.

Under the present arrangement, a percentage of the fee charged by laboratories that undertake tests at airports is shared with the agency that runs the airport. Read More

A BBMP vehicle sprays disinfectant in front of Vidhana Soudha in view of possible spread of Covid-19 variant Omicron, in Bengaluru, Tuesday, Dec 7, 2021. (PTI Photo)

Karnataka’s active Covid-19 caseload up by nearly 30 per cent

As concerns of more cases detected with the Omicron variant of Covid-19 looms large, Karnataka’s active caseload has seen a rise of nearly 30 per cent in the first week of December.

According to Health and Medical Education Minister K Sudhakar, the state witnessed a rise of 27.45 per cent in the seven-day moving average of new Covid-19 cases confirmed daily during the first week of December, in comparison with the same a week earlier.

Meanwhile, data from the State Health Department indicated that the active caseload in the state was 7,067 as on Monday (December 6). The same recorded on November 29 was 6,878.

Rates of rapid RT-PCR tests at Mumbai airport too high: state to Centre

Additional Chief Secretary of the state Health Department Dr Pradeep Vyas has written to the Union Ministry of Health that the rates of Rapid RT-PCR tests at Mumbai International Airport Limited run by Adani Airports are too high.

In the wake of Omicron, Maharashtra has intensified Covid testing on the advice of the Centre. Vyas and his team have been having a series of discussions with the Centre and MIAL on this. Speaking to The Indian Express, Vyas said there should be uniformity of rates across airports.

The letter written by Vyas to Additional Secretary Arti Ahuja of the Union Health Ministry says, “At the Mumbai airport the rapid RTPCR test is being charged at Rs 4500, which operator has agreed to bring it down to Rs 3900 per test, but still it is very high compared to the rates of similar test at other airports like Bengaluru, Chennai and Kochi.”

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First published on: 06-12-2021 at 09:08 IST
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