Coronavirus updates | February 19, 2021
The Union government has issued a fresh set of air travel guidelines, as the country reported the presence of the U.K., South Africa and Brazil mutant variants of SARS-CoV-2 that have demonstrated increased transmissibility, as reported by the World Health Organization. They have been currently detected in 86, 44 and 15 countries respectively, India being one of them. The new SOP will come into effect at 11.59 p.m. on February 22.
Here are the latest updates:
People coming from Kerala, Maharashtra to be monitored closely
People coming to Karnataka from neighbouring Kerala and Maharashtra, which have seen a spike in COVID-19 cases, will be monitored scrupulously with special attention in the border districts, State Health Minister K Sudhakar said.
He did not rule out the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 in the State and cautioned the people against any negligence as the pandemic was still not over.
Noting that coronavirus cases were increasing in Kerala and Maharashtra, he said “I have written to the Home Minister, also to the Deputy Commissioners of all the border districts and will be having a video conference with them tomorrow.
“Special attention has to be given in the districts bordering the two districts,” Mr. Sudhakar said. – PTI
Deputy CM warns of action against people found without masks
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said he has instructed administrations in the State to take strict action against people who are found without masks in public amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to reporters at Shivneri Fort after an event, Mr. Pawar said district administrations have been authorised to assess the situation in their respective districts and impose a lockdown from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., if the situation demands.
“I am going to chair a meeting on February 21 in Pune to discuss measures to contain the viral spread,” the Deputy Chief Minister said.
A spike in COVID-19 cases witnessed in some districts of the state is a matter of concern, he said.– PTI
1 crore COVID vaccinations
India took 34 days to achieve one crore COVID vaccinations, 2nd fastest after U.S.: Govt
India took 34 days to achieve the landmark feat of one crore COVID-19 vaccinations, the second fastest in the world, the health ministry said on Friday.
The US took 31 days, while the UK took 56 days to surpass the one-crore vaccination mark.
Till 8 am on Friday, the cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to healthcare workers (HCWs) and frontline workers (FLWs) in the country was 1,01,88,007. “A total of 1,01,88,007 vaccine doses have been administered through 2,11,462 sessions, as per the provisional report till 8 am. These include 62,60,242 HCWs (1st dose), 6,10,899 HCWs (2nd dose) and 33,16,866 FLWs (1st dose),” the ministry said.
The second dose of the COVID-19 vaccination started being administered to those who have completed 28 days since the receipt of the first dose from February 13. The vaccination of the FLWs started on February 2.
As on the 34th day of the vaccination drive (February 18), a total of 6,58,674 vaccine doses were administered, of which 4,16,942 beneficiaries were inoculated across 10,812 sessions for the first dose (HCWs and FLWs), while 2,41,732 HCWs received the second dose, the ministry stated.
Indigenous vaccine effective against mutated virus strains
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director General Dr Balram Bhargava has said interim results of the ongoing clinical trials indicated that the indigenous Covid-19 vaccines would be effective against the mutated virus strains reported from the UK, South Africa and Brazil.
In the case of the variants from South Africa and Brazil, efforts were on to isolate the mutated virus strains from the samples collected from travellers from these two countries, he said.
The official said the third clinical trial of Covaxin BB152 had been completed as all the 25,800 volunteers involved in the exercise had been administered both the doses.
“The interim analysis report should be out in a week,” he said.
Dr Bhargava pointed out that India was the fifth country in the world to isolate the Covid-19 virus as part of the efforts to develop a vaccine for the pandemic.
Pakistan to receive 2.8 million doses of vaccine
Pakistan will receive 2.8 million doses of Oxford AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine on March 2 from the international vaccine alliance, COVAX, Health Minister Faisal Sultan has said as the country announced the launch of a vaccination programme for citizens aged over 65.
Pakistan this month started the anti-coronavirus vaccination drive with 500,000 doses of Sinopharm’s vaccine donated by its ally China.
Pakistan facilitating Sikh pilgrims
Pakistan has said it is fully facilitating Sikh pilgrims from across the world, including India, for visiting their religious sites in the country.
This year’s Jaipur Literature Festival kicks off at a 3D Diggi Palace
Pre-pandemic, the annual bibliophiles’ pilgrimage had seen the Pink City come alive — with hotels booked months in advance, students camping out at railway stations, and visitors scrambling between jam-packed sessions and book signings. Evenings had buzzed with performances, special tours, and exclusive dinners.
But 2021 is seeing the 10-day festival exchanging the physical grounds of the Diggi Palace for a 3D rendition of it. This year, the 14th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival, has gone digital.
“The biggest challenge was how to capture the essence of JLF,” says Sanjoy K Roy, festival producer and managing director of Teamwork Arts, an entertainment company. For starters, they’ve tried to keep it as visual as possible. “We have the entrance of the Diggi Palace pictured on our website’s landing page. Enter it to choose between sessions on the front lawn or the Durbar Hall, and 3D renditions will show you the path [to your destination]. Once there, you will enter the screen box where the sessions happen.” While some will be recorded live — such as conversations with satirist Craig Brown and art critic Ranjit Hoskote — others sessions will be on Zoom and a few will be pre-recorded. Guests can also choose to hear applause by clicking on a button. “The idea is to give as close an experience as possible to Diggi,” adds Roy.
Amid spike, duration of budget session in doubt
There is uncertainty over the duration of the Maharashtra Assembly’s budget session owing to a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases in the State. Though a four-week-long session had been planned, a meeting of the Business Advisory Committee on Thursday mulled reducing it to one week.
Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari has written to the State government to conduct the election for the Speaker’s post during the session. The post became vacant when Nana Patole quit as Speaker and took over as the State Congress chief.
A senior minister said, “The election will be held by voice vote on the first day or Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal will conduct proceedings and the election will be held on the session’s last day.”
Mop-up round for HCWs who missed 2nd dose
The Health department would conduct a mop-up round for Health Care Workers (HCW) who did not take the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Out of the targeted 67,173 beneficiaries, 14,029 HCWs did not take the vaccine from February 13 to 16.
The COVID-19 vaccine is given in two doses with a gap of 28 days.
The vaccination drive was launched on January 16. After 28 days’ gap, HCWs started to receive the second dose from February 13 and it is ongoing.
General public not opting for the jab altogether because of vaccine hesitancy was expected. However, thousands of HCWs did not take the second dose too. Senior Health officials listed three primary reasons behind their staff giving the drive a miss.
The first reason was that HCWs who developed minor Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) such as fever, giddiness, or were hospitalised after the first dose, were hesitant to take the second dose. The second reason was that some of the beneficiaries had health problems on the day they were scheduled to take the second dose. Third was that they had some personal engagements.
ABVP holds protest, calls for complete reopening of DU
The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) on Thursday organised a protest at Delhi University’s North Campus calling for the complete reopening of the university and resumption of on-campus classes.
The students said that several universities have started a phased reopening as per the guidelines issued by the Central government, and the university authorities had issued guidelines for the commencement of physical classes.
The students also demanded that they be allowed to choose between online and offline modes regarding the term-end examinations, besides calling for the reopening of libraries, hostels and declaration of results.
BMC warns of action against violation of COVID-19 rules
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), in a bid to check the growing number of COVID-19 cases, said on Thursday that those violating rules while arranging wedding receptions and other programmes would face legal action. It also announced to double the number of marshals to fine citizens who do not wear masks in public places. Travellers from Brazil would be sent to a mandatory institutional quarantine of seven days, it said.
The BMC guidelines were issued after Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal chaired a meeting of civic administration officials to take stock of the situation.
As per the guidelines, asymptomatic patients kept in home quarantine would be stamped on hand as per the previous practice. The civic administration would call the person five to six times a day to ensure that the person has not left home. In case the patient ventures out, a local war room will initiate legal action and the patient will be placed in an institutional quarantine facility.
Further, all housing societies with the number of patients exceeding five will be sealed. Organisers and owners of marriage halls, hotels, shopping malls, and theatres can be fined for violation of safety norms.
130 countries have not received a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine, says U.N. chief
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sharply criticised the “wildly uneven and unfair” distribution of COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, saying 10 countries have administered 75% of all vaccinations and demanding a global effort to get all people in every nation vaccinated as soon as possible.
The U.N. chief told a high-level meeting of the U.N. Security Council that 130 countries have not received a single dose of vaccine and declared that “at this critical moment, vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community.”
Mr. Guterres called for an urgent Global Vaccination Plan to bring together those with the power to ensure equitable vaccine distribution — scientists, vaccine producers and those who can fund the effort.
And he called on the world’s major economic powers in the Group of 20 to establish an emergency task force to establish a plan and coordinate its implementation and financing. He said the task force should have the capacity “to mobilise the pharmaceutical companies and key industry and logistics actors.”
Technical Advisory Committee recommends regular RT-PCR tests for catering staff
Although the recent cluster outbreaks in the State may not be indicative of the beginning of a second wave as yet, COVID-19 experts suggest the government should be extra vigilant to ensure such clusters do not build up and the State is set to issue revised guidelines soon.
Apart from compulsory RT-PCR negative tests for those coming from high-risk States, especially Kerala and Maharashtra, the State should make RT-PCR tests mandatory once in 15 days for those who work in catering companies and serve food, experts suggested.
Besides, Seva Sindhu, the portal for registrations for people coming to Karnataka from other States, should again be activated, experts said and the same was discussed at the State’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting on Wednesday.
Let industry help with vaccine rollout: CII
Worried about India’s vaccine stockpile expiring if the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out is not ramped up quickly, industry association CII has urged the government to allow private sector health providers to administer vaccines and let businesses inoculate their employees’ and communities around their operations.
This could help vaccinate 100 million people and allow the Centre to reach identified target priority groups quicker, that would be critical to get the workforce back to work and the economy back on track, the apex chamber said.
“As all vaccines have a finite period of longevity and the matter of possible expiry of many of these vaccines is of national concern, it is recommended that all stakeholders must contribute in a manner that all vaccines available are well utilised and well in time. By opening the vaccination process to private sector, the large cohort of those willing to take the vaccines would enable full utilisation of the vaccines within the expiry period,” it stressed.
Capital records highest turnout for jab
A total of 24,417 beneficiaries — healthcare and front-line workers — got the COVID-19 vaccination in the city on Thursday, the highest so far. There were 13 minor Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI), said a Delhi government spokesperson.
Of the total beneficiaries, 5,218 healthcare workers received the first dose and 3,537 their second dose. At least 15,662 front-line workers received the first dose of the vaccine.
There were 302 vaccination sites on Thursday, of which 212 were using Covishield and 90 used Covaxin.
Daily new cases climbs to over 13,000 after 19 days
Daily new cases of COVID-19 in the country climbed to over 13,000 after 19 days taking India’s tally of cases to 1,09,63,394, while the recoveries surged to 1,06,67,741, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Friday.
A total of 13,193 new cases were registered in a span of 24 hours. The death toll increased to 1,56,111 with 97 daily new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed. The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 1,06,67,741 which translates to a national COVID-19 recovery rate of 97.30% and the case fatality rate stands at 1.42%.
The total COVID-19 active cases remained below 1.5 lakh. There are 1,39,542 active cases of coronavirus infections in the country which comprises 1.27% of the total caseload, the data stated.
Africa’s death toll surpasses 1,00,000
Africa’s reported COVID-19 death toll surpassed 1,00,000 on Friday, a fraction of those reported on other continents but rising fast as a second wave of infections overwhelms hospitals.
The continent’s reported deaths, at 1,00,354, compare favourably with North America, which has registered more than half a million, and Europe, which is approaching 9,00,000, a Reuters tally shows.
But deaths are rising sharply across Africa, driven by its southern region, especially economic powerhouse South Africa, which accounts for nearly half. South Africa was ravaged by a second wave caused by a more contagious variant that has jammed up casualty wards.