Centre highlights COVID-19 surge in Kerala, Delhi, Bengal as India tally crosses 80 lakh; Maharashtra extends lockdown
Meanwhile, a serosurvey in Jammu and Kashmir's Srinagar city found over 40 percent of residents with COVID-19 antibodies, suggesting that a large fraction of the population may have been infected by the novel coronavirus
With Delhi, Kerala and West Bengal facing a fresh spike in COVID-19 cases, the Central government on Thursday advised the states to gear up the testing, tracking and treatment strategy and put an additional thrust on public awareness as well as enforcement of COVID-appropriate behaviour.
The Delhi govt denied the surge as likely to be a "third wave" but added that it's "too soon" to tell conclusively. In Kerala, the overall COVID-19 tally Thursday crossed 4 lakh, a grim milestone for a state that was once a benchmark for COVID-19 management. Data from the Union Health Ministry showed West Bengal heading for a fresh surge with the state recording a 23 percent increase in average daily cases over the last four weeks.
Meanwhile, reports said that the Maharashtra government has extended the lockdown to 30 November.
Amidst this, a serosurvey on the prevalence of COVID-19 in Jammu and Kashmir's Srinagar district found that over 40 percent of the residents have developed COVID-19 antibodies. The study suggested that a large fraction of the population in Srinagar city may have been infected by COVID-19.
However, the findings of this survey were questioned by the district administration. According to PTI, a similar survey conducted in the area in June had shown 3.8 percent seroprevalence.
A snapshot of the overall COVID-19 situation in the country, updated by the Union health ministry at 8 am on Thursday, showed that the nationwide tally crossed 80 lakh with 49,881 new cases reported in 24 hours. On the other hand, the total number of recoveries rose to 73.15 lakh on Thursday, taking the national recovery rate to 90.99 percent, the ministry said.
The COVID-19 toll rose to 1,20,527 with 517 new deaths in the same span of time. The total caseload includes 6,03,687 active cases, which is 7.5 percent of the total number of cases reported in India.
Maharashtra govt extends lockdown till 30 Nov
The Uddhav Thackeray-led government in Maharashtra on Thursday extended the state-wide lockdown till 30 November, reports said.
In an official notification, the government said that phase-wise resumption of activities will "remain in force till 30 November, 2020, for containment of COVID- I9 epidemic in the state and all departments of the Government of Maharashtra shall strictly implement these guidelines".
The order added that the activities that have been permitted under previous 'Unlock' guidelines will continue to be allowed and "all earlier orders shall be aligned with this order and shall remain in force up to end of November," Livemint quoted the order as saying.
On Wednesday, the government had asked the Union Railways ministry to allow citizens to travel by the Mumbai local trains in non-peak hour slots.
Centre highlights surge in Delhi, Kerala, West Bengal
The Central Government, on Thursday advised Delhi, Kerala and West Bengal, witnessing a significant rise in coronavirus cases, to gear up the testing, tracking and treatment strategy during the festive season and put an additional thrust on public awareness as well as enforcement of COVID-appropriate behaviour.
West Bengal has registered 3,924 new cases in a day with average daily cases recording a 23 percent increase over the last four weeks, the Health Ministry said in a statement.
The state has 37,111 active cases, its case fatality rate stands at 1.84 percent and the positivity rate at 8.3 percent.
"There is a one percent increase in positivity rate over the last four weeks. Darjeeling, Nadia, Medinipur West, Jalpaiguri, Hooghly are the top districts showing an increasing trend in cases. Also, Murshidabad, Nadia, Coochbehar, Kolkata, and Darjeeling have registered an increase in weekly deaths last week," the statement said.
Meanwhile, a Block Development Officer and an Inspector-in Charge of a police station in WestBengal's South 24 Parganas district died of COVID-19 on Thursday, an official said. Over the past few months, at least 15 government officials have died due to COVID-19 in West Bengal.
COVID-19 cases in Kerala are also showing a rising trend. The state registered 98,778 cases in the last 14 days, while in a 24-hour period it recorded the maximum 8,790 instances of the infection. As of Thursday, the state had crossed 4 lakh in total cases while deaths increased to 1,429.
"Thrissur, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, Malappuram are the top districts showing an increasing trend in coronavirus cases. The state has demonstrated better results in terms of COVID fatality. The fatality rate stood at 0.34 percent, although there has been an increase in weekly deaths in Thrissur (133 percent), Kollam (75 percent), Alappuzha (31 percent), Ernakulam (30 percent), and Kannur (15 percent)," the health ministry said.
In Delhi, there has been a nearly 46 percent increase in the new cases over the past four weeks, and the positivity rate during the same period has escalated by nearly nine per cent.
"The rising cases were attributed to social gatherings during the festivities, deteriorating air quality, increasing incidences of respiratory disorders, and clusters of positive cases at workplaces. Fatigue among frontline workers was also discussed," the ministry said.
Delhi govt attributes surge to new strategy on testing
However, Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain on Thursday said that the recent surge in COVID-19 cases was due to a new "anti-coronavirus" strategy adopted by the AAP government. The new strategy includes aggressive tracing and testing, Jain added.
Jain added that the surge may be the third wave but that it was too early to say that conclusively. He said that one should wait for another week to see the trends before declaring the surge 'third wave', PTI reported.
Amid the festive season and rising pollution levels, Delhi on Wednesday recorded over 5,600 COVID-19 cases, the first time the number crossed 5,000 in the National Capital.
Talking to reporters about the new strategy which, he claimed, will be the "best strategy" to contain the virus, Jain said the Delhi government has started conducting aggressive tracing and testing of all family members and close contacts of those found infected with the novel coronavirus.
"And, we are at times, testing them twice after a gap of 4-5 days. We don't want to leave any positive case... we have changed our strategy that's why the number of cases has gone up. I believe that this strategy would be successful," Jain said.
Asked if the government was not conducting tests earlier on the family members of those found positive for COVID-19, the health minister said that authorities used to test only those who had coronavirus-like symptoms.
"Our main focus is that not a single (COVID-19) case should be left for testing. You can see a rise in the number of cases, but it is a good strategy and its results should be seen soon," he said.
On being asked about the figure of 15,000 cases per day projected by experts in the coming months, Jain said, "Figures have been projected by experts on surge in daily COVID-19 cases, but it may not reach that level. However, we want to be fully prepared."
As per the Wednesday bulletin, 5,665 beds were occupied and 10,100 still vacant in COVID-19 hospitals, Jain said.
The 517 new fatalities include 91 from Maharashtra, 60 from West Bengal, 55 each from Chhattisgarh and Karnataka, 40 from Delhi, 35 from Tamil Nadu, and 27 from Kerala.
A total of 1,20,527 deaths have been reported so far in the country including 43,554 from Maharashtra followed by 11,046 from Karnataka, 11,018 from Tamil Nadu, 6,958 from Uttar Pradesh, 6,643 from Andhra Pradesh, 6,664 from West Bengal, 6,396 from Delhi, 4,158 from Punjab and 3701 from Gujarat.
The ICMR said that a cumulative total of 10,65,63,440 samples have been tested up to 28 October with 10,75,760 samples being tested on Wednesday.
India's COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on 7 August, 30 lakh on 23 August, and 40 lakh on 5 September. It went past 50 lakh on 16 September, 60 lakh on 28 September, and crossed 70 lakh on 11 October.
Centre says airline fare limits to remain in place for another three months
The upper and lower limits on domestic airfares will remain in place for another three months after 24 November, Union civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Thursday.
The ministry had on 21 May placed limits through seven bands, classified on the basis of flight duration, 24 till August. Later, it was extended till 24 November.
Puri said if the scheduled domestic flights reach pre-COVID levels by the end of the year, he will have no hesitation in removing the fare limits at that time.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had on 21 May announced seven bands of ticket pricing with lower and upper fare limits based on flight duration.
The first such band consists of flights that are of less than 40 minutes duration. The lower and the upper fare limits for the first band are Rs 2,000 and Rs 6,000, respectively.
The subsequent bands are for flights with durations of 40-60 minutes, 60-90 minutes, 90-120 minutes, 120-150 minutes, 150-180 minutes, and 180-210 minutes.
The lower and upper limits for these bands are: Rs 2,500-Rs 7,500; Rs 3,000-Rs 9,000; Rs 3,500-Rs 10,000; Rs 4,500-Rs 13,000; Rs 5,500-Rs 15,700 and Rs 6,500-Rs 18,600, respectively, the DGCA said.
With inputs from agencies
Speaking on the current scenario of the pandemic, the health minister said that though the cases are surging in Maharashtra but the number of hospitalisations and the need for medical oxygen remain low
The new measures come after the National Capital logged 17 more deaths due to COVID-19 and 19,166 infections in a day
40,386 patients were discharged in the last 24 hours, raising the number of recoveries in Maharashtra to 68,00,900