COVID-19 update: 15-day curfew in Maharashtra; Centre fast-tracks EUA for foreign vaccines

This came after Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine was cleared for restricted emergency use by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) with certain conditions

FP Staff April 13, 2021 22:58:36 IST
COVID-19 update: 15-day curfew in Maharashtra; Centre fast-tracks EUA for foreign vaccines

People line up for COVID-19 test in Mumbai. AP

After much speculation about an extended lockdown in Maharashtra, which is witnessing a huge spike in COVID-19 cases, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday announced that Section 144 would be imposed across the state starting 8 pm tomorrow (Wednesday 14 April) for the next 15 days as part of a 'janta curfew'.

Thackeray, in a video address, announcing new SOPs as part  of 'Break The Chain' to curb cases, said it is not a "complete lockdown".

The restrictions will continue till 1 May.

Break the Chain 13 April 2021 by ananya srivastava on Scribd

This, as the Union health ministry on Tuesday said the government has fast-tracked emergency approval for foreign-produced vaccines that have been granted similar clearances in other countries.

The move is aimed at expanding the basket of COVID-19 vaccines and boosting the pace of inoculation in India, it said. The move is significant as it may make available several vaccines, including those made by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, in India with certain conditions.

The government has decided that COVID-19 vaccines which have been developed and are being manufactured in foreign countries and which have been granted emergency approval for restricted use by authorities in the US, Europe, the UK, Japan or which are listed in the WHO Emergency Use Listing may be granted emergency use approval in India, the ministry said.

They will be given EUA mandating the requirement of post-approval parallel bridging clinical trial in place of conduct of local clinical trial under the provisions of the New Drugs and Clinical Trials Rules 2019 and the first 100 beneficiaries of such foreign vaccines shall be assessed for seven days for safety outcomes before roll out for immunisation in the country, the ministry said.

This came a day after Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine was cleared for restricted emergency use by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) with certain conditions, based on results of clinical trials in Russia, as well as positive data of additional Phase III local clinical trials in India conducted in partnership with Dr Reddy's Laboratories.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said it expects over 50 million doses of Sputnik V vaccine to be manufactured in India by this summer.

Sputnik V will be the third anti- Coronavirus vaccine to be used in India. In January, DCGI had given the emergency use authorisation for two COVID-19 vaccines – Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin of Bharat Biotech and Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India in Pune.

Also on Tuesday, the Centre said the over 1.67 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses are still available with states and stressed that the problem is not of vaccine shortage but of lack of better planning. Some states including Maharashtra, Kerala and Punjab, had comaplined of vaccine shortages over the last few days.

At a press briefing, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said,  "As per 11 am data, unutilised doses available with states and union territories for administration is 1,67,20,693. From now till April end, 2,01,22,960 doses are in supply pipeline to states and UTs."

"This clearly shows that the problem is of lack of better planning, not of vaccine doses shortage. We have made available vaccine doses to states and UTs from time to time and as we told you earlier that to bigger states we give supply of four days at once and on fourth and fifth day we replenish the supply. For smaller states, at once we supply 7-8 days vaccine doses and on seventh or eighth day their supply is replenished," he added.

The official also stated that said that the previous highest surge in cases has already been crossed and the trend is going upward. Daily deaths are also showing an increasing trend, he said.

'Shortage of oxygen, medical beds'

Thackeray, in his video address, said the state is currently continuously upgrading its healthcare infrastructure but it is under pressure due to a shortage of medical oxygen, beds and the demand for remdesivir.

Thackeray said the second wave of the coronavirus had put a lot of pressure on the state’s health infrastructure, that the situation in the state is "scary" and that cases are "exploding".

Maharashtra on Tuesday reported 60,212 fresh coronavirus positive cases, taking the tally to 35,19,208 while 281 fatalities pushed the toll to 58,526, the state health department said.

Thackeray said 100 percent of medical oxygen – 1,200 metric tonnes per day – is being used for COVID-19 cases. He further appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to provide Maharashtra with oxygen supply to help it better cope with the increase in cases.

Thackeray said only essential services would be exempt from the restrictions, that public transport would be available for those involved in essential services, petrol pumps and financial institutions associated with SEBI and construction work would continue, hotels and restaurants would only allow take away and home deliveries would be allowed.

He also said the Maha Vikas Aghadi government's flagship economy meal scheme, 'Shiv Bhojan Thali' will be free of cost for the next one month and that three kilos wheat and two kilos rice will be given to 7 crore people under the category.

He added said that daily wages workers will be given Rs 1,500 for one month and also announced similar financial assistance for five lakh registered hawkers.

Thackeray further appealed to newly-graduated doctors to aid in the fight against coronavirus .

"I am appealing to the health care workers to fight this battle. I am urging NGOs and other organisations to come forward to win this fight. Keep politics aside for now. If we all come together this time, we can win," he said.

India records 1.61 lakh new COVID-19 cases

India on Tuesday reported a spike of 1,61,736 new coronavirus infections, pushing the tally of cases to 1,36,89,453 while the toll increased to 1,71,058 with 879 new fatalities according to the health ministry’s morning update.

The total active caseload reached 12,64,698 with a net increase of 63,689 in 24 hours, The active cases now comprise 9.24 percent of the country's total infections while the recovery rate had declined to 89.51 percent.

The ministry said ten states, including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, account for 80.80 percent of the fresh COVID-19 cases while 88.05 percent of the new fatalities were reported from 10 states.

Thirteen states and UTs — Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Ladakh, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Tripura, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Nagaland, Mizoram,Manipur, Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Arunachal Pradesh — have not reported any COVID-19 deaths in 24 hours, it stated.

The five states of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala cumulatively account for 68.85 percent of India's total active cases. Maharashtra alone accounts for 44.78 percent of the total active caseload of the country, the ministry said.

On third day of the 'tika utsav', a total of 10,85,33,085 vaccine doses have been administered through 16,08,448 sessions,as per the provisional report till 7 am.

Morgues full, hospital beds filling up

Meanwhile, reports emerged from various states about lack of hospital beds and  bodies piling up  in morgues and crematoriums.

In Maharashtra's Palghar district, civic authorities and the management of medical facilities on Tuesday denied allegations of relatives of 10 COVID-19 patients who succumbed at two hospitals on Monday that a shortage of oxygen led to the deaths.

On Monday, seven coronavirus patients died in Vinayaka Hospital, located in Nalasopara east, while three others succumbed in Riddhi Vinayak Hospital. Polce personnel had been deployed after a large number of people had gathered at the hospitals as word spread that the deaths occurred due to medical oxygen shortage.

On Tuesday, Kishore Gavas, deputy commissioner, Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation, said the deaths occurred as the patients were critical and claimed that both the hospitals have ample oxygen stock. A release from Vinayaka Hospital also said it has "a huge supply of oxygen" and, hence, the death of these patients being attributed to its shortage was "factually incorrect".

In Gujarat's Surat, officials said the metal structures of furnaces at some crematoriums have started melting or breaking as they are being used round-the-clock due to the rush of bodies amid the COVID-19 pandemic, reported news agency PTI. Since the past one week, around 16 gas-based furnaces at the Kurukshetra Crematorium and Ashvini Kumar Crematorium are operating 24X7 to cremate bodies, hence maintenance issues are cropping up, they said. The metal frames of gas furnaces, on which the bodies are kept, and chimneys are melting or breaking because of overheating and excessive use, the official said.

"Before the coronavirus outbreak last year, around 20 bodies were cremated at the Kurukhsetra Crematorium every day. Now, there is a sudden rush of bodies. At present, we are handling about 100 bodies per day," Kamlesh Sailor, president of a trust which manages the crematorium, told PTI.

On Monday, a long queue of ambulances was seen outside Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, reported India TodayAccording to the report,  patients were forced to wait in ambulances as the 1200-bed facility had run out of beds. The paramedics had to administer oxygen to patients in the ambulance in absence of hospital facilities, the report said.

In Rajasthan, hospital authorities told news agency PTI that beds across hospitals in Jaipur are filling up fast. Dr Ajeet Singh Shekhawat, superintendent of Rajasthan University of Health Sciences Hospital, told PTI,  than over 100 patients are being admitted to the hospital every day for the last three days.  The hospital has 1,200 beds, including 450 oxygen beds and 200 ICU beds, he said, adding that that nearly half of the beds are occupied. "Around 330 patients have been admitted in the last three days," he said. Dr Virendra Singh, president of Rajasthan Hospital, said the beds at the facility are already full.

A senior official of the state health department said all private hospitals with 60 or more beds have been asked to reserve 25 percent of them in wards and another 25 percent in ICUs for COVID-19 patients.

In Chhatisgarh's Raipur, bodies of COVID-19 victims have been piling up in mortuaries and crematoriums, reported PTI. In some videos on social media, bodies were seen lying on stretchers outside the mortuary of Raipur's Dr B R Ambedkar Memorial Hospital (DBRAMH), the state's biggest government-run hospital, and last rites of victims being performed from morning till late night in crematoriums. Raipur's Additional Municipal Commissioner Pulak Bhattacharya said "Due to a sudden spike in deaths due to COVID-19 , the bodies piled up in the mortuary."

On Monday, the hospital's morgue had 40 bodies, mostly of COVID-19 victims, which was more than its capacity, he said. "Since the last two days, the last rites of nearly 100 victims were being performed per day in Raipur. We have pressed more hearses into service so that the bodies can be shifted to crematoriums without any delay," he said.

Talking to PTI on Tuesday, state Health Minister TS Singh Deo said the overall situation is "very concerning" and the sudden rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths has posed a challenge for authorities. "The district administration and the municipal corporation have been asked to ensure the bodies are cremated at the earliest," he said. The situation was also grim in neighbouring Durg district.

In Madhya Pradesh, an employee of Indore city's regional park "muktidham (crematorium) said there were facilities for 12 pyres, which
has now been increased to 35, while space has also been earmarked in the premises for another 15 due to the emergency caused by the current surge in COVID-19 cases.

"It means now we can cremate 50 bodies at the same time. Incidentally, from morning to afternoon on Tuesday, 15 corpses were brought here, and last rites of 12 had to be carried out as per COVID-19 protocol," the staffer said.

In Sanchi, the constituency of state health minister Prabhuram Choudhary, authorities had take the help of a daily wage gardener to collect samples of people at the government civil hospital.  The incident came to light on Monday when some television reporters recorded the gardener, Halke Ram, collecting swabs of people for testing at the hospital in Sanchi.

Block Medical Officer (BMO) Dr Rajyashri Tidke told PTI on Tuesday that the help of the gardener was taken for collecting samples due to the shortage of employees."Almost half of the staff of the hospital was found coronavirus positive. I had already informed senior health officials about the shortage of staff in the Sanchi civil hospital," she said.

Quoting medical department officials, the Indian Express reported that over 18,169 devotees at the Kumbh Mela were tested between 11.30 pm Sunday and 5 pm Monday for COVID-19 and 102 were found positive. The Uttarakhand government is struggling to maintain basic measures such as effective thermal screening and wearing of mask at the mela, the report said.

Yogi Adityanath goes into isolation

Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday reported the highest-ever single-day spike of 18,021 coronavirus cases and 85 deaths, a senior official told PTI. With this, the state's infection tally stands at 7,23,582 and the toll at 9,309.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said he isolated himself after some officials in his contact tested positive.

मेरे कार्यालय के कुछ अधिकारी कोरोना से संक्रमित हुए हैं।

यह अधिकारी मेरे संपर्क में रहे हैं, अतः मैंने एहतियातन अपने को आइसोलेट कर लिया है एवं सभी कार्य वर्चुअली प्रारम्भ कर रहा हूं।

— Yogi Adityanath (@myogiadityanath) April 13, 2021

Ruling out the possibility of a lockdown in Karnataka to contain the spread of coronavirus , Chief Minister BS Yediyurapa said he has convened an all-party meeting on 18 April to decide the future course of action.

Emphasising on public support to contain the spread of the pandemic, he said the night curfew from 10 pm to 5 am has already been imposed. "People have to cooperate by wearing masks, maintaining hand hygiene and physical distancing. There is no other way.. With folded hands I want to ask the people to cooperate," Yediyurappa said.

Kejriwal requests Centr scrap CBSE board exams

Delhi on Tuesday recorded 13,468 COVID-19 cases, the biggest single-day jump so far, while 81 more people succumbed to the disease, according to data shared by the health department. The city's cumulative case count now stands at 7,50,156, and the toll at 11,436, the bulletin stated.

Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appealed to the Centre to cancel the CBSE Class 10 and 12 board exams and explore alternative methods, including online exams and internal assessments. Warning that conducting the exams may contribute to the large-scale spread of the virus, he said the centres could emerge as major hotspots.

At the press briefing, the Centre noted that India's COVID-19 cases trajectory in the second wave is "worrying" and said states like Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat need to ramp up RT-PCR tests. Bhushan said the previous highest surge was 94,372 daily cases in September which is now 1,61,736 every day while the daily deaths are also showing an increasing trend.

Bhushan said there are 53 central teams have been sent to 53 districts of the country which are showing a surge in cases and these central teams are helping the district administration as well the state administration, particularly health department and revenue officials in tackling the pandemic.

Bhushan also said Kerala has zero wastage of vaccine doses, while on the other hand there are states which are registering 8-9 percent wastage. In terms of the number of daily doses administered globally, India continues to remain at the top with an average of 41,69,609 doses given per day, he highlighted.

Amid reports of shortage of remdesivir, NITI Aayog member VK Paul said the antiviral drug is to be given only to hospitalised, serious patients and those on oxygen support, and there is no question of its use in home setting and it is not to be procured from chemist shops.

Kerala logs over 7,000 cases

Kerala recorded 7,515 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, including 36 health workers, takingthe total caseload to 11.80 lakh and active cases mounted to52,132, the state government said. As many as 2,959 people were cured of the infection,taking the total recoveries to 11,23,133.

A health department bulletin said 73,441 samples have beensent for testing, taking the overall number to 1,38,87,669. The test positivity rate stood at 10.23 per cent.

The toll has gone up to 4,814 with 20 more fatalitiesbeing added to thetally. The total number of cases has soared to 11,80,397. Among the districts, Ernakulam reported the highestnumber of 1,162 cases, followed by Kozhikode 867, Thrissur690, Malappuram 633, Kottayam 629 and Thiruvananthapuram 579.

Of the fresh cases, 36 are health workers, 198 had comefrom outside the state and 6,747 were infected throughcontact. A total of 1,82,589 people are presently underobservation, including 7,582 in hospitals.

Fourteen areas were added to the list of hotspots, takingthe total number to 416. With COVID cases continuing to gallop, the governmentbrought in new restrictions,including allowing only 100 peopleto gather at indoor meetings/programmes and a maximum of 200for outdoor functions, closing shops by 9 pm every day andpromotion of door delivery.

Meanwhile, police registered cases against 1,275 peoplefor violating COVID-19 protocol. As many as 326 people were arrested and 5018 booked fornot wearing masks.

West Bengal on Tuesday recorded the highest single-day spike of 4,817 coronavirus cases in thepast 24 hours, pushing the tally to 6,24,224, the healthdepartment said in a bulletin. The death toll also rose to 10,434 after 20 freshfatalities were registered in the state. Kolkata too registered a record one-day spike of 1,271 coronavirus cases, it added.

At least 2,278 people recovered from the disease whilethe state now has 29,050 active cases. In the last 24 hours, 42,214 samples have been testedfor COVID-19 in West Bengal.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date:

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