COVID-19 news: Centre claims no shortage of oxygen, warns against hoarding cylinders; India's tally at 1.99 crore
India on Monday registered 3,68,147 new coronavirus cases, taking the tally in the country to 1,99,25,604 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. This is the second consecutive day when the daily infection count dropped after crossing the 4-lakh mark
As states across India continue to battle the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centre on Monday advised hospitals to use medical oxygen 'judiciously' and claimed that there is no shortage of the crucial gas.
At a routine briefing on steps taken by the government to battle the COVID-19 crisis, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Piyush Goyal told reporters that multiple efforts were being undertaken to enhance production and quickly transport oxygen to the hospitals and patients.
Goyal futher cautioning against the public against black-marketing or hoarding of cylinders.
This on the same day that as many as 24 patients, including 23 suffering from COVID-19, died in Karnataka’s Chamarajanagar due to alleged oxygen shortage in the district hospital, officials said.
Also on Monday, the Delhi High Court on Monday directed the Centre to provide details of oxygen concentrators that are stuck at the customs department for clearance as the National Capital continues to face a severe crunch of medical oxygen with a surge in COVID-19 cases.
On Monday evening, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs told the court no consignment is pending with customs. "However, social media has been flooded with the news that 3000 oxygen concentrators are lying with customs. We have again checked with our field formations and there is no such consignment lying with the customs," read the press release.
"However, since a photograph has also been put on Twitter, if anybody has information as to where it is lying, the same may be informed to us and we will take immediate action," the statement added.
According to Bar and Bench, the Delhi High Court's directive came after senior advocate Krishnan Venugopal told the court that 3,000 oxygen concentrators belonging to Max Hospital were stuck with the customs department.
The bench also directed the state government to seek the help of the armed forces in getting oxygen and setting up facilities. It directed the Centre to take instructions on the communication by the AAP government to the Union Defence Minister requesting the help of the army to set up hospitals with oxygenated and ICU beds to treat COVID-19 patients as well as supply cryogenic tanker for oxygen.
Centre refutes reports about COVID vaccine orders
Meanwhile, the Centre refuted reports that it had not placed any new order for coronavirus vaccines since March. Serum Institute of India chief Adar Poonawalla had claimed that his company did not boost vaccine production because there were no orders.
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare earlier on Monday rebuffed media reports alleging that the Centre has not placed fresh orders for COVID-19 vaccines. “These media reports are completely incorrect and are not based on facts. It is clarified that 100 percent advance of Rs. 1732.50 cr (after TDS Rs. 1699.50 cr) was released to Serum Institute of India (SII) on 28.04.2021 for 11 crore doses of Covishield vaccine during May, June and July, and was received by them on 28.04.2021. As of date, against the last order of 10 crore doses for supplies of Covishield vaccine, 8.744 crore doses have been delivered till 03.05.2021," the statement read.
Calling vaccine manufacturing a ‘specialised process’, the CEO of Serum Institute of India on Monday said that it is not possible to ramp its production overnight, especially according to the demand of a country as populated as India. “We also need to understand that the population of India is huge and to produce enough doses for all adults is not an easy task. Even the most advanced countries and companies are struggling in a relatively smaller population,” he said.
Global Pharma major Pfizer is discussing with the Indian government an expedited approval pathway to make Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available for use in the country, the company’s Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said on Monday.
Earlier in April, Pfizer said that it had offered a not-for-profit price for its vaccine for the government immunisation programme in India and it remains committed to continuing engagement with the government to make the vaccine available in India.
As India continues to grapple with a surge in coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday took some key decisions to boost the availability of medical personnel in fighting COVID-19. He said that the final year MBBS students, median interns, and BSc GNM-qualified nurses can be deployed for COVID-19 duties, and added the medical personnel completing 100 days of COVID-19 duties will be given priority in forthcoming regular government recruitments. He also said NEET PG 2021 exams have been postponed to free up qualified doctors for COVID-19 duty.
India on Monday registered 3,68,147 new coronavirus cases, taking the tally in the country to 1,99,25,604 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. This is the second consecutive day when the daily infection count dropped after crossing the 4-lakh mark. The toll climbed by 3,417 to 2,18,959.
'13 states showing'very early signs of decline'
The Centre on Monday said the rising number of daily COVID-19 cases in some states remains a cause of concern and while a few others like Delhi and Maharashtra are plateauing in terms of daily cases, these are "very early signals" and containment efforts have to continue to break the chain of transmission.
Addressing a news briefing, Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry Lav Agarwal said 13 states including Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh, are showing early signs of plateauing or decrease in daily new COVID-19 cases.
He said Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and West Bengal are still showing an increase in daily infections.
Delhi, which had recorded 25,294 cases on April 24, registered 24,253 cases on 2 May.
Similarly, Maharashtra had reported 65,442 infections on 24 April and 62,417 on 30 April.
Chhattisgarh, where 15,583 cases were reported on 29 April, recorded 14,087 fresh cases on 2 May.
A similar trend has been seen in Daman and Diu, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Ladakh, Lakshadweep, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.
On the situation in districts, Agarwal said Durg, Gariyaband, Raipur, Rajnandgaon in Chhattisgarh; Chhindwara, Guna, Shajapur in Madhya Pradesh, Leh in Ladakh; Nirmal in Telangana are showing signs of decline in cases in the last 15 days.
Agarwal said 12 districts of Maharashtra are also showing signs of a decline during the period.
"However, these are very early signals. It is important to have continued efforts of containment at district and state level so that we can preserve these gains and reduce cases further," he said.
Can't restrain reporting on court remarks, says SC
The Supreme Court Monday termed as “too far fetched” the poll panel's plea for restraining media from reporting remarks in court proceedings and came out in support of high courts saying it does not want to demoralise them as they are vital pillars of democracy.
A bench of justices DY Chandrachud and M R Shah assured the Election Commission that the high court's remarks were not meant to “run down” the poll panel and it will try to balance the rights of two constitutional bodies, the high court and the EC, in its order.
The apex court reserved the order on the appeal of the Election Commission against Madras High Court's 'critical' remarks holding it responsible for the surge in COVID-19 cases in the country and fastening its responsible officials with the murder charges.
The bench said it would pronounce the order "expeditiously".
“Media should be able to report everything also to create accountability and the dialogue in court is often to create an umbrella of discussion,” the bench said in a hearing conducted via video conferencing.
The media is an important and powerful watchdog in democracy and it cannot be stopped from reporting discussions in higher courts, it said.
Delhi's medical oxygen supply stands at 447 MT on Monday
Delhi's medical oxygen supply on Monday stood at around 447 MT, significantly less than the Centre's allocated quantity of 590 MT, sources in the city government told PTI.
Despite an acute shortage and repeated demands to the Centre in view of a large number of serious COVID-19 patients, the supply of medical oxygen has failed to take off in a big way in Delhi, the sources said.
The supply rose erratically from 28 April, when it was 431 MT, to 447 MT on 2 May, but the demand has gone beyond over 900 MT per day, a source in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government said.
In view of Delhi's growing caseload, the Centre recently raised the city's daily oxygen quota from 378 MT to 480 MT, then to 490 MT and finally, to 590 MT. However, the Delhi government that had earlier demanded 700 MT of oxygen per day also increased its demand to 976 MT.
According to official sources, Delhi's oxygen supply was 431 MT on April 28, 409 MT on April 29, 312 MT on April 30, 441 MT on May 1 and 447 MT on May 2.
The Centre and the AAP government have been involved in accusing each other of the shortage of medical oxygen. The Centre claimed that the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government has failed to arrange tankers to get its quota and the city government accused the Centre of depriving it of its required quantity of the life-saving gas.
Meanwhile, several city hospitals continued to send SOS messages to authorities on Monday for replenishing their alarmingly low oxygen supplies to save the serious COVID-19 patients admitted there.
Dr Pankaj Solanki, the head of the 50-bed Dharamveer Solanki Hospital at Rohini, said he is tired of making SOS calls and "feels dejected". "Most of the times, there is a crisis (of oxygen). It has become difficult to manage even 10 patients now," he said.
HC seeks Delhi govt's stand on PIL for capping price of HRCT test
A PIL in the Delhi High Court Monday urged it to direct the Delhi government to cap the price of High-Resolution Computerised Tomography (HRCT) which is used for detecting the presence and severity of COVID-19 infection in the lungs of patients.
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh issued notice to the Delhi government and sought its stand on the plea by Shivleen Pasricha, a lawyer, who has claimed that for detection of COVID-19 amongst suspected/ probable patients, the most widely recommended test is RT-PCR.
"At present, the price for getting HRCT done in Delhi is somewhere between Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,500. As such, regulation of price of the same has become the need of an hour.
"That in light of the present gruesome circumstances in Delhi, regulating the price of HRCT, becomes all imperative and necessary," the petition has said.
Punjab and Madhya Pradesh on Monday declared journalists as frontline workers, which will enable them for priority vaccination.
Additionally, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh announced that apart from accredited and yellow card journalists in the state, all power corporation employees in the state have also been brought under the ambit of frontline workers. These employees, along with the journalists, will now be eligible for all the benefits that the frontline workers are entitled to, including priority vaccination, the Chief Minister said at a high-level COVID-19 review meeting.
Aaditya Thackeray suggests creating pediatric COVID care ward
As Maharashtra continues to battle the second wave of the COVID-19, state minister Aaditya Thackeray has suggested establishing a pediatric COVID care ward and a creche network in Mumbai before the third wave hits.
Aaditya said he met Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Additional Municipal Commissioner (AMC) Sanjeev Jaiswal and discussed the measures taken to prepare for the third wave.
"Along with the paediatric covid care centre, another aspect we are now focussed on is to create a network of crèches for those parents who may have to be in COVID care centres and may not have support to look after their children, who aren’t infected by COVID," Aaditya said in series of tweets.
This comes as experts warn that the third wave is likely to hit children and on the same day that daily COVID-19 cases in Maharashtra dropped below 50,000 for the first time in 30 days.
Maharashtra’s daily cases fall below 50,000
Daily COVID-19 cases in Maharashtra dropped below 50,000 to 48,621 on Monday for the first time in the last 30 days, taking the tally to 47,71,022.
With 567 more patients succumbing to the viral infection, the overall toll mounted to 70,851, the state health department said. On 3 April, Maharashtra had reported 49,447 infections. On April 1 and 2, 43,183 and 47,827 cases were added, respectively.
The state had reported an average of 60,000 cases in most of April. Of the 567 fatalities, 283 had occurred in the last 48 hours.
Given the alarming surge in the cases, the state government had imposed lockdown-like curbs in the state on April 5 coupled with prohibitory orders and restrictions on the movement of people. The curbs were later extended till 15 May.
On Monday, 2,11,668 tests were conducted, taking the overall number of samples tested so far to 2,78,64,426, the department said.
A total of 59,500 patients were discharged during the day, taking the count of recoveries in Maharashtra to 40,41,148, it said. Maharashtra's recovery rate stands at 84.7 percent while the case fatality rate is 1.49 percent.
Currently, 39,08,491 people are in-home quarantine and 28,593 are in institutional quarantine.
Mumbai saw 2,624 new cases and 78 fatalities, taking the number of infections to 6,58,621 and the toll to 13,372, the department said. Mumbai civic commissioner IS Chahal said the daily testing figures in the city fell from over 50,000 to 38,000 on Sunday, and are likely to dip further during weekends.
Mumbai division, including Mumbai city and satellite towns, added 6,680 new cases and 195 deaths, raising the tally to 13,97,840 and fatalities to 23,817, the department said.
With inputs from PTI
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