No foreign dignitary at R-Day parade due to COVID-19 crisis; new cases under 20,000 for 7th day
In view of the global COVID-19 situation, the Centre has decided not to have a foreign dignitary present at the Republic Day celebrations this year. It will be for the first time in over five decades that there will be no chief guest at the Republic Day parade
The Centre and state governments stepped up their preparations for the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive scheduled for Saturday (16 January), as the trend of daily new cases remaining under 20,000 continued for the seventh day on Thursday.
In a statement on Thursday, the Union health ministry said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the vaccination drive via video conference and a total of 3,006 session sites across all states and Union territories will be virtually connected during the launch.
The ministry added that around 100 beneficiaries will be vaccinated at each session site on the first day.
The government is also making arrangements for the Budget Session of Parliament, which is set to begin on 29 January. The Lok Sabha Secretariat on Thursday said that the Union Budget will be presented on 1 February and the session will end on 8 April.
Like the previous session, both the Houses are likely to sit in shifts with Rajya Sabha meeting in the morning and the Lok Sabha in the evening.
Meanwhile, in view of the global COVID-19 situation, the Centre has decided not to have a foreign dignitary present at the Republic Day celebrations this year. It will be for the first time in over five decades that India will not have a chief guest at the Republic Day parade.
"Due to the global COVID 19 situation, it has been decided that this year there will not be a foreign head of state or head of government as the chief guest for our Republic Day event," MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at a media briefing.
The decision was taken after UK prime minister Boris Johnson's last-minute decision to cancel his visit due to having to deal with the spread of a mutant strain of the coronavirus.
Giving information on the spread of the new COVID-19 strain in India, the Centre said that the number of people who have tested positive for it in India has climbed to 109.
States prepare for massive inoculation drive
Maharashtra, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal were among the states which set up the required number of vaccination centres for the 16 Jan inoculation.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday said the Delhi government has completed all preparations for the roll-out of the coronavirus vaccine. Over 8,000 health workers will be vaccinated on every scheduled day in the city, PTI reported.
The Delhi government has received 2.74 lakh doses of the vaccine so far from the Centre, which will be sufficient for 1.2 lakh health workers.
There are a total of 2.4 lakh health workers in Delhi and more vaccine doses are expected to arrive soon, Kejriwal said. Vaccination will begin at 81 centres on Saturday and the number of centres will be increased after a few days to 175 and finally to 1,000, he added.
The vaccine will be administered on four days of the week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
As per reports on Thursday, the government has extended the rule for mandatory quarantine of 14 days for UK returnees till 31 January.
In Uttar Pradesh, which received about 10.75 lakh doses of coronavirus vaccine, 311 centres across 75 districts have been set up.
Additional Chief Secretary of Health Amit Mohan Prasad said, "Vaccination will be held at 311 places in all the 75 districts of the state on January 16. The drive will start at 9 am and will continue till 5 pm."
"In districts where the vaccine has not reached, the delivery will be ensured by this evening," he said, adding that all protocols will be followed while administering the vaccine.
In West Bengal, Kolkata has been allocated 93,500 doses for the first phase of the drive, which is the highest number of COVID-19 vaccines in the state.
North 24 Parganas district has been allocated the second-highest number of COVID vaccines at 47,000, followed by Murshidabad at 37,500, officials said.
"All necessary preparations are on the track for the vaccine rollout. The district-wise allocation has been made as per data uploaded on CoWIN portal as on January 12, 9.45 am for the first dose of COVID vaccination of health workers and personnel of armed forces," the Health Department said in a communication to the CMOHs in all the districts.
West Bengal has been allocated 6,44,500 vaccines for the first phase of the drive.
Meanwhile, in Mumbai, the BMC is aiming to vaccinate 50,000 people daily as the vaccination exercise picks up pace, Bloomberg-Quint reported.
The report quoted BMC commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal as saying that initially, around 12,000 people will be given the jab at eight vaccination centres and the number will then be scaled up in a week.
Additionally, The Times of India reported that the Telangana government has stipulated that people receiving the Bharat Biotech's COVAXIN jab will need to sign a consent letter, while those receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, 'Covishield', need not do so.
WHO scientists visit Wuhan to probe COVID origin
Thirteen international experts of the WHO arrived in Wuhan on Thursday for the long-awaited probe into the origins of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, while two others did not board the flight from Singapore to the central Chinese city after they tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies.
"The international team of 13 scientists examining the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19 arrived in Wuhan, China, today. The experts will begin their work immediately during the 2 weeks quarantine protocol for international travellers," the World Health Organisation said in a tweet.
The 13 WHO experts will go through a 14-day quarantine. They are set to interview people from research institutes, hospitals and the seafood market linked to the initial outbreak, PTI reported.
The WHO team includes virus and other experts from the US, Australia, Germany, Japan, Britain, Russia, the Netherlands, Qatar and Vietnam.
Pope receives coronavirus vaccine, says Vatican
The Vatican has confirmed Pope Francis received the first shot of the coronavirus vaccine on Thursday.
No photos of the 84-yer-old pontiff receiving the shot have been released. The pope has advocated that everyone should get the vaccine, calling it an ethical option performed not only for ones own health but for the lives of others.
The Vatican has beefed up coronavirus restrictions amid a spike in cases in Italy. The pope, who is missing part of one lung since a surgery in his 20s, has been saying the traditional Angelus blessing from a library in the Apostolic Palace, and not a window overlooking St. Peters, in a bid to prevent gatherings.
The Vatican launched its vaccination program this week, administering the Pfizer vaccine. Vatican City has had at least 27 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including a cluster among the Swiss Guards, AP reported.
COVID-19 caseload details
The ongoing trend of contraction of India's daily new COVID-19 cases continued with the country recording less than 20,000 daily new infections since the last seven days, the Union Health Ministry said on Thursday.
In a span of 24 hours, only 16,946 people were found to be infected with COVID-19. The country also registered 17,652 new recoveries in the same period, ensuring a net decline of 904 cases in the active caseload, the ministry said.
Less than 300 daily deaths have been registered for the last 20 days, it added. India's case fatality rate stands at 1.44 percent as on date.
The active caseload of the country stands at 2,13,603. The share of the active cases in the total cases has further shrunk to 2.03 percent.
India's total recoveries stand at 10,146,763, the ministry said, adding that 82.67 percent of the new recovered cases are observed to be concentrated in 10 states and Union territories.
Kerala has reported the maximum number of single-day recoveries with 5,158 newly-recovered cases. A total of 3,009 people recovered in Maharashtra in the past 24 hours, followed by 930 in Chhattisgarh.
Kerala continues to report the highest daily new cases at 6,004. It is followed by Maharashtra and Karnataka with 3,556 and 746 new cases, respectively.
A total of 198 case fatalities have been reported in a span of 24 hours.
Six states/union territories account for 75.76 percent of the new deaths. Maharashtra saw the maximum of 70 casualties. Kerala and West Bengal followed with 26 and 18 daily deaths, respectively.
Delhi on 7 August reported 1,372 new Covid infections and six deaths as the case positivity rate rose to 17.85 percent, the highest since 21 January, according to health department data.
While Gurugram district has been the worst-hit, Faridabad, which also falls in the National Capital Region, has also seen a jump in the cases over the past one month
According to the health ministry, 206.21 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the country so far under the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive