Coronavirus LATEST Updates: Despite a sharp surge in COVID-19 cases in Delhi over the last fortnight, the AAP government has ruled out the possibility of another lockdown, with Health Minister Satyendar Jain asserting that the economy "cannot be kept shut for eternity" as livelihoods of millions depend on it.
However, the Bengaluru metro services are yet to attract large number of passengers as most have apparently kept away due to Covid-19 apprehensions,according to officials.
According to the health department, the Uttar Pradesh has reported 6,743 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, out of which, 887 cases were found in Lucknow, 431 in Kanpur Nagar, 306 cases in Allahabad, among other places.
"The lockdown was not an attack on corona. The lockdown was an attack on the poor of India. It was an attack on the future of our youth," Gandhi said in a video series on the lockdown triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Over 11.5 lakh COVID-19 samples have been tested for the first time in single day, the Union health ministry said on Wednesday. So far, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has tested over 5 crore samples.
The death of three more Maharashtra Police personnel in the past 24 hours has increased the COVID-19 toll to 180.
Maharashtra reported more than 20,000 COVID-19 cases alone of the total 89,706 fresh infections reported in past 24 hrs, said the health ministry on Wednesday.
Although India has a low death rate from COVID-19 disease, nearly 1,000 deaths have been recorded every day from across the country for the last nine days.
On Wednesday, the toll due to the infectious disease has risen to 73,890 with 1,115 more fatalities.
India's COVID-19 cases exceeded 43 lakh on Wednesday after 89,706 more people tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours.
Delhi Metro's Blue Line and Pink Line resumed services with curtailed operation timings on Wednesday after being closed for 171 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said.
Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Tuesday it had "voluntarily paused" a randomized clinical trial of its coronavirus vaccine in what it called a routine action after a volunteer developed an unexplained illness.
India's daily coronavirus cases on Tuesday saw a slight dip with 75,809 cases reported in 24 hours as against the 90,802 recorded on Monday, but the toll due to COVID-19 surged to 72,775 with a record 1,113 patients succumbing to the virus.
Amid rising cases, the Central Government underlined increasing reports from state governments about people becoming lax in taking precautions against COVID-19, and how it is hampering the efforts to curb the spread of the virus.
The number of recoveries on Tuesday surged to 33,23,950 pushing the recovery rate to 77.65 percent, according to the health ministry data.
The data showed that there are 8,83,697 active cases of coronavirus infection in the country which comprise 20.65 percent of the total caseload of 42,80,422.
During a media briefing, the Centre claimed that India's COVID-19 cases per million population (now at 3,102), is among the lowest in the world.
Niti Aayog member Dr VK Paul also urged people to get themselves tested, stating that the government had facilitated extensive testing and also allowed testing on demand.
Paul, who also chairs the national expert group on COVID-19 vaccine administration, said that the government was considering Russia's request for conducting phase-3 clinical trial and manufacturing its COVID-19 vaccine 'Sputnik V' in India.
The health ministry also released guidelines for the partial re-opening of schools on a voluntary basis, stipulating disinfection of the premises and stressing on ensuring proper distance between students and teachers,
In Delhi, the high court, expressing concern over the sharp rise in cases in the National Capital, said that doctor's prescription will no longer be mandatory for those who want to get themselves tested for COVID-19.
Health minister Satyendra Jain, in an interview with news agency PTI, however, said that there was no reason to panic and that the spike in cases will "plateau" after 10-15 days.
Five states account for 70% deaths, 62% active cases: Health ministry
In a briefing on the COVID-19 situation in the country, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that India's COVID-19 fatality rate is among the lowest globally and currently stands at 1.7o percent.
"The COVID-19 deaths per million population in India is 53 as compared to the world average of 115 deaths per million. This is also among the lowest in the world," he said.
Giving a state-wise break up of India's coronavirus cases and deaths, Bhushan said that five states — Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh account for approximately 70 percent of total COVID-19 deaths in the country.
"A total of 28 states and UTs have COVID-19 case fatality rate lower than the national average of 1.70 percent," the official noted.
He added that the five states also account for 62 percent of total active COVID-19 cases in the country. "While 14 states and UTs have less than 5,000 active COVID-19 cases, Lakshadweep has no active cases," Bhushan said.
Responding to a question, the health secretary said that six persons from a particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands had tested positive for the coronavirus but all have recovered now. In the Nicobarese tribe which is not a PVTG, there are still 15 active cases, the official informed.
Jammu and Kashmir reports record spike
Meanwhile, states and Union Territories continued reporting more cases and deaths due to the infection. Jammu and Kashmir witnessed its biggest single-day spike of 1,355 COVID-19 cases, pushing the Union Territory's infection count to 45,925. Among the new cases, 785 were from the Jammu region and 570 were from the Kashmir Valley. The toll in the UT rose to 815 with 14 more dying of the disease.
Maharashtra recorded 20,131 new COVID-19 cases, taking its caseload to 9,43,772, while the toll increased to 27,407 with 380 persons succumbing to the disease.
For the fifth day in a row, Andhra Pradesh, the second worst-affected state in the country by the virus, saw more number of coronavirus patients getting discharged than the addition of new cases. On Tuesday, 11,691 COVID-19 patients got discharged from hospitals in the state while 10,601 fresh cases took the overall count to 5,17,094.
In Tamil Nadu, the toll crossed 8,000 with 87 more fatalities, while 5,684 fresh cases pushed the cumulative case count to to 4,74,940. The toll now stands at 8,012. Recoveries outnumbered new infections for the third successive day with 6,599 people getting discharged, taking the total number of people who have recovered from the disease to 4,16,71, said the state health department.
Delhi also saw a spike of 3,609 fresh coronavirus cases with over 45,000 COVID-19 tests being conducted in 24 hours. According to the latest health bulletin issued by the state government, the total cases crossed 1.97 lakh while the toll mounted to 4,618, with 19 more fatalities.
No prescription needed for testing in Delhi
The Delhi High Court noted that there was a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases from 31 August in the National capital and said that the figures were rather alarming.
To prevent any delays given the situation, the court said that those who want to voluntarily get themselves tested need not obtain a prescription from a doctor. The person concerned will only be required to fill an ICMR form and attach Aadhaar card with Delhi address as proof, the bench of justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad said.
The bench also asked private laboratories to allot 2,000 RT-PCR tests per day for those who want to undergo the test. The bench directed the Delhi government to ramp up the mobile facilities from two to four and said that the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) should display advertisements about the nearby COVID-19 testing camps at prominent spots near the entry and exit area of the stations.
While the Yellow Line of the Delhi Metro resumed services with restricted timings from Monday as part of the fourth phase of 'unlocking' activities, the Blue and Pink Line are set to start operations on Wednesday.
Cases will plateau soon, says Delhi health minister
Meanwhile Delhi health minister Satyendra Jain sought to allay fears over the rapid spread of the infection, saying that "the current situation is far better than in June" when the city witnessed a big wave of infections.
He also attributed the rise in cases to an increase in testing.
In an interview to PTI, Jain said,"One of the main reasons why we are seeing such a rise in the number of fresh cases is because we are going aggressive as far as testing is concerned. We have been conducting tests in markets, crowded places, Mohalla Clinics, hospitals, and many other places.
"The scale of testing per day has been almost quadrupled than what was in June," Jain said, claiming that Delhi is doing more tests per million people than any other state.
"There is a spike in the number of cases, but the fact is that we have also increased the scale of testing as we don't want to leave even a single person who has been infected untraced, including asymptomatic ones. This spike will come down in the next 10-15 days, and cases will sort of plateau and stabilise by then," Jain asserted.
When asked about the most effective strategy of the government, Jain said, "home isolation was our biggest strategy, and it proved to be a game-changer. We are on the right course, and we will continue to pursue that strategy for effective COVID-19 management."
Centre issues SOPs for partial re-opening of schools
Even as state governments and UTs released their daily figures on COVID-19, the health ministry issued SOPs for the partial re-opening of schools from 21 September. Under the Unlock-4 guidelines, schools outside containment zones have been allowed to partially reopen for students from Classes 9 to 12 who want to take guidance from their teachers.
Disallowing sharing of notebooks, pens/pencils,water bottles, etc, among students, prohibition of assemblies and sports, encouraging online learning, entry of asymptomatic persons are some of the health ministry's guidelines
However, written consent of the students' parents or guardians will be required and the teacher-student interactions must be organised in a staggered manner, the guidelines stated.
According to the 'SOP for partial reopening of Schools for students of Classes 9 to 12 on a voluntary basis', the seating arrangement has to be made to ensure a distance of six feet between chairs, desks, etc, and the faculty will ensure that they themselves and students wear masks throughout the teaching/guidance activities.
Sanitiser dispensers and thermal screening provisions should be made at the entrance and frequently touched surfaces must be regularly disinfected with one percent sodium hypochlorite, the guidelines stated.
Schools that were used as COVID-19 quarantine centres should be properly sanitised and deep-cleaned before partial functioning is resumed, the document stated.
The guidelines also called for ensuring regular counselling for students and teachers reporting mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. It is advisable that teachers, school counsellors and school health workers should work in unison to ensure emotional safety of the students
With inputs from PTI