COVID-19 news: Don't panic, adequate stock of oxygen available, says Centre; India records 3.5 lakh new cases
The statement came on a day that India recorded 3,52,991 new COVID-19 cases and 2,812 new deaths, according to the Health Ministry's 8 am update.
The Union Health Ministry at a press conference on Monday appealed to the public not to panic and said the Centre is trying to address shortages of medical oxygen and COVID-19 treatment drugs in high-demand areas.
The statement came on a day that India recorded 3,52,991 new COVID-19 cases and 2,812 new deaths, according to the health ministry's 8 am update.
Meanwhile Karnataka imposed a 14-day shutdown across the state, a week after Delhi and Jharkhand resorted to similar restrictions.
In Punjab, the government ordered a weekend lockdown and extended the night curfew by two hours.
The government has also ordered the closure of shops by 5 pm. The state had witnessed a record single-day spike of 7,014 cases on Sunday.
Due to continuous & rapid rise of #Covid19 cases in Punjab, Cabinet today has decided to impose daily lockdown from 6 PM to 5 AM and weekend lockdown from Friday 6 PM to Monday 5 AM. Urge you all to stay at home & step out only if absolutely necessary. Seek your full cooperation. pic.twitter.com/gS4TFlw5lZ
— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) April 26, 2021
Delhi and Karnataka joined a host of others states who have announced free vaccine for all adults from 1 May, when the eligibility age for the vaccination will be relaxed to 18 years.
Deaths allegedly due to oxygen shortage were also reported on Monday, with the family members of five COVID-19 patients who died at a private hospital in Haryana's Hisar attributing their deaths to the lack of oxygen at the hospital.
The police were quoted by PTI as saying that the local administration was verifying the allegations of oxygen shortage. The hospital administration did not comment on the matter.
Three of the patients who died at the hospital hailed from Haryana's Hisar district, one belonged to Delhi and other one was from Punjab, PTI reported.
Monday's deaths in Haryana occurred within 24 hours of two similar incidents in the state, wherein eight people died in two private facilities in Rewari and Gurgaon allegedly due to shortage of medical oxygen.
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said a magisterial probe has been ordered into the incidents.
However, he claimed that there is no shortage of medical oxygen in the state.
Similar cases were reported from Andhra Pradesh, where three COVID-19 patients on ventilators with high flow oxygen died due to technical issues in supplying the gas in Vizianagaram, PTI reported.
Adequate stock of oxygen, no need to panic: Centre
"We have enough stock of oxygen. The issue is transportation which we are trying to resolve by the active involvement of all stakeholders," Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs Piyush Goel said at a press conference Monday.
"There is absolutely no need to panic for oxygen," he added, saying that the Centre is monitoring the movement of oxygen tankers on a real-time basis through GPS and making them available to hospitals at the "shortest possible time".
In the last few days, hospitals in Delhi, Punjab, Maharashtra and Haryana have reported deaths amid the shortage of medical oxygen. The Centre has deployed IAF planes and trains to assist in transportation of oxygen while cryogenic tankers were being imported from abroad.
A day after banning the use of liquid oxygen for non-medical purposes, the government on Monday allowed three sectors — ampules and vials, pharmaceutical and defence forces — to use the commodity.
NITI Aayog member Dr VK Paul also addressed the press conference and said that it was advisable to start wearing masks inside the house, "within the family", as the exponential surge of the second wave continued.
The government also pitched for expediting the pace of the vaccination drive and asserted that women can take COVID-19 vaccine during menstruation as well. It stressed that rational use of medical oxygen and appropriate prescription of drugs such as Remdesivir, Tocilizumab are critical in the fight against the pandemic, amid complaints of their shortage.
Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Lav Agarwal said many people have been found to be occupying hospital beds out of panic. Hospital admission should only be on the advice of doctors, he stressed.
AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria echoed Agarwal and said that "hoarding" of oxygen and injections like remdesivir in homes is creating panic and causing a shortage of these medicines.
" COVID-19 is a mild infection and 85-90 percent people will only suffer from cold, fever, sore throat and body ache. Only symptomatic treatment at home is enough to ride through these infections and there is no need for oxygen or remdesivir," he was quoted as saying in a Health Ministry statement.
Govt asks SII, Bharat Biotech to lower price of vaccines: Report
The Centre reportedly asked the Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech to lower price of their COVID-19 vaccines amid criticism from various states who accused the companies of profiteering during such a major crisis
The issue of vaccine pricing was discussed at a meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, PTI reported.
Now the two companies are expected to come up with revised pricing for their vaccines.
The Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech has fixed the price of its COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin, at Rs 600 per dose for state governments and at Rs 1,200 per dose for private hospitals.
The Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's largest vaccine maker in terms of volume, has announced a price of Rs 400 per dose for its COVID-19 vaccine, 'Covishield', for state governments and Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals.
Both vaccines are available to the central government at a rate of Rs 150 per dose.
On the vaccination front in states, the Maharashtra government announced a "milestone" in its vaccination efforts, saying that over five lakh citizens had been given the jab on Monday alone.
On Monday, Maharashtra reported the highest daily new cases at 66,191. It is followed by Uttar Pradesh with 35,311 while Karnataka reported 34,804 new cases.
Maharashtra has achieved a milestone in its COVID vaccination drive today
Over 5 lakh citizens vaccinated in a day!
Soon, the mark of 1.5 crore citizens vaccinated will be achieved
CM Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray & Health Minister @rajeshtope11 have congratulated the machinery
— CMO Maharashtra (@CMOMaharashtra) April 26, 2021
The cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the country crossed 14.19 crore, as the world's largest vaccination drive completed 100 days on 25 April, the Union Health Ministry said.
Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, West Bengal, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala account for 58.7 percent of the cumulative doses given so far in the country, the ministry added.
Centre recalls retired armed forces doctors to work in COVID-19 facilities
In a bid to get more hands on deck to combat the rising cases, the Centre said all medical personnel of the armed forces who have retired or have taken pre-mature retirement in the last two years will be recalled to work in COVID-19 facilities within proximity of their present place of residence.
Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat informed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about this decision as they reviewed preparations and operations being undertaken by the armed forces to deal with the second wave of the pandemic raging across the country.
Meanwhile, An Indian Air Force aircraft was sent to Dubai to airlift seven empty cryogenic oxygen containers on Monday. Four cryogenic tanks for transportation of oxygen were brought from Singapore by IAF on Saturday.
"IAF C-17 aircraft reached Dubai today to airlift more empty O2 containers to supplement efforts to enhance oxygen availability in current COVID-19 surge. Effort is being coordinated by MHA," a home ministry spokesperson tweeted. Pitching in, Air India brought 328 oxygen concentrators to India on its New York-Delhi flight on Monday.
EC 'singularly' responsible for COVID-19 second wave, says Madras HC
The Madras High Court on Monday castigated the Election Commission over the COVID-19 second wave in the country, holding it "singularly" responsible for the spread as it called it the "the most irresponsible institution" and even said its officials may be booked under murder charges.
The EC allowing political parties to take out rallies and meetings had led to the spread of the pandemic, the court said.
The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy made the stinging observation on a public interest litigation. The judges also orally warned that they would not hesitate to stop the counting of votes on 2 May.
The state had reported 15,000 new cases on Sunday, while its active cases are more than one lakh.
Elections have been held in four states — Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and West Bengal — and the Union Territory of Puducherry and the counting of polled votes will be taken up on 2 May.
The seventh penultimate phase of polling in West Bengal was held Monday, with the last phase scheduled on 29 April.
Google, Microsoft extend support to India
As more countries offered assistance to India to meet the COVID challenge, tech giants like Google and Microsoft also extended support.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai and his Microsoft counterpart Satya Nadella assured help to combat the surging second wave:
Devastated to see the worsening Covid crisis in India. Google & Googlers are providing Rs 135 Crore in funding to @GiveIndia, @UNICEF for medical supplies, orgs supporting high-risk communities, and grants to help spread critical information.https://t.co/OHJ79iEzZH
— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) April 26, 2021
I am heartbroken by the current situation in India. I’m grateful the U.S. government is mobilizing to help. Microsoft will continue to use its voice, resources, and technology to aid relief efforts, and support the purchase of critical oxygen concentration devices.
— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) April 26, 2021
A day after the US government promised to supply raw materials required to manufacture the Covishield vaccine, Modi spoke to Biden on call. He said, "Had a fruitful conversation with @POTUS @JoeBiden today. We discussed the evolving COVID situation in both countries in detail. I thanked President Biden for the support being provided by the United States to India."
My discussion with @POTUS @JoeBiden also underscored the importance of smooth and efficient supply chains of vaccine raw materials and medicines. India-US healthcare partnership can address the global challenge of COVID-19 .
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 26, 2021
Several Indian-American organisations on Monday launched fundraising campaigns to fight the pandemic in India.
Additionally, Australia said it will send oxygen, ventilators and personal protective equipment to India as part of an immediate support package. Britain, Germany and the European Union earlier announced that they were sending assistance to India.
COVID-19 caseload details
India's total tally of COVID-19 cases has climbed to a staggering 1,73,13,163 while active cases have crossed the 28-lakh mark, amid a crippling shortage of beds, oxygen and other medical amenities.
The toll increased to 1,95,123 with a record 2,812 new fatalities, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Monday morning.
The 2,812 new fatalities include 832 from Maharashtra, 350 from Delhi and 206 from Uttar Pradesh.
With inputs from PTI
Strict COVID-19 curbs in Kerala from Saturday: Nine-day lockdown announced as state sees record spike
The lockdown would come into force on 8 May morning and extend up to 16 May, according to official sources.
COVID-19 crisis: From friends US and UK to arch-rivals Pakistan and China, international community vows aid to India
Countries like United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, China, and Pakistan have assured support in replenishing India's stocks of oxygen and COVID-19 treatment drugs like remdesivir
While the overseas Indian community has helped raise over $25 million in recent days, some have also appended harsh words to their support efforts, accusing the Indian government of botching the fight against the novel coronavirus