COVID-19 vaccine shipments speed up ahead of inoculation drive; Delhi schools to reopen for classes 10, 12
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said the AAP government will provide coronavirus vaccine free to the people of Delhi if the Centre fails to do so
Kerala and Uttarakhand were among the states that received their first batches of COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday as more doses were shipped across India in preparation for a countrywide COVID-19 vaccination drive slated to begin on 16 January.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said the AAP government will provide coronavirus vaccine free to the people of Delhi if the Centre fails to do so.
The Delhi government has allowed schools outside COVID-19 containment zones to reopen for classes 10 and 12 from 18 January in view of board exams, following all COVID-19 protocols.
India reports 15,968 new cases
Total COVID-19 cases in India rose to 1,04,95,147 with 15,968 infections being reported in a day, while the recoveries surged to 1,01,29,111, pushing the national recovery rate to 96.51 percent, said the Union health ministry in its morning update.
The toll mounted to 1,51,529 with 202 more deaths and the case fatality rate stands at 1.44 percent, the data updated at 8 am showed.
The ministry said the active caseload has fallen to 2,14, 507 which is the lowest after 197 days, and its share in the total cases has further shrunk to 2.04 percent. The total active cases were 2,15,125 on 30 June, 2020.
Of the 17,817 new recoveries , 81.83 percent were reported from 10 states andUTs. At 4,270,Kerala has reported the maximum number of single day recoveries, followed by Maharashtra with 3,282 new recoveries. Chhattisgarh recorded another 1,207 daily recoveries.
The ministry said that 74.82 percent of the new cases are concentrated in seven states and UTs. Kerala reported the maximum daily new cases numbering 5,507 in the last 24 hours. Maharashtra recorded 2,936 new cases while Karnataka reported 751 new cases yesterday.
Seven states and UTs account for 70.30 percent of the deaths reported in a span of 24 hours. Maharashtra reported 50 deaths. Kerala and West Bengal follow with 25 and 18 new deaths, respectively.
Separately, the health ministry said the number of people in India who have tested positive for the new UK variant of coronavirus has climbed to 102. Till 11 January, the number of people affected by this strain of the coronavirus was 96.
On Wednesday, the ministry said, "The total number of persons found to be positive with the new UK variant genome stands at 102 today."
Vaccine transportation speeds up
A day after the first consignment of Oxford//AstraZeneca's Covishield vaccine rolled out of the Serum Institute of India manufacturing facility in Pune, anti-coronavirus vaccines were carefully and swiftly transported to far corners of the country: from Assam to Goa and from Jammu and Kashmir to Kerala.
Ninety-five percent of the 1.1 crore doses of Covishield vaccine purchased by the government have been shipped and delivered to nearly 60 consignee points across India in two days, sources involved in the transportation arrangements told news agency PTI. "Over one lakh remaining doses will be delivered shortly," the sources added.
On Tuesday, consignments were sent from Pune to 13 cities including Delhi.
On Wednesday, vaccine consignments were flown to Agra, Meerut,Bareily, Puducherry, Port Blair and Leh, said Sandip Bhosale, MD of SB Logistics which is handling the delivery of vaccine consignments by air.
Of the 55 lakh doses of indigenously developed Covaxin of Bharat Biotech ordered by the Centre, the first tranche of 2.4 lakh doses have been dispatched to 12 states, as per the news agency. Covaxin has been sent to 12 sites, one each in Ganavaram, Guwahati, Patna, Delhi, Kurukshetra, Bengaluru, Pune, Bhubaneswar, Jaipur, Chennai, Lucknow and Hyderabad, official sources told PTI.
"After having received the government purchase order for 55 lakh doses, the company shipped the first batch of vaccines (each vial containing 20 doses)," the Hyderabad-based company said earlier in the day, adding that it has donated 16.5 lakh doses to the Government of India.
A moment of pride and accomplishment as the first consignment of COVAXIN™ is dispatched from Bharat Biotech today at 1:00 AM, IST. The indigenous vaccine is all set to vaccinate the nation against the dreadful #SARS_CoV_2 #BharatBiotech #COVAXIN #MakeInIndia #IndiaFightsCorona pic.twitter.com/yqFSSXTl0A
— BharatBiotech (@BharatBiotech) January 13, 2021
The Mumbai airport authorities said it has facilitated the delivery of about 2,72,400 doses of the Covishield vaccine to 22 domestic destinations on Wednesday, starting with low-cost carrier GoAir's first flight to Goa with 23,500 doses of Covishield vaccine.
These shipments were carried out by SpiceJet, IndiGo, GoAir and Vistara to Bagdogra, Rajkot, Ranchi, Imphal, Agartala, Cochin, Bhopal, Kanpur, Jammu, Srinagar, Lucknow, Chandigarh, Gorakhpur, Raipur, Dehradun, Varanasi, Indore, Trivandrum and Jabalpur, it said.
While Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand and Union territories of Puducherry and Jammu and Kashmir were among those to receive the first consignment of the vaccines on Wednesday, others like Maharashtra and West Bengal began transporting the vaccine doses to various districts.
A state government official said the first consignment of about 94,000 doses of the Covishield vaccine reached Madhya Pradesh's capital Bhopal on a scheduled flight from Mumbai. From the airport, insulated vans of the health department transported the boxes to the State Vaccine Centre where Medical Education Minister Visvas Sarang inspected the arrangements. The doses will be dispatched to eight districts from Bhopal.
Kerala, too, received its first Covishield vaccine consignment on Wednesday morning on at Kochi and another flight was expected to land in Thiruvananthapuram later in the day. Sources in the National Health Mission told PTI that of the 4.33 lakh doses of the vaccine, 1,100 will be sent to Mahe, an enclave of Puducherry.
The vaccine will be stored in the regional vaccine centres at Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode from where it will be distributed to 133 centres. So far, 3,62,870 people have registered themselves for a shot.
Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh received the Covishield vaccine at Bir Tikendrajit International Airport in Imphal, shortly after a plane carrying 54,000 doses reached the northeastern state.
Goa Health Services Director Jose D'Sa told PTI that two boxes containing 23,500 doses of the Covishield vaccine were received in the morning. Around 18,000 health workers in the coastal state will be covered during the initial phase, another health official said.
In Maharashtra, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said, Mumbai, which will have 72 centres, received over 1.39 lakh Covishield vaccine doses. BMC health department staffers brought the vaccines from neighbouring Pune under police security, it said. The civic body has created a centralised cold storage facility for vaccines in Kanjurmarg.
The towns of Aurangabad and Thane in the state got their share of the first doses too.
Maharashtra received 9.83 lakh doses, says Tope
Maharashtra health Minister Rajesh Tope said the state had received 9.83 lakh doses of the total requirement of 17.5 lakh for the first phase. Of these, 9.63 were from SII and 20,000 from Bharat Biotech, the state minister told reporters.
"We have to give the doses twice to a person in a gap of four weeks, hence 55 percent of the around eight lakh registered health workers will undergo vaccination as of now," he said.
The Centre, he said, has asked the state to reduce the number of inoculation centres from 511 to 350, saying the government should focus on other emergencies as well.
"If we go ahead with 350 centres and 100 people are inoculated at each centre, the state will be able to vaccinate 35,000 health workers on the first day of the vaccination on 16 January," the minister said.
Tagging a media report with Tope's remarks, the Union health ministry said that the full initial procurement amount of 1.65 cr doses both the vaccines has been proportionately allocated to all states and Union territories as per the health care workers database and hence there is no question of discrimination against any state in this regard.
Full initial procurement amount of 1.65 cr doses of #Covishield & #Covaxin vaccines have been allocated to all States/UTs in proportion of Health Care Workers database.@PMOIndia @drharshvardhan @AshwiniKChoubey @rajeshtope11 @PIB_India @DDNewslive @MIB_India https://t.co/NUhmsJEjmh
— Ministry of Health (@MoHFW_INDIA) January 13, 2021
"This is the initial lot of supply of vaccine doses and would be continuously replenished in the weeks to come. Therefore, any apprehension being expressed on account of deficient supply is totally baseless and unfounded," the ministry said in a series of tweets.
Each vaccination session will cater to a maximum of 100 beneficiaries per day and the Union health ministry said it has advised the states not to organise "unreasonable numbers of vaccination per site per day".
"States have been advised to organise vaccination sessions taking into account 10 percent reserve/wastage doses and an average of 100 vaccinations per session each day. Therefore, any undue haste on the part of states to organise unreasonable numbers of vaccination per site per day is not advised," it said.
The ministry further said that states and UTs have also been advised to increase the number of vaccination session sites that would be operational every day in a progressive manner as the vaccination process stabilises and moves forward.
'Delhi govt will make vaccine free if Centre doesn't'
In Delhi, where the drive will begin in 89 centres from Saturday, Kejriwal said he has already appealed to the Centre for ensuring free vaccination in the country since there are many people who may not afford the life-saving jab.
"We will see what the Centre does. If need be and the Centre does not provide the vaccine free of cost, we will make it available free of cost for the people of Delhi," he said.
The chief minister also appealed to people to not spread rumours about the vaccine. "I understand that the Centre and our scientists have brought the vaccine following all the protocols and safeguards. So, there should not be any doubt and people should come forward for vaccination," he said
Around 51 lakh people, including health workers, frontline workers, those aged50years or above, and those with co-morbidities, will be covered under the first phase of vaccination in the National Capital.
Delhi schools for classes 10, 12 to re-open from 18 Jan
The Delhi government has allowed all schools outside COVID-19 containment zones to reopen for classes 10 and 12 from 18 January 18 in view of board exams, said officials of the Directorate of Education, adding that students, teachers and staffers living in these zones will not be allowed to attend school.
दिल्ली में CBSE बोर्ड परीक्षाओं व प्रैक्टिकल के मद्देनज़र 10वीं और 12 वीं क्लास के लिए 18 जनवरी से प्रैक्टिकल, प्रोजेक्ट, काउंसिलिंग आदि के लिए स्कूल खोलने की अनुमति दी जा रही है. अभिभावकों की सहमति से ही बच्चों को बुलाया जा सकेगा. बच्चों को आने के लिए बाध्य नहीं किया जाएगा.
— Manish Sisodia (@msisodia) January 13, 2021
However, it made clear that physical attendance is not compulsory and students will attend schools only with consent of parents. An official said that records of children coming to school will be maintained and the same should not be used for attendance purposes as "sending a child to school is completely optional for parents".
The Union education ministry has already announced that board exams for classes 10 and 12 will be conducted from 4 May to 10 June.
The Delhi government had suggested that schools conduct pre-board exams for Class 12 from 20 March to 15 April and Class 10 pre-board exams from 1 to 15 April.
"Schools should provide proper guidance to students and required support for examination-related activities. Though most of the syllabus has been covered in online classes, the same may be revised and doubts of students be cleared by teachers. This will impact positively on well being of students," he said.
The DoE has also directed schools not to hold assemblies and physical outdoor activities. Principals have been asked to guide children not to share books and stationary items, the officials said.
"On-campus orientation of students and teachers to be conducted to give emotional and trauma support for their readiness with new normal of stringent physical distancing, face mask guidelines and hygiene guidelines. Handouts detailing guidelines for COVID-19-appropriate behaviour should be given to students or parents," it said. COVID-19 protocols include social distancing, staggered timings and hygiene, the DoE said.
Cinema theatres reopened in Kerala with 50 percent capacity after remaining shut for over 10 months, with the screening of Tamil movie "Master" starring Vijay.
The film has been released in over 500 screens across the state, Film Exhibitors United Organisations of Kerala (FEUOK) said. In Tamil Nadu, police booked a case against a theatre in Chennai for allegedly violating the state government order on permitting only 50 percent occupancy during screening of films due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The incident came to light when videos of the crowds went viral on social media. The MGR Nagar police, who registered a case against the theatre management, said a penalty of Rs 5,000 was levied.
The theatre reportedly allowed more viewers and visuals, purportedly from inside the theatre, showed people occupying almost all the seats in clear violation of COVID-19 regulation like physical distancing. Many of the viewers in the videos were found not wearing masks.
US records 4,327 deaths on Tuesday
In news on the international front, coronavirus deaths in the US hit another one-day high at over 4,300, reported news agency AP. The country's overall toll from COVID-19 has eclipsed 380,000, according to Johns Hopkins University, and is closing in fast on the number of Americans killed in World War II, or about 407,000. Confirmed infections have crossed 22.8 million.
The US recorded 4,327 deaths on Tuesday by Johns Hopkins' count. Arizona and California have been among the hardest-hit states.
The daily figure is subject to revision, but deaths have been rising sharply over the past two and a half months, and the country is now in the most lethal phase of the outbreak yet, even as the vaccine is being rolled out. New cases are running at nearly a quarter-million per day on average.
UK begins major trial for new inhaler-based COVID-19 treatment
In the UK, a new potentially life-saving inhaler-based treatment which is hoped will protect COVID-19 patients from developing severe illness has begun a major trial, reported news agency PTI.
It involves inhaling a protein called interferon beta-1a (SNG001), which the body produces when it gets a viral infection, and the hope is it will stimulate the body's immune system and prime cells to be ready to fight off viruses.
Synairgen's SG018 trial is a randomised placebo-controlled study being conducted in approximately 20 countries enrolling a total of 610 COVID-19 patients who require supplemental oxygen.
Synairgen is a clinical-stage respiratory drug discovery and development company founded by University of Southampton Professors Sir Stephen Holgate, Donna Davies and Ratko Djukanovic.
It has appointed Parexel Biotech, a division of the leading global clinical research organisation Parexel to help conduct the Phase III trial and several UK sites have now been initiated, with further sites in the US and the European Union (EU) expected to follow.
Early findings suggested the treatment cut the odds of a COVID-19 patient in hospital developing severe disease, such as requiring ventilation, by almost 80 percent.
The results of a smaller, phase two clinical trial of the treatment conducted last year suggested the chances of a COVID-19 patient in the hospital getting the severe disease requiring ventilation, for example were reduced. Patients were two to three times more likely to recover to the point where everyday activities were not compromised by their illness, Synairgen claimed.
The large-scale trial is deemed an Urgent Public Health study by the UK's National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). In the US, SNG001 has been granted fast-Track status from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
With inputs from agencies
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