Curb spike in COVID-19 cases, Centre tells 4 states; second country-wide vaccination dry run today

The drill will be held at three-session sites of 736 districts across 33 states and Union Territories, the health ministry said in a statement. The Union health minister will visit Tamil Nadu on Friday to review preparedness and oversee the dry run

FP Staff January 08, 2021 00:11:55 IST
Curb spike in COVID-19 cases, Centre tells 4 states; second country-wide vaccination dry run today

Health workers prepare for Friday’s trial run of COVID-19 vaccine in Mumbai. AP

Union health minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday held a virtual meeting with state health ministers and other officials to review preparedness for the second countrywide vaccination mock drill scheduled for today ( Friday, 8 January) and sought their keen oversight and personal indulgence to lead the exercise.

The drill will be held at three-session sites of 736 districts across 33 states and union territories, the health ministry said. Vardhan will visit Tamil Nadu on Friday to review preparedness and oversee the dry run.

In a letter dated 5 January, the Centre has informed states and union territories that they are likely to receive the first supply of COVID-19 vaccine shortly and asked them to remain prepared to accept these consignments, reported news agency PTI.

India's coronavirus caseload rose to 1,03,95,278  on Thursday with 20,346 new infections being reported in24 hours, while the number of recoveries surpassed one crore. As per the Union health ministry's morning update, the COVID-19 toll increased to 1,50,336 as 222 people succumbed to the disease in a span of 24 hours.

A total 19,587 patients have recuperated and been discharged in a span of 24 hours, taking the total recoveries to 10,016,859."The recovered cases are 44 times the number of active cases," the ministry.

There are 2,28,083 active coronavirus cases in the country, which account for 2.19 percent of the total caseload, the data showed.

Later in the day, the health ministry, observing that four states, Kerala, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal account for 59 percent of the total active cases in the country, asked them to take steps to curb the recent spike in cases, especially in view of the new virus strain first reported from UK.

Vardhan asks health ministers to counter  vaccine disinformation

In Thursday's meeting through video conference to review preparedness for the dry run, Vardhan sought keen oversight and personal indulgence of health ministers, principal secretaries and additional chief secretaries of states and union territories to lead the dry run, said a health ministry statement.

The Union health minister also requested the health ministers to be vigilant against rumours and disinformation campaigns regarding the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine, the statement said. He rubbished rumours on social media regarding the vaccine side-effects and said, "These miscreants might derail the whole exercise, set the clock back by years" and urged the state health authorities to work with multiple stakeholders and youth to spread the right information and dispel rumours and mistruths being spread about the COVID-19 .

The health minister spoke about the digital platform, CoWIN, repurposed from the e-VIN platform that will provide real time information of vaccine stocks, their storage temperature and individualised tracking of beneficiaries of the COVID-19 vaccine.

This platform will assist the program managers across all levels through automated session allocation for pre-registered beneficiaries, their verification and for generating a digital certificate upon successful completion of the vaccine schedule. More than 78 lakh beneficiaries have been already registered on the platform, he stated.

The minister reassured all state health ministers that the country's cold chain infrastructure has been sufficiently upgraded to ensure last mile delivery and that adequate supplies of syringes and other logistics have also been provided for.

According to a Hindustan Times report, Vardhan said “Two COVID-19 vaccines ‘Covishield’ and ‘Covaxin’ are on the verge of being available in the country. Our efforts are to ensure seamless last-mile delivery of the vaccine,” said Vardhan.

He referred to India's several successful immunisation drives with respect to Polio, Rubella and Measles and said that the rich experience of the country from the UIP and the anti-polio campaign are being used to strengthen the processes of COVID-19 vaccination, as per the statement.

He also reminded his state counterparts to ensure that the National Immunisation Day (NID) scheduled on 17 January is also given due importance and requested the health ministers to ensure that non-COVID essential services are not adversely impacted.

"The earlier national mock drill of 2nd Jan 2021 helped to iron out any glitches in the final execution and further refinement of the operational procedures. The feedback from most of the states and UTs was satisfactory conduct of the dry run," the statement said.

'Dry run at 263 facilities in Karnataka'

The health ministers shared their feedback and experience from the past dry run exercises and the preparedness for Friday's exercise.

After the meeting, Vardhan tweeted: "Putting all hands on deck! Held a resourceful VC with Health Ministers of States and UTs to review preparedness for the nationwide dry run of administering COVID-19 vaccine to be conducted tomorrow. Exhaustive efforts are being made to ensure smooth rollout of COVID-19 vaccine."

Speaking to reporters after attending the VC, Karnataka health minister K Sudhakar said the COVID-19 vaccination dry run will be conducted at a total of 263 different health facilities across the state.  "The dry run will be held in 24 district hospitals, 20 medical colleges, 43 taluk hospitals, 31 community health centres, 87 primary health centres, 30 urban primary health centres and 28 private facilities in the state," he elaborated.

During the interaction, Gujarat deputy chief minister Nitin Patel requested the Centre to allow an offline system of sharing information for remote places in the state where internet connectivity is an issue, said the state government in a release.

"There are issues of Internet connectivity in remote as well as hilly areas of the state. In such a situation, the administration faces difficulty in sharing information about the vaccine with the beneficiaries. Thus, I request you to consider allowing an offline system for such areas," Patel was quoted as saying in the release.

Maharashtra public health minister Rajesh Tope said the Centre has agreed to bear the cost of coronavirus vaccination in the first phase,  but added that the Union health minister did not say anything specific about later phases.

Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain tweeted that he had requested Vardhan to extend the ban on UK flights till 31 January as the European country is  "bearing all time high surge in cases and deaths."

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal too urged the Centre to extend the ban on flights between India and the UK till the end of January.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said on Saturday flights from India to the UK will resume from 6 January, while services from that country to here would resume from 8 January.

Puri had tweeted, "30 flights will operate every week. 15 each by Indian & UK carriers. This schedule is valid till 23 Jan 2021. Further frequency will be determined after review".

Harsh Vardhan to visit TN tomorrow

In another statement on Thursday, the health ministry said Vardhan will be visiting Tamil Nadu on Friday to "personally review the preparedness and oversee the dry run operations at the scheduled sites".

Vardhan will visit the session sites at Government General Hospital, Chennai, followed by the one at Government Omandurar Hospital. In the afternoon he will visit the private vaccination centre in Apollo Hospital, Chennai after a brief visit to the General Medical Store Depot (GMSD) in Periamedu. This is one of the four national vaccine storage facilities, the other three at Mumbai, Kolkata and Karnal.

Thereafter, Vardhan will visit the vaccination centre at Chengalpattu. He will be visiting the Hindustan Bio-Tech Ltd. campus at Chengalpattu after concluding his supervision at these sites.

Centre asks states to prepare to receive first supply of vaccines

In a communique, Dr Pradeep Halder, advisor, Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) in the health ministry, has said, "All the states and UTs are likely to receive the first supply of COVID-19 vaccine shortly.In this regard, you are requested to ensure the advance preparation and readiness for the acceptance of forthcoming supply of the vaccine."

The letter states that the vaccine will be supplied to the identified consignee points of 19 states and UTs — Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal —by the supplier. The vaccine for remaining 18 states and UTs — Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Daman and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Lakshadweep, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Puducherry, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand— will be received from their respective government medical store depots.

The further distribution of vaccine to the districts will be done as per the registered beneficiaries, for which a separate communication will be done shortly, the letter stated.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) said it is fully geared to deploy its resources to facilitate transportation of COVID-19 vaccine across the country from Maharashtra's Pune. Consignments of 'Covishield' vaccine, manufactured at city-based Serum Institute of India (SII), are scheduled to be dispatched to various locations in the country from the Pune airport.

The country's drugs regulator on Sunday approved Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishield and indigenously developed Covaxin of Bharat Biotech for restricted emergency use in the country.

The health ministry on Tuesday said it is prepared for COVID-19 vaccine roll-out within ten days of the vaccines getting approved for restricted emergency use on January 3, but a final decision on the launch date would be taken by the government.

Bharat Biotech completes enrolment for Phase 3 trial

In another development, Suchitra Ella, joint managing director, Bharat Biotech International Ltd said the company has completed enrollment of 25,800 volunteers for the Phase-3 trials of its COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin.

The Phase III human clinical trials of Covaxin began mid-November, targeted to be done in 26,000 volunteers across India.

'Laxity may squander results'

Also on Thursday, the health ministry said Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan has written to health secretaries of West Bengal, Maharashtra, Kerala, and Chhattisgarh to draw their attention "to the low and declining testing rates in the states, stating that any laxity at this crucial junction may squander the results of our collective actions in containing the transmission", according to a health ministry statement.

Aggressive implementation of the "test-track-treat" strategy adopted by the country has been strongly advised now more than ever by the health secretary. The health authorities in the states have also been advised to proactively promote wearing of masks and other COVID-19 -appropriate behaviours, while the vaccination drive is about to begin.

"It is important to ensure that there is no complacency in the collective efforts in containment and management of COVID-19 ," the health secretary said. The states have been assured of all necessary support of the health ministry required to manage the pandemic.

The total COVID-19 cases in Kerala are 7,90,882 which form 7.61 percent of the total cases. The active cases stand at 65,252, accounting for 28.61 percent of the total national figure.

Total number of recovered cases is 7,22,421, accounting for a recovery rate of 91.34, while the total deaths in the state are 3,209 with a case fatality rate (CFR) of 0.41 percent, the statement said.

"The daily average cases in Kerala in the last 7 days are 5,023 whereas daily average deaths in the last 7 days are 23. The tests per million (TPM) of Kerala stand at 1,96,432 and positivity rate is 11.28 percent," the statement stated.

The health secretary has expressed concern over the dip in the overall tests in the past two weeks in the state combined with an increase in the positivity rate and a high-level Central team has been deployed to the state.

The weekly positivity rate has been consistently above 11 percent for the past two weeks, while the case positivity rate for the country is less than 2.5 percent for the same period, the statement stated.

Total cases in Maharashtra stand at 19,54,553, accounting for 18.80 percent of the national figure.

The active cases in the state are 51,969 (amounting for 22.79 percent of national figure). The state has reported a total of 49,825 fatalities, with a CFR of 2.55 percent. The daily average cases in Maharashtra in the last 7 days are 3,707 and daily average deaths in the last 7 days are 51, the statement said.

The TPM is 1,02,870 while the state positivity rate is pegged at 15.43 percent, it said.

Chhattisgarh has registered 2,85,586 cases (with percentage share in total being 2.75 percent) and 2,73,030 total number of recoveries with a recovery rate of 95.60 percent. The active cases as on date are 9,109 (3.99 percent share in the national pie). The numbers of fatalities in the state is 3,447 and the case fatality rate is 1.21 percent. TPM is 1,16,744 with a positivity rate of 8.31 percent.

West Bengal is reporting 5,57,252 cases (5.36 percent of the total cases in the country). A total5,38,521 persons have recovered taking the recovery rate to 96.64 percent. It has 8,868 active cases, accounting for 3.89 percent of the national figure. There have been 9,863 total deaths in the state with a case fatality rate of 1.77 percent. The daily average cases in West Bengal in the last 7 days are 908 and daily average deaths are 25. The number of TPM is 71,762 and the positivity rate is 7.80 percent, the ministry said.

The West Bengal administration, however, has said that the COVID situation is, in fact, improving in the state.

"The fatality rate and the number of new cases have come down drastically. The daily number of infections is below 1,000 and every day there is a decline in the number of deaths due to the disease. Though, we are very cautious. All precautionary measures are in place," health secretary NK Nigam  told PTI. 

The other three states — all Opposition ruled — are yet to react or respond on the Centre's letter.

Andhra Pradesh issues fresh guidelines

The Andhra Pradesh government issued some fresh guidelines for surveillance, containment, control and proper treatment of COVID-19 patients and directed the district Collectors to be vigilant and personally monitor the day-to-day status of cases.

State Principal Secretary, Health, Anil Kumar Singhal  directed the district Collectors to conduct a meeting once again with all Nodal Officers of COVID hospitals and reiterate directives issued by the Supreme Court and to strictly adhere to them in providing proper treatment to COVID-19 patients in both government and private hospitals.

He asked the collectors to constitute inspection teams under the supervision of Joint Collector to conduct Fire Audit in all private and government COVID hospitals. Hospital authorities were required to necessarily obtain a no-objection certificate from the Fire Department.

"District Collectors are directed to ensure strict compliance of the orders and invoking penal clauses as and when required in larger public interest. The Superintendents of Police and Commissioners of Police will be responsible for compliance of all SOPs and COVID Orders issued," Singhal said in an order.

The Principal Secretary emphasised on the need for crowd control and asked the Collectors to entrust the responsibility to police and revenue machinery. "Wherever preventing crowding is not possible, restrictions shall be put in place to ensure the mandated maintenance of six-feet physical distance," Singhal said.

With inputs from PTI

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