Daily COVID-19 deaths fall below 300 for first time in 6 months; UK returnees test positive in Maharashtra, Kerala, Odisha
In the UK, which is rushing to track, isolate, and curb the spread of the new and highly transmissible virus strain, millions of more people across different parts of the country entered tougher lockdown restrictions from Saturday
The number of new COVID-19 deaths across the country fell below 300 for the first time in more than six months, while the number of total cases rose to 1,01,69,118 on Saturday. Meanwhile, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Odisha joined the list of states that have reported new patients among people who have returned from the UK, where a new COVID-19 strain has been detected.
However, it is not established yet whether these patients have been infected by the new strain. Authorities across states said that the samples of the patients have been sent for testing at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune.
The COVID-19 toll in India rose to 1,47,343 with 251 new deaths, the Union health ministry said in its bulletin at 8 am on Saturday.
On the other hand, the number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 97,40,108, pushing the national recovery rate to 95.78 percent. The COVID-19 case fatality rate stands at 1.45 percent.
As of Saturday, there are 2,81,667 active coronavirus infections in India, constituting 2.77 percent of the total caseload, the data stated.
In the UK, which is rushing to track, isolate, and curb the spread of the new and highly transmissible virus strain, millions of more people across different parts of the country entered tougher lockdown restrictions from Saturday, as part of plans announced earlier this week.
Meanwhile, scientists in the UK have begun trials of innovative antibody-drug treatments that they hope could provide instant protection against COVID-19 . The University College London Hospitals NHS Trust (UCLH) said that the researchers in the Storm Chase study believe a Long-Acting AntiBody (LAAB) known as AZD7442, developed by AstraZeneca, may offer immediate and long-term protection to people who have been recently exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and prevent them developing COVID-19 .
Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Odisha report COVID-19 patients among UK returnees
Fourteen people who travelled to Karnataka from the UK so far have tested positive for COVID-19 and their samples have been sent for genetic sequencing to find whether it is a new strain of the virus that has infected them, the state government said on Saturday.
On Friday, 10 UK returnees had tested positive in the state.
"A total of 2,500 people have come (from the UK), of them 1,638 have been tested. According to the information I received last night 14 of them have tested positive. All the 14 (samples) have been sent to NIMHANS for (genetic sequencing)," Karnataka health minister K Sudhakar said.
Speaking to reporters, he said that the Centre has notified ten designated labs in the country for genetic sequencing, out of them two are in Bengaluru- NIMHANS and National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS).
"The 14 samples are undergoing genetic sequencing. The second variant of virus in the UK is said to have undergone 17 mutations, the genetic sequencing will test in detail about mutations, which may require 48 hours, probably it (report) will come tomorrow," he said.
In Kerala, eight people who recently returned from the UK, have tested positive for coronavirus and their samples have been sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, for genomic analysis. Kerala health minister KK Shailaja said that samples of eight returnees were found positive for COVID-19 and their samples have been sent to NIV for further tests.
Following this development, it has been decided to subject the returnees to more tests, she added. Surveillance at the four international airports in the state has been strengthened.
Maharashtra's Aurangabad and Thane district authorities also reported COVID-19 patients among UK returnees. In Aurangabad, a woman who was among 44 people who arrived in the district from the UK after 25 November, has tested positive.
"Eleven of these UK returnees underwent RT-PCR test, in which the woman was found infected with COVID-19 . She is asymptomatic," Aurangabad Municipal Corporation's (AMC) health officer Dr Neeta Padalkar was quoted as saying by PTI.
"Her sample has been sent to the NIV Pune for analysis. It will clear whether the patient contracted the infection in England or after her arrival in Aurangabad," she said.
The authorities have received a list of a total of 44 passengers, who returned to Aurangabad from the UK, a district official said in a statement issued late on Friday night.
"Of these 44 passengers, 13 are yet to be traced and their details are shared with the police department. Five of the passengers belong to other districts," the official said.
Meanwhile, in Thane, one of the over 50 persons, who returned to the Kalyan-Dombivli region in Maharashtra's Thane district from the UK in the last one month, has tested COVID- 19 positive.
A four-year-old girl, who had returned from the United Kingdom along with her parents, tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday in Bhubaneswar, PTI reported. The girl and her parents had returned to Bhubaneswar on 20 December.
However, the parents tested negative for COVID-19 , said Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation's Additional Commissioner Suvendu Sahu.
All the family members are in institutional quarantine as per the guidelines, authorities said.
UK enters tougher lockdown from today
Millions of people in the UK entered tougher lockdown restrictions from Saturday, which is annually marked as Boxing Day. Around six million people in east and south-east England have joined many others into Tier 4, England's highest COVID-19 level which includes a "stay at home" order.
Lockdowns have also started in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and measures have been reimposed in Wales after being eased for Christmas Day, when the UK crossed another grim milestone of 70,000 coronavirus deaths.
Under the toughest Tier 4 restrictions, all non-essential shops, bars, and restaurants are closed and people are not allowed to meet other households, except in a support bubble or in an outdoor public space with one other person.
Large parts of England were already in this tier pre-Christmas, including London, after the new mutation was found to be spreading fastest in those regions.
With the devolved administrations setting their own strategies, Northern Ireland goes into a six-week lockdown from Saturday with non-essential shops shut and hospitality open only for takeaway services.
In a move similar to England's Tier 4 restrictions, Wales will be moving back into Level 4 measures which also means non-essential shops, gyms, and beauty salons must close and bars and restaurants can only open for takeaways.
And, Scotland is also entering the toughest tier of restrictions for at least three weeks with very similar measures in place.
They are among over 40 countries to suspend travel connectivity with the UK, including India, as the new rapid-spreading coronavirus variant in England last week triggered global concern.
Meanwhile, a further 570 deaths in the UK were reported on Saturday, taking the total number of people dying within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test to 70,195. This places the UK sixth after the US, Brazil, India, Mexico, and Italy in terms of recorded coronavirus deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University,
India's COVID-19 infection tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on 7 August, 30 lakh on 23 August, 40 lakh on 5 September, and 50 lakh on 16 September.
It went past 60 lakh on 28 September, 70 lakh on 11 October, 80 lakh on 29 October, 90 lakh on 20 November, and surpassed the one-crore mark on 19 December.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 16,71,59,289 samples have been tested up to 25 December, including 8,53,527 on Friday.
The 251 new fatalities include 71 from Maharashtra, 31 from West Bengal, and 30 from Delhi.
The total 1,47,343 deaths reported so far in the country include 49,129 from Maharashtra, followed by 12,048 from Tamil Nadu, 12,044 from Karnataka, 10,414 from Delhi, 9,536 from West Bengal, 8,279 from Uttar Pradesh, 7,091 from Andhra Pradesh, and 5,269 from Punjab.
With inputs from PTI
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