India's COVID-19 count crosses 62 lakh, toll touches 97,497; Centre issues Unlock 5 guidelines

As per the new guidelines, which will come into effect from 1 October, theatres and multiplexes outside containment zones to open with 50 percent seating capacity from 15 October and will have to follow SOPs issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

FP Staff September 30, 2020 22:01:41 IST
India's COVID-19 count crosses 62 lakh, toll touches 97,497; Centre issues Unlock 5 guidelines

Representational Image. AP

As India's coronavirus case count went zoomed past 62 lakh with over 80,000 testing positive since Tuesday, the Centre on Wednesday announced Unlock 5.0 guidelines allowing activities such as theatres and entertainment parks to open outside containment zones.

The Centre had announced a nationwide lockdown on 24 March to curb the transmission of the virus and restrictions imposed under it have been progressively eased under various phases of 'Unlock' since June.

As per the new guidelines, which will come into effect from 1 October, theatres and multiplexes outside containment zones to open with 50 percent seating capacity from 15 October and will have to follow SOPs issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Entertainment parks and swimming pools (for the training of sportspersons) will also be allowed to open outside containment zones from 15 October. Social, religious, cultural, sports, academic and political events have been allowed with a maximum of 100 participants and with safety protocols being followed.

International travel, except that which is permitted by the Centre, continues to remain shut but states and Union Territories have been given the flexibility to decide on the re-opening of schools and coaching institutions in a graded manner from 15 October.

Lockdown will continue in containment zones till 31 October, but no local lockdown should be imposed outside such zones, said the Ministry of Home Affairs in the guidelines.

Additionally, states and UTs have been told that there should be no restrictions on inter or intra-state travel and no permits or passes should be required for the same.

Maharashtra restaurants to open with 50% capacity

The Maharashtra government also issued separate guidelines under its Mission Begin Again. As per the revised guidelines, lockdown has been extended till 31 October but hotels, restaurants, food courts and bars have been allowed to open with 50 percent capacity or as allowed by local authorities from 5 October.

Industrial and manufacturing units producing non-essential items in the Mumbai Metropolitan region have been allowed to operate and railway authorities have been told to increase the frequency of local trains to meet the increase in demand.

The state government has allowed dabbawalas to travel on the local trains after procuring the QR code passes from the Mumbai police commissioner's office. All trains originating and ending in the state have been allowed to restart and local trains in Pune have been allowed to ply as per the protocol followed in MMR.

However, schools, educational institutions, cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theaters in malls and market places, auditoriums, assembly halls and metro rail services will remain closed till 31 October. Social, religious, cultural, sports, academic, political events and large gatherings will also remain prohibited.

'10 states account for 76% of new cases'

The guidelines came on a day when 80,472 infections pushed India's COVID-19 count to 62,25,763, while the recoveries climbed to 51,87,825 taking the recovery rate to 83.33 percent,

Currently, there are 9,40,441 active cases of coronavirus infection in the country, which constitute 15.11 percent of the total caseload, down from 33.32 percent on 1 August, said the Union health ministry.

"From 33.32 percent on 1 August to 15.11 percent on 30 September, active cases have less than halved in two months," it said in a statement while highlighting that the country "continues to report a trend of steadily declining active cases as a percentage of the total caseload".

The health ministry said that more than 76 percent of the active cases of COVID-19 are concentrated in 1o states — Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Assam, Chhattisgarh and Telangana, with Maharashtra topping the chart with over 2,60,000 active cases.

Also, 10 states and UTs contribute 78 percent of the total recoveries and Maharashtra leads the tally with more than 10,00,000 recoveries followed by Andhra Pradesh with over 6,00,000, it said.

The health ministry further said that 76 percent of the new cases reported in a day are from 10 states and UTs. Maharashtra has recorded the highest number of new infections with nearly 15,000 cases followed by Karnataka with more than 10,000 cases.

The countrywide toll mounted to 97,497, taking the fatality rate to 1,57 percent. Of the 1,179 fatalities reported in 24 hours, nearly 85 percent are from 10 state and UTs — Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

More than 36 percent of new fatalities are from Maharashtra, the ministry said.

Modernas's vaccine generated strong immune response in older adults

Meanwhile, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine said that the results from the phase-1 trial of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine showed a strong immune response in persons over the age of 55 and was comparable to that seen in younger age groups.

The study noted that the experimental vaccine, mRNA-1273, jointly developed by researchers at the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and the American biotech company Moderna, was well-tolerated by older trial participants, although some volunteers experienced transient adverse effects, including fever and fatigue after vaccination.

According to the researchers from NIAID, older adults are more vulnerable to complications arising from COVID-19, and understanding how the vaccine affects this section of the population is a critical part of gauging its safety and efficacy.

The Phase 1 trial started on 16 March and was expanded to include older adults about one month later. As part of this expansion, about 40 healthy volunteers — 20 adults ages 56 to 70 years, and 20 adults aged 71 years and older — were enrolled, scientists said.

Ten volunteers in each age group received a lower dose of the vaccine, and 10 participants in each age group received a higher dose. The same dosage was repeated for the volunteers after a gap of a month.

According to the scientists, the participants exhibited a good immune response to the vaccine as the blood of vaccinated volunteers contained robust binding and neutralising antibodies against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

The researchers said the study will continue to follow the older volunteers for approximately a year after the second vaccination to monitor the long-term effects of the vaccine.

The results from the Phase 1 trial support further testing of the investigational vaccine in older adults in an ongoing large Phase 3 trial, they added.

Kerala sees record spike

In an indication of the worsening situation in Kerala, the state on Wednesday reported over 8,000 fresh cases for the first time. As per the figures reported by the state government, Kerala recorded its highest single-day spike of 8,830 new COVID-19 cases, taking the total infection count to 1,95,106. The state, where the COVID-19 cases were doubling on an average of every 20 days, also reported 23 fatalities, pushing the toll from the disease to 742.

A total of 123 health workers were among those affected and the highest number of fresh cases (1,056) were reported from Ernakulam district, said health minister KK Shailaja.

Gujarat's COVID-19 tally rose to 1,37,394 with 1,390 more contracting the infection while the toll rose to 3,453 with 11 deaths, said the state health department.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra reported 18,317 new cases and 481 deaths, taking the state's total to 13,84,446 and toll to 36,662.

Tamil Nadu logged 5,659 new COVID-19 cases, taking the tally to 5,97,602 while the toll mounted to 9,520 with 67 more fatalities, as per the state health department.

Delhi sees fall in prevalence of antibodies

The Delhi government told the high court that there was a fall in the "antibody seroprevalence" in the National Capital from 28.7 percent in August to 25.1 percent in September.

The findings of the third round of sero surveillance carried out by the AAP government between 1 and 7 September, were presented during a hearing on a PIL seeking speedy results of tests done to detect the coronavirus infection and an increase in the COVID-19 testing numbers.

A total of  17,409 people were surveyed across the National Capital.

The report also showed that there was a significant decrease in the prevalence of antibodies against COVID-19 in northeast, north and central districts of Delhi, while there was a slight increase in south, east, west and northwest districts.

The seroprevalence was more in females during all the rounds of the survey and it was the least in the 18-49 age group, the report stated.

"Seroprevalence was increased in participants belonging to the low socio-economic status and those living in unplanned colonies," it said adding that this was probably due to difficulties in maintaining social distancing and hygiene measures.

Nearly one-third of the participants with a past history of COVID-19 infection "did not have detectable IgG antibodies", the report said, "However," it stated, "there is evidence that antibodies to COVID-19 may deplete over time."

The National Capital reported 41 COVID-19 fatalities on Wednesday, taking the toll to 5,361, while 3,390 fresh cases pushed the tally to over 2.79 lakh.

Karnataka bars students from visiting schools till 15 Oct

Citing a surge in coronavirus cases, the Karnataka government said it will not allow high school students to visit schools to get their doubts clarified till 15 October, reported Indian Express.  The government had earlier issued an order asking teachers to remain present in schools and pre-university colleges to address the doubts faced by students from Classes 9 to 12.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee ruled out the possibility of reopening schools anytime soon, saying her government will take a call on the issue only after mid-November. In an administrative review meeting in North Bengal, Banerjee said a decision in this regard will be taken after Kali puja on 14 November.

All schools have been shut in Bengal since 16 March.

With inputs from PTI

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