Maharashtra, UP, Delhi worst-affected as daily cases cross 2.17 lakh; Centre to ramp up Covaxin production
Several states, including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, are facing a shortage of vaccine doses, leading to a suspension of operations at several immunisation centres
The Centre on Friday sought to ramp up the production of indigenously-developed COVID-19 vaccine 'Covaxin' in a bid to fill a major shortage of COVID-19 vaccines that is thwarting the nationwide drive to immunise those above age 45.
Meanwhile, data from the health ministry painted a grim image of the COVID-19 situation with India reporting its highest one-day spike in cases and over two lakh cases in a day for the second consecutive day. The growing numbers forced another national education board, the CISCE to postponed board exams for Class 10 and Class 12 students.
With a record 2,17,353 new cases in a span of 24 hours, the total caseload has now increased to 1,42,91,917.
A total of 1,185 people died from the virus on Friday. This was the highest number of deaths since 19 September, 2020, taking the toll from the deadly virus surging across the country to 1,74,308.
Meanwhile, active cases surpassed 15 lakhs, according to the data uploaded at 8 am on Friday.
Registering a steady increase for the 37th day in a row, the active cases have increased to 15,69,743, comprising 10.98 percent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate dropped to 87.80 percent.
Several politicians also tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, including Union minister Prakash Javadekar, Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa, Congress leaders Randeep Singh Surjewala and Digvijaya Singh. Yediyurappa tested COVID-19 positive for the second time in eight months.
Upon having mild fever, today I got tested for Covid-19 and my report has come out positive. Although I am doing fine, I am being hospitalised based on the advise of doctors. I request all those who have come in my contact recently to be observant and exercise self-quarantine.
— B.S. Yediyurappa (@BSYBJP) April 16, 2021
In view of the COVID-19 surge, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot announced a weekend curfew in the state from 6 pm on Friday to 5 am on 19 April. The decision comes on a day that saw Rajasthan registering 33 COVID-19 deaths and a record 6,658 new cases of the disease.
Banking and LPG services, and fruit, vegetable and milk vendors are exempted from the weekend curfew.
समय की मांग है कि एक बार पुनः सभी एकजुट होकर उसी संकल्प के साथ सभी सावधानियों और सरकार द्वारा निर्धारित गाइडलाइंस का कड़ाई से पालन करें। हमें यह एहसास है कि थोड़े समय के लिए नागरिकों को कुछ कठिनाइयों का सामना करना पड़ सकता है, परंतु हमें यह नहीं भूलना है कि 'जान है तो जहान है' pic.twitter.com/TiSuP0tfi4
— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) April 16, 2021
The Election Commission also took cognisance of the rise in COVID-19 infections and curtailed the hours allowed for campaigning in West Bengal, ANI reported. The move comes in the backdrop of Opposition parties asking the poll panel to club the remaining three phases of the Assembly election.
"There shall not be any campaign between 7 pm and 10 am on campaigning days. Silence period extended from 48 hours to 72 hours in each of the remaining three phases in West Bengal," the statement was quoted as saying by the report.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday undertook a review of the availability of medical-grade oxygen in the country and called for ramping up its production, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said in a statement.
Additionally, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan will hold a review meeting with health ministers of states reporting a high number of COVID-19 cases on Saturday, PTI reported.
COVID-19 caseload details
The active caseload was at its lowest at 1,35,926 on 12 February and it was at its highest at 10,17,754 on 18 September, 2020.
The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 1,25,47,866, while the case fatality rate has further dropped to 1.22 percent, the data stated.
According to the ICMR, 26,34,76,625 samples have been tested up to 15 April with 14,73,210 samples being tested on Thursday.
On Friday, Maharashtra reported 63,729 new cases and was followed by Uttar Pradesh (27,426) and Delhi (19,486), according to official data. It was the highest daily spike in new infections for all three states since the outbreak of the pandemic last year.
West Bengal, where Assembly polls are underway, also recorded the highest ever daily jump of 6,910 cases. Amidst the spike, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee Friday squarely blamed the BJP for exacerbating the COVID-19 situation in the state and said she will call upon the Election Commission to stop the saffron party from bringing in "outsiders" during campaigning for the ongoing Assembly election.
Following the emergence of the Kumbh Mela as a hotspot with the number of infections rising to 1,700 in Haridwar city, the Mathura district administration in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh mandated COVID-19 screening for visitors from other states.
"While people with symptoms would be kept in quarantine for 14 days, asymptomatic ones would have to undergo home quarantine for a week," District Magistrate Navneet Singh Chahal said.
In National Capital Delhi, the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) advised its hostel residents to return to their native places if feasible.
Vaccine shortage coninues; AP CM writes second letter to Modi
Meanwhile, the Andhra Pradesh government on Friday announced it has no stock of COVID-19 vaccine even as Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy wrote another letter to the prime minister, requesting that 60 lakh doses be immediately sent to the state.
On Friday, only about 4,300 doses of the coronavirus vaccine could be administered, the lowest in a day so far, before the stocks completely dried up, PTI reported.
Reddy thanked Modi for sending 6.4 lakh doses of the vaccine to the state (on 12 and 13 April) in response to his letter on 9 April.
"I request you, sir, to instruct the officials concerned of Health Ministry to supply 60 lakh doses of COVID vaccine to my state to ensure that all the population above 45 years is vaccinated for the first dose in the next three weeks," he said in the letter, the second he sent to the prime minister in a week.
"We have not only established our capability of vaccinating over six lakh people per day, but also set up a model for all the states to emulate. However, we could not continue the same drive as the vaccine stocks have completely run out," he said.
Andhra Pradesh reported 6,096 cases in 24 hours ending 9 am on Friday, a new high after 6 October, while the state also saw 20 more fatalities, the highest in a day in about six months.
Meanwhile, the Odisha government was quoted by ANI as saying that only 700 vaccination centres are currently operational in the state.
"We are running short of vaccines. We don’t have enough stock to run all 1,500 vaccination sites across Odisha. With this stock, only 700 vaccination sites are possible to operate," said Bijay Panigrahi, who is the Odisha COVID-19 vaccination in-charge.
Centre ropes in PSUs to boost Covaxin production
The production of indigenously developed COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin will be ramped up significantly and increased to 10 crore doses per month by September, the Department of Biotechnology said on Friday.
Covaxin's production will be doubled by May-June and the department has roped in three public sector companies to increase the capacity of vaccine production, it said.
As part of the augmentation plan, the capacities of Bharat Biotech Limited as well as other public sector manufacturers are being upgraded with the required infrastructure and technology, the DBT said.
Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council for Medical Research have developed Covaxin, one of the two vaccines being used in the ongoing nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive.
Financial support of around Rs 65 crore is being provided as a grant by the Centre to Bharat Biotech's new Bengaluru facility, which is being repurposed to increase the capacity of vaccine production, the DBT said.
"The current production capacity of indigenously developed Covaxin will be doubled by May-June 2021 and then increased nearly 6-7 fold by July-August 2021, ie, increasing the production from 1 crore vaccine doses in April, 2021, to 6-7 crore vaccine dose/month in JulyAugust. It is expected to reach nearly 10 crore doses per month by September 2021," the DBT said.
The Centre will provide financial assistance of Rs 65 crore to Haffkine Biopharmaceutical Corporation Ltd, Mumbai a public sector undertaking (PSU) under the Maharashtra government, the DBT said.
The funding is being provided in order to make the facility ready for manufacturing vaccines. The Haffkine Biopharmaceuticals Ltd had asked for around 12 months to complete this task, according to the DBT.
With inputs from PTI
COVID-19 daily positivity rate in India has increased to 0.61 per cent, up from 0.47 per cent reported on Tuesday. The weekly positivity rate now stands at 0.74 per cent
The overall number of coronavirus tests conducted in Mumbai was 1,69,47,774 including 8,732 in the last 24 hours
India now has 15,044 active cases of COVID-19. There was a decrease of 375 cases in the active COVID-19 caseload in a span of 24 hours