Schools partially reopen in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Uttarakhand; India's COVID-19 tally crosses 82 lakh

However, attendance was low in Andhra Pradesh and Uttarakhand schools as parents remained reluctant to send their children to schools amid fears over virus transmission, as per reports.

FP Staff November 02, 2020 22:37:40 IST
Schools partially reopen in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Uttarakhand; India's COVID-19 tally crosses 82 lakh

A student uses hand sanitizer in a class as schools in north-eastern Assam reopen after being closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic. AP

As India's coronavirus case count on Monday crossed 82.29 lakh with 45,231 new cases, schools partially reopened in Assam, Andhra Pradesh, and Uttarakhand after a gap of over seven months, as per several media reports.

However, attendance was low in Andhra Pradesh and Uttarakhand schools as parents remained reluctant to send their children amid fears over virus transmission, as per reports.

Also on Monday, Union home secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla chaired a high-level meeting to review the situation in Delhi, which is once again witnessing a surge in cases.

Active case only 6.38% of country's caseload

The COVID-19 caseload mounted to 82,29,313 on Monday with 45,231 people testing positive for the infection in a day, while the toll climbed to 1,22,607 with 496 new fatalities, the Union health ministry said in its morning update.

With 53,285 people recuperating from the infection between 8 am on Sunday and Monday, the total number of recoveries have surged to 75,44,798 and the recovery rate has touched 91.68 percent, the data showed.

At present, the country has 5,61,908 active cases of the novel coronavirus infection which comprises only 6.83 percent of the total caseload in the country, as per the ministry's data. The number of active cases has remained below six lakh for four days in a row.

India continues to occupy the top position globally in terms of COVID-19 recoveries, while the total number of active cases have witnessed a sustained downward. the ministry said in a statement.

"In a span of just two months, the percentage of active cases has reduced more than three times. On 3 September, the percentage of active cases was 21.16 percent," it highlighted.

Of the new recoveries, 78 percent are from 10 states and union territories  and Kerala and Karnataka have contributed the highest, with more than 8,000 cases. Delhi and West Bengal recorded more than 4,000 recovered cases each.

The ministry further said that 80 percent of the 45,231 new infections are concentrated in 10 states and UTs. Kerala topped the list with 7,025 new cases while Delhi and Maharashtra, both reported more than 5,000 fresh cases.

Also, 10 states and UTs account for 82 percent of new fatalities, the ministry said, adding 22 percent of deaths were reported from Maharashtra, followed by West Bengal with 59 fatalities.

Review meeting held in Delhi

In Delhi, the government attributed the sudden surge in COVID-19 cases in the National Capital to the festive season, greater movement of people along with laxity in adhering to safe COVID behaviour.

Bhalla discussed threadbare the COVID-19 situation in Delhi, which is witnessing a third surge in cases, with officials such as VK Paul, Member, NITI Aayog, Secretary, Ministry of Health, Director General, ICMR, Chief Secretary and other senior officers of the state government and the Delhi Police Commissioner.

"The recent surge in the number of active cases was attributed to the festival season, which has witnessed greater movement of people, accompanied by laxity in adhering to the basic principles of safe COVID behaviour," a Union home ministry statement said.

But the availability of hospital beds was reported to be comfortable, with 57 percent of the 15,789 dedicated beds being vacant, it said.

It was decided to concentrate efforts in certain key areas, such as targeted RT-PCR testing in sensitive and critical zones such as restaurants, market places, barber shops and salons; gear up the availability of medical resources including beds, ICUs, and ventilators as a preemptive measure and ensure high degree of contact tracing along with monitoring of quarantined contacts so as to break the chain of transmission, the statement said.

It was also decided to enhance enforcement selectively, accompanied by greater awareness creation through targeted IEC (Information, Education and Communication) campaigns and ensuring that all cases under home isolation were monitored and shifted to hospitals well in time, before any deterioration in their medical condition, it said.

It was also emphasised that Metro travel should be carefully regulated, strictly in accordance with the standard operating procedure (SOP) that has been issued in this regard, the statement said.

The Union home secretary, while appreciating the efforts of the Delhi government officials, emphasised that the strategies for containment of spread of COVID-19 in Delhi should be strictly enforced and implemented.

Bhalla stressed the need for reaching out to the residents of Delhi to sensitise them about safe COVID behaviour and said that the situation in Delhi would be reviewed again in the coming week, along with other districts of the National Capital Region (NCR).

The Delhi government also made a presentation on the current situation of COVID-19 in the city.

On Monday, the National Capital recorded 4,001 fresh COVID-19 cases, taking the infection tally to over 3.96 lakh. Forty-two new fatalities were recorded, pushing the death count to 6,604, according to a bulletin issued by the Delhi health department.

The bulletin said the total number of cases has climbed to 3,96,371 and the positivity rate stands at 10.91 percent. The tally of active cases on Monday stood at 33,308, as per the bulletin.

Delhi had recorded over 5,000 daily cases for five days on the trot, ending Sunday when 5,664 new cases were recorded. The highest single-day spike till date — 5,891 cases — was recorded on Friday.

Schools reopen but attendance low

Meanwhile, schools in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand opened for students from some classes, but attendance remained thin even though SOPs have been issued by the Centre and state governments. States such as Odisha and Tamil Nadu have allowed partial re-opening of schools from 16 November.

The Uttarakhand government, in accordance with Centre's directives that states may take a call on resuming classes, recently gave its approval for restarting physical lessons for students of classes 10 and 12.  Schools have been instructed to allow only 50 percent of students to attend the classes everyday wearing masks and maintaining social distancing norms besides sanitisation of hands, classes and school buses transporting them to their schools at regular intervals.

Many schools remained shut on Monday, saying that they will re-open after Diwali.  Schools that did re-open on Monday followed the COVID-19 guidelines permitting students to enter the premises with their face masks on only after their thermal screening. Prayer assemblies were not held due to social distancing norms.

School buildings were thoroughly sanitised before the gates were thrown open and students who did not come wearing any face covers were offered masks at the gates.

But the prevailing sense of insecurity among people due to the pandemic reflected in the number of students attending the classes which remained limited to 20 percent, PTI quotes a school official as saying.

As per a report in The New Indian Express, a similar situation was witnessed in Assam, where schools re-opened for classes 6 to 12.

Earlier, the state government in its SOP had said that attendance would be voluntary and students would have to carry written consent from their parents. As per the SOPs, classes will be held in two batches and there's a cap on the maximum number of students allowed per class. Also, students of classes 6, 8 and 12 will attend schools on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, while students of classes 7, 9, and 11 will go for classes on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

"The attendance of students in schools (On Monday) was very thin. Roughly around 10 percent attended their classes. In some places, the turnout was around five percent," Syed Anisur Rahman, general secretary of Assam Higher Secondary Teachers and Employees' Association told the publication.

The official also highlighted that most schools were unable to follow the protocols in their entirety due to the high costs involved.

Schools in Andhra Pradesh began half-day classes for students of classes 9 and 10. As per the state government, guidelines, classes will be held on alternate days and only 16 students will be allowed in each class. The schools have also been asked to ensure social distancing norms and masks for everyone.

While only a few students turned up in some schools in the state on Monday, some institutions saw a better turnout, said a report in The Hindu.

Schools were also to re-open in Himachal Pradesh for classes 9 to 12, with voluntary attendance, and written permission from parents.

Inter-state buses between Telangana, Andhra Pradesh resume

Also, inter-state bus services between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh resumed on Monday, after a gap of over seven months following the coronavirus lockdown.

Though passenger transport by the TSRTC to other states began in September, it was not resumed with Andhra Pradesh owing to deadlock on some contentious issues such as number of kilometres to be plied by each corporation in the other state.

"Bus services began as both the corporations (TSRTC and APSRTC) signed an MoU," a TSRTC official told news agency PTI.

Free COVID testing at 244 centres in Mumbai

In Maharashtra's Mumbai, officials said the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has started free COVID-19 testing at 244
locations in the BMC-run hospitals and dispensaries in the city from Monday.

A person with COVID-19 symptoms can dial helpline number 1916 or visit the BMC's dedicated webpage 'http:topcoronavirus.mcgm.gov.in' for information about testing centres near their home, a BMC release on Sunday said.

RT-PCR tests have been made available at some of these centres, while the antigen tests are available at the other facilities, it said. Initially, these testing facilities are available on a walk-in' basis from 10 am to 12 noon, the BMC said.

The COVID-19 testing facilities are also available at 54 private pathology labs in the city at rates decided by the Maharashtra government, it said.

Mumbai's COVID-19 tally on Monday rose to 2,59,114 with the addition of 706 new cases while 30 fresh fatalities took the toll to 10,305.

With inputs from PTI

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