Second COVID-19 vaccination dry run in all districts on 8 Jan, says health ministry; UK strain cases in India at 73
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan is slated to hold a meeting with the health ministers of states and UTs on 7 January to guide them on conducting the dry run, the ministry said
Noting that the roll-out of a vaccine against the novel coronavirus is expected to begin in the "near future", the Union Health Ministry on Wednesday said that another mock drill of the inoculation drive will be held in all districts of the country on 8 January.
The first country-wide vaccination dry run was conducted on 2 January.
India's drug regulator on Sunday (3 January) approved two COVID-19 vaccines — Oxford-AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute, and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin — for restricted emergency use and Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Tuesday said the health ministry was prepared to launch the vaccine within 10 days of the authorisation.
Meanwhile, the total number of persons found infected with UK mutant strain of the virus rose to 73, the ministry said on Wednesday. These cases include the 58 which were announced by the ministry till Tuesday.
Pointing out that the order allowing 100 percent occupancy in cinema theatres in Tamil Nadu amounted to dilution of the Ministry of Home Affairs' guidelines, the Centre asked the state government to revoke its order and comply with the guidelines.
Health minister to hold meeting on 7 Jan
The health ministry in release said that as a simulation of the actual execution of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out expected to begin in a few days, another vaccination dry run will be held in all 700+ districts of all states and Union Territories (except in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana who have already conducted/ will be conducting the dry run in all districts on 5 and 7 January respectively) on 8 January, to ensure efficient planning and management for vaccine delivery
Union health minister Harsh Vardhan is slated to hold a meeting with the health ministers of states and UTs on 7 January to guide them on how to conduct the dry run, the release further said.
Each district will identify three types of session sites, similar to the previous dry run, including a public health facility (district hospital/medical college), private health facility and rural or urban outreach sites, the ministry informed.
Giving details about the exercise, the ministry said entire planning of the vaccination drive including beneficiary registration, microplanning and vaccination at the planned session site will be tested under the leadership of district collector or district magistrate. The dry run will also familiarise the state, district, block and hospital level officers on all aspects of the COVID-19 vaccine roll out.
"This activity will help administrators in strengthening the linkages between planning, implementation and reporting mechanisms, identification of any residual challenges prior to the actual implementation and to provide confidence to the programme managers at all levels to carry out a smooth implementation of the vaccination drive," the ministry said, adding that it will be in constant touch with the states and UTs throughout the day to seek feedback, provide support and ensure timely resolution of the identified challenges before the actual vaccination roll-out.
The ministry also gave information about the mechanisms such at the Co-WIN software, developed by the health ministry for real-time tracking of the vaccination process and the dedicated 24x7 call centre established for technical queries of Co-WIN users.
Cold chain infrastructure (like walk-in-freezers, walk-in-coolers, ice-lined refrigerators, deep freezers) along with sufficient supplies of syringes and other logistics have been ensured to begin COVID-19 vaccination drive.
Around 1.7 lakh vaccinators and 3 lakh vaccination team members have been trained on the process to be followed at the vaccination sites. The process includes beneficiary verification, vaccination, cold chain and logistics management, bio-medical waste management, AEFI management and reporting on Co-WIN software, it said.
On Wednesday, a dry run was held at Delhi's Hindu Rao hospital, where 34 people were given dummy vaccines, and at a few other facilities in the National Capital, reported news agency PTI, quoting officials.
Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain had recently said that COVID-19 vaccine will be provided to people in the National Capital for free once it arrives, and asserted that the city government had made all preparations for the vaccination drive.
'Brainstorming on how early schools can be reopened
The state's deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia on Wednesday said the government is brainstorming on how early schools can be reopened and the future strategy to resume classroom studies will depend on when a COVID-19 vaccine is available to the public after frontline workers are inoculated.
Sisodia announced that the Delhi government is organising an international education conference from January 11 to 17 on how should the education sector be in a post-COVID world.
Various other states announced plans to re-open schools while, as per reports, several schools in Karnataka were closed after around 50 teachers were found coronavirus positive.
Schools in Gujarat, Punjab to partially re-open
The Gujarat government announced that schools for classes 10 and 12, and colleges for the final year graduation and post-graduation students in the state would be reopened from 11 January.
State education minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama said attendance will not be mandatory and the students attending schools must bring the consent of their parents. The schools will have to strictly follow the Centre's standard operating procedures (SOPs), he said.
Chudasama ruled out mass promotions but added that examinations will be conducted for the amount of syllabus taught and this rule will apply to all education boards in the state. The online education system will continue as usual and a decision on resuming classes for students of other standards will be taken soon, he said.
Punjab education minister Vijay Inder Singla said following the persistent demand of parents, the state government has decided to reopen all government, semi-government and private schools from 7 January onwards. Singla said only students of classes 5 t0 12 will be allowed and the timings of the schools will be from 10 am to 3 pm.
The minister said following the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh's directions, all school managements have been asked to strictly comply with all COVID-19 precautions in schools.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Rajasthan government said schools, colleges and other educational institutions will reopen in the state from 18 January for Classes 9-12 and for final year students in colleges, coaching institutes and government training institutes.
Medical College, Dental College, Nursing College and Paramedical College have been directed to reopen from 11 January, taking into consideration COVID-19 vaccination. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said social distancing and other health protocols, including using face masks, should be taken care of in all institutions.
Schools have partially re-opened in some other states, including Karnataka and Maharashtra. As per a report by The News Minute, a total of 51 teachers and four students have contracted COVID-19 across seven districts in Karnataka and the schools where these teachers were deployed have been shut for few days.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister S Suresh Kumar on Wednesday said that second year pre-university (class-12) exams would begin in the second week of May and the Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC-class 10) in the first week of June.
TN's cinema halls order dilutes guidelines: Centre
Meanwhile, the Centre told the Tamil Nadu government to withdraw its order allowing 100 percent occupancy in cinema halls, said reports.
In a letter to the Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu, Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla pointed out that the Ministry of Home Affairs' guidelines have been extended till 31 January and as per the guidelines, cinema theatres and multiplexes, outside containment zones are permitted to operate with 50 percent capacity.
— Sneha Mordani (@snehamordani) January 6, 2021
The Tamil Nadu government's decision amounts to a dilution of the MHA's guideline the letter noted and drew attention to the sections which said that states and UTs should not be diluted. The letter further stated that the Supreme Court had on 18 December directed strict enforcement of the Centre/ state SOPs and compliance with COVID appropriate behaviour.
"In view of the above, the GoTN is requested to immediately issue necessary order to bring their guidelines in line with the MHA guidelines dated 28 Decemeber, 2020 and inform the ministry of compliance," the letter said.
India records 18,088 new cases
India's COVID-19 caseload on Wednesday rose to 1,03,74,932 with 18,088 infections being reported in a day, while the toll increased to 1,50,114 with 264 people succumbing to the disease, the health ministry said in its morning update.
The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 99,97,272 pushing the national recovery rate to 96.36 percent, while the COVID-19 casefatality rate stands at 1.45 percent.
The COVID-19 active caseload remained below 3 lakh for the 16thconsecutive day and the date showed there are 2,27,546,active cases of coronavirus infections in the country comprising 2.19 percent of the total caseload.
The ministry said that 76.48 percent of the new recovered cases are contributed by ten states and UTs. With 4,922 persons recovering from COVID, Kerala has recorded the maximum number of recoveries. Maharashtra has registered another 2,828 daily recoveries while Chhattisgarh has reported 1,651 new recoveries in a span of 24 hours.
Of the 264 new fatalities, 73.48 per centare from ten states and UTs. Over 24 percent of new fatalities are from Maharashtra which reported 64 deaths. Chhattisgarh saw a fatality count of 25 while Kerala reported 24 new deaths.
Ten states and UTs have contributed 79.05 per cent of the new cases. Kerala has reported 5,615 cases in the last 24 hours. Maharashtra recorded 3,160 new cases while Chhattisgarh has registered 1,021 new cases yesterday.
Centre rushes high-level team to Kerala
Stating that Kerala has been reporting a "very high" number of daily coronavirus cases for the past many days, the Union health ministry said a high-level team headed by Director of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr SK Singh has been deployed to support public health interventions for COVID-19 management and will reach the state on Friday.
Around 5,000 new cases are added daily to the state's COVID-19 tally and a total of 35,038 new cases were logged during the last seven days, it said.
It is because of all these reasons that a High Level Central team is being rushed to #Kerala to assist the State in #COVID19 management.https://t.co/4nlTjCIIn9@PMOIndia @drharshvardhan @AshwiniKChoubey @PIB_India @mygovindia @COVIDNewsByMIB https://t.co/savlFvleIw
— Ministry of Health (@MoHFW_INDIA) January 6, 2021
Over 6,300 people tested positive for COVID-19 in Kerala on Wednesday and two more returnees from the United Kingdom were among the new cases, said state health minister KK Shailaja.
So far 43 people who had returned to the state from the UK tested positive for COVID-19 and six of them have been found with the new mutated strain of the virus, detected in the European nation recently, she said.
UK strain cases in India rise to 73
As per the Union health ministry, till date 73 persons have tested positive for the new UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the country.
The mutated UK strain was detected in eight samples at National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), New Delhi, in 20 at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi, in one at National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG), Kalyani (near Kolkata), in 30 at the National Institute of Virology in Pune, in three at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB)in Hyderabad and 11 were sequenced at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences Hospital (NIMHANS)Bengaluru, it said.
European Commission approves Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine
In developments on the international front, the European Union’s executive commission gave the go-ahead to Moderna Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine, providing the 27-nation bloc with a second vaccine, reported news agency The Associated Press.
The European Commission granted conditional marketing authorisation for the vaccine. The decision came against a backdrop of high infection rates in many EU countries and strong criticism of the slow pace of vaccinations across the region of some 450 million people.
“We are providing more COVID-19 vaccines for Europeans. With the Moderna vaccine, the second one now authorized in the EU, we will have a further 160 million doses. And more vaccines will come," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.
We are providing safe & effective #COVID19 vaccines for Europeans.
We have authorised the @moderna_tx vaccine, the 2nd vaccine approved in the EU.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) January 6, 2021
EU's drug regulator EMA recommended the conditional marketing authorisation following a meeting earlier on Wednesday.
“This vaccine provides us with another tool to overcome the current emergency,” said EMA Executive Director Emer Cooke. “It is a testament to the efforts and commitment of all involved that we have this second positive vaccine recommendation just short of a year since the pandemic was declared by WHO.”
The EMA last month granted the same conditional approval to a coronavirus vaccine made by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. Both vaccines require giving people two shots.
The EU has ordered 80 million doses of the Moderna vaccine with an option for a further 80 million. The bloc also has committed to buying 300 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
According to the John Hopkins University's coronavirus tracker, the virus, which emerged in China's Wuhan last year, has had infected 8,67,04,216 and claimed 1,874,732 lives across the world.
China blocks entry to team probing virus origins
China has blocked entry to World Health Organization team probing the origins of the pandemic at the last minute news agency AFP reported.
Ten experts were due to arrive in China this week for the delicate, highly politicised task of establishing how and where the virus jumped from animals to humans.
But with a number of the team already in transit, China denied them entry visas, prodding WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to say he was "very disappointed".
Beijing foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying confirmed the WHO team had not been admitted as planned, and admitted it was "not just a visa issue". "The issue of origin-tracing is incredibly complicated," she told reporters at a regular news briefing.
"To ensure the work of the international expert team in China goes smoothly, we have to carry out necessary procedures and make relevant arrangements." Talks were continuing over "the specific date and specific arrangement of the expert group's visit," Hua added, despite the months of negotiations already spent on setting up the trip.
With inputs from agencies
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