Third wave of COVID-19 'inevitable', says top govt adviser; virus kills record 3,780 in 24 hrs

The ministry also said that a rise in the number of daily COVID-19 cases and mortality has been observed in Assam, West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand, indicating the pandemic is moving eastwards

FP Staff May 06, 2021 00:07:31 IST
Third wave of COVID-19 'inevitable', says top govt adviser; virus kills record 3,780 in 24 hrs

A health worker wearing a personal protective equipment (PPE) suit attends to a Covid-19 coronavirus patient inside the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital. AFP

As India grapples with the deadly second wave of COVID-19 , the Centre on Wednesday warned a third wave rise in cases was “inevitable”, given the higher levels of circulating virus, but it is not clear on what time scale this phase three will occur.

In a press briefing by the Ministry of Health Affairs on Wednesday, officials said the long COVID-19 wave of such "ferocity" that the country was experiencing currently "was not predicted".

"Phase three is inevitable given the higher levels of circulating virus, but it is not clear on what time-scale this phase three will occur. We should be prepared for new waves," Principal Scientific Adviser K VijayRaghavan cautioned on Wednesday.

VijayRaghavan said although vaccines are efficacious against new mutations like the UK one and the double mutant, surveillance and vaccine updates are needed as the virus mutates further.

The warning comes alongside the health ministry claims that Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Bihar are among the states that show an increasing trend in daily cases. The government also said that 24 states and UTs show more than a 15 percent COVID-19 positivity rate.

The ministry also said that a rise in the number of daily COVID-19 cases and mortality has been observed in Assam, West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand, indicating the pandemic is moving eastwards.

India on Wednesday recorded 3,780 deaths, the highest single-day rise of deaths, taking the death toll to 2,26,188. The COVID-19 cases rose by 3,82,315 in 24 hours (between 4 May, 8 am, to 5 May, 8 am) taking the total caseload in the country to 2,06,65,148.

Experts, however, have alleged that the actual figures could be much higher due to mass underreporting by several state health departments.

Registering a steady increase, the active cases have increased to 34,87,229 comprising 16.87 percent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate was recorded at 82.03 percent, the data updated at 8 am showed.

Faced with a  second wave of COVID-19 , India also accounted for nearly half of the coronavirus cases reported across the world last week, according to the weekly epidemiological report of the World Health Organisation. India accounted for 46 percent of global cases and 25 percent of global deaths reported in the past week, according to the report, released on Wednesday. Worldwide, 5.7 million (57 lakh) new cases were reported last week and more than 93,000 deaths, the WHO said in the report.

According to a report by The Hindu, a total of 31,03,632 new COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide in the last five days. Of these 15,12,057 (49 percent) are from India while the US has recorded 3,33,659 new cases.

Meanwhile, in view of the rising cases, the Election Commission of India decides to defer by-elections of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Khandwa (Madhya Pradesh) and Mandi (Himachal Pradesh) Parliamentary constituencies and eight Assembly constituencies in various states.

Transmission only from human to human, says Centre

Member, NITI Ayog, Dr VK Paul requested the "physicians' fraternity" to come forward and provide tele-consultations to people and families at home who are infected with the coronavirus .

"The response to the changing virus remains the same. We need to follow the COVID- appropriate behaviour such as mask, distancing, hygiene, no unnecessary meetings and staying at home," Dr Paul said.

In reply to a question, he said that the disease is not spreading through animals, but through human to human transmission.

Union Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said that the foreign aid coming from abroad is being monitored by a group of senior officials. "Our technical wing has made guidelines to see that what hospital would the equipment be suitable for. The equipment is being sent to hospitals where an immediate need has been felt," he said.

Agarwal also said that 11 districts in Maharashtra are showing a continuous decline in COVID cases since the last 14 days, while some districts like Satara and Solapur show a continued increase in such cases over the last two weeks.

He also said that the government is making continuous efforts to build the capacities of all healthcare facilities across the country.

B1.1.7 (UK variant) declining in proportion, says NCDC director

According to reports, during the press briefing on the COVID-19 situation, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) director Dr Sujeet Singh also said the B1.1.7 lineage of SARV-CoV-2  (UK variant) has been declining in proportion across the country in the last month and a half. The B1.617 lineage has been seen in Maharashtra, he said, adding that the current surge in some states in the last one-and-a-half months shows a correlation with the rise in the B1.617 lineage.

This comes in the backdrop of scientists at CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) saying that the N440K variant of coronavirus , which wreaked havoc during the first wave of the pandemic in the country, is diminishing and likely to disappear soon.

N440K COVID-19 variant now fading, say CCMB scientists

Dismissing media reports that N440K is the variant causing chaos in Visakhapatnam and other parts of Andhra Pradesh, Divya Tej Sowpati a scientist at CCMB said while N440K was indeed a mutation of concern in South India during and after the first wave, current data show it is replaced by new variants such as B1617 and B117.

"N440K is at very low levels in Visakhapatnam and Andhra Pradesh in general. It is there in less than five percent of the samples. It is incorrect to say it is causing havoc. The B1617 variant is dominating now in most parts of the country, Sowpati told PTI.

Advisor to CCMB in a tweet said, "N440K variant of SARS-CoV-2 is diminishing and likely to disappear soon."

SC stays Delhi HC's contempt notice against govt Centre oxygen supply

The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed a show-cause notice issued to the Centre seeking the personal appearance of its officials for non-compliance with the directions on supply of oxygen to treat COVID-19 patients.

The Delhi High Court had issued the order over the Centre's failure to implement an order on immediate supply of full quota of oxygen to the Capital.

The apex court ordered the Centre to place before it by 10.:30 am tomorrow morning, a "comprehensive plan" to ensure that Delhi received its quota of 700 metric tonnes of oxygen. "We do not want contempt proceedings. We want action on the ground," the court said.

Citing the success of Mumbai's civic body, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), in handling the pandemic situation in Mumbai, the apex court also asked the Centre to hold a meeting with municipal commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal to adopt measures in Delhi.

Foreign aid meant for the public, not to be kept in boxes: Delhi HC

This comes on the same day that the Delhi High Court told the Centre and Delhi government that medical supplies sent as foreign aid is meant for the benefit of COVID-19 patients and not to be kept in boxes at some institution to become "junk".

"When the government has received it as medical aid, it is meant to help the people. It is not meant to remain in boxes somewhere and become junk," a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said.

The observation came after amicus curiae and senior advocate Rajshekhar Rao expressed concerns regarding the manner of distribution of the medical equipment, received as aid, by the Centre and Delhi government.

The bench said the concern expressed by the amicus "deserves consideration" and directed the Centre to verify the position on the ground with regard to the distribution of foreign aid to various hospitals.

The court also asked the Centre to consider distributing the equipment to voluntary organisations, like Gurdwaras and NGOs, who are rendering public service.

Delhi not receiving enough vaccines: Arvind Kejriwal

Just hours after the Supreme Court and Delhi HC pulled up the government for their handling of the COVID-19 situation, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said the city is not getting enough vaccines and reiterated if doses are made available on time his government could vaccinate everyone here within three months.

Kejriwal also said Delhi has put in place infrastructure for vaccination which can be used to scale up inoculation drive massively within 24 hours.

"Supply of more vaccine is the fundamental requirement right now. If the vaccine is provided in sufficient quantity, we can achieve our target of vaccinating entire Delhi in 3 months," he said.

The Delhi government has already ordered 67 lakh doses of each of the Covishield and Covaxin vaccines. He also said the Delhi government will decide about extending the ongoing lockdown in the city depending on the number of COVID-19 cases.

Tejasvi Surya receives flak for communalising bed scam

While shortage in COVID-19 supplies continues, in Karnataka, BJP MP Tejasvi Surya, along with three MLAs, on Tuesday, alleged that hospitals in Bengaluru had 'blocked' at least 4,065 beds in fake names to make money amid the raging coronavirus pandemic.

Surya alleged that government officials in Bengaluru colluded with private nursing homes and hospitals to block the beds and reserve them for exorbitant fees.

This come when Karnataka on Wednesday reported 50,112 fresh COVID-19 cases, which pushed the state’s overall count to 17,41,046, reported The Hindu. Out of these, 23,106 cases are from Bengaluru Urban.

Bengaluru city police Commissioner Kamal Pant tweeted that the matter was handed over to the Central Crime Branch and two people have been arrested while Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa said he will not spare anyone involved.

According to reports, Surya also questioned the appointment of members of the Muslim community in the COVID-19 war room, equating the war room with a "madrasa" and "Haj Committee".

The BJP MP reportedly went to the COVID war room on Tuesday and read out the names of 16 people belonging to the Muslim community (out of the total 205 staff members) and questioned their appointment. Later on Tuesday night, Surya tweeted that the BBMP website was showing 1,504 beds available and said the 'system is reforming'.

As per a report in Frontline, two people, identified only as Rohit and Netra, were arrested for brokering BBMP COVID-19 beds by charging between Rs 25,000 and Rs 50,000 for each bed.

While Congress leader DK Shivakumar lauded the BJP leaders for exposing corruption by the government and corporation from their own party, his party colleagues lashed out at Surya for communalising the issue and selectively reading out only names of those from the minority community. Surya also received huge backlash on social media.

Thirteen die at Chennai hospital in 24 hours

As many as 13 people died at a Government Hospital in Chennai in a span of 24 hours, with their relatives alleging shortage of oxygen, a charge stoutly denied by officials on Wednesday.

The death of the 13, aged 40 to 85, in quick succession at the Chengalpattu Government Medical College Hospital was not due to the shortfall of the lifesaving medical oxygen, top officials claimed.

The overnight fatalities triggered panic among the people in the area and outrage among the relatives of the deceased who alleged that a shortage of oxygen had led to the deaths.

Chengalpattu district collector A John Louis, who reviewed the situation on Tuesday night, denied that the deaths were due to oxygen shortage.

Fresh COVID-19 curbs imposed in West Bengal

Soon after taking oath as the chief minister for the third time, Mamata Banerjee announced a slew of new restrictions to tackle the COVID-19 crisis in West Bengal.

Mamata, following a high-level meeting with top officials, said that metro rail and state transport services will be curtailed by 50 percent from Thursday, as part of the newly imposed set of restrictions, reported PTI.

"Local trains will be suspended from tomorrow. State-run transport and metro services will be reduced by 50 percent. Starting 7 May, air passengers will be allowed in Bengal only if they carry RT-PCR negative report, which is not older than 72 hours prior to boarding," Mamata said. She further underlined that people entering the state via long-distance trains and inter-state buses should also carry RT-PCR negative reports with them.

Give free vaccines, Bengal and Kerala CMs tell Modi

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his counterpart from West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to allocate greater quantities of medical oxygen and vaccines to the states as COVID-19 infections and deaths continue to mount.

In her letter, Mamata wrote: "At present, vaccine availability is too inadequate to provide to eligible beneficiaries and the Government of India direction 10 extend vaccination up to 18 years plus makes an unrealistic to achieve. So, the supply of vaccines is the core issue to address now. Ensuring adequate availability of essential drugs including Remdesivir and Tocilizumab to the states to meet their rising demand. At least, 10,000 doses of Remdesivir and 1000 vials of Tocilizumab is the daily requirement in our State."

Meanwhile, Vijayan in his letter to the prime minister requested the Centre to provide at least 1,000 tonnes of Liquid Medical Oxygen, along with 50 lakh doses of Covishield and 25 lakh doses of Covaxin – the two vaccines being used in India – to Kerala, reported PTI.

With inputs from PTI

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