As COVID-19 figures on Friday seemed to indicate an improvement in the situation nationwide, the Centre asked states to constitute committees for the coordination of vaccination drives while ensuring minimal disruptions in other routine healthcare services.
Stating that COVID-19 vaccination drive will span over a year with multiple groups being included "sequentially", the Union health ministry sought the forming of committees at state and district levels. These committees will review availability of cold chain facilities and the operational planning and strategies for state-specific challenges, which include geographical terrain and hard-to-reach areas, the ministry added.
Meanwhile, the ministry said that the number of active COVID-19 cases in the country had dropped below six lakh for the first time in nearly three months. Calling it a "significant milestone", the ministry said that active cases now comprise only 7.35 percent of the total cases.
There are 5,94,386 active cases of coronavirus in the country as on date. The active caseload was in the same bracket last on 6 August.
"Presently the active cases comprise only 7.35 percent of the total positive cases of the country. This has strengthened its trend of steady decline," the ministry said.
However, the country's total tally of cases rose on Friday to 80,88,851 with 48,648 new infections being reported in a day. The toll also rose to 1,21,090 with 563 new casualties due to the virus.
On the other hand, the national recovery rate rose to 91.15 percent with a total of 73,73,375 patients having recuperated so far.
As states continue efforts to curb the spread of the virus, the Maharashtra government on Friday appealed to the Union Railways ministry to cooperate on the state government's plan to grant permission to Mumbai citizens for using the local trains, after a gap of over seven months.
"The Railway administration should cooperate with the Maharashtra government without bringing any politics into it," state home minister Anil Deshmukh was quoted as saying by PTI. He added that the government has suggested certain time slots where general commuters can board the trains.
The Maharashtra government had on Wednesday proposed to the Railways that the general public be allowed to travel on Mumbai local trains, which are currently available only for essential services employees and a select group of people. The Railway authorities appeared lukewarm to the proposal and on Thursday said only a little over 25 percent of the normal number of commuters can be carried while following social distancing.
Centre tells states to set up 3 committees for vaccine distribution preparation
In a letter to states and Union Territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan suggested setting up of a state steering committee (SSC) chaired by the chief secretary, a state task force (STF) led by additional chief secretary or principal secretary (health), and a district task force (DTF) to be headed by the district magistrate.
An annexure attached with the letter outlines the terms of references for the committees according to which the SSC will ensure active involvement of all departments concerned, and devise innovative strategies for improving community engagement for improved coverage of COVID-19 vaccine once it is available.
The Centre also advised state governments to "ensure early tracking of social media and other platforms for possible misinformation and rumours around COVID-19 vaccine that could impact the community acceptance for the vaccine".
The SSC will also have to institute a reward/recognition mechanism for achievement of best performing district/block/urban ward, etc.
"The COVID-19 vaccine introduction will span over a year with multiple groups being included sequentially starting from HCWs. Therefore, it is important to create strong advisory and coordination mechanism at state and district level to guide the process of COVID-19 vaccine introduction while ensuring minimal disruption of other routine health care services including immunisation," the letter issued on 26 October stated.
The activities to be conducted by the STF include providing guidance, including funding and operational guidelines, fixing timelines for districts to plan and implement COVID-19 vaccine introduction whenever a vaccine is made available and identifying vaccinators across government and private sectors so as to minimise disruption of routine immunisation services.
Public buses in Delhi to run with full seating capacity
Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal has approved the Delhi government's proposal to allow buses to run with full seating capacity even as COVID-19 cases are witnessing a surge in the city. The buses are currently running with 20 passengers.
Baijal, who is the chairman of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), has also approved resuming inter-state bus services and the process to plan a standard operating procedure for it is on and the service is likely to restart from next week, PTI reported.
The issue of raising the number of passengers in DTC and Cluster buses was raised in a DDMA meeting on 23 October. Transport minister Kailash Gahlot had sought permission for full seating without any passenger standing on buses.
The number of DTC and Cluster buses seat up to 40-45 passengers. Bus stops in the city witnessed long queues as a result of reduced capacity of passengers allowed in the buses.
Bengal to employ 17,000 doctors to monitor patients in home isolation
The West Bengal government will employ over 17,000 doctors to monitor the treatment of coronavirus patients in home isolation following reports that some patients are ignoring early signs of complications and opting for medical advice only after their health condition worsened, an official said on Friday.
At present there at least 97,613 COVID-19 patients in home isolation in the state, PTI reported. They are now being monitored by tele-callers employed by the state health department.
"So we have decided to employ more doctors to help patients in home isolation free of cost," an official was quoted as saying by the report.
The decision was taken at a virtual meeting between the state health department, civic administrators and representatives of health departments of Kolkata, Howrah, Hooghly, North and South 24 Parganas districts and the Indian Medical Association (IMA) there.
The IMA will start training local doctors from Saturday. The local civic bodies will prepare a list and assign each doctor one patient or a family in home isolation and continue monitoring them closely, the official said.
The doctors will be in constant touch with patients to monitor their parameters. In case of any deterioration they will bring it to the notice of the local civic body and the health department, he added.
Another official said, "There is a fear psychosis in the minds of the patients in home quarantine and their family members about going to the hospital. They are not informing the health department until things get out of their control. It has been found that people who were taken to the hospital after their conditions deteriorated could not be saved. So, we have to raise the awareness level of the patients in home isolation."
Joe Biden says Donald Trump's election rallies are 'super-spreaders'
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden claimed that the election rallies organised by Donald Trump's are "super-spreader events".
The raging coronavirus outbreak has become a key issue in the 3 November presidential election between 74-year-old Trump, a Republican, and 77-year-old Biden, a former US vice president. The US has so far recorded 8,945,891 COVID-19 cases and 228,668 deaths " both the numbers highest in the world.
"Donald Trump just had a super-spreader event here again. They are spending more than just coronavirus; he is spreading division and discord," Biden, 77, said at a drive-in election rally in Tampa, hours after the president and First Lady Melania Trump addressed a huge crowd in the Florida city. Florida is a battleground state.
Thousands of people, many of them without masks, crowded together at an outdoor event in Tampa on Thursday to hear Trump at the rally.
"Donald Trump has given up (fight against coronavirus)," Biden alleged. "Over the weekend, the White House Chief of Staff said, and I am quoting, 'we are not going to control the pandemic'. It's obvious he's not," Biden added, referring to a recent interview of White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
The 563 new fatalities include 156 from Maharashtra, 61 from West Bengal, 53 from Chhattisgarh, 45 from Karnataka, 35 from Tamil Nadu, 27 from Delhi and 26 from Kerala.
A total of 1,21,090 deaths reported so far in the country including 43,710 from Maharashtra, followed by 11,091 from Karnataka, 11,053 from Tamil Nadu, 6,983 from Uttar Pradesh, 6,725 from West Bengal, 6,659 from Andhra Pradesh, 6,423 from Delhi, 4,168 from Punjab and 3,705 from Gujarat.
India's COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20 lakh mark on 7 August, 30 lakh on 23 August and 40 lakh on 5 September. It went past 50 lakh on 16 September, 60 lakh on 28 September, 70 lakh on 11 October and crossed 80 lakh on 29 October.
According to the ICMR, a cumulative total of 10,77,28,088 samples have been tested up to 29 October with 11,64,648 samples being tested on Thursday.
With inputs from agencies