Nearly 15 lakh people were inoculated against COVID-19 on Friday, which is the highest in a day so far, according to Union Health Ministry, but despite the growing pace of vaccination several states and Union Territories continued to report an "upsurge" in cases, prompting the Centre to urge them to accelerate vaccination.
In a meeting held on Saturday, the government also told states to continue with the strategy of "test, track and treat" that had "yielded rich dividends" at the height of the pandemic.
The Centre has also rushed high-level multi-disciplinary public health teams to Maharashtra and Punjab, to assist state health departments in coronavirus surveillance, control and containment measures.
Maharashtra, specifically, has been reporting a sudden spike in cases since February. According to the Union Health Ministry, there are currently 90,055 active cases in Maharashtra, whereas, Punjab has 6,661 active cases. The state on Saturday crossed 22 lakh cases with the last one lakh coming in the last 13 days.
On Saturday, according to the Union health ministry, Maharashtra reported the highest daily new cases at 10,216, followed by Kerala with 2,776 cases, while Punjab reported 808 new cases. The nationwide figure of the daily rise in a span of 24 hours till 8 am Saturday stood at 18,327 while 108 deaths were reported during the same period.
Amid the rise, while Aurangabad in Maharashtra was mulling newer restrictions, Jalandhar in Punjab imposed a night curfew. Some like MP also tightened interstate movement to restrict the virus in areas bordering Maharashtra.>
The high-level team to Maharashtra will be led by senior CMO of the Union Health Ministry's disaster management cell, P Ravindran. The public health team to Punjab will be led by SK Singh, director of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
The teams will visit the hotspot areas in the states and ascertain reasons for the surge in cases, the ministry said.
The total number of vaccine doses administered in the country on Saturday rose to over 1.94 crore, PTI reported. The countrywide COVID-19 vaccination drive was rolled out on 16 January with healthcare workers (HCWs) getting inoculated first. The vaccination of frontline workers (FLWs) had started from 2 February.
Meanwhile, reports emerged of a govt official testing positive for the virus five days after having received the second dose of the vaccine, highlighting the need for those vaccinated to continue following COVID precautions till at least 45 days, which is the time required to build immunity.
Officials in Maharashtra's Aurangabad to discuss lockdown measures tomorrow
Authorities in the district of Aurangabad in Maharashtra have called a meeting on Sunday to discuss if a lockdown should be imposed in the district. The district had reported 459 cases on Friday, the highest in the Marathwada region, which is grappling with a sudden spike of infections.
District Collector Sunil Chavan was quoted as saying by PTI, "A meeting will be held on Sunday evening, in which the way ahead for lockdown will be decided. Aurangabad police commissioner, municipal commissioner, superintendent of police and other officials will be present for it. After a review of cases and overall coronavirus situation in the district, a decision about lockdown will be taken."
"Lockdown can be imposed, but ample time will be given to people to prepare themselves for it. The number of patients is growing. If cases keep growing at this speed, there will be paucity of beds in hospitals...Officials will discuss all this tomorrow," he added.
Till Friday night, there were 2,910 active cases in Aurangabad district, another official said.
Aurangabad municipal commissioner Astik Kumar Pandey said, "The administration is closely monitoring the situation. In the past, when the number of cases went up, we were able to manage well as it was a lockdown period. But now it will be a challenge."
The number of cases in other districts of the region has also gone up, Pandey said, adding that Jalna district reported 202 new cases, Beed 97, Latur 108, Nanded 128, Osmanabad 26, Hingoli 46 and Parbhani 47.
In Parbhani, the restriction on buses coming from the districts located in the Vidarbha region, political marches, agitations and curbs on places of religious worship will continue till 15 March, PTI reported.
Madhya Pradesh to make negative COVID-19 report mandatory for travellers from Maharashtra
In view of the rising coronavirus cases, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has instructed the state authorities to make it mandatory for the travellers coming from Maharashtra to carry a negative COVID-19 test report.
Chouhan issued the directives during a meeting on Friday, an official statement said.
"It will be mandatory for the travellers coming from Maharashtra to carry a negative report for coronavirus infection. The responsibility for this will be with the bus operators, who will allow passengers to board the bus only on the basis of the report," Chouhan said.
Adequate arrangements should be made for checking along with the state's border areas, he said.
Chouhan said that the number of coronavirus cases in Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Betul, Chhindwara, Ujjain and the state's districts bordering Maharashtra, has been on the rise. He also said that the situation in all the districts along the Maharashtra border should be monitored constantly.
The chief minister also indicated that there was a possibility of imposing a night curfew in Indore and Bhopal.
"The coronavirus infection in Bhopal and Indore is continuously rising. If there is no drop in the COVID-19 cases in the next three days, then night curfew will be imposed in Bhopal and Indore from 8 March," Chouhan said.
The coronavirus cases in Indore have almost doubled over the last fortnight. Hence, there is a need to pay special attention in Indore and Bhopal, the chief minister said.
Gujarat health official infected after taking 2nd dose of vaccine
A health official in Gujarat tested positive for coronavirus five days after taking the second dose of the vaccine against the infection, PTI reported. The man, a health officer in Gandhinagar's Dehgam taluka, had taken the first dose on 16 January and the second one on 15 February.
He had fever and his samples were examined, which detected the COVID-19 infection on 20 February, said Gandhinagar's chief health officer Dr MH Solanki.
"He is in home isolation as his symptoms are mild. He has told me that he is fit to join work from Monday," Solanki added.
The CHO said it generally takes around 45 days for antibodies against the infection to develop after both the doses of the vaccine are administered.
Authorities in Punjab's Jalandhar impose night curfew
The Jalandhar district administration imposed a night curfew from Saturday to tackle the recent surge in coronavirus cases. The night curfew will remain in place in the district from 11 pm to 5 am, said Deputy Commissioner Ghanshyam Thori.
He said the order will be effective from Saturday till further directions.
Jalandhar on Friday had reported a maximum of 134 fresh cases in the state. There are a total of 856 active cases in Jalandhar as of now, according to a medical bulletin.
Highest COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in 24 hours on Friday
A total of 14,92,201 people were administered the vaccine on Friday, the Union Health Ministry said.
The third phase of the COVID-19 vaccination drive commenced on 1 March, for those above 60 years of age and for people aged 45 years and above with specified co-morbid conditions.
As of 5 March (Day 49 of the vaccination drive), a total of 14,92,201 COVID-19 vaccine doses were given. Out of which, 11,99,848 beneficiaries were vaccinated across 18,333 sessions for the first dose (HCWs and FLWs), and 2,92,353 HCWs and FLWs received the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine, the health ministry said.
These beneficiaries (11,99,848) include 1,10,857 individuals, aged between 45-60 years, having specified comorbidities, and 7,61,355 people aged above 60 years.
More than 1.94 crore (1,94,97,704) vaccine doses have been administered through 3,57,478 sessions, as per the provisional report till Saturday 7 am.
These include 69,15,661 HCWs (first dose), 33,56,830 HCWs (second dose), 63,55,989 FLWs (first dose) and 1,44,191 FLWs (second dose), 3,46,758 beneficiaries aged more than 45 years with specific co-morbidities (first dose) and 23,78,275 beneficiaries aged more than 60 years, it said.
COVID-19 caseload details
India's total COVID-19 active cases have reached 1,80,304, comprising 1.61 percent of the country's total number of infections. On the other hand, 21 states and Union territories (UTs) have less than 1,000 active cases, the ministry said.
Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu reported a high number of COVID-19 daily new cases on Friday, cumulatively accounting for 82 percent of the new cases reported in a span of 24 hours.
A total of 18,327 new cases were registered in a span of 24 hours, it said.
Maharashtra has reported the highest daily new cases at 10,216, followed by Kerala with 2,776 cases, while Punjab reported 808 new cases.
Eight states are displaying an upward trajectory in daily new coronavirus cases, the ministry highlighted.
Speaking about the figures of active cases in states/UTs in 24 hours, the ministry said that Kerala, Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu have shown a reduction in the active cases in a span of 24 hours.
On the other hand, Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Haryana have displayed a rise in the active cases during the same time period, it noted.
Besides, 108 deaths due to the disease were reported in a day, it said.
Six states account for 85.2 percent of the new deaths. Maharashtra saw the maximum casualties (53). Kerala follows with 16 daily deaths and Punjab reported 11 deaths in a span of 24 hours.
Eighteen states/UTs have not reported any COVID-19 deaths in a span of 24 hours. These are Gujarat, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Uttarakhand, Lakshadweep, Puducherry, Assam, Sikkim, Manipur, Ladakh, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Nagaland, Mizoram, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.