COVID-19 spreading at fast pace, next 4 weeks 'very very critical': Centre; night curfew in Delhi

·6-min read

New Delhi, Apr 6 (PTI) The Centre on Tuesday said COVID-19 is spreading faster in the country than during the last year and cautioned that the next four weeks are 'very very critical' as it sought people's participation to control the second wave of the pandemic.

Delhi also joined growing number of states to impose night curfew in view of the surge in coronavirus infections as the national capital recorded 5,100 fresh cases on Tuesday, the highest this year. The curfew from 10 pm to 5 am will be in force with immediate effect till April 30.

Two top Central officials sounded a note of caution at a news conference amid indications on Tuesday night that the country may have recorded a single-day rise of over one lakh new cases for the second time and surpassed the previous high. India on Sunday registered an all-time high of 1,03,558 cases in a span of 24 hours.

A total of 96,982 cases have been reported in a span of 24 hours, while the death toll increased to 1,65,547 with 446 daily new fatalities, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated at 8 am.

The Centre, meanwhile, responded to growing demands that the age limit for COVID-19 vaccination be relaxed in view of the spike in cases, saying the aim is to protect those who are most vulnerable, and not to 'administer the vaccine to those who want it but to those who need it'.

NITI Aayog Member (Health) Dr V K Paul said the pandemic situation in the country has worsened with a sharp rise in cases, and a large part of the population is still susceptible to the virus.

'The intensity of the pandemic has increased and it is spreading faster than last time. In some states, it (the condition) is worse than others but the upswing (in cases) can be observed across the country,' he said.

'People's participation is vital to control the second wave. The next four weeks are going to very critical. The entire country has to come together and make efforts to fight the pandemic.' The tools to fight the pandemic remain the same. COVID-appropriate behaviour, containment measures, testing have to be implemented more efficiently, medical infrastructure has to be ramped up and vaccination drive intensified, he underlined.

COVID-appropriate behaviour like wearing masks, staying away from crowds have to be followed in a campaign mode, Paul reminded people.

He said the number of coronavirus cases is increasing and along with that mortality is also on the rise.

'Still, in terms of the population size and in terms of deaths per million we are doing well and the pandemic is in control.' The Centre has been repeatedly stating that reduced testing, tracking and tracing as well as non-adherence to COVID appropriate behaviour and large congregations have been the major reasons behind the spike in cases.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in an advisory urged private TV channels to disseminate messages for COVID-appropriate behaviour and vaccination of the eligible age group to create greater awareness among people.

Detailing the COVID-19 situation in India, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said Chhattisgarh's Durg is among top 10 districts with high active COVID cases while seven are in Maharashtra, one in Karnataka. Delhi, counted as one district, is also in the list, he said.

The 10 districts with the highest number of new cases are Pune, Mumbai, Thane, Nagpur, Nashik, Bengaluru Urban, Aurangabad, Ahmednagar, Delhi and Durg, he added.

Bhushan further said that Maharashtra, Punjab and Chhattisgarh still remain the states of 'maximum concern'.

Maharashtra because of its share in total number of cases as well as in total deaths, and Punjab and Chhattisgarh because of their share in the number of deaths. Maharashtra on Tuesday recorded 55,469 new cases, a state health official said in Mumbai.

Given their population, the death numbers being reported by Punjab and Chhatisgarh are a cause of extreme concern, he said.

Bhushan said India's COVID-19 cases per million in India are still among the lowest. India has 9,192 cases per million while countries like the US has 91,757, France 71,718, and the UK 64,216.

'Even in deaths per million we remain one among the lowest in the world. India has 120 deaths per million while deaths per million of the world is 365,' he said.

The Union Health Ministry said more than 43 lakh COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered in a span of 24 hours on April 5, the highest single-day coverage till now, taking the total doses given in the country so far to 8,31,10,926.

'This is the highest single day vaccination coverage in the country so far,' the ministry said.

'Our situation in this context is pretty good. If we look that which country ramped up at what pace, we will see that India has done the fastest ramp up,' Bhushan said.

Bhushan said that even Western countries have conducted the vaccination drive in phases.

'The basic aim is to reduce death through vaccination. The other aim is to protect your healthcare system. If healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, paramedics and others fall sick, who will work in hospitals? So the aim, for any country, is to protect those who are the most vulnerable. The aim is never to administer the vaccine to those who want it but to those who need it,' Bhushan said.

Paul said the narrative has to be seen in a scientific way.

So far, nobody doing vaccine research has shown that if given on this scale, it leads to herd immunity, he said, adding that it is not yet scientifically proven.

He said that priority groups have been decided on the basis of who are vulnerable to mortality.

'Because history will only remember how many deaths have taken place. Globally, vaccine is finite,' Dr Paul underlined.

The Indian Medical Association(IMA) has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggesting that vaccination be allowed for all people above the age of 18 years.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Maharashtra counterpart Uddhav Thackeray on Monday also requested Modi to relax the age limit for the vaccination. Karnataka, Punjab and Rajasthan had also made similar suggestions in the recent weeks.

The Gujarat High Court said the COVID-19 situation in the state was getting 'out of control', and suggested a curfew or lockdown could be imposed for three to four days to break the infection chain. Over 3,000 cases were recorded in Gujarat on Monday.PTI PLB UZM ASK AMP GJS PJT PD GSN GSN GSN