Covid 2nd wave moderated momentum of economic recovery: Govt officials to Parliamentary panel

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New Delhi, Jun 28 (PTI) The momentum of economic recovery since the second half of the 2020-21 fiscal has been moderated by the second wave of COVID-19 infections, top officials of the Union government informed a parliamentary panel on Monday.

Members of the panel, chaired by Congress leader Anand Sharma, were informed that the economic impact of the second wave of viral infection was 'asynchronous in its onset and wider in its spread, particularly in rural hinterland', a source said.

Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, Additional Secretary in the Home Ministry Govind Mohan, Additional Secretary in the Finance Ministry K Raja Raman were among the officials who deposed before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs on 'Socio-economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic's second wave'.

Finance Ministry officials informed the committee that high-frequency indicators (HFIs) such as power consumption, toll collection and freight has been witnessing an uptick since the second half of May 2021, sources said.

However, sequential moderation was observed in some HFIs in May such as GST collection, UPI transactions, core industrial output, PMI manufacturing and others, the panel was also told.

The officials further stated that the 'momentum of economic recovery witnessed since the second half of 2020-21 has been moderated by the second wave of COVID-19,' sources said.

Discussing the variants of SARS-CoV-2, Health Ministry official told the committee that COVID-19 cases with variants of concern rose from 10.31 per cent of total infections in May to 51 per cent till June 20, and stressed that both Covaxin and Covishield work against these strains albeit with slightly reduced potency.

About the availability of vaccine doses, the panel was informed that 135 crore jabs will be made available in the country during the August-December period this year. The doses would be of Covishield, Covaxin, Bio E Subunit vaccine, Zydus Cadila's DNA vaccine and Sputnik V, sources said.

Sharing details about various coronavirus variants of concern, officials told the panel that it includes the Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta variants.

These variants have been traced in 174 districts of 35 states and Union Territories, with the maximum reported from Maharashtra, Delhi, Punjab, Telangana, West Bengal and Gujarat, the parliamentary panel was informed.

According to the details shared by officials with the parliamentarians, coronavirus' variants of concern led to increased transmissibility, change in virulence and effect on diagnostics, drugs and vaccines.

'Officials told parliamentarians that the proportion of COVID-19 cases with variants of concern has risen from 10.31 per cent in May to 51 per cent in June 20,' a source in the panel said.

A study by the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology on the efficacy of Covaxin and Covishield against coronavirus' variants of concerns found that 'antibody potency is slightly reduced against these strains as compared to standard strain. But the vaccine is effective in protection against severe forms of the disease,' the source added.

The panel was informed that a similar study on evaluating the efficacy of both these vaccines against the latest variant of concern -- Delta plus -- is being conducted and will be completed within the next two weeks. PTI JTR NSD

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