The Maharashtra government on Wednesday instructed all district collectors and municipal commissioners to increase testing after the state witnessed a significant rise in coronavirus cases with more than 8,000 new infections coming to light in a single day after a gap of over four months.
The state reported 8,807 cases on Wednesday, taking its total infection count to 21,21,119. It had reported 8,142 cases on 21 October, after which the numbers had declined. With 80 deaths reported on Wednesday, the state's fatality count rose to 51,937, the government said.
Meanwhile, the West Bengal government has made it mandatory for passengers flying in from Maharashtra, Telangana, Kerala and Karnataka to produce a negative COVID-19 report.
This, after the Delhi government earlier on Wednesday made the same mandatory for passengers flying in from Maharashtra, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Chhattisgarh in view of the sudden spike in cases in these states.
Earlier today, announcing the next phase of India's vaccination drive, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said that people above the age of 60 and those above 45 years with co-morbidities will be vaccinated from 1 March at 10,000 government and over 20,000 private vaccination centres. The vaccine will be given free of cost at government centres, he said.
Serum Institute of India (SII) said it has initiated supplies of COVID-19 vaccine Covishield to COVAX, the global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to the vaccine for all countries.
SII will continue to be at the forefront of fighting the pandemic with affordable and immunogenic vaccines, he added.
Meanwhile, the price of COVID-19 vaccines that will be made available to senior citizens and those with comorbidities will be fixed in a manner that ensures that neither the vaccines are misused nor does it burden private players, said AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria.
"Charges (of the Covid-19 vaccine) would be to just cover overhead expenses which private sectors would need. Some of which may include the cost of syringes and human resource like it was done for testing where charges were fixed to ensure that those aren't misused and private sector also doesn't suffer loss," Dr Guleria was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
India on Wednesday dispatched the first batch of six lakh coronavirus vaccine doses to the African country of Ghana under the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) in collaboration with the UNICEF, which aims to cover 92 countries under the initiative
India reported 13,742 new COVID-19 cases and 104 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to data released by the Union Health Ministry. With this, the country's total caseload has risen to 1,10,30,176, while the death toll has surged to 1,56,567. The total number of active cases is now at 1,46,907, while the number of people who have recuperated from the disease is now over 1,07,26,702, the ministry said.
8,000 new COVID-19 cases recorded in Maharashtra
Of the 80 deaths, 27 were reported during the past 48 hours in Maharashtra, while 22 were from the last week. The remaining 31 deaths were from the period before the last week.
Since February 10, the graph of new cases began to climb again. The state had recorded 6,112 infections on February 19, 6,281 on February 20 and 6,971 on February 21. On22 and 23 February, the state had reported 5,210 and 6,218 cases.
The Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) recorded the highest 2,018 new cases among divisional circles in the state on Wednesday.
Nashik, Pune, Akola and Nagpur divisional circles reported over 1,000 new cases each during the day.
Mumbai city continued to report the highest single-day cases in the state with a spike of 1,167 on Wednesday. Nagpur district (barring Nagpur city) and Amravati city in Vidarbha saw a daily jump of 818 and 627 cases. Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad cities in Western Maharashtra reported a rise of 755 and 408 cases respectively.
Seven adverse events related to COVID-19 vaccine reported, says ministry
The cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to healthcare and frontline workers has crossed 1.23 crore in the country, the health ministry said on Wednesday.
A total of 1,23,66,633 vaccine doses have been administered through 2,63,224 sessions till 6 pm on Wednesday, according to a provisional report.
These include 65,24,726 healthcare workers (HCWs) who have taken the first dose, 14,81,754 HCWs who have taken the second dose and 43,60,153 frontline workers (FLWs) who have taken the first dose.
While the countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on 16 January, the inoculation of FLWs started on 2 February.
"Total 2,01,035 vaccine doses were given till 6 pm on Wednesday, the 40th day of nationwide COVID-19 vaccination.
"Out of which, 1,17,681 beneficiaries were vaccinated for 1st dose and 83,354 HCWs received 2nd dose of vaccine as per the provisional report," the ministry said, adding that the final report for the day would be compiled by late night.
It said 8,868 sessions were held till 6 pm on Wednesday.
Seven adverse events following immunisation (AEFIs) related to the first dose of the vaccine and three cases of AEFI related to the second dose were reported till 6 pm on the 40th day of the vaccination drive, the ministry said.
Negative COVID-19 reports made mandatory
Amid a spike in coronavirus infections in Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka and Telangana, the West Bengal government on Wednesday made it mandatory for passengers travelling in flights from these states to produce negative COVID-19 reports.
According to a notification issued by the health department, passengers should undergo RT-PCR tests within 72 hours of the flight departure.
"In view of the increasing trend of COVID cases in the states of Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka and Telangana and in continuation of earlier order issued last August, this is to inform you that the state government has decided that from February 27, all passengers coming to the state from the four states shall mandatorily carry a COVID negative RT-PCR report," it said.
Necessary instructions to all the airlines would be issued in this connection, it added.
Travellers from five states, including Maharashtra, Kerala and Punjab, will have to show negative COVID-19 test report before entering the National Capital, Delhi officials said on Wednesday amid a spike in coronavirus infections in some states.
They said an official order will be issued later in the day and it will be effective till 15 March. The issue had also been discussed in a meeting of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) on Monday.
The requirement of the negative COVID-19 test report is likely to be implemented from 27 February, officials said.
Centre announces 2nd phase of vaccination drive
The Centre on Wednesday announced that people over 60 years and those above 45 with comorbidities can get COVID-19 vaccine from 1 March even as it cautioned states and union territories that any laxity in implementing stringent curbs, especially in view of new virus strain observed in certain countries, could "compound the situation".
As new coronavirus cases crossed the 13,000 marks for the third time in six days on Wednesday, the Centre rushed multi-disciplinary teams to nine states and the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir most of whom are witnessing a surge to support them in effectively tackling the pandemic.
The nine states are Maharashtra, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. COVID-19 cases rose sharply in Maharashtra with the state reporting 8,807 new infections, taking its total count to 21,21,119, the state health department said. The western state had reported 6,218 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday.
A decision on the next phase of COVID-19 vaccination was taken at a meeting of the Union Cabinet under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The vaccine will be offered free at government facilities and for a charge at many private hospitals, it was stated.
Dharavi reports double-digit COVID-19 case count after 37 days
After a gap of more than a month, Mumbai's slum colony of Dharavi reported a double-digit count of COVID-19 cases at 10 on Wednesday, the city civic body said.
A senior Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) official said the slum-dominated area, spread over 2.5 sq km, recorded 10 new cases in the last 24 hours, taking the tally to 4,041.
Mumbai recorded 1,167 new COVID-19 cases, the highest daily spike in about four months, on Wednesday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said. The tally of cases in the country's financial capital thus rose to 3,21,698, while the toll reached 11,453 with four new fatalities.
On 17 January, ten new COVID-19 cases were found in Dharavi and since then daily infection counts have been in single digits and even zero.
In the first week of February, single-day COVID-19 cases in Dharavi were in the range of 0 to five.
On 2 February, the congested slum pocket, once a COVID-19 hotspot, did not report any new case. However, from the second week of this month, cases are gradually rising.
No death due to COVID-19 in 19 states, UTs in a day: Health Ministry
Nineteen states and union territories have not reported any death due to COVID-19 in a span of 24 hours, while India's active cases stood at 1,46,907 accounting for 1.33 per cent of the total number of infections, the Union Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
A total of 13,742 new cases have been reported in a span of 24 hours, whereas 14,037 recoveries were registered during the same period. It has led to a net decline of 399 cases in the total active caseload, the ministry said.
Maharashtra reported maximum positive changes with an addition of 298 cases whereas Kerala has recorded maximum negative change with a subtraction of 803 cases, the ministry stated.
In the past week, 12 states have reported more than 100 average daily new cases. These are Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Punjab, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Telangana, Delhi and Haryana.
Kerala and Maharashtra reported more than 4,000 average daily new cases in the past week, the ministry said.
Nineteen states and UTs which have not reported any COVID-19 death in a span of 24 hours are Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chandigarh, Assam, Lakshadweep, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Sikkim, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, and Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
'Johnson & Johnson's single-shot vaccine highly effective'
The single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine is highly effective in preventing severe COVID-19 , including the South African and Brazil variants, new documents released by the US Food and Drug Administration showed Wednesday.
In large clinical trials, the vaccine efficacy against the severe disease was 85.9 percent in the United States, 81.7 percent in South Africa, and 87.6 percent in Brazil.
An independent panel of the Food and Drug Administration will meet to discuss its merits on Friday and an emergency use authorisation is likely to follow soon after.
That would bring the third vaccine into the fight against the outbreak in the United States, the world's hardest-hit country where more than 500,000 people have lost their lives.
Experts see the J&J vaccine as a vital tool, even though its efficacy against moderate COVID-19 is lower than that demonstrated by the Pfizer and Moderna shots that have already received authorisation.
With inputs from PTI