States push for plasma therapy for critical COVID-19 patients; Schools, cinemas, Metro rail will continue to remain shut

New Delhi, Jun 29 (PTI) Maharashtra, Delhi and Haryana are among the states making a big push for use of convalescent plasma therapy for treatment of critical coronavirus patients as new COVID-19 cases in the country on Monday rose by over 15,000 for the sixth consecutive day.

The Centre also issued guidelines for the month-long 'Unlock 2' from Wednesday -- the 'phased re-opening' of activities that had been barred to contain its spread -- and said educational institutions, Metro rail services, cinema halls and gyms will continue to remain shut. 'Unlock 1', a graded exit from the national lockdown imposed on March 25, is due to end on Tuesday.

Political, academic, cultural, religious, sporting events and other large congregations continue to be prohibited in 'Unlock 2' phase, the Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) said, adding that lockdown will remain in force in COVID-19 containment zones till July 31.

Domestic and international (under the Vande Bharat mission) flights and passenger trains, already operational in a limited manner, will be further expanded in a calibrated manner, it said.

Hours before the guidelines were issued by the MHA on Monday night, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu extended the lockdown till July 31 without any more relaxations, joining West Bengal and Manipur. Nagaland also extended the lockdown with existing curbs but like in Manipur it will be in force only till July 15.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray launched a convalescent plasma therapy-cum-trial project with a state medical education department official calling it the 'largest' initiative of its kind in the world.

In the national capital, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced setting up of a 'plasma bank' while Haryana Health Minister Anil Vij said the state will soon start convalescent plasma therapy in all its medical colleges.

Plasma therapy involves taking antibodies from the blood of a person who has recovered from COVID-19 and transfusing those into a coronavirus patient to help kickstart the immune system to fight the infection.

According to the ICMR’s 'Clinical Management Protocols for COVID-19', convalescent plasma therapy, also called passive antibody therapy, may be considered for patients with moderate illness with no improvement in condition despite the use of steroids. The recipient is to be closely monitored for several hours after transfusion for any adverse events and its use should be avoided in patients with immunoglobulin A deficiency or immunoglobulin allergy.

A single-day spike of 19,459 COVID-19 cases took India's tally to 5,48,318 on Monday, while the death toll climbed to 16,475 with 380 new fatalities, according to the Union Health Ministry data.

The country has seen a surge of 3,57,783 infections from June 1 till date.

The global COVID-19 count stood at 10,154,984 while the death toll was 502,048, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. India is in the fourth position in terms of confirmed cases and in the eighth spot in the overall death tally.

The number of active cases in India stands at 2,10,120, while 3,21,722 people have recovered, and one patient has migrated, the Health Ministry data showed.

The gap between recoveries and active cases is 1,11,602 as of Monday, with the recovery rate now at 58.67 per cent, the ministry said, adding that a total of 12,010 COVID-19 patients have recovered since Sunday.

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), a total of 83,98,362 samples have been tested up to June 28, with 1,70,560 samples tested on Sunday.

Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Delhi are the three worst-hit states by the pandemic. With 3,949 new cases, Tamil Nadu returned to the second position after Maharashtra for a total of 86,224. Delhi, which was in the second spot for the past few days, came back to the third slot tallying 85,161, according to data from the states.

Coronavirus cases in Maharashtra rose by over 5,000 for the fourth consecutive day to take the total to 1,69,833. With 13,829 cases, Haryana is in the 9th spot in the overall tally.

A Maharashtra government official said all critical patients will receive two doses of 200 ml convalescent plasma free of cost.

'The project, titled 'Platina', is the largest convalescent plasma therapy-cum-trial project in the world. With it, we intend to save lives of some 500 critical COVID-19 patients. The trial will be held in 17 medical colleges under the department of medical education and drugs, and four BMC-run colleges in Mumbai,' he added.

Addressing an online media briefing, Chief Minister Kejriwal said the planned plasma bank will start working in the next two days, adding the AAP government will encourage those who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate their plasma.

He said the AAP government has so far conducted clinical trial of plasma therapy on 29 COVID-19 patients and the result was 'encouraging'.

“Haryana to start Plasma Therapy for treatment of Covid-19 patients in all its medical colleges after approval from ICMR,” said state Health Minister Anil Vij in a tweet.

AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria recently said the number of people infected is not important as long as the mortality is low. “Our aim is to work towards keeping a low mortality.” As states ramp up testing, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath directed officers to increase COVID-19 testing facilities in the state and operate available TrueNat machines at full capacity.

Use of TrueNat machines should be promoted in private hospitals, he said addressing an unlock review meeting with senior officers and ministers.

'The testing capacity for COVID-19 should be increased. Available TrueNat and rapid antigen machines should be operated at full capacity for doing maximum tests in the state,' an official release said quoting the chief minister.

As part of its efforts to ramp up the testing capacity, the ICMR had approved the use of TrueNat, a diagnostic machine for tuberculosis, for conducting coronavirus tests.

Himachal Pradesh's tribal district of Lahaul and Spiti, meanwhile, reported its first COVID-19 case on Monday after a 25-year-old labourer from Bihar tested positive, officials said.

The sample of the labourer, who is working with the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), was taken at the Keylong regional hospital, they said.

With this, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Himachal Pradesh has risen to 918.

Besides Maharashtra, several states continued to record a big jump.

The COVID-19 tally in Andhra Pradesh spiralled to 13,891 as 783 fresh cases were added while 11 more deaths took the toll to 180.

Telangana has also recorded big surge in cases which has crossed the 14,000 mark.PTI ND VT ASK BUN SUN VSD ACB NES SKL DJI ABN NBS DBV VGN PM GSN GSN GSN