Coronavirus live updates | Dr. Reddy’s, RDIF commence clinical trials for Sputnik V vaccine in India

A Health worker of the Kozhikode Corporation being helped in wearing the PPE kit at the electric crematorium in the city before the cremation of a COVID-19 patient on Monday.   | Photo Credit: K. Ragesh

Cautioning that shop-owners, employees and visitors living in containment zones shall not be allowed entry into marketplaces the Union Health Ministry, on Monday, released its SOP on “preventive measures in markets to contain spread of COVID-19”.

These include levying of fines/penalties on defaulters for not wearing mask/face cover, or for not following physical distancing norms, exploring option of allowing markets/shops to open on alternate days and possible incentive/ discounts for those who shop during non-peak hours.

You can track coronavirus cases, deaths and testing rates at the national and State levels here. A list of State Helpline numbers is available as well.

Here are the updates:

New Delhi

Health Ministry asks states to form expert groups to determine COVID-19 test rates

The Union Health Ministry on Tuesday said it had issued written directions to States and Union Territories to form expert groups to study the market and determine the rates of COVID-19 tests.

In response to a question posed at a press briefing, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said deciding the rates of the tests does not come under the purview if the Centre and is a State matter.

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New Delhi

Consistent efforts have seen a declining trend in COVID-19 infections: Delhi government to Supreme Court

The Delhi government told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that its “consistent efforts” have seen a “declining trend” in the spread of COVID-19 infections since last week. It said the Capital was facing its third surge in cases, which started in November.

The 170-page affidavit belies an equally voluminous affidavit filed by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) last week which squarely blamed the Arvind Kejriwal government for the “massive increase” in the infections and resultant strain on medical infrastructure. The Centre had named Delhi as one of the 10 States which contribute to almost 77% of the active caseload. This had prompted the remark from the court that States should rise above politics during the pandemic.

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— Krishnadas Rajagopal


Dr. Reddy’s, RDIF commence clinical trials for Sputnik V vaccine in India

Dr.Reddys Laboratories Ltd. and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) on Tuesday announced commencement of adaptive phase 2/3 clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V in India after receiving necessary clearance from the Central Drugs Laboratory, Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh.

The Indian drug maker, in a release, said this will be a multicenter and randomized controlled study, which will include safety and immunogenicity study.

The clinical trials are being conducted by JSS Medical Research as the clinical research partner.



Gujarat BJP MP Abhay Bharadwaj dies during COVID-19 treatment

BJP MP from Gujarat Abhay Bharadwaj died on Tuesday while undergoing treatment for COVID-19 at a Chennai hospital, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said.

Bharadwaj (66) was a prominent lawyer and was elected to Rajya Sabha in June this year. He had tested coronavirus positive in August, after attending party meetings and a roadshow in Rajkot.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed condolences over the MP’s demise. “Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat, Shri Abhay Bharadwaj Ji was a distinguished lawyer and remained at the forefront of serving society. It is sad we have lost a bright and insightful mind, passionate about national development. Condolences to his family and friends. Om Shanti,” Modi tweeted.

Gujarat’s former State Congress chief Arjun Modhwadia also expressed anguish over the death of Bharadwaj.

“Condolences to grieving family of recently elected RS MP from Gujarat Shri Abhay Bharadwaj ji @BharadwajAbhay It is indeed unfortunate for people of Gujarat to have lost another voice and representation in the Rajya Sabha. May the departed soul find peace in Almighty’s Heaven,” he tweeted.



'Health Ministry preparing guideline on vaccine, to be shared with States'

"There is a section of population which may feel that they do not require a vaccine. One of the aims of the information dissemination exercise would involve the effect and the benefits of vaccination. A detailed guideline is being prepared by the Union Health Ministry which will be shared with the States. One of the chapters deals with communication about vaccine safety, etc.," the Health Secretary said.

"If we are able to vaccinate a critical mass of people and break virus transmission, then we may not have to vaccinate the entire population. The role of masks is also vitally important and that will continue even after the vaccination," ICMR DG Mr. Bhargava added.

- Devesh K. Pandey


Usual vaccine timeline of 8-10 years compressed into 16-18 months to tackle pandemic: Health Secretary

The Health Secretary, on a query pertaining to reaction and cross-reaction between vaccine manufacturers and many participants, said: "Usually, it takes eight to 10 years in developing a vaccine...given the size and impact of the Covid pandemic, we are trying to crash that timeline of 8 to 10 years, or at best four years, into 16-18 months.

"Not only one, but multiple vaccine players in and outside the country are about to bring about their vaccine within the compressed timeline. Therefore, in this context, then there is a potentiality that commercial interests would dictate certain strategic actions on the part of commercial entities, the governments of the day have nothing to do with it.

"However, the government's responsibility is that we must educate people about safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. This is also the responsibility of the media, of NGOs, of vaccine manufacturers, they must come together to counter misinformation."

- Devesh K. Pandey


Started exporting RT-PCR, RNA kits: ICMR

The Health Secretary said the decision on the rate of COVID-19 tests does not come under the mandate of Central government, but under the State governments.

"However, the Centre gives recommendations to the State/UT governments from time to time on deciding the rate of tests in a rational and transparent manner. Last week, Union Health Ministry wrote to all States to set up an expert group to study market and determine the testing rates. The States have adopted different ways to fix the rates."

"With the increase in production of kits by indigenous manufacturers, the price has come down dramatically to ₹75 for RT-PCR kits, ₹37 for RNA kits....we have now started exporting the kits. The demand is much less than the supply, so the price has come down," said ICMR DG Mr. Bhargava.

- Devesh K. Pandey


Initial causal findings did not necessitate stoppage of Serum Institute vaccine trials: ICMR

ICMR DG Balram Bhargava said, "it is important to remember that adverse events do occur with drugs, vaccines or any other health intervention. In case it warrants hospitalisation, it is called serious adverse events. As mentioned, it is the role of the regulator after collating all the data to ascertain or refute whether there is a causal link between the  event and the intervention.

"The initial causal findings did not necessitate stoppage of these trials," he added.

"The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration is contemplating whether to vaccinate those who have developed anti-bodies," said the Health Secretary.

Mr. Bhargava added that the WHO has stated that there was no need to measure anti-bodies for vaccination.

- Devesh K. Pandey


'Adverse events related to Serum Institute trials will not affect vaccine roll-out timeline'

On adverse events related to Serum Institute's trial, the Health Secretary said it will not affect the timeline of vaccine roll-out.

"There is a court case and therefore, we would not want to comment on the specifics of the case which is being considered by the court. However, we believe that most of the discourse on adverse events in the media suffer from adequate information and fact. Whenever a clinical trial starts, the subjects are expected a sign a prior informed consent form, it is a global practice. It is a form that tells the subject that these are possible adverse events that may happen in case you decide to participate in a clinical trial...without the signature of the subject, a subject cannot participate in a clinical trial.

"The second important fact is that these trials are multi-site, multi-centric, vaccinations happen under medical care and monitoring. At every site, there are institutional ethics committee independent of government and vaccine manufacturer.

"Information about adverse events has to be reported to the drug controller within 30 days. Then there is data safety and monitoring board, which is a global practice and is followed in all clinical trials. It is independent of government and vaccine manufacturer, consists of domain knowledge experts, their mandate is to monitor trials and keep a watch and report on any adverse event," Mr. Bhushan said.

- Devesh K. Pandey


Maharashtra, Karnataka, A.P., Bengal showing decline in daily new COVID-19 cases: Health Secretary

COVID-19 positivity rate has reduced from 7.15% on November 11 to 6.69% on December 1, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said. There is a continuous decline in daily new cases, he added.

"Top States showing decline (month-on-month from November to December): Maharashtra (from 1,24,142 to 91,623); Karnataka (from 55,036 to 23,298); Andhra Pradesh (from 24,575 to 7,840) and West Bengal (36,886 to 24,298).

"Top five States showing a rise: Punjab (4,257 to 7,842), Himachal Pradesh (2,880 to 8,289); Haryana (12,191 to 18,362) and Rajasthan (15,102 to 28, 653)," Mr. Bhushan informed.

- Devesh K. Pandey


COVID-19 cases per million population in India lowest in the world: Health Secretary

In November, on average, 10,55,386 daily tests were conducted, said Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan. He said there were 43,152 average daily new cases; 47,159 average daily recoveries, and reduction in active cases was by over 1.23 lakh in the month.

"Over 14.13 crore tests have been conducted so far. Cumulative positivity rate is 6.69%; average daily positivity rate during last week was 3.72%.

"The cases per million population is the lowest in the world: it is 6,857 compared to 7,989 cases in the world. The new cases per million population reported in the last seven days are 211 in India, compared to 496 in the world. The maximum of 3,354 is in the U.S. 100 deaths per million population in India, the lowest in the world, compared to 186 in the world. New deaths per million population reported in the last seven days is 2 in India compared to average of 9 in the world. The maximum of 84 is in Italy," he said.

- Devesh K. Pandey


Odisha medical colleges set to reopen

The Odisha government has allowed re-opening of medical colleges across the State from December 1, even as it authorised the School & Mass Education and Higher Education departments to decide on resumption of classroom teachings.

COVID-19 safety protocols will have to be followed in the medical institutes.

“All medical colleges of the state shall reopen with effect from 1st December, 2020. Medical college authorities shall follow all the SOPs/guidelines with respect to social distancing and prevention of spread of epidemic issued by the central/state government, scrupulously,” a government order said on Monday (November 30).

The government asked the School and Mass Education Department to consult all stakeholders and decide on the date of re-opening of schools for classes from 9 to 12 in a graded manner.

New Delhi

PM’s meet on COVID-19: parties with less than 10 MPs will not be allowed to speak

During the all-party meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 4 on the subject of COVID-19 and distribution of vaccines, only parties with more than 10 members in Parliament will be allowed to speak; the smaller parties have to be silent participants, the party leaders have been informed.

The meeting has been called after Mr. Modi’s Saturday visit to three vaccine manufacturing facilities — Zydus in Ahmedabad, Serum Institute in Pune and Bharat Biotech in Hyderabad.

During the previous several videoconference meetings with Chief Ministers too, the Prime Minister’s Office had drafted the schedule in such a way that different States got to speak on different dates, instead of opting for an open discussion on the subject. With the 10-MP criteria, many regional parties will not get an opportunity to air their opinion, including Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party, the Shiromani Akali Dal, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Chirag Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party and the two Left parties, the CPI (M) and the CPI.

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Scott Atlas resigns as special adviser to Trump on coronavirus

File photo of Dr. Scott Atlas, special adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump.

File photo of Dr. Scott Atlas, special adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump.   | Photo Credit: AP


Dr. Scott Atlas has resigned as special adviser to President Donald Trump, a White House official said on December 30, after a controversial four months during which he clashed repeatedly with other members of the coronavirus task force.

Voters’ unhappiness with Trump’s response to the global pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands helped propel his challenger, Democrat Joe Biden, to victory in the November 3 election.

“I am writing to resign from my position as special adviser to the president of the United States,” Mr. Atlas said in a letter to Mr. Trump dated December 1 that he posted on Twitter.

New Delhi

Govt. cuts price of RT-PCR test to ₹800; city sees 3,726 cases

The Delhi government has reduced the maximum rate that can be charged for RT- PCR tests for COVID-19 in private facilities, according to an official order.

The maximum rate for one RT-PCR has been fixed at ₹800, when the sample is collected at a facility and ₹1,200 when it is collected from a person’s home.

The rate before Mondays order was ₹2,400 per test, which was higher than many other States. “I have directed that the rates of RT-PCR tests be reduced in Delhi. Whereas tests are being conducted free of cost in govt. establishments, this will help those who get their tests done in private labs,” Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said in a tweet.

Tamil Nadu

BRICS media wrestle with disinformation challenge in COVID-19 fight

Representatives of media organisations from BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) on Monday called for the five nations to work together to jointly combat the “virus of disinformation” in the pandemic era.

At the fifth BRICS Media Forum, held virtually to coincide with the recently concluded BRICS summit, media organisations discussed ways in which journalists from the grouping could collaborate more closely to tell stories, with the countries facing many similar challenges, from economic issues to public health, as they grapple with COVID-19.

N. Ram, Director of The Hindu Publishing Group and former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu Group of Publications, noted that India, Brazil and Russia were among the five in the world with the highest number of confirmed cases. “The news media around the world, especially daily newspapers, and also other forms of the media, have taken a big hit during the pandemic,” he said.

New Delhi

WHO says ‘will do everything’ to discover origin of COVID-19

The World Health Organization (WHO) insisted on Monday it would do everything possible to find the animal origins of Covid-19, insisting that knowledge was vital to preventing future outbreaks.

“We want to know the origin and we will do everything to know the origin,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.

He insisted the UN health agency was intent on getting to the bottom of the mystery, and urged critics who have accused it of handing the reins of the probe to China to stop "politicising" the issue. 

“WHO's position is very, very clear. We need to know the origin of this virus, because it can help us prevent future outbreaks,” Mr. Tedros said.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2021 4:37:47 AM |

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