Coronavirus India lockdown Day 201 updates | October 13, 2020

Bus stop in South Mumbai shows strict warning, No Mask No Entry into BEST buses to contain spread of coronavirus. File   | Photo Credit: Vivek Bendre

A late-stage study of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate has been paused while the company investigates whether a study participant’s unexplained illness is related to the shot.

The pause is at least the second such hold to occur among several vaccines that have reached large-scale final tests in the United States. Final-stage testing of a vaccine made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University remains on hold in the US as officials examine whether an illness in its trial poses a safety risk.

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 latest updates:

New Delhi

COVID-19 awareness campaign aims to reach out to 90 crore people

The awareness campaign launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 8 on wearing masks, maintaining safe distance and hand and face hygiene to combat COVID-19, aims to reach out to about 90 crore people, said Information & Broadcasting Ministry Secretary Amit Khare on Tuesday.

The first phase of campaign will be run intensively for two months and will continue till March.

The communication strategy has been developed in view of the coming winter season, which is conducive to the spread of respiratory viruses, the approaching festivals like Dasara, Diwali, Christmas and New Year, and the gradual opening up of economic and other activities.


Gujarat’s Statue of Unity to reopen for tourists from October 17

The Gujarat government will reopen the Statue of Unity in Narmada district from October 17, with several precautionary measures in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus, an official said on Tuesday. The 182-metre tall statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel has remained closed for visitors for over seven months in light of the pandemic.

At least 2,500 tourists will be permitted every day, of which only 500 will be allowed up to the viewing gallery to maintain social-distancing and prevent the viral spread, the release issued by the government stated. There will be five slots of two hours each for entry every day and only 500 visitors will be allowed to enter in each slot, it was stated.

Entry will be allowed only in the slot for which tickets have been purchased. The government has also made it clear that tickets will be available on the authorised website and no tickets will be issued physically at the site. Masks are mandatory for all tourists and each visitor should stand at designated spots within the premises of the monument, the release stated. - PTI


Poland’s PM in quarantine after coronavirus contact

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says he’ll quarantine after he met last week with a person who tested positive for the coronavirus. In a video message, Mr. Morawiecki says his government was working as usual. He urged the citizens to observe social-distancing, wear masks and disinfect hands.

A nation of 38 million, Poland has had a sharp spike in new registered case of coronavirus infections, with 5,068 cases reported Tuesday and 63 deaths. In the summer, the new daily cases were around 600. But the numbers started rising quickly after vacation. Some doctors say the chronically underfunded health care system may give in if the current rate of new cases continues. - AP

New Delhi

Hindu Rao Hospital removed from list of designated COVID-19 facilities

The civic-run Hindu Rao Hospital, where resident doctors are agitating over unpaid salaries, was on Tuesday removed from the list of designated COVID-19 facilities in Delhi.

In an Order issued on Tuesday, the Delhi government’s Health Department said, Bara Hindu Rao Hospital was declared a designated hospital on June 14 in view of the surge in COVID-19 cases then. “A request has been received from the Commissioner, North Delhi Municipal Corporation for converting the Bara Hindu Rao Hospital to a non-COVID hospital, the Order said.

“The matter has been examined and in view of the low average bed occupancy of the hospital and request received from the NDMC, the hospital is being removed from the list of designated COVID-19 hospitals with immediate effect,” the Order said.

The Delhi government on Saturday had ordered shifting of COVID-19 patients from the civic-run hospital to its own facilities. The move to shift patients had come a day after the resident doctors of the hospital went on a “symbolic indefinite strike” over their salaries remaining unpaid for the past three months.

Seventeen patients were shifted to LNJP Hospital and three to Aruna Asaf Ali Hospital, while there in ICU were retained. On Sunday, the sanitisation of the hospital had started, and sources had said, the OPD of the 900-bed hospital was expected to be opened again to the regular patients in a few days. - PTI

Uttar Pradesh

Uttar Pradesh Excise Minister Ram Naresh Agnihotri tests positive for COVID-19

Uttar Pradesh Excise Minister Ram Naresh Agnihotri has tested positive for COVID-19. Speaking to PTI over phone, 63-year-old Agnihotri said he has been undergoing treatment at Max Hospital in Delhi after his diagnosis. Mr. Agnihotri tested positive for the novel coronavirus on October 6. On the same day, he was admitted to Max Hospital in Delhi.

A second test was conducted on him on Tuesday and the result came positive as well. The Minister exuded confidence that he would defeat COVID-19 and return to work.

Meanwhile, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and BJP leader Kalyan Singh was discharged from a Ghaziabad hospital after he recovered from COVID-19, an official said on Monday. Mr. Singh, a former Governor of Rajasthan, was admitted to Ghaziabad’s Yashoda Super Speciality Hospital on September 16 after he tested positive for the virus.

He was shifted from Lucknow’s Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences to the hospital. The hospital’s Medical Superintendent, Dr. Anuj Agarwal, told PTI that the BJP leader’s test report came negative on Saturday. Mr. Singh suffered from other health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, Parkinson’s disease, kidney and heart-related issues. On October 2, Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya tested positive for COVID-19. - PTI


Meghalaya defers Garo Hills district council elections due to COVID-19

The Meghalaya government has decided to postpone the elections to Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) for an indefinite period in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, following consultations with Health Department officials, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said. The State government will appoint a board of administrators for the 30-member local body for six months, he said.

The current term of the National People’s Party-led executive committee of the council will end on October 18. “It is not easy to conduct the polls to the GHADC in the prevailing COVID-19 situation. After taking advice from the Health Department, we have postponed it,” Mr. Sangma said.

Meghalaya’s COVID-19 tally rose to 7,771 on Monday with 88 fresh cases, while 5,273 people have recovered from the disease and 64 died. A board of administrators headed by the Governor will take over the council for six months, Mr. Sangma said after a Cabinet meeting on Monday evening.

The Council has jurisdiction over five districts - East Garo Hills, West Garo Hills, South Garo Hills, North Garo Hills and South West Garo Hills. - PTI

New Delhi


We will not hazard a guess on the total outgo on the vaccines, says Health Secretary

Union Health Secretary says "Various countries have explored various approaches to financial assistance for vaccine development. They include advance market commitments; providing financial help to vaccine manufacturers in terms of conducting R&D, this financial support may come from financial institutions.

"In India, through Department of Biotechnology, direct financial assistance is being given already to the designated vaccine manufacturers to assist in R&D and pre-clinical trials, may get extended to clinical trials. Other options are also on the table, which may be explored. At the present moment, we will not hazard a guess on the total outgo on the vaccines. Sufficient financial resources are, however, available with the government to procure the vaccine."

"A sub-group under the National Committee of Experts on Vaccine Administration has already mapped the cold chain facilities already existing for immunisation programmes of the government. It has also made a projection of the additional requirement. The sub-group is now mapping the private sector facilities, with minor modifications, they can be used for the purpose," says Mr. Bhushan.

-- Devesh Pandey

New Delhi


'Virus drifts will not determine effectiveness of vaccines being developed'

ICMR Director-General Balram Bhargava says "Regarding the study on re-infection study, we are taking the cut off of 100 days, it is still in progress."

The details of the study were not explained.

Dr. Bhargava adds "The virus drifts will not determine the effectiveness of the vaccines being developed. Major changes in the virus can take place in a decade or two."

NITI Aayog member (Health) says "The two indigenous vaccines are at final stage of the phase-II of the clinical trial, the results will be out soon, on the basis of which further strategy will be devised. The third vaccine candidate (Oxford) involving Serum Institute, is undergoing the third-phase clinical trial. Results are expected in November end or so."

-- Devesh Pandey

New Delhi

'Festivals may turn out to be super spreader events'

Member (Health), Niti Aayog, Dr. V.K. Paul:  "While the conditions appear to be stabilising, there is a worry that during winter, the pandemic may spread further and the situation may go out of control. Winter is conducive to the spread of respiratory viruses and therefore, more precautions need to be taken. In Europe and US, it is clear that with the onset of winter, the number of cases have gone up, though there may be several other factors."

"In view of these facts, we cannot be lax and we need to be well prepared. This is also the festival season, during which we come together and it may lead to the spread of virus. The festivals may turn out to be super spreader events."

"The change in behaviour, which includes wearing masks and maintaining social distancing, will make the real difference. The public awareness movement should be unprecedented, as is the disease in our lifetime."

Dr. Paul urges the media to also run awareness campaigns.

-- Devesh Pandey

New Delhi

Unite2FightCorona campaign

"We need to take precautions as the economy is opening up, educational institutions and cinema halls are opening, winter season and festival seasons are approaching. We need to take precautions," said I&B Secretary Amit Khare during the weekly briefing on COVID-19.

Banners and posters are to be put up at public places till the block level. Front-line workers, including teachers, anganwadi workers, ASHAs, Panchayat sevaks, will be involved. Beneficiaries of government schemes like NGNREGA, PM Awas, PM-Kishan, Ujjawala Yojana, etc, will be targeted through the info campaign on safety measures to be taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

In the run-up to the campaign, meeting chaired by Union Home Minister was held on Sept 28. The Prime Minister, through a tweet under the hashtag "Unite2FightCorona", launched the campaign on October 8. It garnered 2.33 billion impressions among 25.1k users with 61.3k mentions and trended at various positions throughout the day on Twitter, including at number 2 during the afternoon.

Covid-19 pledge has been administered in almost 500 Central govt. offices across India

30 Union Ministers, including Home Minister, Defence Minister; 15 Governors and Chief Ministers, around 500 other influencers, including film stars, sports persons and business icons, involved in the campaign

At all the ports and railways, outreach initiatives are being undertaken. State governments have come forward to start the campaign from October 2, Gandhi Jayanthi. Public enterprises, the Education Ministry, Railways, post-offices, banks, para-military forces and State police have also collaborated.

- Devesh Pandey

New Delhi

'India has highest COVID-19 recoveries in the world'

In the weekly COVID-19 briefing, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said India has registered highest recoveries in the world. "Cumulative positivity rate is 8.07%, weekly positivity rate is 5.16%, Active cases are below nine lakh for the fifth consecutive day and it is declining," he noted.

With the increase in testing, there is a decline in positivity rate. On an average 11.36 lakh tests are  being carried out per day, the capacity is 15 lakh per day, he said.

New Delhi

Health Minister stresses on COVID-19-appropriate behaviour during festival season, winter months

India has the highest COVID-19 recovery rate of 86.78 per cent globally with 62,27,295 recovered cases and the lowest fatality rate at 1.53 per cent, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Tuesday.

Dr. Vardhan, who chaired the 21th meeting of the high-level Group of Ministers (GoM) on COVID-19 via video-conference here, appealed to everyone regarding observance of COVID-19-appropriate behaviour during the forthcoming festival season and the winter months, “when the likelihood of an increase in the disease is high”, the Health Ministry said in a statement. - Devesh Pandey


Dakshina Kannada Deputy Commissioner tests positive for COVID-19

Dakshina Kannada district Deputy Commissioner K V Rajendra, his wife and child have tested positive for coronavirus. He will be in home quarantine for the next two weeks as he is asymptomatic, sources at the DC’s office said.

As a precautionary measure, Mangaluru city Corporation (MCC) Commissioner Commissioner Akshay Sridhar, has also gone into quarantine after the DC tested positive for the virus.

New Delhi

India continues to be among countries with lowest per million COVID-19 cases, deaths

With focussed strategies and calibrated measures, India has sustained its global position of being the country with one of the lowest COVID-19 cases per million and reported deaths per million, the Union Health Ministry said.

From the last five weeks, there has been a continuous decline in the average daily new cases.

“The weekly average of daily new cases fell from 92,830 cases in the second week of September to 70,114 cases in the 2nd week of October,” the ministry said.


COVID-19 graph in Assam starts flattening: Himanta

Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma claimed that the COVID-19 curve in the state has started flattening with constant fall in the positivity rate of coronavirus cases.

“There had been a constant decline in the positivity rate last week and it reached a low of 1.8 per cent on Monday,” Mr. Sarma said, adding that the absolute number of new cases has also been falling, while the recovery ratio is currently at over 85 per cent.

“These were important developments during the last 15 days and we can claim that the flattening of the COVID graph has started. “We continue to remain vigilant and careful for a few more days. If this trend continues, we will be sure to win the fight against the virus,” he said. - PTI


Meghalaya defers Garo Hills district council elections

The Meghalaya government has decided to postpone the elections to the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) for an indefinite period in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis and will appoint a board of administrators for the 30-member local body for six months, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said.

The current term of the National People’s Party-led executive committee of the council will end on October 18.

A board of administrators headed by the governor will take over the council for six months, he said after a cabinet meeting on Monday evening.


Punjab schools to reopen from Oct 15

The Punjab government said that a decision had been taken to reopen schools and coaching institutions from October 15 in a graded manner.

Students of only classes 9-12 are permitted to attend schools with parental consent and without making attendance compulsory, according to a statement.

However, online classes shall continue to be the preferred mode of teaching and be encouraged.


Testing, tracing should go hand in hand, says Dr. G.V.S. Murthy

PHFI’s IIPH-Hyderabad Director Dr. G.V.S. Murthy reiterated testing and tracing for COVID-19 should go “hand in hand”. There was an initial thrust on contact-tracing protocols but the surge of positive cases simply overwhelmed the health systems — already strained due to shortage of personnel, and the effective tracing has therefore faltered. “This could have been avoided if the governments concerned had called upon other staff and community leadership, trained them and equipped them for contact tracing. Unfortunately, this has not happened and only testing was ramped up and tracing given a short shrift,” he points out.

Digital applications were launched with a lot of fanfare and had tremendous potential for tracing, but this potential was hardly harnessed. A review of 94 studies showed the overall estimate of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 and asymptomatic was 20%. It means majority of infected show some symptoms of COVID-19 which may remain unrecognised or are hidden due to stigma, he explains.

The more such people are tested, the higher will be the test positivity. So there will be a direct relationship between testing and case positivity. To increase the yield of cases through effective tracing will reduce the transmission and that is why testing and tracing should go hand-in-hand, he maintained.

Andhra Pradesh

Dasara: only 10,000 devotees to be allowed per day for Durga darshan

District Collector A.Md. Imtiaz has said that only 10,000 devotees per day with pre-booked online tickets will be allowed to have a darshan of goddess Kanakadurga during the nine-day Dasara festivities, a State festival, atop Indrakeeladri starting from October 17. However, on the ‘Moola Nakshatram’ day, which witnesses the highest footfall, 13,000 devotees will be allowed.

Children aged below 10 years and elders aged above 65 would not be allowed and arrangements were made in such a way that only 1,000 persons could be accommodated in an hour. All arrangements were in place, said the Collector.

Mr. Sominaidu said that out of one lakh tickets made available, 67,000 were already bought.


The ‘new normal’ in places of worship

Amid a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in the city, temples, churches, mosques, and other places of worship have adopted various ‘new normal practices’, though devotees are still adjusting to them. Precautionary measures that are in place to contain the spread of the virus have pushed places of worships to temporarily part from various familiar religious practices.

Departing from the tradition during the Holy Communion, the consecrated bread or wafer is now being dropped into the hands of the communicants. “The Communion is received on the tongue. But due to these unprecedented circumstances, it is now received in the hands with safe distance maintained,” said J.A. Kantharaj, spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Bangalore.

Kuldeep Singh, secretary, Sri Guru Singh Sabha, said the karah prasad at gurudwaras that were distributed by hands were now being given through spoons. “Devotees are just getting used to it and some demand that it be distributed by hands,” he said. Maqsood Imran, Imam of Jamia Masjid at K.R. Market, said those attending prayers were asked to bring their own ‘janamaz’ (prayer mats). Govindraj V. of the ancient Someshwara temple in Halasuru, said teertha and prasada were not being distributed at the temple.


A COVID-proof plan for Malleswaram

Come festive season, thousands throng the commercial areas in Malleswaram, especially 8th Cross. However, this poses a huge risk in spread of COVID-19. To ensure this does not happen, Malleswaram Urban Living Lab (MULL), a collaborative effort between Malleswaram Social, a citizens’ group, and Sensing Local, a do-tank with focus on improving the state of environment and public health, has come out with a “Malleswaram 8th Cross Festival Plan”.

“We conducted surveys and spoke to vendors and shop owners/keepers about the challenges they faced and whether they were able to follow protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” a representative said, adding that while there seemed to be a high level of concern among shop owners, it was lower, among street vendors. While social distancing regulating number of people, displaying awareness material, temperature checks, and hand sanitation were challenges faced by shop owners, for street vendors, contactless payment took precedence. However, the biggest concern for owners was customers not complying with safety measures, especially wearing masks. On the other hand, the biggest concern for street vendors was financial, given that the number of customers had dropped.

MULL worked out two options – demarcating pedestrian-only zones, clearing pavements to allow free movement, moving vendors to a location where they can space out, and creating vending zones for the festival. Under the first option, apart from pedestrianising 8th Cross, smaller pedestrian zones could be created at East Park Road and West Park Road. Traffic could be restricted in the conservancies. This would help accommodate existing and additional vendors. Under the second option, vendors could be relocated to East and West Park Roads, and conservancies.

Tamil Nadu

‘ECMO support can help severely affected COVID-19 patients’

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) support can help in treating patients whose lungs are completely affected due to COVID-19, said Mohamed Rela, chairman and managing director, Dr. Rela Institute and Medical Centre (RIMC) on Monday.

He was speaking at a function organised to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between RIMC and KIMS Hospitals, located in Telangana, to set up a Comprehensive Centre of Excellence for Heart and Lung Transplant.

He said if a person’s lungs were affected 100% due to COVID-19, putting the person on ventilator support will not help. “In such cases, ECMO support can be used as a bridge to either help lungs recover or until a transplant is possible,” he said.

New Delhi

Vaccine shot ‘painless’, say Covishield trial volunteers

“It felt like a tetanus shot,” said Joel Joy, 32, who works for a multinational firm in Mumbai, and was among those who’d volunteered for the experimental Covishield vaccine, being tested by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) at various hospitals in India, “I'll be going to the gym later today,” he added.

The two-dose vaccine candidate is furthest ahead among the COVID-19 vaccines being tested in India. The trial involves 1,600 volunteers in 17 cities across the country likely to be inoculated in the coming months in the combined phase-2/3 trials. These trials check for whether the vaccine is safe and capable of producing an immune response to disarm future infections by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

According to details of the trial available on the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) site, the volunteers will be divided into two groups of 400 and 1,200 respectively with some in each group getting Covishield, some a placebo and yet others getting the Oxford/ChAdOx1. Both ‘Covishield’ and the Oxford/ChAdOx1 have the same virus protein but differ in their make-up — the exact nature of the difference has not been publicly disclosed. The trial also seeks to quantify these differences if any.

Being a double-blinded trial, neither the doctors nor the volunteers know who are the ones vaccinated and who've been given the placebo. The four volunteers who The Hindu spoke to, said they would be going for a follow-up shot on the 29th day.


MLA says Pili Vesha may be allowed during Dasara

Mangaluru City South MLA D. Vedavyas Kamath said on Monday that he is hopeful of the Dakshina Kannada district administration allowing Pili Vesha (tiger dance) during the Dasara celebrations this year as per the traditions of temples.

In a statement here, he said that leaders of different Sharadotsava Samitis and temples have appealed to the Deputy Commissioner to allow the traditional tiger dance in view of the district administration deciding to ban it during the Navaratri celebrations.

The MLA said that he has taken up the matter with the Deputy Commissioner and other senior officials of the government.

He has urged them to allow a limited number of tiger dancers to perform during the Dasara celebrations as the culture and traditions of the land should not be compromised with.

West Bengal

CM to inaugurate Durga Pujas virtually from October 15

Ahead of the Durga Puja festival, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday urged people to exercise extreme caution for COVID-19 as she reiterated that community spread of the infection had begun in the State. She said there were instances of the infection being airborne.

“Whether one accepts it or not the infections are also airborne,” Ms. Banerjee told journalists. She said Delhi has allowed only one puja at Chittaranjan Park and Uttar Pradesh has not allowed a single Durga Puja, in West Bengal her government had not stopped any Durga Puja.

This year, the Chief Minister will inaugurate Durga Pujas virtually from October 15 to 17. Clubs which want her to inaugurate their pujas will have to write to the Chief Minister’s Office. The State government has decided to give ₹50,000 to 37,000 clubs that organise community Durga Pujas in the State.


COVID-19 hospitals unaffected amid power outage in Mumbai

Despite the unprecedented power outage in Mumbai and its surrounding areas on Monday, COVID-19 hospitals continued to work uninterrupted, said the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

“Even though the frequency of power cuts within BMC limits is less, all municipal hospitals are equipped with automatic diesel generators at all times. Today, after the power outage, the automatic diesel generators started immediately. The solid waste management department was directed to ensure diesel storage. As a result, all hospitals continued to function without interruption,” the BMC said.

The civic body said its disaster management department ensures that all private COVID-19 hospitals also has necessary supplies of diesel to run generators in case of emergency. “No health services were hampered due to the power outage in Mumbai,” the BMC said.

Hong Kong

Anti-microbe drug can fight coronavirus, say scientists

An affordable anti-microbial drug used to treat stomach ulcers and bacterial infections has shown promise in combating the coronavirus in animals, scientists in Hong Kong announced Monday.

Researchers set out to explore whether metallodrugs — compounds containing metal that are more commonly used against bacteria — might also have anti-viral properties that could fight the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

Using Syrian hamsters as tests subjects, they found that one of the drugs, ranitidine bismuth citrate (RBC), was “a potent anti-SARS-CoV-2 agent”.

“RBC is able to lower the viral load in the lung of the infected hamster by tenfold,” Hong Kong University researcher Runming Wang told reporters on Monday as the team presented their study.

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