Coronavirus India lockdown Day 211 updates | October 23, 2020

A health worker undergoing test for COVID-19 in Visakhapatnam on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: K_R_DEEPAK

India reported 55,839 new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, with 78% recorded from 10 States and Union Territories (UTs). Kerala reported the most number of cases, followed by Maharashtra and Karnataka, according to the Health ministry.

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:


Writers, activists back Maha CM’s decision not to open places of worship

Writers including Jnanpith recipient Bhalchandra Nemade and some activists on Friday came out in support of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s decision not to reopen places of worship in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

A letter signed by over 100 persons, including Nemade, fellow writers Rangnath Pathare and Shanta Gokhale, anti-superstition activist Mukta Dabholkar and banking sector activist Vishwas Utagi wrote to Mr. Thackeray, expressing support.

The Chief Minister is facing criticism from Opposition BJP which is pressing for reopening of temples. Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari had recently written to Mr. Thackeray, questioning his Hindutva ideology for refusing to reopen temples and other religious places.

“Your government is already facing the challenge of getting the wheels of economy moving, and you faced another pressure from the Governor himself for opening religious places,” the letter signed by Nemade and Pathare, both eminent Marathi novelists, and others, said.

“Even Article 25 of the Indian Constitution empowers the government to prioritise health over religious issues. We strongly object to reaping political benefits out of people’s faith. If religious places are opened, it would pose a major threat to people’s lives,” the letter stated. - PTI

United Kingdom

U.K. uses sewage tracing as early warning system for coronavirus

A U.K. government-led project is working on detecting traces of coronavirus in sewerage to provide an early warning for local outbreaks and sharing the data with the official National Health Service (NHS) Test and Trace network as part of efforts to control the spread of infections.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said that the programme, which was first announced in June, has now proven that fragments of genetic material from the virus can be detected in wastewater. This can then indicate where a local community or an institution is experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases.

This is a significant step forward in giving us a clearer idea of infection rates both nationally and locally, particularly in areas where there may be large numbers of people who aren’t showing any symptoms and therefore aren’t seeking tests, said UK Environment Secretary George Eustice.

NHS Test and Trace is able to use the science to ensure local health leads are alerted and can take action. We are continuing to look at how this programme can be refined as one of the many measures we’re using to slow the spread of the virus and protect local communities, he said. - PTI


Covaxin Phase III trial from November

Vaccine maker Bharat Biotech plans to conduct Phase III clinical trial for COVID-19 vaccine candidate Covaxin from November.

The company, which is developing the vaccine in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), intends to conduct the trial on 26,000 volunteers across 25 cities in the country, sources said.

This move follows the company getting Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) approval to conduct the Phase III clinical trial for Covaxin. - N. Ravi Kumar


Plasma therapy will continue in Goa due to good results: Rane

The Goa government on Friday said it would continue to perform plasma therapy on COVID-19 patients as it has yielded goods results in the state so far, Health Minister Vishwajit Rane said.

Rane said that 263 patients were given plasma therapy during their treatment. “The recovery rate is around 70 per cent, which is good,” he said.

As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the Centre was considering to remove convalescent plasma therapy from the national clinical management protocol for COVID-19.

New Delhi

Govt plans special immunisation programme for COVID-19 vaccine

The coronavirus vaccine, once available, will be distributed under a special COVID-19 immunisation programme with the Centre procuring the doses directly and making it available for priority groups, official sources said.

According to them, the Centre will procure the vaccine directly to make it available to the priority groups free-of-charge through the existing network of states and districts.

States have been asked not to chart separate pathways of procurement, they said.

New Delhi

ICMR issues advisory for use of Feluda paper strip test

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has issued an advisory for the use of indigenously developed Feluda paper strip test, which is based on CRISPR-Cas9 technology for diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2, by laboratories.

The paper-strip uses cutting-edge CRISPR gene-editing technology to identify and target the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in less than an hour.

As claimed by the manufacturer, no further RT-PCR based confirmation is required for samples that are confirmed as positive or negative by the CRISPR SARS-CoV-2 test, the advisory issued on Thursday stated.

Read more


Degree, PG colleges in Karnataka to reopen from November 17

Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Higher Education C.N.Ashwath Narayan on Friday said that degree and PG colleges in the state will reopen from November 17. A decision in this regard was taken at a meeting held on Friday, which was presided by the Chief Minister.

“We have decided to reopen and conduct offline classes for engineering, degree and diploma colleges from 17 November. However, students will have the option to either attend offline classes or continue attending online classes. Those wishing to attend offline classes should get written consent from their parents,” Mr. Ashwath Narayan said and added that practical classes would be given more importance.


Lockdown uncovers a birds’ haven in rail colony

The Southern Railway Colony at Hemambika Nagar near here is a haven for birds. But it took a pandemic and a lockdown for the railway officials to uncover that haven.

Indian grey hornbills

Indian grey hornbills  


Dozens of bird species were identified and recorded in the Railway Colony during the lockdown, thanks to Divisional Railway Manager Pratap Singh Shami’s hobby in photography.

“The birds I found here are testimony to the general saying that Palakkad is one of the most beautiful divisions of the Indian Railways,” said Mr. Shami.

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Selective testing for SARS-CoV-2 need of the hour, say experts

While a section of doctors and health experts have raised demands for more widespread COVID-19 testing in the State, others suggest that a judicious allocation of resources would be a more prudent strategy.

Health economist Rijo John said the State was doing an average of 1,422 tests per million per day for the past week, which placed it in the seventh position compared to other States. “But with a test positivity rate at a seven-day average of 14%, we should be testing a lot more, otherwise we will miss registering an increasing number of cases,” he said.

From a seven-day average of around 62,000 tests on October 7, absolute testing figures had fallen by around 20% to a seven-day average of 50,431 on Tuesday, he said. While the test positivity rate had been at 16% a few days ago, it had fallen a little recently, since fewer cases are being detected, he added.

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Post-COVID-19, patients complain of health issues

After recovering from COVID-19, patients are said to be complaining of problems such as breathlessness, joint pain, chest pain, cardiac related issues and even memory loss.

With nearly 50 per cent of the recovered patients complaining of these issues, a private hospital in Mysuru on Thursday announced the launch of the Post-COVID-19 Recovery Clinic to treat the rising number of patients suffering from mid= and long-term effects of the infection.

The recovery clinic at the Apollo BGS Hospitals in Kuvempunagar will be run by a team of specialists with the help of neurologists and immunologists.

Read more


Kerala’s COVID-19 case graph shows sliding trend

For the first time since the pandemic curve started its upward growth in Kerala in September first week, the COVID-19 case graph in Kerala is on the decline.

Current disease trends show the effective reproductive number (R) to be less than 1, meaning that the cases will continue to decline. (R is the average number of secondary cases per infectious case in a population made up of both susceptible and non-susceptible hosts). However, it might be way too early to assume that the worst is over.

Coronavirus India lockdown Day 211 updates | October 23, 2020

“Going by the nature of the disease and the pattern of the curve seen internationally, every time there is a dip, another crest is just beyond the corner. This pattern of a dip-plateau-crest will continue in repeat cycles till the case numbers really go down,” a public health professional says. He does not expect life to normalise before March next.

Read more

Andhra Pradesh

Abide by COVID rules, transport operators told

Deputy Transport Commissioner G.C. Raja Ratnam has directed transport operators to comply with COVID-19 protocol to check the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Ratnam held a meeting with representatives of private bus, taxi, auto-rickshaw and lorry unions at the RTA office here on Thursday. He asked the owners of transport vehicles and union leaders to create awareness among drivers and staff on G.O. 520 and COVID guidelines issued by the government.

“Passengers without masks should not be allowed to board vehicles. Posters on COVID prevention should be displayed in buses, taxis and on lorries. Passengers should be made aware of the need to maintain physical distancing and to sanitise their hands at regular intervals. Owners and drivers should ensure sanitisation of the vehicle with sodium hypochlorite solution. Passengers should not be allowed to travel aboard cargo vehicles,” Mr. Ratnam said.


U.K. to record ethnicity to assess impact on Indians, minorities

The U.K. government on October 22 laid out a series of measures as part of a review into the higher COVID-19 death rate among people of Indian-origin and other ethnic minorities, including a mandate for ethnicity to be recorded as part of the death certification process.

Minister for Equalities Kemi Badenoch made an oral statement in the House of Commons as she presented the first quarterly report to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock on progress to understand and tackle COVID-19 disparities on ethnicity grounds.

The report follows an official review set up in the wake of a Public Health England (PHE) analysis tabled in Parliament earlier this year, which concluded that older Indian-origin men fall within a higher risk category of coronavirus deaths in England along with other black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups.

“Today’s report marks an important first step in our journey to understand and tackle the disproportionate impact of COVID,” said Ms. Badenoch.


Durga Puja goes digital in Mumbai

Devotees in Mumbai are celebrating Durga Puja this year from the confines of their homes and taking part in rituals virtually in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is the first time in 91 years of our Puja heritage that we are having a ceremonial Ghot Pujo instead of a Murti Pujo,” said the organisers of Bombay Durga Bari Samiti, which has been celebrating the festival since 1930. Ghot Pujo essentially means worshipping urns symbolising goddess Durga and her children.

“Keeping the safety of devotees in mind, we have decided to do away with traditional celebrations and honour Maa Durga with Ghot Pujo,” said Susmita Mitra, president of the samiti. All rituals will be conducted at Sangam Hall in Marine Drive and streamed on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.


Serum Institute of India, IAVI and Merck join forces to develop COVID-19 antibodies

Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), along with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), a non-profit scientific research organisation, on Thursday announced an agreement with pharmaceutical major Merck to develop SARS-CoV-2 neutralising monoclonal antibodies (mAbs).

Monoclonal antibodies are man-made proteins that act like human antibodies in the immune system. These antibodies are co-invented by IAVI and Scripps Research as ‘innovative interventions’ to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The agreement builds on the advanced antibody discovery and optimisation expertise of IAVI and Scripps Research, gained from years of experience in HIV broadly neutralising antibody research and development, and on Merck’s and Serum Institute’s significant capabilities in design and scale up of accelerated manufacturing processes for mAbs production. The global development plan is being led by the three organizations in partnership,” said a statement issued by the SII.


CSIR-CCMB working on three varied potential COVID-19 vaccine platforms

CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) Director Rakesh Mishra on Thursday disclosed the institute has been working on three varied platforms in association with other CSIR labs in Chandigarh and Kolkata on potential vaccines to deal with COVID-19 virus.

“These platforms are slightly different from the vaccines currently under testing. They are based on ‘pseudo virus’ and ‘pre-processed protiens’. We are now testing them on mice, if they are responsive, we will give the technology to Aurobindo Pharma for making of vaccines,” he told the media during the launch of ‘CoronaAID’ food supplement.

At the same time, he cautioned that an ‘effective’ vaccine could be many months or years away. “It may or may not come. We should be prepared to fight this pandemic without a vaccine. Even if we are lucky to get a vaccine out by the end of the year or later, it could take many months to vaccinate the 1.30 billion people across the country because of the logistics required in maintaining cold storage chains and likely requirement of more than one dose,” he explained.


U.S. gives full approval to antiviral remdesivir to treat COVID-19

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday granted full approval to the antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for patients hospitalized with COVID-19, after conditional authorization was given in May.

Gilead said the drug, sold under the brand name Veklury, was the only specific treatment for COVID-19 approved so far under a more rigorous process.

However, other treatments have received authorization for emergency use, though that approval can be revoked once the public health emergency sparked by the coronavirus pandemic is over.

Other medications, like the steroid dexamethasone, are also being used in the fight against Covid-19.

Tamil Nadu

Serosurvey finds that 32.3% residents in Chennai have developed SARS-CoV-2 antibodies

The second serological survey in Chennai has found that one-third of the population has been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 infection and has developed antibodies.

According to the Greater Chennai Corporation, of the 6,389 samples tested, 2,062 were positive for the presence of IgG antibodies, recording an overall positivity of 32.3%.

The first serological survey, the results of which were released in early September, found that one-fifth of the population in the city was exposed to the infection.

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