Coronavirus updates | April 21, 2021

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

As India saw another record high of 2,95,041 new COVID cases and 2023 deaths, the oxygen crisis precipitated by the second wave which has left tens of thousands hospitalised appeared to intensify with complaints of shortage from several states, including Maharashtra where tragedy struck when 24 patients on ventilator support suffocated to death due to leakage in an oxygen storage tank.

On the vaccination front, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Chhattisgarh were the latest to announce free COVID vaccination for all aged above 18 years, after Uttar Pradesh and Assam made a similar decision, and officials presented data to assert that the vaccines reduce the risk of infection and prevent death and severe infection.

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:


People above 18 to get free COVID-19 vaccine in Chhattisgarh

The Chhattisgarh government announced free COVID-19 vaccine for all people above the age of 18 in the State.

Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said the State Government will pay for the coronavirus vaccination of people over 18 years of age, according to an official release.

"We will take all possible steps to protect the lives of our citizens," the release quoted Ms. Baghel as saying.



Bihar government to provide free COVID vaccination to all aged above 18: Chief Minister Nitish Kumar


New Delhi

Shashi Tharoor and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury test positive

Lok Sabha member and senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.

"After waiting two days for a test appointment and another day & a half for the results, I finally have confirmation: I’m #Covid positive,"Mr Tharoor tweeted.

"Hoping to deal with it in a “positive” frame of mind, with rest, steam & plenty of fluids. My sister& 85-year-old mother are in the same boat," he added.

Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha and West Bengal State unit chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury too tested positive.

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Goa announces 10-day night curfew in State

The Goa government announced a 10 -day-long night curfew in the State effective from Wednesday and imposed curbs on restaurants, cinema halls and casinos in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases.

The government also announced the postponement of the upcoming 10th and 12th standard examinations of the Goa Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education.

The curfew, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., will come into force on Wednesday (April 21) and remain in operation till April 30, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said after chairing a high-level meeting.

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Mamata rules out lockdown in Bengal, assures vaccination for all above 18 from May 5

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ruled out the possibility of lockdown in the State in the wake of the second wave of COVID-19 and said universal vaccination for those who are above 18 will start from May 5.

The Election Commission should take steps to ensure that postal ballot facilities are made available for COVID-19 patients admitted in hospitals, the TMC supremo said.

She iterated her demand for proper supply of vaccines and oxygen from the central government.

We are not in favour of any lockdown. We want everyone to adhere to COVID-19 norms such as wearing masks, maintaining social distancing norms and using sanitisers. We dont want people to return to the days of being forced to stay back at homes. Lockdown is not a solution as it takes a heavy toll on people, jobs, economy, she said addressing a press conference.

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New Delhi

Efforts being ramped up for massive production of vaccines, says DBT Secretary

Efforts are being ramped up for massive production of vaccines and make them available in the shortest possible time, a top government official said stressing that India currently has a promising pipeline of four-five COVID-19 vaccine candidates, while three have already been approved for emergency use.

Department of Biotechnology Secretary Renu Swarup said a financial support of Rs 400 crore is being provided to vaccine candidates from Zydus Cadilla, Biological E, Gennova and Bharat Biotech (single-dose intranasal vaccine).


Door-to-door vaccination is not possible, Union govt. tells Bombay High Court

The Central government told the Bombay High Court on Wednesday that door-to-door vaccination for the COVID-19 virus is not possible as it was expected to lead to contamination and wastage.

Satyendra Singh, Under Secretary in the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, filed his affidavit and listed reasons for not being able to provide a door-to-door facility.

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New Delhi

Delhi government suspends online classes and learning activities for summer vacation

All online and semi-online teaching and learning activities shall remain suspended during the summer vacation from April 20 to June 9, the Delhi government directed private schools.

The Directorate of Education (DoE) had on Monday advanced summer vacations in view of the deteriorating COVID-19 situation. The vacation, which was scheduled from May 11 to June 3, has now been rescheduled from April 20 to June 9.

New Delhi

Haryana govt. official stopped oxygen supply, says Sisodia

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia alleged that an official of the Haryana government stopped oxygen supply to Delhi from a plant in Faridabad.

Mr. Sisodia said the Centre decides the quota of oxygen for states and the AAP govt had been demanding that the Centre increase Delhi's quota of oxygen from 378 metric tonnes to 700 metric tonnes.

The central government is yet to take a step in this direction, he said.

"We again demand that the Centre increase our oxygen quota to 700 MT in view of the increased consumption. Patients from several States, including Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, are admitted in city hospitals," Mr. Sisodia said

Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh announces free COVID-19 vaccine for all adults

The Madhya Pradesh government on Wednesday announced that all people above the age of 18 years will be offered COVID-19 vaccine free of cost in the state from May 1.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan made the announcement in Bhopal. - PTI


Tamil Nadu to take up oxygen diversion issue with Centre

The Tamil Nadu government said it would take up with the Centre, diversion of about 45 metric tonnes of medical oxygen from a plant in Chennai to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, while asserting that the State had adequate stocks of oxygen.

Wondering what the need was for the central government to divert the oxygen manufactured by a supplier at nearby Sriperumbudur, Health Secretary Dr J Radhakrishnan said that even during the pandemic times, the State has been supplying oxygen to others.


129 persons jailed in Madhya Pradesh for roaming in public

At least 129 persons were jailed for a few hours for allegedly roaming around in public places in Madhya Pradesh's Indore today, to inculcate COVID-19-appropriate behaviour, an official said.

People were brought in from different areas of the city to a temporary jail under section 151 (precautionary arrests made to prevent cognisable offences) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the superintendent of the Central Jail said.

The violators were roaming in public places without any reason, he said.

A temporary jail has been set up at a community guesthouse in Snehlataganj area of Indore and has a capacity to take in 300 inmates, he said.

Inmates of the temporary jail are released within three hours of admission, the official said.

New Delhi

Total oxygen production capacity is at 7000 tons, says Union Health Secretary

"Last year we used 3,500 metric tons of medical oxygen. We have alloted 6,600 tons to States this year. Our total oxygen production capacity is 7,000 tons," Rajesh Bhushan says.

"There is a 24X7 control room to handle oxygen transport problems. Challenges emerge during a pandemic and the best way forward is for Centre and States to work together," he added.

"This is not the time to deliberate on how India missed the second wave. Our efforts are focused on dealing with and solving the crisis," he said at the press conference.

ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava says: "Right now, we cannot comment on when we can see a downturn in the second wave. We are working with States to fight and overcome this."

- Jacob Koshy

New Delhi

Very few breakthrough infections reported, says ICMR Director General

"We have 2-4/10,000 breakthrough infections reported from Covaxin and Covishield. This is a very small number  and not at all worrisome. There is a possibility that newer highly transmissible variant may be responsible else it would have been zero," says Balram Bhargava,  DG, ICMR at the press conference.

Breakthrough infections are those who test positive after vaccination.

NITI Aayog Memeber V.K. Paul says the biological E vaccine has completed phase 1 and phase 2 trials and is ready for phase 3 trials. "This is a major manufacturer and can produce 7 crore doses per month," he added.

- Jacob Koshy

New Delhi

Union Health Secretary addresses the press

There are 146 districts with a test positivity rate (TPR) of over 15% and these are facing the strain in terms of hospital care.  There are 274 districts with TPR ranging from 5-15%. The case fatality rate is 1.17% and is declining, Rajesh Bhushan said.

There is an increase in the deaths of patients aged 70 years and above compared to the first wave.

87% of all healthcare workers have got the first dose of the vaccine and 80% have got both the doses. This is a positive development.

Among frontline workers, 79% have received the first dose of the vaccine.

Jharkhand and Gujarat have administered 100% of first dose to registered healthcare workers

Vaccines will not be available at chemists' or pharmacies but only in hospital settings. Free vaccines will be available only at government-designated centres.  However the Rs 250 cap at private hospitals has been lifted.

- Jacob Koshy


Updated data from Covaxin phase 3 trial shows 78% efficacy

The efficacy of Covaxin has dropped a tad lower - 78% - than the 81% reported in March. On Wednesday, Bharat Biotech, via a press release, announced results from an interim analysis of its phase 3 trial. The efficacy against severe COVID-19 disease was 100%, the company claimed, but that against protecting from asymptomatic COVID-19 infection was 70%.

The analysis was on a data set of 127 Covid positive volunteers.

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Transporters go on strike as fresh COVID-19 guidelines come into effect in J&K

Private transporters in Jammu went on an indefinite strike today to protest a government order capping the seating capacity to 50% in public transport vehicles in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new guidelines, which also include restrictions on opening of shops at market places and malls as part of steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection amid a recent spike, came into effect on Wednesday morning.

Protesting against the order, the transporters launched a strike to press for hiking of fares.

"The government has taken a decision without consulting us. It is not feasible for transporters to ply their vehicles with 50 per cent passengers on board. The fuel prices are skyrocketing and the transporters were the hardest hit since the outbreak of the pandemic," a stakeholder said.

New Delhi

Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal tests positive

Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' has tested positive for COVID-19. The 61-year-old Minister said he is following medical advice after his report came positive.

"This is to inform you all that I have tested COVID positive today. I am taking medication and treatment as per the advice of my doctors. Request all those who have come in my contact recently to be observant, and get themselves tested," he tweeted.

"All the work of @EduMinOfIndia is being conducted normally observing necessary precautions," he added.


Oxygen reallocation will impact small businesses in some sectors, says Crisil Ratings

Reallocating oxygen for medical purposes to take care of the rising COVID cases will have an adverse impact on small businesses in some sectors, domestic rating agency Crisil said.

It said the "hiccup" seems temporary for now, and is unlikely to impact the credit quality of the affected businesses.

The impact will be greater for companies in Maharashtra, New Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, where medical oxygen demand has increased multiple times due to high COVID-19 caseloads, the agency added.

The central government has barred industrial use of oxygen except in nine designated sectors from Thursday onwards to divert the available stocks for life-saving medicinal use.


Night curfew to be imposed indefinitely in Agartala from Apr 22

The Tripura government has decided to impose a seven-hour night curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. in Agartala Municipal Corporation (AMC) area from Thursday for an indefinite period to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The decision was taken at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb. The capital city has been reporting most of the coronavirus cases in the State.

The order issued by Chief Secretary Manoj Kumar said that essential services have been exempted from the purview of the curfew.

Various recruitment examinations, including Joint Recruitment Board of Manpower and Employment Department and physical test of the IR battalion, however, stand postponed.


Kerala might curb civic life on weekends

Kerala government is mulling near-total curtailment of civic life on weekends to slow down the transmission of the resurgent COVID-19 virus.

A top-level meeting chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday reportedly weighed in, allowing only essential services to operate on April 24 and 25th.

It might even declare Saturday a government holiday.

The government is yet to call it a weekend lockdown.

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Covishield to be sold to States at ₹400 a dose and at ₹600 to private hospitals from May 1

From May 1, Serum Institute of India (SII) will be selling Covishield to State governments at ₹400 dose and to private hospitals at ₹600 dose, Adar Poonawala, CEO, SII said in a statement on Wednesday.

The vaccines, however, would not retail until 4-5 months and corporates and private individuals could in the meantime only get these vaccines from “State-facilitated machinery,” his statement added. - Jacob Koshy

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Patients die after oxygen tank leakage at Nashik hospital

At least 22 COVID-19 patients were reported to have lost their lives on Wednesday at Nashik’s Dr. Zakir Hussain Hospital owing to acute shortage of oxygen following massive leakage from a tank.

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Indrani Mukerjea, 39 other inmates coronavirus positive

Sheena Bora murder case accused Indrani Mukerjea and 39 other inmates of the Byculla prison here have tested positive for coronavirus and shifted to a quarantine centre, an official said on Wednesday.

These 40 inmates were found positive for coronavirus after they were subjected to Rapid Antigen Test (RAT), he said.

"Most of the 40 inmates are asymptomatic. They were shifted to the isolation centre of the prison at Patankar School in Byculla in Central Mumbai as a precautionary measure," he said.



Assam to vaccinate everyone in 18-45 age group for free

The Assam government will vaccinate everyone in the 18-45 age group for free from May 1 onwards, Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said.

The state Health Department has already written to Covaxin maker Bharat Biotech for procuring 1 crore vaccines.

Funds collected in Asom Arogya Nidhi account last year shall be utilised for procuring the vaccines, he said.



Covishield comprises over 90% of 12.76 crore COVID vaccines administered so far

Covishield, from the Oxford/AstraZeneca stable, comprises over 90% of the 12.76 crore COVID-19 vaccines administered across the country so far, according to government data on Wednesday.

Of this, 15 States and union territories have only given Covishield, being manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Instiute of India. The other vaccine being administered in India is the indigenous Covaxin from Bharat Biotech in Hyderabad.

Giving details, of the 127,605,870 COVID-19 vaccination jabs administered till now, 11,60,65,107 are of Covishield while 1,15,40,763 are of Covaxin, according to the government's CO-WIN portal.

Experts said Covishield is being produced at a much higher scale than Covaxin due to which its availability is more.


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Distressing scenes from Delhi's GTB hospital

Nikhil Babu reports: A woman waiting outside the emergency of GTB Hospital, a COVID-19 hospital, died, and her husband was seen shifting her body into the ambulance without any help. "We were waiting outside the emergency and she breathed her last while waiting," Surender Kumar, 35, a daily wage labourer said outside the emergency.

Some viewers may find the video distressing and we advise caution while viewing it.



Karnataka govt. sets up war room to monitor supply of oxygen, Remdesivir

With complaints pouring in regarding shortage and blackmarketing of oxygen and Remdesivir, the Karnataka government on Wednesday announced setting up a 'War Room'.

"In order to ensure timely & sufficient supply of Oxygen and #Remdesivir a 24x7 war room has been established with staff working round the clock in 3 shifts," State Health Minister K Sudhakar tweeted.

Passing an order to this effect, the Drug Controller of Karnataka appointed 26 government employees and officers to manage the war room.

The government also set up a new 6 Kilo Litre capacity Medical Oxygen plant at the Chamarajanagar District Hospital.

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Serum Institute of India will sell Covishield to State governments at ₹400 a dose, private hospitals at ₹600 a dose, SII chief Adar Poonawala has said in a statement. - Jacob Koshy reports.


Gujarat CM receives first dose of anti-COVID 19 vaccine

Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani getting Covid-19 vaccine at Government Hospital in Gandhinagar on April 21, 2021.

Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani getting Covid-19 vaccine at Government Hospital in Gandhinagar on April 21, 2021.   | Photo Credit: Vijay Soneji


Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has received the first dose of an anti-COVID 19 vaccine at a government health centre in Gandhinagar.

Mr. Rupani took the jab exactly 60 days after he tested negative for the COVID-19 infection. The Chief Minister had tested positive for coronavirus on February 15.

On the occasion, Mr. Rupani appealed to the eligible people, including those who had contracted coronavirus earlier, to get themselves vaccinated. - PTI


DRDO to set up 2 COVID-19 hospitals in Panipat, Hisar: Minister

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will set up two dedicated COVID-19 hospitals of 500 beds each in Panipat and Hisar, Haryana's Home and Health Minister Anil Vij said on Wednesday, Apri 21, 2021.

The Army's Western Command has been asked to provide doctors and other medical staff for the facilities, he said.

"DRDO will set up two Dedicated Covid Hospitals in Haryana of 500 beds each at Panipat and Hissar," Vij tweeted.

"Work to start (on setting up of these hospitals) immediately," he added.

Haryana has registered a sharp increase in coronavirus cases in the last three weeks.


India becomes fastest country to administer 13 crore COVID vaccine doses: Health ministry

India took only 95 days to administer 13 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine, the fastest country to do so, the Union Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

The US took 101 days to administer 13 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine, while China took 109 days to cross the same number, it said.

The cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the country has reached 13,01,19,310 with 29,90,197 vaccine doses being given in a span of 24 hours, according to data updated at 7 am.  Eight states -- Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, West Bengal, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala -- account for 59.33 per cent of the total doses given so far in the country.

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Uttarakhand tightens restrictions in view of COVID surge

The Uttarakhand government has ordered closure of markets in urban areas barring shops dealing in essential commodities from 2 p.m. onwards and changing of the curfew timing across the State from 9 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The order, aimed at checking the spread of COVID-19, comes into effect from Wednesday, Chief Secretary Om Prakash said.

"The night curfew timing for all 13 districts has been revised from 9 p.m.-5 a.m. to 7 p.m.-5 a.m.," it said.

The order of closing shops and business establishments also applies to shopping malls, he said.

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Tourist spots to be shut, night curfew extended by 1 hour in Andamans

Tourist spots and cinema halls will be shut for one month from April 22 and night curfew will be extended by one hour with immediate effect in Andaman and Nicobar Islands as the archipelago is witnessing a spike in COVID-19 cases, a notification said on Wednesday.

The restrictions were necessitated as a large number of cases are being detected among tourists coming from the mainland, some of whom have been found to be tampering with COVID test reports, for which FIRs have been registered against them.

Members of the Great Andamanese tribe employed in the administration in Port Blair will be granted special leave to return to their hometowns after they test negative for COVID- 19, the notification said.

It said that the existing night curfew from 10 pm to 5 am will be revised to 9 pm to 5 am with immediate effect.


All religious places closed for public in Odisha capital

With the Odisha capital Bhubaneswar registering the highest ever single day spike of 581 new COVID-19 cases, the local municipal authorities declared closure of all religious places like temples, mosques, gurudwaras and churches for devotees from Wednesday till further order.

After consultations with management committees of religious institutions like temples/mosques/gurudwaras/ churches and others, the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation has issued directives for religious places which will come into force from 21/04/2021, the BMC said in an order.

"No devotees shall be allowed inside any religious institution like temples/mosques/gurudwaras/churches, etc, until further order. However, the usual religious rituals in all such places of worship will be conducted with limited numbers of priests/staff," the order said. - PTI


Oxygen shortage: Hospitals ask families to shift patients

Although the State government has been claiming that there is no shortage of liquid medical oxygen, many hospitals continued to ask their admitted patients to shift to other facilities as they are running out of stock. Government helplines 108 and 1912 were flooded with calls seeking help.

Since Tuesday morning, the Emergency Response Team (ERT), a volunteer group, has been getting many calls from desperate families. ERT volunteers said they have got several calls from families of patients admitted in as many eight hospitals in various parts of the city on Tuesday, requesting help in finding oxygenated beds.

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Karnataka introduces weekend curfew, curbs on businesses

The Karnataka government on Tuesday imposed weekend curfew and night curfew across the State and prohibited a range of businesses from functioning to contain the surge of COVID-19. The new pandemic-related stricture will be in place till May 4.

While the night curfew will be between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., the weekend curfew will be between 9 p.m. on Friday till 6 a.m. on Monday. The new restrictions come in the midst of a surge in COVID-19 cases in the State, as cases exceeded 21,000 on Tuesday, bringing pressure on the medical infrastructure.

Educational institutions, cinema halls, shopping malls, gymnasiums, yoga centres, spas, sports complexes, stadium, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres and bars have been brought under prohibited list till May 4. The guidelines ban social, political, sports, entertainment, academic, cultural, religious gatherings, and large congregation.

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(With inputs from our Correspondents and agencies)

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