Coronavirus updates | April 24, 2021

In view of the high demand for oxygen in the country following a record spike in coronavirus cases, the railways has decided to run 'Oxygen Express' trains to transport liquid medical oxygen and oxygen cylinders across the country. One such train carrying three tankers of liquid medical oxygen arrived in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday morning.

Updated - April 24, 2021 09:58 pm IST

Published - April 24, 2021 10:20 am IST

A COVID-19 patient waiting for admission into the Government General Hospital in Ongole on Friday.

A COVID-19 patient waiting for admission into the Government General Hospital in Ongole on Friday.

India registered a new single-day high of 3,45,799 COVID-19 cases as of 11.15 p.m. IST on April 23, the third consecutive day with over 3 lakh recorded cases . As many as 2,624 deaths were also recorded on the day.

The country has so far reported a total of 1,66,03,126 cases and 1,89,553 deaths.

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

Zydus Cadila's Virafin granted restricted emergency use approval for treating COVID patients

The Drug Controller General Of India (DCGI) has granted restricted emergency use approval to Zydus Cadila's Virafin for treating patients showing moderate COVID-19 symptoms, the Department of Biotechnology said.

Virafin is a pegylated interferon alpha-2b(PegIFN), which when subcutaneously injected to the patient in the early stages of infection, results in their faster recovery, it said.

The studies confirmed the safety, tolerability and efficacy of Virafin. The studies also reported that Viarfin reduces viral load and aid in managing the disease in a better way, such as reduction in the need for supplemental oxygen, thereby reducing the respiratory tension caused due to low oxygen levels, the DBT said.

Jammu and Kashmir

Jammu and Kashmir announces 34-hour curfew from 8 p.m. on Saturday

The Jammu and Kashmir administration announced a 34-hour curfew from 8 p.m. on Saturday amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

"Complete corona curfew to be observed in the Union Territory from 8PM, 24th April (Saturday) till 6AM, April 26 (Monday). Essential and emergency services to be allowed. All market, commercial institutions will remain closed," the office of J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha tweeted.



Andhra Pradesh govt places order for 4.08 crore doses each of Covaxin, Covishield

The government in Andhra Pradesh has placed an order for purchase of 4.08 crore doses each of Covaxin and Covishield for vaccinating 2.04 crore people in the 18-45 age group from May 1.

Government Principal Secretary (Covid Management and Vaccination) Muddada Ravichandra wrote letters to Bharat Biotech MD Krishna Yella and Serum Institute of India Limited CEO Adar Poonawalla in this regard.

Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy had announced on Friday that all 2.04 crore people in the 18-45 age group would be given the coronavirus vaccine free-of-cost from May 1.


Telangana to administer free COVID-19 vaccine to all

The Telangana government will administer COVID-19 vaccine free of cost to the entire population in the State irrespective of their age, Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao said.

Mr. Rao said it would cost more than Rs 2,500 crore to vaccinate everyone, and taking into consideration the importance of lives of people, this amount is worth spending.

The CM issued instructions to the Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar and officers of the Medical and Health department in this regard, an official release said.


Gujarat Deputy CM Nitin Patel tests positive

Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel announced that he has tested positive for coronavirus infection.

Mr. Patel, 64, who also holds the Hhealth portfolio, was admitted to the U N Mehta Institute of Cardiology and Research Centre after testing positive.

New Delhi

Ahead of third phase of vaccination, Centre asks States to set up more private centres

Ahead of the roll-out of vaccination of people aged between 18 and 45 from May 1, the Centre on Saturday asked States to register additional private vaccination centres and ensure effective crowd management at sites and stressed on inoculation through "only online registration" for beneficiaries in the age bracket.

With regards to the Phase-3 vaccination strategy from May 1, the States were advised to register additional private COVID-19 Vaccination Centres (CVCs) on mission mode by engaging with private hospitals, hospitals of industrial establishments, industry associations, etc., the Health Ministry said in a statement.


New Delhi

RSS warns against ‘anti-Bharat’ forces amid pandemic

In the midst of a massive second wave of COVID-19 infections hitting India, the RSS on Saturday appealed for caution against “destructive and anti-Bharat forces” who, it said, could exploit the situation to “create an atmosphere of negativity and distrust.”

RSS general secretary and second-in-command Dattatreya Hosabale released a statement which also asked the organisation’s workers, social and religious institutions to come forward to resolve current challenges.


New Delhi

Teachers' body condemns JNU for not opening COVID management centres on campus

The Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers' Association (JNUTA) condemned the "non-cooperative" attitude of the JNU administration in starting a COVID care facility on the campus.

In a statement, signed by JNUTA president Milap C Sharma and secretary Moushumi Basu, it asked the university authorities to not stand on "rigidities" and be flexible to demands that are being made by residents.

The teachers' association said it would indeed be "criminal" to keep physical facilities locked up and not made available for use by residents in need.


Long queues outside BHEL to get oxygen cylinders refilled

Amid acute shortage of medical oxygen due to a surge in coronavirus cases, vehicles and individuals are queuing up outside the BHEL's plant in Bhopal to get the empty cylinders refilled with the life-saving gas.

Due to the rising demand, the Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited's Bhopal unit has been functioning round-the-clock to provide oxygen to citizens, an official said.

According to eyewitnesses, people are queuing up in large numbers to get the oxygen cylinders refilled.

"The queue of people and hospital representatives with cylinders is so long that they have to wait for 6-7 hours for their turn to come," one of the eyewitnesses said.

New Delhi

Rajnath Singh throws open health facilities at defence establishments for Covid patients

All health facilities of defence public sector undertakings and Ordnance Factory Board have been allowed to provide health services to civilians infected with the coronavirus, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Saturday.

Mr. Singh also said that the armed forces and the Defence Ministry will leave no stone unturned in providing all possible assistance to the civil administrations in dealing with the pandemic.

The Defence Minister's comments came after he reviewed efforts by the three services and various other wings of his ministry in contributing to India's fight against a fast-spreading second wave of COVID-19.


New Delhi

Manmohan Singh recuperating well from COVID-19

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh is recuperating well from COVID-19 infection at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here, a Congress leader said on Saturday.

"Singh is stable and is progressing well. He has had no episodes of fever," Congress general secretary and chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said. - PTI


COVID challenge bigger than last year, stop it from hitting villages: PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said the COVID-19 challenge before the country now is bigger than the last year and called for making efforts to ensure that the infectious disease is stopped from hitting villages "by all means".

Addressing a ceremony on Panchayati Raj Diwas during which Mr. Modi launched the distribution of e-property cards under the 'SWAMITVA scheme, he said the pandemic was prevented from affecting rural areas last year and exuded confidence that the success can be replicated as local leadership now have experience as well as knowledge.


Pakistan FM Qureshi extends support to Indian people affected by COVID-19 surge

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday expressed support to the people of India in the wake of a massive surge in COVID-19 cases in the country and extended his sympathies to the affected families.

Mr. Qureshi said the COVID-19 crisis is yet another reminder that humanitarian issues require responses beyond political consideration. - PTI

Indian Railways

93,000 railway staff infected with COVID-19

Amid a record surge in COVID-19 cases in the country, around 93,000 employees of Indian Railways have tested positive for the virus, Railway Board Chairman and CEO Suneet Sharma said on Friday.

“Railways is no different [from what is happening in the country]. Roughly around 93,000 Railways beneficiaries were infected with COVID-19. More than 5,000 beds are earmarked for these people in the 72 hospitals of the Indian Railways,” Mr. Sharma said during a press conference. - Yuthika Bhargava


COVID-19 | Weekend curfew in Bengaluru sees citizens remain at home

After a brief burst of activity in the morning, when grocery stores and meat and dairy outlets were allowed to operate from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., Bengaluru hunkered down for the weekend curfew. In Fraser Town, most grocery stores saw only a few customers buying last-minute necessities, though there were longer queues outside dairy and butcher stalls.



Customs duty on import of COVID-19 vaccines and medicines, medical oxygen waived for three months

The government has decided to exempt basics customs duty on import of COVID-19 vaccines, and the basic customs duty and health cess on import of medical grade Oxygen and other equipment related to providing oxygen to patients, for a period of three months.

These decisions were taken at a meeting chaired by the Prime Minister to review steps taken to boost oxygen availability in the country, the finance ministry said on Saturday. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, Health Minister Harsha Vardhan and AIIMS director Randeep Guleria were among those present at the meeting. - Vikas Dhoot


Over 1,400 tonnes of oxygen needed for Karnataka in May: Sudhakar

As the demand for oxygen is seeing a steady rise in the State, Health Minister K. Sudhakar, on April 24, said Karnataka would require over 1,400 tonnes of oxygen beginning May 1.

Pointing to the severity of the second wave, he said the new variants were posing a challenge to the medical fraternity. In this wave, propelled by what is being dubbed as the Indian variant, the demand for oxygen is far higher than in the first, he said.



10 states account for 74.15 % of new COVID-19 cases: Health Ministry

Ten states, including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, reported 74.15 % of the new COVID-19 cases reported in a day, the Union health ministry said on Saturday.

It also said 12 states are displaying an upward trajectory in daily cases. These are Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Bihar and West Bengal.

A record single-day rise of 3,46,786 coronavirus cases pushed India's tally of infection to 1,66,10,481, while active cases crossed the 25-lakh mark, according to the ministry's data updated on Saturday.

The death toll rose to 1,89,544 with a record 2,624 more fatalities in a day, the data updated at 8 a.m. showed. - PTI


Odisha seals border with West Bengal

The Odisha government sealed its border with West Bengal where a triple mutant variant of COVID-19 has reportedly surfaced, and intensified vigil along the inter-state boundary.

The State police has also intensified vigil at three major check posts. People who are crossing the border through the three check posts are asked to furnish their negative reports of RT-PCR, done 48 hours before travelling, or their vaccination certificates. After entering Odisha, they have to be quarantined for 14 days.

New Delhi

20 COVID-19 patients die in Delhi Jaipur Golden Hospital

As many as 20 critically-ill COVID-19 patients died at Jaipur Golden Hospital in the national capital on Friday night due to low stock of oxygen. The hospital on Saturday morning also have oxygen for only 45 minutes and they sought for urgent government help.

The city has been grappling with shortage in oxygen supply for the past seven days amid a huge surge in coronavirus cases.

"20 critically ill COVID patients died last night over oxygen crisis. The oxygen stock was never completely dry, but the pressure was low as we were running out of stock," Dr. D.K. Baluja, Medical Director of Jaipur Golden Hospital in Delhi told The Hindu .

Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh Cong. MLA Kalawati Bhuria dies of COVID-19

Kalawati Bhuria , a Congress MLA in Madhya Pradesh, died at a private hospital here early on Saturday while undergoing treatment for coronavirus, family sources said. She was 49.

Kalawati, who represented Jobat assembly constituency in Alirajpur district, was admitted to Shalby Hospital 12 days ago, the family sources said. Hospital's medical superintendent Vivek Joshi said that her lungs were 70 per cent infected and she was on ventilator support. “Her condition deteriorated and she could not be saved”, Dr. Joshi said.

Kalawati was former Union Minister Kantilal Bhuria's niece. She had become a legislator after winning the Jobat seat in 2018.


Kuwait suspends commercial flights from India

Kuwait's directorate general of civil aviation said early on Saturday in a tweet that it had suspended all direct commercial flights coming from India, effective April 24 and until further notice.

The move was on the instructions of health authorities after an evaluation of the global coronavirus status.

All passengers arriving from India either directly or viaanother country will be banned from entering unless they have spent at least 14 days out of India, the statement said.

Kuwaiti citizens, their first degree relatives and their domestic workers will be allowed to enter. Cargo is unaffected.

- Reuters


People from Bengaluru now scouting for beds in other cities

Reeling under severe shortage of ICU beds, oxygen beds and ventilators, families of COVID-19 positive patients from Bengaluru are travelling to ensure their kin get proper medical care in the time of acute distress. Residents are now occupying a good chunk of these beds in faraway places like Hubballi and Mysuru where the situation is still under control.

What has caused anxiety in the Health Department is a possible acute shortage of facilities in these tier-2 cities that are also progressively reporting increasing number of COVID-19 patients. For example, Mysuru has a high COVID-19 positive ratio in respect to the population. If the beds are occupied by outsiders and a need arises for locals, the crisis may blow out of proportion, sources said.

One of the reasons for such long distance travel for treatment, government sources said was availability of infrastructure in tier-2 places. “More than 90% of government facilities in Bengaluru are already occupied. This is because, of the total cases in the State, 60% are from Bengaluru while the city has less than 20% of the total government capacity in health services. Beds are still available outside Bengaluru and cases are relatively low there.”

New Delhi

30 COVID-19 patients flee Tripura

Law enforcing agencies in Tripura failed to prevent 30 patients, who fled from a COVID Care Centre (CCC) here late on Wednesday night, from leaving the State.

Their mobile phone locations were detected at different places outside the State, officials said here on Friday.

Around 65 youths who had come from various States to appear for interviews for recruitment in the paramilitary Tripura State Rifles (TSR) underwent COVID-19 test. Forty of them tested positive and were shifted to the CCC at Arundhutinagar.

Thirty inmates subsequently broke a window at the back of the building, scaled the boundary wall and escaped, West Tripura district magistrate Shailesh Yadav told newsmen earlier.

New Delhi

At testing centres, queue forms at 4 a.m., one’s turn can take 2-3 days

People are waiting outside government-run COVID-19 testing centres from as early as 4 a.m. in parts of the city. Of them, many do not get a chance to test as the centres were testing only a limited number of people.

One centre took 40 people, while the other took only 10, officials at the centre said. Many of them had come for the second and third day on the trot to get tested. But their wait goes on. The process is relatively smooth in private testing centres, some of which even offer round the clock testing.


New Delhi

Jaishankar welcomes EU’s support to fight COVID-19

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Friday welcomed the offer of support from the European Union to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in India.

The Minister had a virtual discussion with Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, in charge of the digital issues.

“Appreciated the support offered by EU on COVID challenges currently faced by India. Confident that EU will help strengthen our capabilities at this critical juncture,” said Mr Jaishankar after his video conversation with Ms. Vestager.

Tamil Nadu

Teachers anxious to work from schools amid second wave

With lack of clear instructions from the State government, teachers working in government, aided and private schools remain anxious on having to work from their schools amid the second wave of COVID-19.

According to T. Arulanandam, a Coimbatore-based school teacher and State auditor of Tamil Nadu High Higher Secondary School Graduate Teachers Association, many instances of school teachers testing positive and even dying due to complications have been occurring across the district of late. “These are not being highlighted separately,” he alleged. “Last year, they allowed us to work from home. The school work can be done from home by the teachers,” he said.

When contacted, Coimbatore Chief Educational Officer M. Ramakrishnan said he had instructed the headmasters and other heads of schools to coordinate with the Health Department if any teachers or staff members tested positive for COVID-19 in their respective schools.

New Delhi

Delhi govt. deputes teachers for monitoring bodies

The Delhi government on Friday issued an order deputing six teachers at the GTB Hospital in the city for monitoring of dead bodies and ensuring that calls for hearse vans are disposed of timely.

The order, which comes following a recent spike in deaths due to COVID-19, has attracted the ire of the teachers’ association, which said the task was not apt for someone holding the post of a teacher.

“The teachers are deployed for monitoring of dead bodies coordinating with GTB Hospital with immediate effect. The teachers will, according to their shift, contact the nodal officer of GTB for the purpose and ensure that COVID guidelines are being followed by rightful authorities,” said the order issued by the sub-divisional magistrate of North East Delhi.


Bengaluru’s COVID-19 positivity rate hits six-month high

As Karnataka continues to post new records in COVID-19 positive cases in the second wave of the pandemic, Bengaluru has been reporting staggering numbers. The positivity rate in April hit a six-month high of 9.78% on Thursday.

According to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike’s war room bulletin, the 9.78% positivity rate is against 16.48 lakh tests up to April 22. In March, the positivity rate was 2.31% against 13.78 lakh tests. When the number of cases had tapered off in January and February, it was below 1%. The number of tests too, though, were lower in those two months.

The last time the positivity rate was higher than it is now was in September 2020 when it was 12.21% against 8.52 lakh tests. This, however, was far lower than the peak pandemic period in July when it was a whopping 23.84% against 2.19 lakh tests.

New Delhi

Prevalence of U.K. variant rises in Delhi

The proportion of the U.K. variant (B.1.1.7) in genome samples sequenced from COVID cases in Delhi has risen from 28% in the second week of March to the 50% in the last week , Dr. Sujeet Singh, Director, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said in a webinar on Friday.

The U.K. variant has a mutation N501Y that is reported to increase the transmission of the virus leading to more numbers and a knock-on consequence of increasing disease severity and mortality.

Speaking at the webinar organised by the Department of Biotechnology, Dr. Singh said there was also a rise in the Indian variant (B.1.617), that has two mutations associated with increased efficacy and decreasing the potency of vaccines.

Uttar Pradesh

Oxygen Express train carrying 3 tankers of liquid medical oxygen reaches U.P.

An Oxygen Express train carrying three tankers of liquid medical oxygen arrived in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday morning as the state battles a  surge in coronavirus cases

In view of the high demand for oxygen in the country following a record spike in coronavirus cases, the railways has decided to run 'Oxygen Express' trains to transport liquid  medical oxygen  and oxygen cylinders across the country.

Roll-on-roll-off trucks are being transported on flat wagons by the trains for quick supply of medical oxygen.

"Two trucks of medical oxygen arrived in Lucknow around 6.30 am while one truck was offloaded in Varanasi. Each truck has a capacity of containing 15,000 litres of medical oxygen," Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Kumar Awasthi told PTI.


U.S. to resume J&J COVID-19 vaccinations despite rare clot risk

U.S. health officials lifted an 11-day  pause on COVID-19 vaccinations  using Johnson & Johnson's single-dose shot, after scientific advisers decided its benefits outweigh a rare risk of blood clot.

The government uncovered 15 vaccine recipients who developed a highly  unusual kind of blood clot , out of nearly 8 million people given the J&J shot. All were women, most under age 50. Three died, and seven remain hospitalized.

But ultimately Friday, the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided that J&J's one-and-done vaccine is critical to fight the pandemic — and that the small clot risk could be handled with warnings to help younger women decide if they should use that shot or an alternative.


Calls grow for U.S. to help India with spare COVID-19 vaccines

As a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic rages in India, calls are growing in the United States to send spare vaccine doses to New Delhi. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Indian and U.S. officials were in touch about possible U.S. help to India at this time, but did not comment on whether the U.S. would send vaccines from its stockpiles.

“Let me first say that the United States offers our deepest sympathy to the people of India who are clearly suffering during this global pandemic and we are working closely with Indian officials at both political and experts level to identify ways to help address the crisis,” Ms. Psaki said on Friday in response to a question on whether there are plans for the U.S. to send vaccines, such as from its AstraZeneca stockpile, to India.

“So there are ongoing discussions. I don't have anything more to preview but we are in touch with the at a range of levels about how we can help them get through this period of time,” Ms. Psaki said.

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