Coronavirus updates | March 22, 2021

AstraZeneca says U.S. trial data shows COVID-19 vaccine 79% effective; South African sale of unused Indian AstraZeneca vaccines finalised

March 22, 2021 09:21 am | Updated 10:34 pm IST

A bicycle rider takes in a wall painting, commissioned by the district administration to create awareness among the voters of the Assam Assembly election, in Kokrajhar district on Sunday.

A bicycle rider takes in a wall painting, commissioned by the district administration to create awareness among the voters of the Assam Assembly election, in Kokrajhar district on Sunday.

India saw 46,951 new coronavirus infections being reported in a day, the highest so far this year, taking the nationwide COVID-19 tally to 1,16,46,081, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Monday.

Registering an increase for the 12th day in a row, the total active caseload has increased to 3,34,646, which now comprises 2.87 per cent of the total infections, while the recovery rate has further dropped to 95.75%, the data stated.

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:

United Kingdom

AstraZeneca says U.S. trial data shows COVID-19 vaccine 79% effective

AstraZeneca says advanced trial data from a U.S. study on its COVID-19 vaccine shows it is 79% effective.

Although AstraZeneca's vaccine has been authorised in more than 50 countries, it has not yet been given the green light in the U.S. The U.S. study comprised 30,000 volunteers, 20,000 of whom were given the vaccine while the rest got dummy shots. The results were announced on March 22.


Jammu and Kashmir

Jammu Divisional Commissioner conducts surprise inspection of Lakhanpur entry point

Jammu Divisional Commissioner Raghav Langer has made a surprise visit to Lakhanpur, the gateway to Jammu and Kashmir bordering Punjab, amid a spike in coronavirus cases, and called for a strict vigil on travellers, officials said on Monday.

The late Sunday night visit was necessitated to check efficiency and accountability of COVID-19 set-up at the Lakhanpur entry point in the wake of various type of complaints and non-compliance of the COVID-19 protocol, they said.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration has directed the officers concerned to keep extra vigil on travellers coming from outside the Union Territory and not to let anyone go without sampling, the officials said. - PTI

Case Update

India reports 46,951 new COVID cases

India on Monday reported 46,951 new COVID cases, which is the highest single-day jump since November 7 last year. This marks an increase of over 3,000 new COVID cases since Sunday, according to data released by the Health Ministry.

The continued surge over the past week has seen a jump of over 60% in new cases.

In the last 24 hours, 212 deaths linked to COVID-19 were recorded, the highest since January 9 when 228 deaths were reported in a single day.

India has a total case load of 1,16,46,081 of which 1,11,51,468 are recoveries and 3,34,646 are active cases.

The country’s death toll stands at 1,59,967. - Bindu Shajan Perappadan


Thane district sees 2,195 new COVID-19 cases, five deaths

With the addition of 2,195 fresh coronavirus positive cases, the infection count in Thane district of Maharashtra mounted to 2,88,444, an official said on Monday.

These new cases were reported on Sunday, he said.

As the virus claimed the life of five morepersons, the death toll in the district, which falls under the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), went up to 6,382. - PTI


No PPE kits, sanitisers for PHC staff

With the surge in the number of positive cases, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has increased the target for testing in the city. By Monday, the civic body hopes to increase the number of tests to 50,000 a day. The target for vaccinations has also been enhanced.

However, a visit to a few PHCs in different zones of the city revealed that healthcare workers in these facilities do not have proper safety gear . Many staff members who were recruited for COVID-19 duty said they had not received their salaries for two months.

Many health workers also complained of delayed payments. “Salaries for November and December were disbursed in February. I am struggling to pay rent,” said Mallikarjuna, the swab collector at a PHC in Rajarajeshwarinagar zone. Data entry operators and Group D workers also said that they have not been paid for the past two months. Jayanthi Babu (name changed), a Group D worker in a PHC in Bengaluru’s West zone, said she was the sole bread winner and had borrowed money to buy provisions to feed her family of four.

When contacted, BBMP Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad, however, claimed that there was no shortage of either PPE kits or other safety gear. He maintained that the civic body has been distributing the safety gear to all 141 PHCs coming under it. “These must be isolated cases. I will check and look into it,” he said.


Second wave of COVID-19 infections threatens tourism prospects again

Summer holidays, the longest for school and college students and their families, command peak time tariffs due to the high demand. But last year, March-end ushered in a lifestyle unknown to many - locked up at home with nowhere to go.

Big travel plans are still a mile away, but domestic tourism surely and slowly started picking up as lockdown norms were eased. Now, a second wave of infections poses a threat to yet another summer vacation period .

According to M. Ravi, joint secretary of Karnataka Tourism Society, hotel bookings have fallen by more than 50%. “Tourist transport has also been hit badly. If this continues, travel, tourism and hospitality will be in deep trouble,” he said. One of the reasons is the lack of uniformity in precautions and protocol among different States. “They have to remove the requirement of an RT-PCR for certain States or make it mandatory for all. Each State has its own rules now,” he added.

South Africa

South African sale of unused Indian AstraZeneca vaccines finalised

South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has confirmed that the sale of one million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine received from the Serum Institute of India last month has been concluded.

The vaccines were sold to 14 African countries after South Africa suspended its planned usage to vaccinate healthcare workers when it was found to have limited efficacy against a new variant of the virus that became dominant in the country during a second wave of the pandemic towards the end of last year.

Instead, South Africa opted to use alternative vaccines to provide some level of immunity to thousands of healthcare workers, but concerns have been expressed over the slow rate of a planned three-phase vaccination programme amid delays in the delivery of vaccines.

Andhra Pradesh

Prakasam district steps up testing as COVID cases spike

In a two-pronged strategy, health authorities in Prakasam district have stepped up testing as well as giving more thrust to the vaccination programme after coronavirus cases began rising again after showing a declining trend in the last couple of months.

“The number of persons tested was of the order of 3,000 per day till recently. Now, we have doubled the number of people subjected to testing after isolating primary and secondary contacts of the infected persons,” Prakasam District Medical and Health Officer P. Ratnavalli told  The Hindu .

“In addition to this, we are focusing on the vaccination drive to cover each and every person above 60 years of age by conducting a door-to-door survey after finding that voluntary registration of senior citizens is not up to the mark,” she said.

New Delhi

Nizamuddin streets await the throng of yore

Next to the Hazrat Nizamuddin police station, on a street with a tricolour divider, Mohammed Iqbal exhorts passers-by to buy a plateful of roses to offer at the dargah up ahead. A lot has changed in a year since the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at the Nizamuddin Markaz (centre) grabbed national headlines after the initial proliferation of COVID-19 cases. Mr. Iqbal, whose income has dropped drastically since the event, takes solace in the fact that he can at least come to the area and sell flowers.

Last year in March, this street was cordoned off with multiple layers of barricading and security personnel standing guard – initially wearing PPE kits. The congregation at the centre, popularly known as Banglewali Masjid where thousands of people from across the country and the world come to stay from time to time for religious reasons, was being tagged as a “super spreader event” after several COVID-19 cases were detected at the centre. All those staying at the centre were shifted to various quarantine centres across the Capital and criminal cases were registered in the matter.

The centre was shut down in the last week of March 2020 and has not been reopened yet. The street is still waiting to come back to its full glory . Local businesses, especially in the streets close to the centre, have been severely affected and those running the shops are praying for it to open again. The income of the vendors selling food, flowers, clothing, perfumes, books and souvenirs has reduced by more than half.

New Delhi

Cases continue to show upward trend in Capital

The number of COVID-19 cases continued to show an upward trend in the Capital with 823 new cases being reported.

According to a health bulletin released by the Delhi government, 79,714 tests were conducted with a positivity rate of 1.03%. This was the second day in a row that the positivity rate has been above 1%.

The bulletin added that in 24 hours, one death occurred due to the virus and 613 patients recovered. This is the highest number of cases recorded this year in the Capital, according to data by the health department.


Karnataka seeing the beginning of second wave: Sudhakar

Karnataka is “at the beginning of the second wave” of COVID-19 and people’s cooperation to contain the spread of the virus is vital, said Health Minister K. Sudhakar on Sunday.

“Let us join hands to control it because the next two to three months are crucial,” he told reporters. He said he would discuss with Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa the current situation and measures to be taken immediately.

The Minister pointed out that the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) on the pandemic had given clear guidelines to the government and warned of serious consequences if certain activities were not controlled. “We will all be responsible for the consequences if the government and people do not respond to experts’ advice,” Dr. Sudhakar said.

“We have crossed 1,000 cases a day just in Bengaluru. We cannot be in denial any more. My fervent request to people is to adapt COVID-19-appropriate behaviour. Controlling the spread is in the hands of people,” he said, appealing to youth to ensure that the elderly in their households were vaccinated.


U.K. warns EU against vaccine export ban

Britain on Sunday warned the European Union against halting exports of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccines if the bloc did not receive promised deliveries first, saying the move would be “counter-productive”.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said “the world is watching” how the EU responds to a shortfall in deliveries of the inoculation from the Anglo-Swedish pharma giant, and that Brussels’ reputation was at stake.

His comments follow EU chief Ursula von der Leyen again threatening on Saturday to impose an export ban on the AstraZeneca vaccine unless the company delivers more of the 90 million doses it agreed to supply in the first quarter of 2021.

New Delhi

India’s Premas Biotech, Israel’s Oramed jointly develop oral vaccine for COVID-19

An Indian-Israeli collaboration has reportedly developed an oral vaccine , one that can be swallowed like a pill instead of being injected as is the norm, for COVID-19. A preliminary test in animals showed that the vaccine produced the expected antibodies that confer protection. However the findings have not been reported in a scientific publication yet and can’t be independently verified.

The product is also far from being tested in human trials, though company promoters say depending on how tests pan out, the vaccine candidate could be ready for human trials in the next three months.

Premas Biotech, a Gurugram-based biotechnology firm and Oramed Pharmaceuticals, a Jerusalem headquartered company, have a long standing collaboration on developing new drug delivery techniques.

The nascent COVID-19 vaccine candidate is a “protein-based VLP (Virus Like Particle) vaccine candidate” that generates “triple protection” against the SARS CoV-2 virus, that is, it is able to target the spike, membrane, and envelope proteins of the coronavirus. These three proteins are critical to the structure of the coronavirus and give it form as well as the ability to replicate inside the body. Typically vaccines are supposed to coax the immune systems into producing antibodies neutralising these antigenic proteins.


Maharashtra clocks all-time single-day high with 30,535 cases

In its highest single-day case surge since the beginning of the pandemic , Maharashtra reported 30,535 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday as its active case tally zoomed past the two-lakh mark to reach 2,10,120.

Just 11,314 patients were discharged in the last 24 hours with the State’s recovery rate dipping to 89.32%. At the same time, a record 1.38 lakh samples were tested as well.

A fatality spike of 99 deaths were reported (of whom 43 were recorded in the last 48 hours and the rest from an earlier period), which pushed the death toll to 53,399.

While the total case tally has touched 24,79,682, the cumulative recoveries stand at 22,14,867.


Night curfew in 8 Rajasthan cities from today

Amid a surge in coronavirus cases, the Rajasthan government has decided to impose night curfew in eight cities from Monday and also made it mandatory for people visiting the state to carry a COVID-19 negative test report.

Officials said the night curfew will be imposed in Ajmer, Bhilwara, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Kota, Udaipur, Sagwada (Dungarpur) and Kushalgarh (Banswara) from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The decisions were taken during a review meeting chaired by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.

It was decided that travellers coming to Rajasthan from other states will have to carry RT-PCR negative reports (not older than 72 hours) from March 25, officials said.

If the RT-PCR test report of travellers are not negative, they would have to remain in quarantine for 15 days, officials said.

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