Coronavirus updates | March 24, 2021

Medical staff treat a patient inside of the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) coronavirus disease ward at Poland

Medical staff treat a patient inside of the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) coronavirus disease ward at Poland

Hours after India registered the highest single-day rise in COVID-19 cases this year, the health ministry said that genome sequencing by INSACOG showed variants of concern and a novel variant of the virus in India. Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (ISACOG) is a multi-agency network to monitor the genome variations in the virus across the country.

India had on Wednesday recorded 47,262 fresh coronavirus cases in a day, taking the nationwide COVID-19 tally to 1,17,34,058, the Union health ministry said.

The active caseload registered an increased for the 14th day in row and was recorded at 3,68,457, comprising 3.14% of the total infections, while the recovery rate further dropped to 95.49%, the ministry data updated at 8 a.m. said.  

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:

Surge in cases

Maharashtra and Punjab are of grave concern with a surge in COVID-19 cases. Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are the other two States which have registered a spike in cases. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are also showing a surge in cases. Nearly 88% of all COVID-19 deaths are taking place in the age group of 45 years and above and the case fatality rate is 2.85%. This group is vulnerable and needs to be protected. Telangana, Chandigarh, Nagaland and Punjab have registered low vaccination coverage of health care workers. Dr. Sujeet Kumar Singh, director, NCDC, said that 18 States have registered variants of COVID-19 and that there is no direct sole link to this mutation: Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan.

Member (health) Niti Aayog V.K. Paul, said, "We have adequate supplies of the vaccines for the COVID-19 vaccination programme." He said that private hospitals have to come forward for the vaccination programme.

Meanwhile, India’s AEFI committee says that Covishield is safe. Balram Bhargava, Director-General of Indian Council of Medical Research said that COVID-19 tests, masks and vaccination are key to overcome the early second wave that we are seeing now.

He said, "There is an evidence that both vaccines in the country act against both Brazilian and the U.K. variants too. Research is ongoing about effectiveness of use in South African variants."

- Bindu   Shajan   Perappadan

WION global summit

COVID-19 introduced many variables into incredibly complex global situation: Jaishankar

The coronavirus pandemic introduced many more variables into an incredibly dynamic and complex global situation and even brought out in the open the behaviour of states at times of stress, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said on Wednesday.

Without specifically mentioning any country or incidents, the external affairs minister also said that power plays will continue on a changed playing field, noting that concerns will reflect "recent experiences" and resulting anxieties and so will solutions.

Mr. Jaishankar was speaking at the WION global summit on 'Power Play in a Post Pandemic World'.

"Now, into an incredibly dynamic and complex global situation, the COVID pandemic has actually introduced many more variables. Not just that, some of these actually came as a shock to the entire global system," he said.

COVID-19 drug

Zydus Cadila reduces price of generic COVID-19 drug to ₹ 899 per vial

Drug firm Zydus Cadila on Wednesday said it has significantly reduced the price of its generic version of Remdesivir, which the company sells under the brand name 'Remdac', to ₹ 899 for a 100 mg vial.

The company had launched Remdac in August 2020 at ₹ 2,800 per 100 mg lyophilized injection in the country.

Remdesivir is a critical drug in the treatment of COVID-19. This move to further revise the prices will go a long way in helping patients during these critical times, Zydus Cadila said in a statement.

"Through the course of this pandemic, our efforts have been focused on making therapies accessible and affordable to people. Remdac has been one of the critical drugs in the disease management on COVID-19 and we hope that this price cut will enable people from every strata of the society to access this critical drug," Cadila Healthcare MD Sharvil Patel said.

New variant

Genome sequencing by INSACOG shows variants of concern and a novel variant in India: Health Ministry

Two new 'variants of concern' and a new 'double mutant' COVID-variant have been found in India, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday. Variants of concern are mutated types of coronavirus associated with either increase transmission, a reduction in neutralising antibodies or severe disease. However the government said that none of the recent spikes in Maharashtra, Punjab were attributable to the VOC. "Genomic sequencing and epidemiological studies are continuing to further analyse the situation," the Ministry statement added.

An analysis of samples from Maharashtra has revealed that compared to December 2020, there has been an increase in the fraction of samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations. "Such mutations confer immune escape (evade neutralising antibodies) and increased infectivity," it added.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong halts use of Pfizer vaccine, cites defective lids

Hong Kong suspended use of the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday after its Chinese distributor informed the city that one batch had defective bottle lids.

The city’s government said the suspension was immediate while the matter is investigated by distributor Fosun Pharma and BioNTech, the German company that created the vaccine with American pharmaceutical firm Pfizer.



Aamir Khan tests postive for COVID-19

Actor Aamir Khan has tested positive for coronavirus and is currently under home quarantine, the actor's spokesperson said on Wednesday.


The 56-year-old actor is doing “fine” and has asked those who came in contact with him to also get tested.

“Mr. Aamir Khan has tested positive for COVID-19. He is at home in self-quarantine, following all the protocols and he’s doing fine,” the statement from the spokesperson read.




India's donation of COVID-19 vaccines to Afghanistan lauded

India's donation of COVID-19 vaccines to Afghanistan has been lauded by top U.N. officials and diplomats from Kabul, as the war-torn country undertakes a vaccination campaign to combat the deadly virus.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ Special Representative for Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Deborah Lyons told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that Afghanistan for now, seems to have weathered the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While we must remain vigilant about a potential third wave, vaccinations have now begun, thanks to the donations from the Government of India and the support of the COVAX facility. As the vaccination campaign continues to ramp up, we must continue to ensure that vaccines reach all prioritised groups across the country,” she told the Council meeting on Afghanistan.



One year since COVID-19 lockdown: India still recovering from unemployment blow

India is still not out of the woods as far as unemployment is concerned after a year when the lockdown was imposed to contain the spread of deadly COVID-19 on March 25 last year as pandemic-induced job loss has not tapered off consistently.

The government had imposed a lockdown to curb the spread of the pandemic but this impacted economic and commercial activities and resulted in job loss and later on the exodus of migrant workers which rocked the entire nation.

According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) data, the unemployment rate was recorded at 6.9% in February 2021 which is slightly better than 7.8% in the same month last year and 8.8% in March 2020, during which lockdown was imposed.

The data showed that the unemployment rate had peaked to 23.5% in April and remained at 21.7% in May. It started tapering off from June onward when it was recorded at 10.2% in the month and further improved to 7.4% in July. - PTI


Antibodies may last from days to years, depending on infection severity, says study

Antibodies against the novel coronavirus wane at different rates, lasting for mere days in some individuals, while persisting in others for decades, according to a new study which says COVID-19 severity could be a deciding factor in having longer-lasting protection against reinfection.

The research, published in The Lancet Microbe journal, noted that recovered patients with low levels of neutralising antibodies may still be protected from reinfection if they have robust immunity in the form of the body's T cells.

In the study, scientists, including those from Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, followed 164 COVID-19 patients for six to nine months, analysing their blood for neutralising antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, their T cells and immune system signalling molecules. - PTI


BMCRI PG students stop COVID-19 duty

Demanding that the existing non-COVID-19 beds should not be converted into COVID-19 beds again in the wake of a second wave as it will hit the academic year again, nearly 700 post-graduate students from Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI) stopped attending to COVID-19 duties from Monday.

In a memorandum to the Chief Secretary and other top BMCRI authorities, members of BMCRI Resident Doctors Association urged that the government should make alternative arrangements for managing COVID-19 patients so that the post-graduates can concentrate exclusively for non-COVID-19 patient care.


Case update

COVID-19 vaccination figures cross 5-crore mark in India

The cumulative number of COVID-19  vaccine  doses administered crossed 5 crore with 5,00,75,162 jabs given till Tuesday, as per the provisional report till 7 p.m., said the Health Ministry.

They include 79,03,068 Health Care Workers (HCWs) who have taken the first dose and 50,09,252 HCWs who have taken the second, 83,33,713 Front Line Workers (FLWs) (first), 30,60,060 FLWs (second), 2,12,03,700 beneficiaries more than 60 years old and 45,65,369 aged 45 and above with specific co-morbidities.

Of the 15,80,568 doses given on Tuesday, 13,74,697 beneficiaries were vaccinated for the first dose and 2,05,871 HCWs and FLWs the second.

The Ministry said beneficiaries must insist on receiving a hard copy or a digital copy/link of their vaccination certificate.


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