Coronavirus updates | March 7, 2021

Paramedic staff seen arriving at the Vijayawada railway station as part of a COVID-19 safety exercise.   | Photo Credit: GIRI KVS

New cases of coronavirus infection in India were recorded above 18,000 for the second consecutive day taking the country’s tally of COVID-19 cases to 1,12,10,799, the Union Health Ministry said. The active cases registered an increase for the fifth consecutive day. The COVID-19 active caseload increased to 1,84,523 which now comprises 1.65% of the total infections.

The recovery rate has dropped further to 96.95%, the Ministry data stated.

A total of 18,711 new infections were registered in a day, while the death toll increased to 1,57,756 with 100 daily new fatalities, the data updated at 8 a.m. showed. On January 29, 18,855 new infections were recorded in a span of 24 hours.

Last week, a Health Ministry team had visited Maharashtra and reported that among the possible reasons for the growing number of cases in the city were — COVID inappropriate behaviour due to “lack of fear of disease,” pandemic fatigue, missed cases, super spreading events and crowds due to recent gram panchayat elections, marriages, re-opening of schools, and crowded public transport.

However, the report stressed that the situation in Maharashtra was not unique and a similar combination of events was responsible for a surge in other States too.

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

Over 85% staff of Delhi Prisons received COVID-19 vaccine shots: Officials

The Delhi Prisons Department said that around 85% jail staff and over 58% security personnel deployed in three jails under it have received COVID-19 vaccine shots.

The Delhi Prisons comprises Tihar, Rohini and Mandoli jails.

A senior jail official said there are around 2,000 jail staff, out of which, 1,700 staff have been vaccinated. Out of around 1,700 security personnel deployed with Delhi Prisons and who have registered on Co-WIN portal, 1,000 personnel have got the coronavirus vaccine shots, he said.

Director General (Prisons) Sandeep Goel said the department has encouraged its staff to get the vaccine shots. - PTI

New Delhi

Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu are reporting high daily COVID-19 cases

Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu are reporting high daily COVID-19 cases with these six States collectively accounting for 84.71% of the 18,711 new cases reported in last 24 hours, said a release issued by the Health Ministry on Sunday.

Maharashtra continues to report the highest daily new cases at 10,187, followed by Kerala with 2,791 and Punjab 1,159. Eight States Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka and Haryana are displaying an upward trajectory in daily new cases, with the country’s total active caseload currently at 1.84 lakh (1,84,523).

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Pakistan sees surge in COVID-19 cases, tally crosses 5,90,000

Pakistan recorded a surge in COVID-19 cases with 1,780 new patients, taking the national tally to 5,90,508, the Health ministry said on March 7.

According to the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), the death toll from the coronavirus has reached 13,205 with 39 fatalities in the last 24 hours.

As many as 1,595 patients were in a critical condition, it said, adding that the positivity rate was recorded at 4.5% on March 7. The ministry said that 5,59,248 people have so far recovered from the contagion. The country has 18,055 active cases.

Pakistan’s positivity rate mostly remained below 3% in February but again started going up this month and has now crossed 4%. - PTI

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka receives Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines under COVAX Facility

Sri Lanka on Sunday received the first batch of 264,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines provided under the World Health Organisation's COVAX facility, an official said.

COVAX is the global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, regardless of income level.

The first batch of the coronavirus vaccines from the COVAX facility arrived in Sri Lanka on Sunday, the state minister of COVID prevention Dr Sudarshini Fernandopulle said.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) delivered the first shipment of 264,000 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine provided to Sri Lanka under the World Health Organisation's COVAX facility. - PTI

New Delhi

India records 18,711 new cases, 100 fresh fatalities

New cases of coronavirus infection in India were recorded above 18,000 for the second consecutive day taking the country's tally of COVID-19 cases to 1,12,10,799, the Union Health Ministry said on Sunday.

The active cases registered an increase for the fifth consecutive day. The COVID-19 active caseload increased to 1,84,523 which now comprises 1.65% of the total infections.

The recovery rate has dropped further to 96.95%, the ministry data stated. - PTI


Karnataka government may not permit big protests, gatherings: Minister

Following recommendations from the State’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), Karnataka is likely to stop giving permission to hold mass protests involving over 500 people.

Health and Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar told presspersons on Saturday that he would speak to Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa in this regard. “The TAC has warned that the next two months are crucial for the State, especially as the neighbouring Maharashtra and Kerala are witnessing a spike in cases. Along with strict enforcement of measures on the borders, restrictions on large gatherings, including protests/agitations, social, religious, and political gatherings, and weddings, will be tightened,” he said.

Asked if this meant that the government would stop giving permission for protests, the Minister said, “Yes, I will speak to the Chief Minister in this regard. The TAC has recommended that not more than 500 people should be allowed at large gatherings. I appeal to people, all religious heads, and political leaders and parties to follow these guidelines strictly and stop coming to Bengaluru for protests for at least the next two months.”

Tamil Nadu

Year after first case, there is still cause for concern

It has been a year since Tamil Nadu recorded its first case of COVID-19 on March 7, 2020. The State has come a long way in the control and management of the pandemic. But a rise in the number of fresh cases in a few districts has raised the level of alert.

As a sense of complacency has set in among the public, the emergence of clusters and continuing non-adherence to safety norms is posing a challenge for public health authorities. The journey has not been easy. In March 2020, the State’s positivity rate was 5.2%.

This rose to 10.5% in June, and went on to decline gradually from September, reaching 1.7% in December. After dropping below 1% in February 2021, for the first time since last March, the positivity rate is currently 1%. Today, the State accounts for 8,54,554 cases, with 8,38,085 recoveries, 12,517 deaths and 3,952 active cases. Between 50,000 and 55,000 tests are being done every day in the State.

“The last one year was a 360-degree challenge as it was not just a pandemic affecting the health sector but all sectors and individuals one way or the other. Initial phases of the lockdown helped in ramping up the health infrastructure. Clinical management improved tremendously, reducing the case fatality. Sticking to RT-PCR testing was unique to the State and helped in restricting the spread,” Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan said.

Andhra Pradesh

As campaign picks up, people fear increase in COVID cases

With the municipal election campaign picking up momentum, people in Visakhapatnam fear increase in number of COVID-19 cases. A large number of public meetings and rallies are being organised as part of the election campaign in which safety norms are totally ignored.

“We were confined to our houses for almost two months, when the pandemic was at its peak last year. Smell of sanitisers and bleaching powder emanated from our colonies. Over 100 people were affected due to the virus and more than 10 persons died. We hope those dreadful days didn’t recur. But the news of second COVID wave is frightening us,” said K. Sagar, a resident of Kobbarithota, which was a hotspot last year.

A few areas, which have been witnessing vigorous election campaign, were earlier containment zones. After a few States like Maharashtra started to witness the second wave, a few locals, especially those from containment zones, are in a panic mode.


Schools in Karnataka to test teachers more frequently

In the wake of an outbreak of COVID-19 cases in two government schools in Karnataka on Friday, managements of government and private schools are stepping up monitoring to ensure that their campuses do not become clusters.

Many managements said they were willing to bear the cost of vaccination for their teachers.

Mansoor Ali Khan, member, board of management, Delhi Public Group of Schools, said that they have been conducting COVID-19 tests for their teachers once a month since their schools reopened in January. “From now on, we will conduct tests on teachers and our staff every fortnight to ensure that our students and staff are protected,” he said.

D. Shashi Kumar, General Secretary of Associated Managements of Primary and Secondary Schools in Karnataka, said that he would advise managements to bear the cost of vaccination. “Ideally, it is the responsibility of the government to bear the cost and ensure that teachers are vaccinated. But as this has not been done, we have asked schools to take up this responsibility and bear at least 50 % of the cost,” he said.


BBMP maps out plan to increase testing and improve contract tracing

With the detection of more clusters, one of them a government school, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad, at an emergency meeting on Saturday, directed zonal officials to take proactive steps to prevent further spread of COVID-19, especially in outer areas of the city.

Officials have been directed to study COVID-19 reports of the past two months to identify localities, areas and wards where more cases had been detected and look into the measures in place to curb the spread. More citizens should be identified for testing, said Mr. Prasad.

The number of tests has dropped over the weeks with only around 38,000 conducted on Friday.

Health officials have been directed to identify people with symptoms of Influenza Like Illness (ILI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI), and ensure they get tested for COVID-19. The number of tests should increase in areas where more cases were being reported, the civic chief said.


Vaccination booths dedicated to women on March 8

On International Women’s Day (March 8), C.V. Raman Hospital in Bengaluru and designated hospitals in other districts will be designated ‘pink booths’, which will be dedicated for vaccination of women who fit the age criteria.

In order to ramp up COVID-19 vaccination from Monday, an action plan has been prepared to have approximately 3,000 session sites across all districts, including in BBMP jurisdiction, said a release. District control rooms have been sensitised to address any issue related to the CoWIN portal, and the 104 team has been trained to handle queries related to COVID-19 vaccination.

As on Saturday, cumulatively, 9,39,415 persons had been vaccinated across Karnataka. Of these, 28,725 were vaccinated on Saturday.

New Delhi

More front-line workers than healthcare workers immunised

Despite the vaccination drive for front-line workers starting almost a month after healthcare workers, more front-line workers have been immunised, according to official data. While vaccination of healthcare workers started on January 16, front-line workers, which includes police, paramilitary and government officials, started getting vaccinated from February 13.

Over 2,30,073 of 3,38,251 (68%) front-line workers had taken the vaccine till Thursday and only 1,49,910 of 2,38,256 (62.9%) healthcare workers had been vaccinated.

Officials said that many healthcare workers were infected by the virus and that is one of the reasons for the lesser turnout.

Enthusiasm is more because of “better awareness and communication” among front-line workers, said Delhi government officials. But there have been cases of them being under some level of “pressure” to take the vaccine, as per officials.

New Delhi

As interim bails issued during Covid-19 expire, Delhi HC asks undertrial prisoners to surrender

The Delhi High Court has directed 3,499 undertrial prisoners, who were granted interim bails to de-congest jails here amid the COVID-19 pandemic, to surrender on expiry of their period.

The decision of the court was based on the recommendation of the high powered committee (HPC) constituted on the direction of the Supreme Court to decongest jails to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

A Bench of justices Siddharth Mridul and Talwant Singh said it was "not inclined" to further extend the period of interim bail granted to these undertrial prisoners (UTP) under various criteria laid down by the HPC in its several meetings.

Tamil Nadu

IOCL donates truck to carry vaccines

Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. (IOCL) has donated a refrigerated truck to the State government for transporting COVID-19 vaccines to various parts of the State. The refrigerated compartment would maintain a temperature in the range of two degrees Celsius to eight degrees Celsius.

The ₹35-lakh custom-made truck was handed over to Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan by P. Jayadevan, Executive Director, IOCL, Tamil Nadu, in the presence of T.S. Selvavinayagam, Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, and Arun Kumar, Economic Advisor, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The truck is part of the equipment worth ₹3.24 crore being given by IOCL and Chennai Petroleum Corporation Ltd. under their corporate social responsibility programme to the State government.


Night curfew imposed in four Punjab districts

A night curfew was imposed in Punjab’s four districts from Saturday to tackle a recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

The orders came after Punjab Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan and Director General of Police Dinkar Gupta held a meeting to review the COVID-19 situation with all Deputy Commissioners, district police chiefs and civil surgeons through a videoconferencing. The districts where the night curfew has been imposed are Jalandhar, SBS Nagar, Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala.

The night curfew will remain in place in the districts from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.


No surge in daily cases in Kerala, unlike in other States implicated by Centre

From mid-February, a spike in daily new cases was reported from a few States including Maharashtra. For days on end, the Health Ministry kept repeating the message that Kerala too was “witnessing an upsurge of daily new cases”. Even as recently as March 6, the Health Ministry wrongly implicated Kerala for the surge in cases when it said “Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Karnataka continue to report a surge in the COVID-19 daily new cases.”

Kerala continues to contribute a high number of cases on a daily basis. However, there has not been any surge or spike in daily cases, as seen in other States. In reality, Kerala has been witnessing a steady decline in daily cases since end-January.

“From a second peak of 6,078 seven-day moving average of daily cases as on January 23, we have been seeing a steady decline in cases in Kerala. There has been a 50% decline in the seven-day moving average of daily cases from the fourth week of January to March 4,” says Dr. Rijo John, Health Economist and Consultant based in Kochi, Kerala. “The seven-day moving average of daily cases in Kerala as on March 4 was 2,996. The absolute number of daily cases on March 4 was 2,616.”

While other States have reduced the number of daily tests in recent months, Kerala has been continuing with the same number of daily tests.

New Delhi

Number of inoculations cross 20 million

More than 20 million vaccine doses have been administered since the programme began on January 16 with 7.6 lakh senior citizens and 1.4 lakh persons above 45 and with comorbidities, getting their first dose on Saturday.

Nearly 70 lakh healthcare workers (HCWs)have been vaccinated with at least one dose of either Covaxin or Covishield and more than 35 lakh of them have got their follow-up doses after at least four weeks, the recommended schedule. Nearly 63 lakh frontline workers (FLWs) have been inoculated with one dose with 14 lakh getting a second dose.

The second phase of the vaccination drive appears to be inoculating more people than during the first phase of the exercise. Close to 7-8 lakh have been inoculated for most days last week as opposed to the 1-3 lakh HCWs workers in the early weeks of the vaccination programme.


Joe Biden’s COVID-19 rescue plan clears crucial Senate hurdle

The U.S. Senate on Saturday voted to approve a $1.9 trillion relief package that President Joe Biden vows will revive the country’s pandemic-stricken economy, capping hours of debate, frenzied negotiations and a marathon overnight voting session.

Passed by 50 votes to 49 in a party line vote, the sweeping legislation now heads back to the Democratic-majority House of Representatives, where it is expected to be adopted barring a last-minute setback.

Even without the progressive priority of a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour, the stimulus bill marks a victory for Mr. Biden’s Democrats as they put their stamp on the recovery from a pandemic that has killed over 500,000 in the United States and hobbled its economy.

“I promised the American people help was on the way,” said Mr. Biden in an address from the White House, after the plan was approved along strict party lines. “Today, I can say we’ve taken one more giant step forward in delivering on that promise,” he said. “It obviously wasn’t easy. It wasn’t always pretty. But it was so desperately needed.”

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