Coronavirus updates | December 1, 2021

A health worker preparing to administer a dose of Covid-19 vaccine to a beneficiary at a BBMP health centre, in Bangalore, Karnataka on November 30, 2021.   | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

India logged 6,990 new coronavirus infections, the lowest in 551 days, taking the country’s total tally of COVID-19 cases to 3,45,87,822, while the active cases have declined to 1,00,543, the lowest in 546 days, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Tuesday.

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 developments:

Mumbai

Negative RT-PCR report must for all domestic passengers arriving at Mumbai airport: BMC

Amid global concerns over the Omicron strain of coronavirus, the Mumbai civic body on Wednesday mandated all domestic passengers landing at the city airport to carry a negative RT-PCR report not older than 72 hours.

In a circular, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) asked the Mumbai airport operator to communicate this new rule to all the domestic airlines.

"The Mumbai Airport operator to communicate to all domestic Airlines that they shall not board, ordinarily, any passenger for landing in Mumbai without RT-PCR test with negative result taken within 72 hours of departure," the directive stated.

In Maharashtra, six passengers from the high-risk countries have tested positive for coronavirus so far, a health bulletin had said. As one of them is from Mumbai, the BMC has tightened measures.

The civic body said passengers can be exempted from the RT-PCR report rule only in exceptional cases like family distress, and the testing may be allowed on arrival at the airport in Mumbai.

As per the Centre's guidelines, the passengers arriving from the "risk" countries specified in the circular will have to undergo a self-paid post-arrival COVID-19 test at the port of arrival, the civic body said.

The BMC also said that the Maharashtra government's directives "shall become operational from 23:59 hours of December 2, 2021".

In the latest guidelines, the Maharashtra government has specified that the passengers coming from "risk countries" shall compulsorily undergo institutional quarantine for one week and take RT-PCR tests on the 2nd, 4th and 7th-day post-arrival.

The civic body said that it has decided to give two days for the passengers coming from "risk" countries as many of them have already finalised their travel plans and are on the move. Many passengers might be airborne and they might not be aware of these recent guidelines.

"To avoid major inconveniences and also to recast their travel plans, a window of two days is proposed to be given to all passengers from the risk countries," the BMC stated.

- PTI

Maharashtra

Maharashtra asked to follow Centre’s international arrival rules

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has asked the Maharashtra government to align with the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedure) and guidelines issued by it on international arrivals to ensure their uniform implementation across all States.

In his letter, MoHFW Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the Maharashtra government’s order were in divergence with the Ministry’s SOPs and guidelines.

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National

Govt delays reopening of international flights

Last week, the DGCA had announced reopening of international flights from December 15 after a gap of 20 months. File (representational image)

Last week, the DGCA had announced reopening of international flights from December 15 after a gap of 20 months. File (representational image)   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

 

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on December 1 postponed indefinitely the date of resumption of international flights in view of the new variant of COVID-19 virus called Omicron.

"In view of the evolving global scenario with the emergence of new variant of concern, the situation is being watched closely in consultation with all stakeholders and an appropriate decision indicating the effective date of resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services shall be notified in due course," the DGCA said.

Last week, the authority had announced reopening of international flights from December 15 after a gap of 20 months. It said that countries not in the "at-risk" list of the Health Ministry could revert to pre-Covid schedule of flights from December 15, while those in the list could revert to 50%-70% of their earlier schedule. — Jagriti Chandra

Karnataka

Karnataka rules out penalties for people who are yet to take COVID-19 vaccine

Karnataka Health and Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar ruled out the possibility of withdrawing government benefits or levying penalties for people who have not taken a vaccine against COVID-19.

He was reacting to the State’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) recommending withdrawal of government benefits, such as ration, pension, electricity and water supply, domestic gas cylinder and petrol or diesel, for people who have not been vaccinated.

The government, however, is likely to issue an order making two-dose vaccination mandatory for use of public amenities, including Namma Metro services and buses, hotels, shopping complexes, malls and other public facilities.

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USA

FDA panel backs first-of-a-kind COVID-19 pill from Merck

A panel of U.S. health advisers narrowly backed the benefits of a closely watched COVID-19 pill from Merck, setting the stage for a likely authorisation of the first drug that Americans could take at home to treat the virus.

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel voted 13-10 that the drug’s benefits outweigh its risks, including potential birth defects if used during pregnancy.

Experts backing the treatment stressed that it should not be used by anyone who is pregnant and called on FDA to recommend extra precautions before the drug is prescribed, including pregnancy tests for women of child-bearing age.

The FDA isn’t bound by the panel’s recommendation and is expected to make its own decision before year’s end.

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National

November sees lowest number of fresh cases since May, 2020

With over 3.1 lakh fresh COVID-19 cases, the month of November saw the lowest number of people contracting the viral disease in the country since May last year.

The monthly tally of fresh COVID-19 cases registered a decline for the sixth time in a row in November.

The number of daily cases peaked on May 6 this year, when the country registered 4,14,188 Covid cases in a span of 24 hours, while the number of active cases was recorded below one lakh after 547 days.

The daily rise in the number of new coronavirus cases has been below 20,000 for 54 straight days and less than 50,000 daily new cases have been reported for 156 consecutive days now. -PTI

France

Covid infection linked with increased complications in pregnancy, birth: Study

Pregnant women with COVID-19 are more likely to have complications with pregnancy and birth compared to those without the ínfection, according to a study.

The research, publishing on Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine, looked at hospitalisation for births in France during the first six months of the pandemic.

The study suggests that vaccination may be useful to protect women and their babies, particularly for those at a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 infections.

The researchers from the Universite de Paris in France analysed data for hospitalisations for birth after 22 weeks gestation in France between January and June 2020. -PTI

New Delhi

4 passengers from Europe test positive, samples sent for genome sequencing

Four people who flew into Delhi from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom in the early hours of Wednesday have tested positive for COVID-19 and their samples have been sent for genome sequencing to ascertain if they have the new variant, Omicron, sources said.

All four have been admitted to the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, where a dedicated ward has been set up for isolating and treating such patients, they added.

All four are Indian nationals, he added. - PTI

Vaccines

Serum Institute of India delivers first Novavax vaccine batch through COVAX

Serum Institute of India has sent doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Indonesia, in its first export of the Novavax shot through the COVAX network, Central Government said on Wednesday.

Indonesia has approved the vaccine but India and the World Health Organization, which co-leads the COVAX vaccine-sharing network, have not.

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World

Brazil, Japan report first cases of the omicron variant

Brazil and Japan joined the rapidly widening circle of countries to report cases of the omicron variant Tuesday, while new findings indicate the mutant coronavirus was already in Europe close to a week before South Africa sounded the alarm.

The Netherlands' RIVM health institute disclosed that patient samples dating from Nov. 19 and 23 were found to contain the variant. It was on Nov. 24 that South African authorities reported the existence of the highly mutated virus to the World Health Organization.

That indicates omicron had a bigger head start in the Netherlands than previously believed. - AP

USA

US moving to toughen testing requirement for travellers

he Biden administration is moving to toughen testing requirements for international travellers to the U.S., including both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, amid the spread of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a Tuesday statement that it was working toward requiring that all air travellers to the U.S. be tested for COVID-19 within a day before boarding their flight. Currently those who are fully vaccinated may present a test taken within three days of boarding.

The precise testing protocols were still being finalised ahead of a speech by President Joe Biden planned for Thursday on the nation's plans to control the COVID-19 pandemic during the winter season, according to a senior administration official who said some details could still change. - AP

UK

UK PM sets Jan 2022 booster jabs timeline as 'best' Omicron defence

Booster COVID-19 vaccines increase the body’s immune response and remain the best single defence against the new Omicron variant of coronavirus, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday as he confirmed an expansion of the country’s top-up booster vaccination programme.

Addressing a Downing Street press conference, Johnson set an end of January 2022 target for all adults aged over 18 now eligible for a booster vaccine to be offered a top-up dose.

"We are going to throw everything at it, to ensure that everyone eligible for that booster will be vaccinated within two months," said Johnson.

“Vaccination is our best single defence against Omicron... If you're boosted, your immune response will be stronger," he said.

"It' time for another great British vaccination effort. We've done it before and we're going to do it again – and let's not give this virus a second chance," he added. - PTI

Karnataka

Restrict public facilities for unvaccinated: TAC

With the State struggling to cover the last mile of COVID-19 vaccination drive, the State’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) has recommended restricting access to public amenities and government benefits, such as ration and pension, for the unvaccinated.

Sources in the TAC said this would ensure more people come forward to get vaccinated. Over 41 lakh people are due for the second dose in the State.

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India

Bangladesh taken off list of ‘at-risk’ nations

India on Tuesday removed Bangladesh from the list of “countries at-risk” with regard to the new coronavirus variant Omicron, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare announced. The announcement found prompt support from Dhaka where Foreign Minister Dr A.K. Abdul Momen said the decision was taken because of a request from the Government of Bangladesh. Sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs said the Indian move was prompted by the upcoming visit of President Ram Nath Kovind to Bangladesh.

The list of “at-risk” countries was issued to deal with the threat of Omicron. Following the removal of Bangladesh, the list now consists of South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong, Israel and the continent of Europe (including the UK). - Kallol Bhattacherjee

Odisha

 Odisha ban on New Year celebrations

The Odisha Government has prohibited zero night celebration and functions welcoming the New Year at public places stating that these congregations have potential to spread COVID-19 infection.

“Usually people in large number congregate in hotels, restaurants, clubs, parks and other public places on December 31 and January 1. Such congregations have large potential to spread COVID-19 infection,” the State Government said issuing the COVID-19 guideline for the month of December on Tuesday.

The Government also advised the people to celebrate such functions at their homes, avoiding mass gatherings and adhering to the COVID-19 safety protocols. - Satyasundar Barik

Haryana

Full school move put on hold by Haryana

Amid the scare over the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, the Haryana government on Tuesday put on hold its earlier decision to allow schools to run with full capacity from December 1.

Haryana Education Minister Kanwar Pal said the government had decided to put on hold its decision to allow schools to run with full capacity in view of the Omicron scare and review the situation after about a week. He said the schools will continue to run with 50% capacity as earlier till further orders. Mr. Pal said the education department officials have been directed to convey the decision to the schools in the State.

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Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu to test those from ‘at risk’ countries

Passengers arriving in international flights undergo mandatory RT-PCR test for COVID-19 at Chennai airport on December 1, 2021.

Passengers arriving in international flights undergo mandatory RT-PCR test for COVID-19 at Chennai airport on December 1, 2021.   | Photo Credit: B. Velankanni Raj

 

In the wake of the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, the Directorate of Public Health (DPH) and Preventive Medicine has written to the Airports Authority of India (AAI), urging it to ensure that guidelines for international arrivals are scrupulously followed at the four international airports in the State.

With the revised guidelines of the Union Government coming into effect on December 1, the testing of travellers from ‘at risk’ countries — South Africa, China, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Israel and European countries including the U.K. — will become compulsory on arrival, irrespective of their vaccination status.

The Chennai Airport will test travellers from ‘at risk’ countries starting early Wednesday. Taking into consideration the prolonged time for testing and getting the results, airport authorities have created an exclusive corridor at T4 terminal for screening. A senior airport official said the facility could hold 450 passengers at a time.

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Telangana

Efficacy of vaccines against Omicron to be put to test

Efficacy of the currently available COVID-19 vaccines against Omicron, the new variant of concern, would be put to test at AIG Hospitals, Gachibowli, shortly. The results would be available around two weeks after launching the tests.

Chairman of the corporate hospital, D. Nageshwar Reddy says a pseudo Omicron virus can be created in the lab. Blood samples containing antibodies were collected from people who underwent immunisation. The blood samples will be used to test against the pseudo virus.

“It takes around two weeks to create the pseudo virus of Omicron. We will start the tests at AIG Hospitals shortly,” informs Dr Reddy. Efficacy of various vaccines will be tested.

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Maharashtra

Classes 1-7 not to open in Mumbai now

Despite the Maharashtra Government earlier announcing that school for Classes 1 to 7 would begin from December 1, rising concerns on the Omicron variant of COVID-19 have led authorities of the Mumbai and Pune civic bodies to postpone the decision till December 15.

Nashik municipal authorities had already announced on Sunday that schools in the Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) area will remain closed till December 10. As with Nashik, Aurangabad municipal officials too announced that schools in the Aurangabad civic body area would continue to remain closed till December 10.

Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation Iqbal Singh Chahal announced the decision after a meeting with educational department authorities. “We have received reports that in South Africa, 10% of the infected population is below 18 years of age. So, given that children of classes 1 to 7 fall in this age group, as a matter of abundant precaution, we have decided to keep schools closed till December 15,” he said. - Shoumojit Banerjee

Karnataka

Two Africa returnees in home quarantine in Hosapete

Two people who returned from Guinea in West Africa, which has been hit by the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, have been quarantined in their houses in Hosapete, Vijayanagara district.

Taluk Health and Family Welfare Officer Bhaskar told a media conference in Hosapete on Tuesday that steps were taken as a precaution in view of the spread of the Omicron variant, though RT-PCR tests of the returnees returned negative for COVID-19.

“Both the returnees tested negative for COVID-19 on November 29. But, as a precautionary measure, we have home quarantined them for seven days as per the new guidelines in view of spread of the new COVID-19 variant. RT-PCR tests will again be conducted after their quarantine is over.

“Those who returned from these States should report to the authorities and follow the guidelines,” the health officer said. - Kumar Buradikatti\

USA

US panel backs first-of-a-kind COVID-19 pill from Merck

A panel of U.S. health advisers on Tuesday narrowly backed a closely watched COVID-19 pill from Merck, setting the stage for a likely authorization of the first drug that Americans could take at home to treat the coronavirus.

The Food and Drug Administration panel voted 13-10 that the antiviral drug’s benefits outweigh its risks, including potential birth defects if used during pregnancy. - AP

Delhi

Delhi ramps up health facilities amid Omicron scare

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday said he was personally monitoring the COVID-19 situation to ensure that Delhi was well equipped for any incoming threat related to the Omicron variant.

Mr. Kejriwal chaired a high-level meeting with all authorities concerned to review the city’s preparedness against the new threat and the status of preparedness to deal with it.

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Maharashtra

Maharashtra issues new guidelines for all air passengers

The Maharashtra Government on Tuesday night issued revised guidelines for travellers on international flights as well as domestic passenger in view of the risks posed by the new coronavirus variant Omicron.

As per the guidelines, all international passengers will have to furnish details of countries they have travelled to in the last 15 days. Domestic passengers must carry an RT-PCR negative report.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2022 1:24:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-live-updates-december-1-2021/article37782573.ece

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