Coronavirus updates | December 29, 2020

A health worker takes a swab sample at a coronavirus testing centre, in Chennai. File   | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

A total of 6 samples of 6 U.K.-returnees have been found to be positive with the variant of SARS- CoV-2 virus reported from U.K.

“3 in NIMHANS, Bengaluru, 2 in CCMB, Hyderabad and 1 in NIV, Pune,” said information released by the Health Ministry. It added that all these persons have been kept in single room isolation indesignated Health Care facilities by respective StateGovernments.

In the U.S., a huge study of another COVID-19 vaccine candidate got underway as states continue to roll out scarce supplies of the first shots.

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 live updates:

Tamil Nadu

Sample of COVID-19 positive U.K. returnee has new virus variant: TN Health Secretary

The sample of a U.K. returnee to Tamil Nadu, who had tested positive for COVID-19 and was isolating in a hospital, was found to contain the new variant of coronavirus, Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan said on December 29.

A resident of Chennai, the patient is among the six U.K. returnees whose samples tested positive for the new variant following genomic analysis.

“He was quarantined immediately on arrival. He was isolated in a separate room in the hospital soon after he tested positive for COVID-19 and all his contacts were also tested. Those who travelled with him on the flight were tested and found to be negative. He is doing well,” Mr. Radhakrishnan told reporters following an inspection at the Government Kilpauk Medical College Hospital.

New Delhi

Union minister Choubey tests positive for COVID-19

Union Minister of State for Health Ashwini Kumar Choubey has said that he has tested positive for COVID-19 and is under home isolation.

In a tweet, Choubey informed on Monday that he underwent a test after showing initial symptoms of coronavirus infection.

He urged everyone who came in contact with him recently to get tested for the disease.

New Delhi

Mutation was expected, says V.K. Paul

Niti Aayog Member (Health) V.K. Paul, says "In a way, mutation was expected. This variant (UK) has travelled to several countries, also to India. We have tracked six cases...this particular strand may have a run and therefore we need to be very careful. It is easy to contain the virus at an initial stage, for which comprehensive steps are being taken."

"We will be keeping a watch on any variant, apart from the UK one. ICMR has decided that in case of the patients found to be infected with the new variant, its seriousness will be examined. So far, we have found that the variant does not impact the seriousness."

"Comorbidity or serious diseases have been made a criterion for prioritised vaccination. A committee of about 12 medical experts has been set up to determine the basis of giving a certificate for facilitating prioritised vaccination. The committee will submit its report soon," says Mr. Paul.

New Delhi

Variations occur due to immune pressure on virus, says Balram Bhargava

ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava says "These variations occur due to immune pressure on the virus, may be related to environment, related to host, treatment or other modalities. therefore, it is important that we do not put too much immune pressure on the virus."

"If the benefit of any therapy is not well established, it should not be used as it would put tremendous immune pressure on the virus.

New Delhi

Principal Scientific Advisor presents new variants of SARS-CoV2

Presentation by Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India on new variants of SARS-CoV2.

"There is no evidence that current vaccines will fail to protect against COVID-19 variants reported from UK or South Africa. Most vaccines do target the Spike protein, in which there are changes in the variants, but vaccines stimulate our immune system to produce a wide range of protective antibodies. The changes in the variants are not sufficient to make the vaccines ineffective."

Principal Scientific Advisor says "The nature of the new variants: eight of the 17 important changes are in the part which codes for the Spike protein. One change (N501Y) increases affinity for the ACE2 receptor, used for viral entry into human cells. It has been linked earlier to increased infectivity and transmission in animal models. Another change (P681H) promotes entry into susceptible cells and increases transmission in animal models of infection. The South Africa also shares the N501Y mutation with the UK variants, in addition to other distinct changes."

"UK variant is more transmissible, the variant is spreading very rapidly taking over frequency of other variants. It is also reflected in a large increase in positivity rate in UK. We must take extraordinary precautions  to prevent these kinds of variants from dominating populations."

The Scientific Advisor further adds "The Indian SARS-CoV2 Genomics Consortium is conducting testing and sequencing of samples from international travelers. Testing and sequencing of samples also being done from across the country and from those being admitted to hospitals."

"As vaccines become available, we should not be complacent. There is a need to reduce transmission through physical distancing, follow all public health measures scrupulously, wear masks, follow hand-washing, COVID appropriate behaviour, infection control, amplify test, track, isolate efforts."

New Delhi

Deaths per million in last seven days in India is 2, says Health Secretary

Mr. Bhushan says "Deaths per million population in last seven days in India is 2, the maximum of 52 was reported in Italy, followed by 49 in UK, 47 in US, 33 in France, 27 in Russia and 21 in Brazil."

"Five States/UTs account for 60% of the total active cases in India: Kerala: 23.92%; Maharashtra: 21.71%; West Bengal"5.48%; UP: 4.9% and Chhattisgarh: 4.83%."


New Delhi


Active cases are less than 2.7 lakh after six months, says Health Secretary

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, says "active cases are less than 2.7 lakh after six months and declining continuously, the cumulative positivity rate is 6.02%, positivity rate during last week was 2.25%, a consortium of 10 government labs has started genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 variant."

Mr. Bhushan said "Prior to the news of U.K. variant came in, India had done genome sequencing of about 5,000 such genome sequencing. The number will be significantly increased."

He further said "Daily new cases are now less than 17,000 after six months. Daily deaths are also less than 300 after six months. Age and Gender wise analysis: 37% female, 63% male;  in terms of age: below 17 -- 8%, 18-25 -- 13%, 26-44 -- 39%, 45-66 — 26%, 60 and above — 26%."

"Mortality age and gender wise:  70% male and 30% female below 17 years: 1%; 18-25: 1%, 26-44: 10%, 45-60: 33%, and 60 and above: 55%. Cases per million population in India is among the lowest in the world: 7,408, compared to that it is 56,879 in US; 38,550 in France; 35,123 in Brazil; 33,867 in Italy; 33,708 in UK and 21,091 in Russia."

The Health Secretary adding "Death per million population in India is 107, compared to 1,189 in Italy; 1042 in UK; 994 in US; 955 in France; 897 in Brazil; and 378 in Russia.

"Active cases per million population in India is 194, among the lowest in the world. It is 23,321 in US; 9521 in Italy; 4,568 in Germany; 3,778 in Russia; 3,499 in Brazil and 1,241 in Turkey. New cases per million population reported in the last seven days in India are 110, compared to 3,964 in US; 3,656 in UK; 1,563 in Italy; 1,373 in Russia; 1,304 in France and 1,189 in Brazil."


New Delhi

Foresee slight extension of suspension of UK flights: Aviation Minister Puri

Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri Tuesday said he foresees a slight extension of temporary suspension of passenger flights between India and the UK, where a new variant of the coronavirus has been detected.

The Civil Aviation Ministry had last week suspended all flights between that country and India from December 23 to December 31 over the mutated variant of the virus.

"I foresee a slight extension of temporary suspension of India-UK flights," the minister told a press conference.

"In the next day or two, we will find out if any additional steps need to be taken, or when we can start easing the current temporary suspension," he said.

New Delhi

Delhi prepared to face new COVID strain: Kejriwal

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday reassured the city's residents by asserting that the national capital is prepared to deal with the new mutant strain of the novel coronavirus.

“Delhi has witnessed three waves of coronavirus and the third wave was an intense one when cases went up to 8,500 (fresh cases reported daily) but we managed to control it. We are fully prepared to deal with it,” Mr. Kejriwal told reporters in response to a question on preparedness for the new strain of COVID-19 that first emerged in the UK a few days ago.

Himachal Pradesh

Former HP chief minister Shanta Kumar's wife dies of COVID-19

Former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Shanta Kumar''s wife, Santosh Shailza, succumbed to COVID-19 in the early hours of Tuesday, Health Minister Rajiv Saizal said.

Shailza was undergoing treatment at Dr Rajendra Prasad Government Medical College, Tanda, in Kangra district of the state, after testing positive for COVID-19 a few days ago.

Mr. Kumar was admitted to the Tanda hospital on Saturday, a day after he tested positive for the disease. His four other family members, his personal secretary, security officer and driver have also tested positive for COVID-19. - PTI


Gujarat COVID-19 dry run: 'Beneficiaries' undergo dummy vaccination

Identified ''beneficiaries'' are undergoing dummy vaccination at various centres in Gandhinagar and Rajkot districts of Gujarat on the second day of the COVID-19 vaccination dry run on Tuesday, officials said.

The two-day end-to-end dry run was being carried out to test the laid out mechanisms for COVID-19 vaccination and to provide insights into any gaps to be addressed before the commencement of the actual vaccination drive.

Gujarat is one of the four states chosen by the Central government to conduct the mock COVID-19 vaccination drive.


China kicks off emergency COVID-19 vaccination in Wuhan

The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus emerged a year ago before it became a pandemic and upended life across the globe, has started the emergency COVID-19 vaccination on some key groups, a senior health official said on Tuesday, even as China is yet to officially certify its multiple vaccines.

The vaccination, available at 48 designated clinics in 15 districts, began on December 24, targeting certain groups of people aged between 18 and 59 years, He Zhenyu, deputy director of the centre for disease control and prevention in Wuhan, told the media in Wuhan.

Those receiving the vaccine need to take two shots with an interval of four weeks, the state-run Xinhua news agency quoted He as saying.


Union Minister Choubey tests positive for COVID-19

Union Minister of State for Health Ashwini Kumar Choubey has said that he has tested positive for COVID-19 and is under home isolation.

In a tweet, Mr. Choubey informed on Monday that he underwent a test after showing initial symptoms of coronavirus infection.


Daily new COVID-19 cases dip below 20,000

The daily new coronavirus infections in India dipped below 20,000 for the third time this month taking the COVID-19 caseload to 1,02,24,303, while the recoveries crossed 98 lakh, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Tuesday.

A total of 16,432 new infections were reported in a span of 24 hours, the lowest in little over six months, while the death toll increased to 1,48,153 with 252 new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed   The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 98,07,569 pushing the national recovery rate to 95.92%, while the COVID-19 case fatality rate stands at 1.45%.

The COVID-19 active caseload remained below 3 lakh for the eighth consecutive day.


Samples of seven U.K. returnees positive for new coronavirus variant in Bengaluru

While a release from PIB confirmed that three persons, including a 34-year-old woman and her six-year-old daughter, who returned to Bengaluru from the U.K. on December 19, were found positive through genome sequencing of their samples at Nimhans, highly placed sources from the Union Health Ministry told The Hindu that four more samples from Bengaluru had tested positive for the new variant.

Read more


Ram Charan tests positive for COVID-19

Telugu film star Ram Charan on Tuesday said he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus and is under home quarantine.

The 35-year-old actor took to Twitter to share his diagnosis.

"I have tested positive for Covid-19. No symptoms and quarantined at home. Hope to heal soon and come out stronger," he said in a statement.


House approves Trump's $2,000 COVID-19 relief checks, sending to GOP-led Senate

The House has voted to increase COVID-19 relief checks to $2,000, meeting President Donald Trump's demand for bigger payments and sending the bill to the GOP-controlled Senate, where the outcome is uncertain.

Democrats led passage, 275-134, their majority favouring additional assistance.

Read more


Health, Home departments to track those who have arrived from U.K. in Karnataka

The Department of Health and Family Welfare has sought the assistance of the Home Department to track passengers who have returned from the United Kingdom (U.K.). Over the last few days, the Health Department is trying to trace all passengers who have arrived from the U.K. in the backdrop of the new strain of the coronavirus that emerged there.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Health and Family Welfare and Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar said that they were unable to trace some of the passengers as their mobile numbers were switched off. “We have appealed to them through the media several times and asked them to cooperate. Despite this, many have not got tested nor are in touch with the state government,” he said. The State government has made it compulsory for passengers coming from U.K. to undergo RT-PCR tests.

Read more


More COVID-19 vaccines in pipeline as U.S. ramps up effort

A huge U.S. study of another COVID-19 vaccine candidate got underway as states continue to roll out scarce supplies of the first shots to a nation anxiously awaiting relief from the catastrophic outbreak.

Public health experts say more options in addition to the two vaccines now being dispensed — one made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, the other by Moderna — are critical to amassing enough shots for the country and the world.The candidate made by Novavax Inc is the fifth to reach final-stage testing in the US.

(With inputs from agencies)

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