Coronavirus updates | November 24, 2021

RT-PCR test of COVID-19 in New Delhi. File Image.   | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

India logged 7,579 new coronavirus infections, the lowest in 543 days, taking the country's total tally of COVID-19 cases to   3,45,26,480, while the active cases were the lowest in 536 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:

Madhya Pradesh

Nine more Army officers at IIM course in Indore test positive for coronavirus; tally 11

Nine more fully-vaccinated Army officers, participating in a course at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Indore in Madhya Pradesh, tested positive for coronavirus, taking the number of the infected officers pursuing this course to 11 in the last four days, a health official said on November 24.

These Army officers are pursuing a six-month certificate course in Business Management for Defence Officers (CCBMDO) at IIM.

“In the last 24 hours, nine more Army officers tested positive for coronavirus. They are taking part in a course at the IIM Indore,” chief medical and health officer (CMHO) Dr. B.S. Saitya said.

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COVID-19: Health Ministry cautions about decline in testing rates

The Health Ministry has cautioned that there has been a decline in weekly COVID-19 testing rates and has written to Nagaland, Sikkim, Maharashtra, Kerala, Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Ladakh asking it to rectify this worrying trend.

This Ministry in its letter on Wednesday noted that in the absence of sustained levels of sufficient testing, it was very difficult to determine the true level of infection-spread in a geography.

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34 MBBS students test positive for COVID-19 in Odisha, 5 hostels marked containment zones

At least 34 MBBS students of VIMSAR, a medical institute and hospital in Odisha's Sambalpur, have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past few days. They have been admitted to the COVID unit of Veer Surendra Sai Institute of Medical Sciences and Research (Vimsar).

Authorities suspect that the infection might have spread during the institute's annual function held recently. Five hostels – three of boys and two of girls – have been declared as containment zones, a Vimsar official said.

Staff quarters and four other hostels of medical students have been declared as buffer zones. Physical classes have been suspended for 10 days from Tuesday, an official said, adding that lessons would be imparted online. - PTI


International flight services to normalise very soon: Civil Aviation Secretary

International passenger flight services are expected to be normalised “very soon” and possibly by the end of this year, Civil Aviation Secretary Rajiv Bansal said on November 24.

Scheduled international passenger flights to and from India remain suspended since March 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. The suspension has been extended till November 30. — PTI

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Sweden says it will extend COVID-19 boosters to all adults

Sweden will begin gradually rolling out COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to all adult Swedes following the surge in cases elsewhere in Europe, government and health officials said on Wednesday.

Booster shots of mRNA vaccine have been offered to people aged 65 or above in Sweden, with an eye to eventually extending the shots to other groups and trying to persuade a still sizable group of uninoculated people to get the vaccine.

"We are faced with an uncertain winter," Health Minister Lena Hallengren told a news conference. "You can contribute by staying home if you're sick or by getting vaccinated if you haven't already, and taking your booster when you're offered it." - Reuters


Covaxin shows 50% effectiveness, says Lancet study

Two doses of Covaxin are 50 per cent effective against symptomatic COVID-19, according to the first real-world assessment of India's indigenous coronavirus vaccine published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.

The results of an interim study recently published in The Lancet showed that two doses of Covaxin, also known as BBV152, had 77.8 per cent efficacy against symptomatic disease and present no serious safety concerns.

The latest study assessed 2,714 hospital workers at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi, from April 15–May 15, who were symptomatic and underwent RT-PCR test for COVID-19 detection.

Researchers noted that the Delta variant was the dominant strain in India during the study period, accounting for approximately 80 per cent of all confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Covaxin, developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the National Institute of Virology, Indian Council of Medical Research (NIV-ICMR), Pune, is an inactivated whole virus vaccine administered in a two-dose regimen, 28 days apart.

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South Korea

South Korea sets pandemic high with 4,000 new virus cases

New coronavirus infections in South Korea exceeded 4,000 in a day for the first time since the start of the pandemic as a delta-driven spread continues to rattle the country after it eased social distancing in recent weeks to improve its economy.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said most of the new 4,116 cases reported Wednesday came from the capital Seoul and its surrounding metropolitan region, where an increase in hospitalizations has created fears about possible shortages in intensive care units.

The country’s death toll is now 3,363 after 35 virus patients died in the past 24 hours. The 586 patients who are in serious or critical conditions also marked a new high. - AP

New Zealand

New Zealand to start reopening borders to world from January

New Zealand will reopen its borders to the world over the coming months, the government announced Wednesday, allowing for the return of displaced residents from January and tourists from April.

The South Pacific nation imposed harsh border restrictions when the pandemic began, effectively banning tourists and requiring returning residents to spend two weeks in a quarantine hotel run by the military.

At times, demand for quarantine beds has far outstripped supply, causing some displaced residents to wait months for available slots.

For the first 18 months of the pandemic, the border measures were considered vital in keeping New Zealand free from the virus. - AP


Biden administration seeks to reinstate workplace COVID vaccine rule

The Biden administration asked a federal appeals court on Tuesday to lift a court-ordered stay on a sweeping workplace COVID-19 vaccine rule to avoid serious harm to public health, or alternatively to allow a masking-and-testing requirement.

Delaying the rule by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that requires employees to be vaccinated or tested weekly would lead to thousands of hospitalizations and deaths, the administration said in a filing with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The White House asked for the rule to be reinstated immediately, but the court set a briefing schedule that runs through December 10. - Reuters

Madhya Pradesh

10% discount on country liquor for people taking second COVID-19 vaccine jab in M.P.’s Mandsaur

Liquor shops in Madhya Pradesh's Mandsaur city will offer a 10% discount on country liquor to people who take the second jab of the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, an official said on Tuesday.

However, the move drew criticism from an MLA of the ruling BJP, who said it will encourage people to consume liquor.

The Madhya Pradesh government will organise a mega campaign on Wednesday to cover more population under its coronavirus vaccination programme. - PTI

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COVID-19 infections reported from Odisha’s educational institutes

Odisha’s plans to gradually open schools and colleges received a setback after COVID-19 infections were reported from different educational institutes.

For the past few days, students of St. Mary’s Girls’ High School in Sundargarh district were showing symptoms of cold and cough. Suspecting COVID-19 infection, the headmistress of the high school organised screening of all students.

As many as 53 girls belonging to Class 8, 9 and 10 were found to be infected with COVID-19. Anticipating that the infection could spread further, authorities of St Mary’s Girls’ High School informed district authorities, who organised a screening of all students on November 21.

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Tamil Nadu

Mandatory vaccine norm by Tamil Nadu government takes film industry by surprise

The Tamil Nadu Government’s recent decision to make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory for people frequenting public places has taken the Tamil film industry by surprise.

Producer Suresh Kamatchi, whose production house is ready for the November 25 release of Manaadu, starring Silambarasan and S.J. Suriya in the lead roles, said in a statement that the decision would keep the audience away from theatres.

In a letter to Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, Mr. Suresh said making vaccination compulsory would affect the footfall at the theatres.

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Private hospitals in Karnataka push for booster dose

Despite the the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) extending the shelf life of Covaxin up to 12 months, private hospitals continue to be worried about the effective utilisation of vaccine stock lying with them. In the wake of this, the Association of Healthcare Providers India (AHPI) has recommended that the government consider allowing eligible population to get a booster dose.

In a letter to Union Health Minister Mansukh L. Mandaviya on November 12, AHPI said the government should consider allowing booster dose on a voluntary basis. “This will enable effective utilisation of the ample stock of vaccines available with the private sector,” the letter stated.

“Although the shelf life has been extended, we are worried as there are not many takers for the vaccine in the private sector. Overall, nearly 50 lakh doses of vaccines are lying unused in private hospitals across the country,” AHPI president Alexander Thomas told The Hindu.

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(With inputs from Agencies)

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