India said on Tuesday that the mutated strains of the coronavirus are not responsible for the upsurge in cases in two states, bringing potential relief for the country.
Maharashtra and Kerala account for 75% of India’s current active cases, amounting to about 147,000, and both states have seen a sudden rise in new infections in recent days, fuelling calls for a faster roll-out of vaccines.
A top government health official confirmed the long-time presence of two mutants—N440K and E484Q—in the two states as well as elsewhere in the country and abroad. Authorities have also found the UK variant in 187 people in India, the South African one in six and one case of the Brazilian mutation.
However, Vinod Kumar Paul, member of the NITI Aayog who heads a government committee on vaccines, told a news conference, “There is no reason today for us to believe, on the basis of scientific information, that these are responsible for the upsurge of the outbreak. We are constantly watching the behaviour of mutations in our country.”
Though cases have come down sharply since a September peak, Paul said that India is still vulnerable, given that even previously badly-affected cities like Pune in Maharashtra were getting hit again. He urged people to wear masks and avoid social events—guidelines which have been openly flouted even by federal and state ministers.
On Tuesday, India’s total tally of Covid-19 cases rose to 1,10,16,434, with 10,584 new infections being reported in a day, while recoveries surpassed 1.07 crore, according to data from the Union Health Ministry. With 78 new fatalities in a day, the overall death toll increased to 1,56,463.
In Punjab, which has also seen a rise in cases, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, chairing a virtual review meeting of the Covid-19 situation in the state, issued orders to limit indoor gatherings to 100 people and outdoor events to 200 attendees from 1 March. District heads have also been permitted to decide on night curfews in hotspots, and testing will be increased, the CM said on Twitter.
Punjab is one of the worst performing states in vaccinating their healthcare workers, according to the federal government.
Maharashtra’s Amravati on Tuesday, a day after the week-long lockdown started, recorded the highest single-day spike in cases with 926 people being detected with the infection, taking the caseload to 31,123. The earlier daily record was 727 cases, set on February 20.
39 students and five employees of a hostel also tested positive for the coronavirus in Maharashtra’s Latur city, an official said on Tuesday. At least 360 students who live in the hostel underwent the Covid-19 test, of which 39 from Classes 9 and 10 were reported to have contracted the infection, health officer Mahesh Patil of the Latur Municipal Corporation said.
Kerala reported 4,034 new Covid-19 cases and 14 related deaths on Tuesday, taking the tally of affected people in the state to 10,41,252 and the toll to 4,119. Health Minister K.K. Shailaja said that 69,604 samples were tested in the state in the last 24 hours and the test positivity rate was 5.80 percent.
Andhra Pradesh reported 70 fresh Covid-19 cases, 84 recoveries and one death in the 24-hour period ending on Tuesday. With the addition of the new infections, the state’s tally went up to 8,89,409.
Odisha’s Covid caseload mounted to 3,36,767 as 62 more people tested positive for the infection, a health department official said. Of the fresh cases, 37 were reported from quarantine centres and 25 were detected during contact tracing. Sambalpur district recorded the highest number of new cases at 12, followed by Khurda and Cuttack at seven each.
Meanwhile, Delhi recorded 145 fresh Covid-19 cases and two new fatalities on Tuesday, while the positivity rate stood at 0.25 percent, said authorities. With this, the toll for the national capital stood at 10,903.
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BJP slams Congress over alliance with Left, ISF in Bengal
New Delhi [India], March 2 (ANI): The Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) on Tuesday hit out at Congress over its alliance with the Left front and Indian Secular Front (ISF) in West Bengal, alleging that its only ideology is corruption and nepotism.
Addressing a press conference, BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra said, “Despite dissidents within the party, the Congress joined hands with the ISF and the Left front in West Bengal. At the same time, Congress is fighting against the Left in Kerala. They are working to strike an alliance with Badruddin Ajmal’s AIDUF in Assam and has joined hands with Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. This shows Congress has no ideology. Its only ideology is corruption and nepotism, and make the state a ATM machine to loot wealth.”
He added that all these attempts by Congress being made to fulfil the ambitions the Gandhi family relevant instead of nation building.
Continuing his attck against Congress, Patra went on to say that Congress will “castigate” anyone who wants democracy in the party, wants its president to be elected, speaks in favour of politics of development or stands with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rightful agenda.
“Congress is just about fours leaders of Gandhi Family. Congressis only agenda is hate Modi. It has grown to such an extent that Congress workers are protesting on the streets against their own leaders who are praising good work done by our Prime Minister,” he said.
This comes a day after veteran Congress leader Anand Sharma tweeted, “Congress’ alliance with parties like ISF and other such forces militates against the core ideology of the party and Gandhian and Nehruvian secularism, which forms the soul of the party. These issues need to be approved by the CWC.”
The meeting between ISF, Congress and Left parties, which was held today was attended by ISF chairman Naushad Siddiqui along with Pradeep Bhattacharya, Abdul Mannan, Biman Bose and Mohd Salim.
West Bengal Assembly elections will be held in eight phases starting from March 27 with the final round of voting taking place on April 29. Counting of votes will take place on May 2. (ANI)
Karnataka minister Ramesh Jarkiholi booked for sexually assaulting woman
Bengaluru (Karnataka) [India], March 2 (ANI): A case has been registered against Karnataka Irrigation Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi on Tuesday for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman.
Addressing reporters, the complainant Dinesh Kallahalli, who is a social activist, said, “I have lodged a complaint with police, demanding a probe into a sex scandal involving Ramesh Jarkiholi.”
“The victim woman was offered a job in Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited (KPTCL). Upon reaching the pre-decided location, the woman was sexually assaulted and now is being threatened by the Minister and his people,” he said.
In response to these accusations, Jarkiholi denied the allegations, saying that he will resign from politics if these allegations are proven true.
Speaking to reporters, the minister said, “I don’t even know the woman and the complainant. I’m going to meet my high command to convey a clarification about the alleged video. I was in Mysuru and I went to Chamundeshwari Temple. I don’t even know what that video is about because I never spoke to that woman. I will resign from my MLA post and politics if these allegations are proven against me.”
“It is a serious allegation against me. I have spoken to the Chief Minister and I will also seek action against the culprits. A thorough investigation must be done in this issue,” he added
“We have taken the complaint filed by Dinesh Kallahalli against Ramesh Jarakiholi. We will investigate accordingly,” informed Bengaluru Central District Commissioner of Police (DCP) Anucheth.
Further details are awaited. (ANI)
Union Ministers, others inoculated in 2nd phase of Covid vaccination drive
New Delhi [India], March 2 (ANI): Several Union Ministers and politicians on Tuesday took their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine in the second phase of the world’s largest vaccination drive.
Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday took the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at RR Hospital in the national capital.
“The first dosage of COVID-19 vaccine was administered to me at RR Hospital today. India’s resolve for making the country COVID free has been strengthened by this inoculation drive. The vaccine is completely safe and hassle-free,” tweeted the Defence Minister.”
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad received his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Patna on the second day of the second phase.
Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan also took the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at Delhi Heart and Lung Institute in the national capital.
“I have got a vaccine for COVID-19 in AIIMS Patna. All of us Union Ministers had decided that we will also pay Rs 250 each out our own volition. I have also given shared an amount of Rs 250 to AIIMS today,” the Minister said.
Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Tuesday also received the first shot of COVID-19 vaccine at Dalmiya hospital in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh.
“Took first dose of Corona vaccine at Dalmiya Hospital in Rampur (UP) today,” he tweeted.
National Conference MP Farooq Abdullah on Tuesday got his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Science in Srinagar.
His son and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah urged people to get vaccinated and said that despite several health issues his 85-year-old father had taken the vaccine.
“Thank you to the doctors, nurses and staff at SKIMS, Srinagar. Today my 85-year-old father and my mother had their first COVID jab. My father has a number of health issues including being on immunosuppressants for a kidney transplant. If he can get the vaccine, you should as well,” Omar Abdullah tweeted.
Union Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy took his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at Gandhi Hospital in Hyderabad.
Andhra Pradesh Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan took COVID-19 vaccine at Government General Hospital in Vijayawada. The Governor’s wife Suprava Harichandan was also administered coronavirus vaccine.
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi administered the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Delhi and appealed to all those who are eligible to get inoculated.
Following the PM, several Union Ministers, including Amit Shah, S Jaishakar, Jitendra Singh, also received their first vaccine jabs.
India commenced its second phase of the COVID-19 vaccination drive to inoculate people above 60 years and those over 45 with comorbidities against the coronavirus from March 1. (ANI)
Finance Ministry begins discussion on easing diesel-petrol prices
New Delhi [India], March 2 (ANI): Amid mounting pressure from all the quarters to reduce taxes on petrol and diesel, the Finance Ministry vigorously started to discuss the burning issue which has created a hole in consumers’ pockets, sources told ANI on Tuesday.
“The government is discussing as to what extent the taxes could be cut, and that too, without having much stress on either the Centre or the state government. The discussion has been started among the Ministry officials on how to bring the Centre and government on a platform where relief from high fuel prices can be given to the common man,” said highly placed sources.
They said that the Finance Ministry is exploring all kinds of possible options to handle the imminent crisis and is trying to bring states and the Centre at one platform to ensure an expeditious reduction of the prices.
Currently, the petrol prices in Delhi are Rs 91.17 per litre and diesel is at Rs 81.47 per litre.
Sources privy to knowledge said that apart from excise duty cut, ministry officials have started to find a way to start deliberation with states, as asked by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman last month.
The Finance Minister had said that the only way to find a solution to this problem is that the Centre and states should hold a dialogue. “I concede that’s where action has to be, let’s see what we can do,” said Sitharaman, adding that she agrees the end-users should pay less for fuel.
Earlier in an interview with ANI, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had appealed to Finance Minister that diesel and petrol prices are hurting the common people and Sitharaman should have a dialogue with the states to bring the prices down.
Last week, Reserve Bank Governor Shaktikanta Das has also said that diesel and petrol prices do have an impact on the cost side. “They play as cost-push factor across a range of activities. It’s not just that passengers who use cars and bikes. High fuel prices also have an impact on the cost of manufacturing, transportation, and other aspects, I am sure the state and central government will take a positive decision in a coordinated manner,” the RBI Governor had said.
As the coronavirus pandemic hit economic activity, the Centre has twice raised taxes on petrol and diesel in the last 12 months to boost sagging tax revenues instead of passing on the benefits of low oil prices last year to consumers. (ANI)
Delhi’s first COVID-19 patient recalls time in hospital, excited to take Covaxin jab soon
By Aiman Khan
New Delhi [India], March 2 (ANI): A Delhi-based businessman, Rohit Datta on Monday shared his experience and elaborated about how it felt to be the first COVID-19 patient in Delhi and how it felt conquering the virus.
Datta told ANI, “I can never forget those days. Initially, I was blank and didn’t know about the coronavirus. Fourteen days later, I went home from the hospital. Days after that, the Centre had imposed a lockdown in the country.”
“There was a lot of support from my family and friends. However, a few people were very unprofessional. On the first day itself, my own photo and family photos were leaked. I also complained about this to the Delhi Police but there was no action. I am surprised why it did not happen,” he further alleged.
“I had spent sleepless nights post this incident. I did not know who leaked my family photos. I was in the hospital and suddenly one woman called me by my name. I was surprised how she knew my name. Moreover, she started blaming me for bringing coronavirus in this city,” Datta said.
On a positive note, the businessman said, “I hope my children get vaccinated against this virus soon. I have also registered senior citizens of my family on the online portal for the ongoing vaccination drive. Since, I do not have any comorbidity, I will be also be vaccinated later on. Yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the first jab of the COVID-19 vaccine. I hope to get vaccinated soon.”
The second phase of the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive for age-appropriate population groups began on Monday with the Union Health Ministry calling out eligible people to get an appointment at respective hospitals in the country. (ANI)
Class 10 student arrested in Nangloi shootout case
New Delhi [India], March 2 (ANI): A 22-year-old, a student of Class 10, has been arrested in the shootout in Outer Delhi’s Nangloi, in which two persons were killed on Monday, the Delhi Police said on Tuesday.
“The arrested has been identified as Jatin Bitoo,” Police said.
One person was arrested in connection with the incident yesterday.
According to Delhi Police, the deceased were identified as Zakir and Saleem Qureshi, who were shot at by Mohammad Ikram, who is out on parole in a murder case, and his accomplice Raees.
The incident appeared to be a case of an old business rivalry between the four people.
The senior police official said, “One pistol, one magazine and two live cartridges were recovered from Raees’ possession.”
“All the people in the incident were involved in the meat business. They supplied meat and they had an old business rivalry, in which one of the accused, Mohd Ikram alias Arif, was released on parole in a murder case,” the police informed yesterday.
“He fired on a man named Zakir in Nagloi police station area. Following this, Zakir’s companion Raees went to a nearby shop belonging to Saleem Qureshi and fired on him,” the police added.
Zakir and Qureshi were brought dead at Sanjay Gandhi Hospital on Monday.
Further investigation is underway and efforts on to nab Arif who is absconding. (ANI)
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