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Severe Covid situation, whole country potentially at risk: Govt

Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Gujarat account for 78.56% of the new cases.

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India is facing an increasingly severe Covid-19 situation in some districts and the whole country is potentially at risk and all efforts to contain the virus should be taken, said Dr V.K. Paul, Member (Health) of the NITI Aayog, at a press conference on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra continued to report the highest daily new Covid-19 cases with 31,643 in the last 24 hours, followed by Punjab with 2,868 and Karnataka with 2,792 new cases, informed an official statement. With this, Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Gujarat cumulatively accounted for 78.56 percent of the new cases, according to the Central government.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan added that Maharashtra also accounts for eight out of the ten districts with the most number of active cases across the country. The ten districts are Pune, Mumbai, Nagpur, Thane, Nashik, Aurangabad, Bengaluru Urban, Nanded, Delhi, and Ahmednagar.

However, the Centre also signalled on Tuesday that Maharashtra’s call for door-to-door Covid vaccination might not be met for now. The health ministry, though, indicated that it has received no formal request yet from the state, which is seeing the highest numbers in the emergent second wave of the infection.

Earlier, the Brihanmumbai Corporation chief Iqbal Chahal had told reporters, “We requested the state to in turn request the Centre to allow us to do door-to-door vaccination”. “When the Centre’s team had visited 10 days ago, I had requested them to allow us to go door to door, so we can go on vaccination drive in a big way,” he said, adding the request was also made during the Centre’s video conference with the states earlier this month.

However, Rajesh Bhushan said, “Till date, we have not received any specific update about what you call door to door vaccination”. The clarification came amid the government’s insistence on “saturation” vaccination in districts that are showing a surge. The Centre also responded that there is a need to exponentially increase tests in states and Union Territories that are reporting a spike in Covid-19 cases. “We spoke to representatives of these states. We asked them why they are not increasing testing when cases are increasing. It is essential to increase testing with a focus on RT-PCR tests. Rapid Antigen tests should be used for screening in densely populated areas,” Bhushan said.

Bhushan, in a letter addressed to the Chief Secretary of all the states and Union territories, also emphasised, “…efficient implementation of “Test Track and Treat” remains the only proven strategy for control of the transmission. Each district, irrespective of whether it is seeing a surge right now, or is with a current low burden, should make a District Action Plan with clear timelines and responsibilities.” It added that public health measures to contain the virus by quarantining and testing individuals suspected to be positive including close contacts of positive persons (at least 25 to 30 such contacts per positive person) shall be done in every state.

Bhushan’s letter further elaborated that the said action plan shall include mapping of cases, reviewing sub-area wise indicators, reviewing the geographical spread of the infection on a day-to-day basis and setting up of Emergency Operations Centres.

Apart from the action plan, the Health Secretary suggested that individual actions such as the proper wearing of masks covering the nose and mouth, maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others, and sanitizing one’s hands frequently shall be checked and enforced.

In the letter, Bhushan outlined, “After having successfully brought down the number of new Covid-19 cases from mid-September 2020 to February 2021, India is now witnessing a rapid rise in cases. You have been leading the effort of Covid pandemic management with your teams so far. The current rise in cases is of concern and has the potential of overwhelming health care systems, unless checked right now.”

Underscoring that “any complacency at this stage, and at any level, will have heavy costs”, the Centre also said, “All districts with high case load and fast growth of cases must ensure 100% saturation vaccination of the priority age group of 45 year and above, in the coming two weeks.”

In what is billed as the largest vaccination drive in the world, as many as 6,11,13,354 vaccine doses have been administered through 10,07,091 sessions till 8 am on March 30. The Union Health Secretary also informed that the recovery rate in the country stands at 94 percent and the case fatality rate stands at 1.34 percent.

The country’s present active caseload now stands at 4.47 per cent of India’s total positive cases. According to Bhushan, the weekly national average positivity rate is 5.65 percent. Maharashtra has a weekly average of 23 percent, Punjab 8.82 percent, Chhattisgarh 8 percent, Madhya Pradesh 7.82 percent, Tamil Nadu 2.50 percent, Karnataka 2.45 percent, Gujarat 2.2 percent, and Delhi 2.04 percent.

The health secretary also said that 807 cases of the UK strain, 47 cases of the South African variant, and one case of the Brazilian variant of the Covid-19 virus have been found in India so far.

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YOGI ADITYANATH TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID-19

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LUCKNOW: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday.“I got tested for Covid-19 after showing some symptoms. The report is positive and I am in self-isolation and following all medical instructions. I am doing my work virtually. All the functions of the state government are running normally. Whoever came in my contact, please get their Covid test done,” Adityanath tweeted in Hindi.

The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister on Tuesday went into self-isolation after coming into contact with some officials who tested positive for Covid-19. Uttar Pradesh reported 18,021 new Covid-19 cases and 85 deaths on Tuesday. ANI

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AS DELHI SEES 17K CASES, HEALTH MINISTER SAYS ENOUGH HOSPITAL BEDS FOR PATIENTS

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As Delhi registered more than 17,000 fresh Covid-19 cases—another record high in the national capital—and almost double the 9,925 cases in Mumbai, Health Minister Satyendar Jain on Wednesday said that there are enough hospital beds available for coronavirus patients.

Speaking to the media, Jain said, “Currently we have 13,000 beds and there is no shortage of ventilators. Patients from Delhi and other states are being admitted.” Elaborating on the arrangements that have been made, the Health Minister said the Central government has provided 1,100 beds and talks are going on to add more hospital beds.

He said that 286 out of 5,525 Covid Care Centres are occupied in Delhi. To set up more centres, banquets halls and hotels will be included soon, he added. The Health Minister said that there is no slowdown in Covid cases, the numbers of coronavirus cases are rapidly increasing and appealed to people to stay home. “The numbers of hospital beds (for availability) is being revised twice a day on the Delhi Corona App,” he said adding that people should visit hospitals only after going through the app.

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NO COMPARISON BETWEEN MARKAZ AND KUMBH: UTTARAKHAND CM

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Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat on Tuesday said that there is no comparison between Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi and Kumbh in Haridwar as the former was held in a closed space while the latter is being held in a vast open area.

Briefing the mediapersons, Rawat said, “There is no comparison between Markaz and Kumbh. Markaz was in a closed hall. All the people slept in a single hall with close contacts. They shared blankets. On the contrary, there are 16 ghats in Kumbh. Not just Haridwar, Kumbh is spread from Rishikesh to Nilkanth. Devotees take bath in different ghats at different times.”

“The Akhadas also reach the ghats at different time slots. The peshwai of the Akhadas visit in a time-bound manner. Markaz was in a closed building but Kumbh is in a vast open area. Most importantly, Kumbh is at the bank of the River Ganga. Maa Ganga’s blessings are there in the flow. So, there should be no corona,” added the CM.

Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi is the headquarters of Tablighi Jamaat, a society of Sunni Islamic missionary movement. It caught national attention in March last year after the havoc Covid-19 infections caused among the people gathered in the building.

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GUJARAT STARTS NATION’S FIRST DRIVE-THROUGH RT-PCR TESTS

Abhijit Bhatt

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Drive-through RT-PCR tests have been started at the GMDC ground in Ahmedabad for the first time in the country from Wednesday, under a joint venture between the municipal corporation and Neuberg Supratech Laboratory. Sample collection was started in the morning to reduce the line of people wanting to get tested.

Those who come in car for the test first scan the QR code provided by the laboratory in their mobile phone. After mobile phone scanning and registering of all information, the car goes to a collection center inside. The suspect’s sample is taken by a person wearing a PPE kit without getting out of the car. From 8 a.m., about 50 vehicles arrived for the test. People returned with samples in just 5 minutes. About 10 collection centres have been set up by Neuberg Supratech Laboratory. In addition, walking test centers have also been set up, where people can get tested.

According to the director, Neuberg Supratech Laboratory, Dr Sandeep Shah, there were lines of people in the laboratory, so Dr Rajiv Gupta has arranged for drive-through RT-PCR tests to reduce the lines, for which an entire collection center has been set up with Sufalam software along with Neuberg Supratech Laboratory.

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TMC says EC acting on BJP’s instructions

Lists alleged instances of EC inaction against Modi-Shah.

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Raising questions over the functioning of the Election Commission during the ongoing West Bengal polls, a delegation of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Wednesday met Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and submitted a memorandum, listing several instances of “inaction” against BJP’s “violators” and “over action” against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

The delegation was led by TMC Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien, who especially flew to Delhi to register the party’s grievances before the poll panel. Kalyan Banerjee, Dr Santanu Sen and Pratima Mandal were also part of the visiting TMC delegation.

“Amit Shah and Narendra Modi are seeking votes in the name of caste and religion. The Election Commission has not taken any action against the duo. We have now come here to formally file complaint and ask for action against them,” said Banerjee while briefing reporters outside the EC headquarters. 

The memorandum submitted by the TMC leaders to the EC was divided into three parts, in which “illegality by EC” was highlighted in an orderly manner. The first part was inaction of the EC, wherein references to various “divisive speeches” made by PM Modi and Home Minister Shah were mentioned and the TMC emphasised how action was not taken against them despite their speeches being fit cases of poll code violations.

The second part spoke of “mild action” taken against mid-level BJP leaders, who flouted EC norms and that too after much hue and cry by the TMC. 

The third part spoke of strong action by the EC against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who, according to the TMC, only appealed to female voters to lodge protests against those who hinder them from casting votes.

“It is apparent that the EC is acting in a partisan manner, absolutely in favour of the BJP or on its instructions, that is pre announced by the BJP,” said the memorandum. Since the onset of elections in West Bengal, the TMC has been accusing the BJP of misusing central agencies such as ED, CBI, EC and paramilitary forces.

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RAJASTHAN ORDERS 6 PM TO 6 AM CURFEW STARTING FRIDAY

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JAIPUR: The Rajasthan government on Wednesday night announced a 12-hour daily curfew—from 6 pm to 6 am—starting Friday, across all cities, as part of a series of measures to combat a worrying spike in Covid cases. The curfew will be in effect till the end of the month.

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