India also reported a record 2,104 deaths in a span of 24 hours on Thursday, taking the toll from COVID-19 disease to 1,84,657
India on Thursday recorded over 3.14 lakh new COVID-19 cases, the highest ever single-day count in any country since the beginning of the pandemic last year. With the exponential rise in cases, hospitals across the country grappled with shortages in oxygen supply.
In view of this, the Centre issued strict directives about ensuring the uninterrupted production and supply of medical oxygen.
Facing criticism from Opposition parties and healthcare experts for continuing to campaign in West Bengal while the country faced a looming COVID-19 wave, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the cancellation of his election events in West Bengal for Friday. He said that he will be chairing meetings to review the availability of oxygen.
Tomorrow, will be chairing high-level meetings to review the prevailing COVID-19 situation. Due to that, I would not be going to West Bengal.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 22, 2021
The Election Commission also took cognisance of the COVID-19 situation and announced a ban on roadshows and vehicle rallies in West Bengal, after six phases of the eight-phase Assembly election were concluded.
Expressing anguish that COVID-related safety protocols were being flouted in the campaigns of the parties, the EC added that public meetings with more than 500 people won’t be allowed.
Using its constitutional powers, the commission issued an order placing fresh restrictions on physical campaigning in the state where two more phases of elections are due on 26 and 29 April.
“The commission has noted with anguish that many political parties/candidates are still not adhering to the prescribed safety norms during the public gatherings…,” the order read.
” … the commission invoking its powers under Article 324 further orders that with effect from7 pm of April 22, in the state of West Bengal no roadshow/padayatra shall be permissible; no cycle/bike/vehicle rally shall be permissible; no public meeting beyond the limit of 500 persons at a place subject to availability of adequate space with social distancing, adhering to COVID-19 safety norms, shall be permissible,” the order said.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee cancelled all pre-scheduled poll meetings after the EC order and said she will address people virtually.
In the wake of upsurge in #COVID19 cases across the country and the ECI Order dated 22nd April, 2021, I am cancelling all my prescheduled meetings and we will reach out to the people virtually.
We will be sharing the updated schedule of the virtual meetings shortly.
— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) April 22, 2021
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court took note of the “grim” situation created by the massive surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths, and said it expects the Centre to frame a “national plan” to deal with proper distribution of oxygen and essential drugs for patients.
Observing that oxygen supply to patients infected with the virus is said to be an “essential part” of treatment, the apex court said it seems that a certain amount of “panic” has been generated due to which people have approached several high courts seeking reliefs related to the prevailing situation.
The Delhi, Madras, Bombay, and Karnataka high courts also passed a slew of orders and made observations regarding the medical emergencies caused due to the shortage of oxygen and COVID-19 drugs like remdesivir.
The Delhi High Court observed that the COVID-19 situation in the National Capital has turned “precarious”, with many hospitals running out of oxygen and directed the Centre to ensure that oxygen is supplied to the city as per the planned allocation and without any hindrances.
Hospitals — like the Fortis in Haryana, and Delhi’s Saroj Super Speciality Hospital and Akash Hospital — also shared SOS messages about the quickly depleting stocks of oxygen and asked for the Centre’s intervention in replenishing their oxygen supply.
— Fortis Healthcare (@fortis_hospital) April 22, 2021
1 hour oxygen left in fortis gurugram. Tanker from bhiwadi not allowed to come to Haryana. We cater to Pt from all India they cannot pay price for a political war @News24@arunsangwan81@summwadhwa@PMOIndia we have 200 Pt on oxygen please please help. @cmohry@jyoti_archana
— RahulDoc (@RahulDoc2) April 22, 2021
The Delhi government also shared a list of six hospitals that had “exhausted” their stock of oxygen:
Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal reported the highest single-day spike in cases.
West Bengal reported 11,948 COVID-19 cases, taking the tally beyond 7 lakh. The state has been witnessing an eight-phased Assembly election since 27 March, which is set to end on 29 April. All parties including the BJP, Congress, TMC and others ran feverish campaigns before the second wave of COVID-19 hit the country.
Uttar Pradesh recorded a spike of 34,379 COVID-19 cases and 195 deaths, pushing the state’s tally to 9,76,765 and the toll to 10,541.
In Karnataka, 25,795 new cases took the total caseload to 12,47,997.
‘Six Delhi hospitals have exhausted oxygen supply’
Six hospitals in the National Capital have exhausted their oxygen supply while seven others have less than five hours of oxygen left, Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia told Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday.
In a letter to Vardhan, Sisodia pointed out that six hospitals — Saroj Super Speciality Hospital, Shanti Mukund, Tirath Ram Shah Hospital, UK Nursing Home, Rathi Hospital and Santom Hospital — have exhausted their oxygen supply.
The hospitals that have less than five hours of oxygen supply include Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital, BLK Hospital, Holy Family Hospital, Okhla, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Max Superspeciality Hospital, Patparganj, Venketeshwara Hospital and Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, Sisodia pointed out.
“Police and senior officials of the administration in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana are stalling the tankers carrying oxygen, delaying the tankers from reaching Delhi hospitals on time,” Sisodia said in the letter.
“I urge you to ensure that the oxygen allocated for Delhi by the Centre reaches there without any delay to save lives of the patients,” he added.
Several small hospitals in the city struggled to replenish the oxygen supply for coronavirus patients on Thursday morning, even as some big healthcare facilities received fresh stock overnight.
Later on Thursday, the MHA said that a COVID-19 care centre equipped with 500 oxygen beds will be made operational in Delhi and it will be run by doctors and paramedics of border guarding force ITBP.
Over 750 doctors, health workers of Bihar’s leading hospitals infected
More than 750 doctors and health workers of six prominent government hospitals of Bihar have been infected with coronavirus during the ongoing second wave, causing worry for the state government.
Reports of doctors and staff testing positive for COVID-19 came from three prominent hospitals of Patna-AIIMS, Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH), and Nalanda Medical College and Hospital (NMCH), the Sri Krishna Medical College in Muzaffarpur, Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College and Hospital in Bhagalpur and the Anugrah Narayan Magadh Medical College and Hospital in Gaya.
Tamil Nadu to provide free vaccines for every beneficiary from 1 May
The Tamil Nadu government on Thursday said it will provide free COVID-19 vaccination for all from 1 May, when the next phase of the inoculation drive for everyone above 18 years will start.
The announcement comes a day after major vaccine maker Serum Institute of India announced a price of Rs 400 per dose for its COVID-19 vaccine ‘Covishield’ for state governments and Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals.
Incidentally, Chief Minister K Palaniswami had last year announced that the government will provide the vaccine free of cost once it was ready and beneficiaries in the earlier phases — senior citizens and those above 45 with comorbidities and all over 45 years of age — have been inoculated at government hospitals at no cost.
Announcing the vaccination camp for those aged 18-45 years from next month as part of the third phase of the inoculation drive, the state government said districts that were the most affected by the pandemic will be prioritised in conducting the free camps.
SC asks Centre for ‘national plan’ in dealing with COVID-19
As the handling of the raging COVID pandemic by authorities came under increasing judicial scrutiny, the Supreme Court on Thursday said it expected the Centre to come out with a national plan on the supply of oxygen and essential drugs for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
An apex court bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde, who is demitting office on Friday, also observed that the top court might withdraw certain issues pending before the high courts and deal with them. It, however, neither stayed the proceedings before the high courts nor transferred to itself the cases pending before these courts.
At least four high courts — Delhi, Bombay, Karnataka, and Madras — heard petitions on similar lines on Thursday.
Shortly after the court made the observation, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), through its president and senior advocate Vikas Singh, filed a plea seeking to intervene as a party in the suo motu case titled ‘Distribution of Essential Supplies and Services During Pandemic’.
Singh submitted that under the given situation, the high courts are best suited to deal with local issues.
Earlier on Thursday, the CJI-led Bench said, “The situation in various parts of the country is grim. There seems to be a sudden surge in the number of COVID patients and mortality. Other than vaccination which is prophylactic in nature, COVID can be treated only by some drugs such as Remdesivir. Oxygen to the patients is also said to be an essential part of the treatment.”
It noted that drugs, oxygen and vaccination availability and distribution are being carried out by the governments, including the Centre, according to the protocols established by the health authorities.
“Nonetheless, it seems that a certain amount of panic has been generated and people have invoked the jurisdiction of several high courts in the country seeking various reliefs such as Delhi, Bombay, Sikkim, MP, Calcutta, Allahabad and Gujarat,” the court said.
MHA directs states, UTs to not impose restrictions on movement of oxygen
With several states facing a shortage of medical oxygen due to a spike in COVID-19 cases across the country, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued an order disallowing state governments and local administrations from imposing restrictions on the movement of medical oxygen and oxygen-carrying vehicles between and within states.
The order also stated that oxygen manufacturers and suppliers will also not be forced to “limit the oxygen supplies only to hospitals of the state/UT in which they are located”.
“No restriction shall be imposed on the movement of medical oxygen between the state and transport authorities shall be instructed to accordingly allow free inter-state movement of oxygen-carrying vehicles,” the order said.
The order also said that there shall be no restriction on the movement of oxygen-carrying vehicles into the cities, without any restrictions of timings, while also enabling inter-city supply without restriction.
Registration for vaccination for people above 18 yrs to begin from 28 April
The registration for vaccination against COVID-19 for all those aged above 18 will begin on the CoWIN platform and Aarogya Setu app from 28 April. The inoculation process and documents to be submitted to get the jab remains the same as before.
The Central Government had announced that the vaccination for those above 18 years will begin across the country from 1 May as part of the third phase of the inoculation drive.
It is clarified that #CoWin portal will be made ready for 18+ beneficiaries by 24th April.
Registrations for 18+ citizens to book appointments (from 1st May) will begin on 28th April.@PMOIndia @drharshvardhan @AshwiniKChoubey @PIB_India @DDNewslive
— Ministry of Health (@MoHFW_INDIA) April 22, 2021
From 1 May, the present system of private COVID-19 vaccination centres receiving doses from the government and charging up to Rs 250 per dose will cease to exist and private hospitals will procure directly from vaccine manufacturers.
According to the Liberalised Pricing and Accelerated National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy, COVID-19 vaccination will continue to be free for eligible population groups comprising healthcare workers, frontline workers and people above 45 years of age in government vaccination centres, which receive doses from the government of India.
COVID-19 caseload details
According to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Thursday morning, a total of 3,14,835 fresh infections were registered in a span of 24 hours, while the toll increased to 1,84,657 with a record 2,104 new fatalities. The national recovery rate fell below 85 percent.
Registering a steady increase for the 43rd day in a row, the active cases have increased to 22,91,428, comprising 14.38 percent of the total infections, the data showed.
The number of people who have recuperated from the disease went up to 1,34,54,880. The case fatality rate has further dropped to 1.16 percent, the data stated.
According to the ICMR, 27,27,05,103 samples have been tested up to 21 April, with 16,51,711 samples being tested on Wednesday.
The 2,104 new fatalities include 568 from Maharashtra, 249 from Delhi, 193 from Chhattisgarh, 187 from Uttar Pradesh, 125 from Gujarat and 116 from Karnataka.
With inputs from PTI
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