For the fourth day in a row, West Bengal registered its highest single-day spike of 15,889 COVID-19 cases on Sunday, pushing the tally to 7,43,950, t
On a day when India registered a record nearly 3.50 lakh COVID-19 cases, and the Centre and state governments continued to grapple with the second wave, support poured in from the international community.
The United States, expressing “deep sympathy for the people of India following the recent spike in COVID-19 cases”, late on Sunday night announced it would sent raw material “urgently required” to manufature Covishield in India.
“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, the United States is determined to help India in its time of need,” the White House statement read. “The United States has identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine that will immediately be made available for India.”
While the European Union activated its Civil Protection Mechanism to mobilise the resources for India, German chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday said her government is “urgently” preparing a “mission of support”. Additionally, PTI quoted sources as saying that Air India will bring around 600 oxygen concentrators on its two US-India flights in the next two days.
Lastly, Saudi Arabia is set to ship 80 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen to India.
To combat the growing demand for oxygen in the country, India had reached out to various countries to procure containers and oxygen cylinders under operation ‘Oxygen Maitri’.
Danke, Bundeskanzlerin #Merkel, für Ihre Botschaft der Solidarität und Unterstützung. In diesem globalen Kampf gegen die Pandemie stehen wir Seite an Seite.
Wir danken auch den #deutschen Unternehmen für ihren Einsatz.@RegSprecher @HeikoMaas @AuswaertigesAmt @MiguelBergerAA https://t.co/lPqqJhNu1v
— India in Germany (@eoiberlin) April 25, 2021
The numbers were also grim in West Bengal, which is witnessing an eight-phased Assembly election and will vote in the seventh phase on Monday. A report by The Times of India found that one of two people taking the RT-PCR test in the capital Kolkata is testing positive for COVID-19 . In the rest of the state, the statistics are one in four people testing positive.
“Laboratories in Kolkata and surrounding areas are reporting a positivity rate of 45 to 55 percent, while in other parts of the state the positivity rate is around 24 percent, up from five percent at the beginning of this month,” the report quoted a doctor as saying anonymously.
The BJP, Congress, and TMC campaigns, which kickstarted weeks before the first phase of polls in 27 March, saw massive rallies and roadshows being held across the state. Additionally, BJP leaders, including Union Home Minister Amit Shah, dismissed a link between the surge in cases and the crowds at poll rallies in the state.
For the fourth day in a row, West Bengal registered its highest single-day spike of 15,889 COVID-19 cases on Sunday, pushing the tally to 7,43,950, the bulletin released by the state health department said.
Campaigning for the seventh phase has been a low-key affair, following curbs imposed by the EC in the wake of the second wave of COVID-19 cases in the state.
On the vaccine front, health experts and economists criticised Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech’s pricing of the indigenously-developed ‘Covaxin‘, which was announced late on Saturday. The manufacturer has priced its dose for state governments at Rs 600 per dose, while for private hospitals, it is Rs 1,200 per dose.
In a series of tweets on Sunday, economist R Ramakumar argued that the contract between the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), which jointly developed Covaxin, and Bharat Biotech should be made public “given that taxpayer’s money was involved in funding the collaboration”
A thread on Bharat Biotech’s (BB) pricing of Covaxin at Rs 600/dose for State governments and Rs 1200/dose for private hospitals. The pricing of Covaxin at prices higher than Covishield puts the so-called Indian vaccine even more out of bounds for the poorer Indian citizens. 1/n
— R. Ramakumar (@ramakumarr) April 25, 2021
“Covaxin is a product of Indian public funded research. Its SARS-CoV-2 strain was isolated in the National Institute of Virology, Pune under ICMR and transferred to Bharat Biotech for development and manufacture.
“The Centre should immediately release all the agreements between ICMR and Bharat Biotech to the public. We have to know what control the Centre retained over the IP. How did the Centre leverage its IP rights in the midst of the pandemic? Was a public technology let free for private profiteering?” he questioned.
The Congress also presented calculations of the total population between the ages of 18 and 45 and the cost of each vaccine dose to claim that vaccine manufacturers SII and Bharat Biotech will make a combined profit of Rs 1,11,100 crore from the inoculation exercise set to begin on 1 May.
Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said that Pune-based SII will earn Rs 35,350 crore, while Bharat Biotech will earn Rs 75,750 crore.
— AICC Communications (@AICCMedia) April 25, 2021
The third phase of inoculation for people between the ages of 18 and 45 will begin on 1 May. In preparation of it, the Centre has made it mandatory for everyone to register themselves on the CoWIN portal and get an appointment for vaccination against coronavirus , saying walk-ins will not be allowed initially to avoid a “chaos” at immunisation centres.
In a bid to curb the rise in COVID-19 cases, the Delhi government on Sunday extended the lockdown restrictions till 3 May. Announcing the measure, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that the severity of the situation is unabated and the positivity rate has been as high as 36 percent in the last few days.
The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) in an order for extension of the lockdown allowed services of courier outlets, electricians and plumbers, repair of water purifiers, and shops shelling books and electric fans. The rest of the restrictions have been carried forward from the old lockdown order.
The Himachal Pradesh government also announced a night curfew in four districts from 27 April to 10 May, and made it mandatory for people visiting the state to produce a negative coronavirus report.
Tamil Nadu on Sunday observed a complete lockdown, the first during the current wave of the coronavirus pandemic, with operation of only essential services and roads were deserted as people remained indoors. The second lockdown after a seven month hiatus saw closure of markets and all retail outlets, including state-run liquor stores and bars, while restaurants and hotels functioned for take away services alone.
The oxygen crisis also remained grim on Sunday, with four patients dying in a private hospital in Haryana allegedly due to a shortage of medical oxygen, PTI reported. The district administration launched an investigation to find out the reason behind the deaths.
After the incident, the relatives of some of the patients, who were admitted to the hospital functioning as a designated COVID facility, held a protest outside the building complex alleging there was a grave shortage of medical oxygen.
“Three patients died in ICU while one patient died in the ward. We have limited oxygen supplies. We are repeatedly telling the administration about this and have been sending them reminders. We are sending empty oxygen cylinders to the vendors to load them again. Since 9 am, we are telling the authorities that we have limited stock,” a hospital official was quoted by PTI as saying.
‘Oxygen Express to reach Delhi by Monday night’
The first Oxygen Express train for Delhi carrying around 70 MT of the life-saving gas will depart from Jindal Steel Works plant in Raigarh, Chhattisgarh on Sunday night, PTI reported.
The train, with four tankers, will reach Delhi by Monday night, Railway Board chairman Suneet Sharma said.
The railways has chalked out plans to transport medical oxygen from Angul, Kalingnagar, Rourkela and Raigarh to Delhi and NCR region, Sharma said, adding the Delhi government has been advised to get road tankers ready to obtain the oxygen.
“First Oxygen Express for the national capital carrying four tankers with 70 tonnes of liquid medical oxygen will depart tonight for Delhi Cantonment from Jindal Steel Works, Raigarh. It will reach Delhi by Monday night,” the railway board chairman said.
Every few hours, as it has been for the last days, hospitals across the National Capital and its suburbs have been sending out desperate messages seeking help on social media and other platforms, flagging their dwindling stocks of oxygen.
In view of the high demand for oxygen in the country following a record spike in coronavirus cases, the railways has decided to run Oxygen Express trains to transport liquid medical oxygen and oxygen cylinders across the country.
Tankers are being transported on flat wagons by trains for quick supply of medical oxygen.
Indian Railway has mapped out the following routes to transport oxygen:
* For the delivery of more liquid medical oxygen to Maharashtra, railways has planned to transport oxygen from Jamnagar to Mumbai and for Nagpur/Pune from Vizag/Angul.
* Railways has mapped the route from Angul to Secunderabad to deliver liquid medical oxygen for Telangana.
* For Andhra Pradesh, railways has planned to transport liquid medical oxygen from vacancy Angul to Vijayawada.
* For Madhya Pradesh, railways has mapped the route from Jamshedpur to Jabalpur for the transportation of liquid medical oxygen.
‘Second wave of COVID has shaken country’
Noting that the second wave of COVID-19 is testing people’s patience and their capacity to endure pain, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that this “toofan” (storm) has shaken the country after it was full of enthusiasm and self-confidence after successfully tackling the first wave.
In his monthly Mann Ki Baat broadcast, Modi spoke to doctors, nurses and frontline workers, who shared their experience and views on the disease, and expressed confidence that people will soon come out of this crisis.
The over 30-minute broadcast was entirely focussed on the pandemic, which has been rampaging across the country for weeks, with Modi asserting that defeating the disease is the biggest priority. Modi began the programme by taking note of people’s sufferings.
Additionally, the PMO said that 551 dedicated pressure swing Adsorption (PSA) medical oxygen generation plants will be set up inside public health facilities across the country to boost its availability.
The PMO said on Sunday that the PM CARES Fund has given in-principle approval for allocation of funds for their installation, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi directing these plants should be made functional as soon as possible. He said these plants will serve as a major boost to oxygen availability at the district level.
Bodies belie official death count
As coronavirus cases surge, the number of cremations taking place at the city’s crematoriums has increased several-fold — far more than the 66 deaths officially attributed to the virus in the entire district over the past six days.
Data from Bhairoghat and Bhagwatghat crematoriums shows 462 bodies were consigned to flames from 19 to 24 April.
People have to wait with the bodies for the last rites and the situation is no different at burial grounds.
In the six-day period, Kanpur Nagar district officially recorded 66 COVID-19 deaths, while 406 cremations took place at Bhairoghat and 56 in Bhagwatghat alone. The Bhairoghat crematorium also includes an electric crematorium.
“The number of cremations has risen several fold in the last week,” said Qamruddin, a Kanpur Municipal Corporation employee at the Bhairoghat electric crematorium.
“Until last month, we were cremating less than 10 bodies a day, but for the last 10 days, we have been handling over 50 bodies every day,” he said.
Data shows that 91 of the 406 funerals were performed at Bhairoghat on 21 April alone, he added. The spurt has forced the people to wait for hours to cremate the dead, Qamruddin said.
“We are working for long and incinerators are running full time, but many people still have to wait with the bodies for the last rites,” he said.
Additional District Magistrate Atul Kumar said information about all the COVID-19 patients as well as their recovery or deaths is uploaded on the government portal, so “it is impossible to hide or alter the death toll”.
He, however, refused to comment over the large number of bodies being brought to the crematoriums, contrary to the COVID-19 death figures being shared with the media and displayed on the official portal.
Centre bars use of liquid oxygen for non-medical purposes
The Centre on Sunday barred the use of liquid oxygen for any non-medical purpose and asked manufacturing units to maximise its production and make it available to the government for medical use.
The order by Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla came amid a scarcity of medical oxygen in many parts of the country, particularly in Delhi, that have been hit by a fresh wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Exercising the powers conferred under the Disaster Management Act, the Union home secretary directed the state and Union Territory governments to ensure that “use of liquid oxygen is not allowed for any non-medical purpose and all manufacturing units may maximise their production of liquid oxygen, and make it available to the government for use for medical purposes only, with immediate effect and until further orders.”
Further, Bhalla directed that all stocks of liquid oxygen should also be made available to the government for use for medical purposes and no exception is allowed to any industry with regard to use of liquid oxygen.
The home secretary referred to various measures taken so far to ensure uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen across the country.
He said it was considered necessary to restrict industrial usage of oxygen for ensuring availability of adequate and uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen across the country for management of COVID-19 patients and necessary order in this regard was issued on 22 April to restrict the use of industrial oxygen.
The Centre has reviewed the oxygen supply situation and has decided that with immediate effect, use of liquid oxygen, including the existing stock, will be allowed for medical purposes only, and that all manufacturing units may be allowed to maximise their production of liquid oxygen, and make it available to the government, for use for medical purposes only, the order said.
Social media platforms remove nearly 100 posts
Twitter and other social media platforms have removed about 100 posts and URLs after the government asked them to remove content that was critical of the handling of the current medical crisis or spreading fake news around the pandemic.
Twitter said it has notified the impacted account holders of its action taken in response to a legal request from the Indian government, while Facebook did not comment on the issue.
Sources were quoted by PTI as saying that the companies have complied with the order. However, it wasn’t immediately known what the removed posts were.
Meanwhile, government sources said the IT Ministry, on the recommendation of the Ministry of Home Affairs, asked the social media platforms to remove the posts and URLs (uniform resource locators) to “prevent obstructions in the fight against the pandemic and disruption of public order due to the said posts.
COVID-19 caseload details
India logged a record 3,49,691 new coronavirus infections in a day taking it total tally of COVID-19 cases to 1,69,60,172,while active cases crossed the 26 lakh mark, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Sunday.
The death toll increased to 1,92,311 with a record 2,767 daily new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.
Registering a steady increase, the active cases have increased to 26,82,751 comprising 15.82 percent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has further dropped to 83.05 percent.
The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 1,40,85,110,while the case fatality rate has further dropped to 1.13 percent, the data stated.
According to the ICMR, 27,79,18,810 samples have been tested up to 25 April, with 17,19,588 samples being tested on Saturday.
The 2,767 new deaths include 676 from Maharashtra, 357 from Delhi, 222 from Uttar Pradesh, 218 from Chhattisgarh, 208 from Karnataka, 152 from Gujarat and110 from Jharkhand and 104 from Madhya Pradesh.
A total of 1,92,311deaths have been reported so far in the country including 63,928 from Maharashtra, 14,283 from Karnataka, 13,475 from Tamil Nadu, 13,898 from Delhi, 10,959 from Uttar Pradesh, 10,884 from West Bengal, 8,356 from Punjab and 7,616 from Andhra Pradesh.
With inputs from PTI
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