Coronavirus LIVE Updates: CoWin registrations for 18-44 begin, daily deaths exceed 3k; Delhi HC raps Centre

Coronavirus LATEST News and Updates: As the registration of all citizens above 18 years of age for vaccination against COVID-19 started on the CoWin portal at 4 pm on Wednesday, many people took to social media to complain about the technical problems they faced trying to register for the third phase of the inoculation drive scheduled to begin from 1 May.

The Union health ministry, however, said that the media reports that the server has crashed "are incorrect and are without any basis".

"The server supporting the CoWin digital portal continues to work smoothly at its highest efficiency. People are registering on the platform, mostly of age-group 18-44. It witnessed more than 80 lakh people registered themselves on the portal, within three hours from 4 pm to 7 pm," the ministry said.

However, with the continuing shortage in vaccine supply, the Maharashtra government Wednesday announced that it won't be launching the vaccination drive for those aged between 18-44 on 1 May.

Though the vaccine will be made available for free at govt inoculation centres, the vaccination drive will be conducted at separate vaccination centres once vaccines are made available.

Meanwhile, India saw a record single-day rise of 3,60,960 coronavirus cases, while the toll crossed two lakh following 3,293 fresh fatalities.

This, on a day when Serum Institute of India (SII), the maker of the most used COVID-19 vaccine in the country, announced a cut in the price of the vaccine it plans to sell to states to Rs 300 per dose from the earlier Rs 400. This follows widespread criticism of its pricing policy as it has sold the initial doses of Covishield to the Central Government at Rs 150 per dose.

Also on Wednesday, the Union government announced that SII CEO Adar Poonawalla will get "Y" category security across India by the CRPF.

This came after a 16 April letter from Prakash Kumar Singh, director, Government and Regulatory Affairs, SII, to Union home minister Amit Shah requesting security for Poonawalla.

Singh, in the latter, claimed Poonawalla has been getting threats from various groups regarding the COVID-19 vaccine supplies.

Delhi HC raps Centre

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday objected to a "change" by the Centre in the COVID treatment protocol related to Remdesivir use amid a shortage of the drug, saying "it appears you want people to die".

"This is wrong. This is a complete non-application of mind. Now people who do not have oxygen will not get Remdesivir either. It appears you want people to die," Justice Prathiba M Singh said after the Central Government submitted that under the protocol being followed now only patients on oxygen support were being given Remdesivir.

The court also said it will consider later whether a medical committee should review if the protocols or guidelines for administering Remdesivir need any modification.

"Don't change the protocol only to reduce the shortage. That is wrong. As a result, doctors are not able to prescribe Remdesivir," the court said and added, "This is complete mismanagement."

On the allocation of the drug to Delhi, the Centre told the court that over 52,000 vials, out of the allocated amount of 72,000, were sent to the National Capital till 27 April. It said the allocation was being made on the basis of the actual caseload of a state. The court, however, said the allocation cannot be so low for Delhi.

The court also said it was "shocking" that an MP was able to procure 10,000 vials of the medicine from Delhi, transport it to Ahmednagar in Maharashtra via a chartered flight and distributed it there.

"This is shocking the conscience of the court. That is 10,000 vials that could have been given to patients in Delhi. There is complete mismanagement of the quota being received by the state," it said. The Centre then said that in the coming days the allocation would increase as there would be a rise in production.

The court's harsh words for the Centre come merely a day after it came down heavily on the state government in a hearing, saying its confidence in the government is shaken and telling authorities to put their house in order.

'Candidates need full COVID-19 vaccination or negative test'

Candidates or their agents will not be allowed inside counting halls without a negative coronavirus report or without having both COVID-19 vaccine doses, the Election Commission said Wednesday in its latest guidelines for counting of votes on 2 May.

Issued amid coronavirus cases spiralling out of control, the guidelines bar public gatherings outside venues during the counting process, but allow candidates to name a fresh agent if the first one tests positive for COVID-19.

Counting of votes for Assembly polls in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, besides various other assemblies and Lok Sabha bypolls begins at 8 am on 2 May.

"No candidates or agents will be allowed inside the counting hall without undergoing RT-PCR/RAT test or without having two doses of vaccination against Covid-19 and will have to produce negative RT-PCR report or RAT report or vaccination reports within 48 hours of the start of counting," the guidelines read.

The district election officers will organise COVID-19 tests for candidates and their counting agents, it said.

The Madras High Court had on Monday lashed out at the EC for failing to ensure COVID-appropriate behaviour during campaigning. The poll panel has to apprise the high court on 30 April about steps it has taken to ensure a Covid-safe counting process.

The fresh EC guidelines go beyond the ones issued by the poll panel for the Bihar Assembly elections last year which were being used as a template for elections being held during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, the poll panel had barred victory processions after counting to check large gatherings amid rising coronavirus cases.

Lockdown-like curbs extended in Maharashtra extended till 15 May

The existing lockdown-like restrictions in Maharashtra, imposed to stem the COVID-19 spread, will be extended by 15 days beyond 30 April, state health minister Rajesh Tope said on Wednesday.

The strict curbs on the movement of people and a host of other activities are in force in the state since 14 April and were to end on 30 April. Essential services have been exempted from the curbs.

Addressing media persons after a Cabinet meeting in Mumbai, Tope said that though the COVID-19 situation seems to have stabilised to some extent in the state, all the ministers pitched for extending the ongoing curbs.

"Today, the number (of daily cases) is 60,000-plus. There definitely is some stability. We had earlier predicted that (daily) cases may go beyond 70,000. But that has not happened. Now, I hope and pray to God that this may be the peak and there will be a decline in the graph daily," he said.

The minister said if people observe COVID-appropriate behaviour by wearing masks and adhering to social distancing norms, the present situation can be brought under control. But one thing is sure, all the Cabinet members said in unison that the lockdown, which will be effective till 30 April, be extended. Now, it definitely will be extended by 15 days, Tope said.

Prohibitory orders, banning the assembly of five or more people at one place, are in force, while non-essential activities are not being allowed.

At present, vegetable shops, grocery stores and milk shops are allowed to remain open only between 7 am and 11 am, while home delivery of items is permitted till 8 pm. Last week, the state government further tightened the curbs by imposing restrictions on travel, attendance in offices and wedding functions.

The state govt also said that the COVID-19 vaccination drive beginning 1 May won't be launched in Maharashtra because of the unavailability of sufficient doses of vaccine.

Tope said the people in the age group of 18 to 44 years will receive free vaccines at state-run centres but citizens will have to pay for the jabs at private facilities.

The free vaccination decision was taken at the cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray here. The move will put a burden of Rs 6,500 crore on the state's coffers, Tope said.

10 states account for over 78% of new COVID-19 deaths

Maharashtra, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh are among the 10 states that account for 78.53 percent of the new COVID-19 deaths reported in a day, the Union Health Ministry said. The country saw 3,293 people losing their lives in a span of 24 hours, the highest in a single day so far, pushing the toll to 2,01,187.

Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh are the other states in the list of 10. Maharashtra saw the maximum casualties (895). Delhi follows with 381 daily deaths. The fatalities further include 264 from Uttar Pradesh, 246 from Chhattisgarh, 180 from Karnataka, 170 from Gujarat, 131 from Jharkhand, 121 from Rajasthan and 100 from Punjab.

"The National Mortality rate has been falling and currently stands at 1.12 percent," the ministry said.

Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Rajasthan accounted for 73.59 percent of the new cases reported in a day.

A record single-day rise of 3,60,960 new cases have been registered in the last 24 hours. Maharashtra has reported the highest daily new cases at 66,358. It is followed by Uttar Pradesh with 32,921 while Kerala reported 32,819 new cases.

India's total active caseload has reached 29,78,709 and now comprises 16.55 percent of the country's total cases. A net increase of 96,505 cases recorded in the total active caseload in a span of 24 hours.

Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal cumulatively account for 71.91 percent of India's total active cases, the ministry said.

India's cumulative recoveries have surged to 1,48,17,371 with 2,61,162 recoveries being registered in a span of 24 hours. Ten states account for 79.01 percent of the new recoveries. The cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the country has crossed 14.78 crore.

Cumulatively, 14,78,27,367 vaccine doses have been administered through 21,18,435 sessions, according to the provisional report till 7 am.

These include 93,47,775 healthcare workers (HCWs) who have taken the first dose and 61,06,237 HCWs who have taken the second dose, 1,22,21,975 front line workers who have received the first dose and 65,26,378 front line workers have taken the second dose. Besides, 5,10,85,677 and 93,37,292 beneficiaries more than 60 years old have been administered the first dose and second dose, respectively, while 5,02,74,581 and 29,27,452 individuals aged 45 to 60 years have taken the first and second dose, respectively.

More than 25 lakh vaccination doses were administered in the last 24 hours. As of Day-102 of the vaccination drive (27 April), 25,56,182 vaccine doses were given.

A total of 15,69,000 beneficiaries were vaccinated across 22,989 sessions for the first dose and 9,87,182 beneficiaries received the second dose of the vaccine.

With inputs from PTI