COVID-19 Updates: Centre okays vaccination of pregnant women, says second wave not over yet

The second wave of COVID-19 is not yet over in India as 75 districts still have more than 10 percent prevalence of the virus while, 92 districts have 5-10 percent prevalence, the Indian Council of Medical Research said on Friday.

Addressing a briefing on the coronavirus situation in the country, health ministry officials Friday said, "proportion of coronavirus cases with variants of concern have risen from 10.31 percent in May 2021 to 51 percent on 20 June 2021."

ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava said that the second wave of COVID-19 is not yet over, adding that Indi has 75 districts, which have more than 10 percent prevalence and 92 districts with five-10 percent prevalence. However, he said that 565 districts have less than five percent prevalence, which means that the second wave is over in most parts of India.

These districts are important and it is possible to avert the third wave provided individuals and society adhere to protective behaviour, Bhargava added.

The ICMR director-general also announced a change in the Centre's vaccination policy, saying that now pregnant women can be vaccinated against COVID-19. However, he said that more data needs to be available to decide whether children can be inoculated against the disease.

"The health ministry has given guidelines that they (anti-Covid vaccine) can be given to pregnant women. We have also demonstrated from our ICMR PregCovid registry that vaccination is useful in pregnant women and it should be given," Bhargava was quoted as saying by PTI.

The doctor said that in terms of administering COVID-19 vaccines to children is still debatable until relevant data is available.

"There is only one country that is giving vaccines to children at the moment. Whether very small children will ever need vaccines, is still a question. Till such time, we have more data on vaccination of children, we would not be in a position to vaccinate children at large," the ICMR director said.

"However, we have started a study on children between 2 years to 18 years and we will have a result on it by September," he added.

At 51,667, India reports a slight dip in daily COVID-19 cases

India's daily cases declined on Friday 51,667 fresh infections being reported in a span of 24 hours, a marginal drop from Thursday when daily cases had reported a slight surge with 54,069 cases. With this, the country's tally currently stands at 3.01 crore.

Meanwhile, 1,329 more fatalities over the past 24 hours took the COVID-19 toll to 3.93 lakh. The daily positivity rate was recorded at 2.98 percent. It has been less than 5 percent for 18 consecutive days.

India reports 48 cases of Delta Plus variant, says Centre

The total number of cases of the Delta Plus variant of COVID-19 rose to 48 on Friday with Maharashtra reporting the highest number of cases.

Sujit Singh, director of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), said 20 cases of Delta Plus variant has been found in Maharashtra (21 cases, according to LiveMint), followed by nine in Tamil Nadu, seven in Madhya Pradesh, three in Kerala, two each in Punjab and Gujarat, and one case each in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, and Karnataka.

The NCDC, involved in genome sequencing of coronavirus in the country, stressed that there are still very limited cases of this mutation and it cannot be said that it is showing an upward trend.

"There are a very limited number of cases of this mutation (Delta Plus). In India, there are very limited cases (of Delta Plus). There are nearly 50 cases that are found in 12 districts and this has happened in the last three months. It cannot be said that in any district, state it is showing an increasing trend. Till the time we don't correlate this we will not say this is a rising trend because its mutations are the same as Delta variant," Singh told a media briefing of the health ministry.

So the transmission variant that is found in Delta can also be found in this variant, he added.

The 48 cases of the Delta Plus variant have been detected from 45,000 samples sequenced so far in the country.

Maharashtra records first death from Delta Plus variant, tightens curbs

Maharashtra on Friday reported the first death due to the Delta Plus variant of SARS-CoV-2. An 80-year-old woman with comorbidities from Ratnagiri district succumbed to the infection, said health minister Rajesh Tope.

The first case of the Delta Plus variant was reported in April this year during the second wave.

The affected districts include Ratnagiri (nine), Jalgaon (seven), Mumbai (two), and Palghar, Thane and Sindhudurg districts (one case each), according to LiveMint.

The Maharashtra health minister had earlier said that all Delta Plus variant cases are being minutely observed. He added that the state government is also conducting aggressive contact tracing to curtail the spread of the disease.

With the Delta Plus variant 'fuelling the potentiality of the imminent third wave', the Maharashtra government Friday tightened curbs across the state.

The order says that the lockdown restrictions of any area in Maharashtra will not fall below level three even if the COVID-19 positivity rate or the oxygen bed occupancy drops below the limit set for level 3 determination.

The order amends the five-level unlock plan announced by the state government earlier in June, under which restrictions in cities and districts were decided according to the weekly positivity rate and oxygen bed occupancy.

Under level 3 restrictions, all shops and stores will be allowed to function only till 4 pm. Malls, theatres, and multiplexes will remain shut. Restaurants will be allowed to operate at 50 percent seating capacity till 4 pm. Takeaway and parcel services will be allowed post 4 pm.

Tamil Nadu extends lockdown till 15 July, eases restrictions in Chennai and 3 districts

The Tamil Nadu government Friday extended the COVID-induced lockdown by another week ending on 5 July at 6 pm with several relaxations in Chennai and surrounding districts where COVID-19 cases have declined.

The ongoing lockdown was supposed to end at 6 am on 28 June.

Shopping malls, jewellery stores, textile showrooms and places of worship will be allowed in Chennai, Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur and Chengalpet districts. Private companies in these four districts can operate with 100 percent employees.

All textile shops, jewellery stores shall function without air-conditioning and allow only 50 percent of the customers at a time between 9 am and 7 pm.

Shopping complex/malls shall function between 9 am and 7 pm. Only takeaway services will be allowed in the restaurants.

Delhi 'exaggerated' oxygen need by 4 times during second wave peak, says SC panel's interim report

An interim report by a Supreme Court-appointed audit group on Friday stated that the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government "exaggerated" its oxygen requirement by four times during the COVID-19 second wave peak in April-May.

"There was a gross discrepancy (about four times). The actual oxygen consumption claimed by the Delhi government (1,140MT) was about four times higher than the calculated consumption as per the formula based on bed capacity (289 MT)," the report of the SC-appointed oxygen audit sub-group said.

The exaggeration could have "triggered a crisis" in the oxygen supply to other states when hospitals across the country were inundated with patients and were sending SOS messages to the Centre for increased supply, the interim report was quoted as saying.

However, Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia dismissed the claims and said, "The members of Oxygen Audit Committee in Delhi have not yet approved or signed any such report as BJP leaders have been claiming since morning."



Nearly 776 doctors succumbed to COVID-19 during second wave: IMA

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) on Friday informed that 776 doctors lost their lives in the second wave of coronavirus pandemic.

According to the IMA COVID-19 registry of doctors who died of COVID-19, Bihar saw the maximum number of 115 deaths, followed by Delhi at 109, Uttar Pradesh 79, West Bengal 62, Rajasthan 44, Jharkhand 39, and Andhra Pradesh 40.

According to the IMA, 748 doctors died in the first wave of the pandemic.

With inputs from agencies