New Delhi: As the Omicron variant continues to fuel a surge in the infection count in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday emphasised that “continued Jan Andolan” and focus on Covid-19 appropriate behaviour were critical in the ongoing fight against the pandemic. As many as 1,59,632 new Covid-19 infections were reported in 24 hours -- the highest in 224 days, across 27 states and Union territories The Omicron count has also gone over 3,850. In a bid to stymie the coronavirus spread, India will start administering precautionary vaccine doses to frontline/healthcare workers and people aged over 60 years with comorbidities from Monday.
At a review meeting on Covid-19 situation, Mr Modi stressed upon the need to continue intensive containment and active surveillance in clusters reporting higher number of cases, and providing required technical assistance to states where infections are increasing rapidly.
The PM also underlined the necessity of using masks and boosting the health infrastructure, saying that there is a need for continuous research in testing, vaccines, pharmacological interventions, including genome sequencing as the coronavirus is evolving.
Mr Modi called for ensuring adequate health infrastructure at district level and accelerating the vaccination drive for adolescents in mission mode. He also called for effective implementation of home isolation for mild and asymptomatic cases and to disseminate the factual information to the community at large. Mr Modi said that a meeting with chief ministers would be convened to discuss state-specific scenarios, best practices and public health response.
Conveying gratitude for the relentless services provided by the healthcare workers in managing the pandemic, he said ensuring precaution dose for them and other frontline workers should be taken up rapidly. An estimated 1.05 crore healthcare and 1.9 crore frontline workers, and 2.75 crore comorbid people in the 60 plus age group would be administered the precaution dose. There would be no mix-and-match of vaccines for the precaution dose. The beneficiaries would be given the same vaccine as their previous two jabs.
A presentation was also made in the meeting to highlight India’s consistent efforts towards the vaccination campaign, with 31% adolescents aged 15-18 years having been administered with the first dose so far within seven days of the start of the drive.
This was the PM’s first Covid review meeting since December 24, when the Omicron variant had made an appearance in the country. Compared to then, the Covid numbers have skyrocketed, with hundreds of doctors and healthcare workers contracting the virus. Among others present in the meeting were Union home minister Amit Shah, health minister Mansukh Mandaviya, the chief of the railway board, the civil aviation secretary, Niti Aayog member (health) Dr V.K. Paul and ICMR DG Dr Balram Bhargava.
India logged over 1.5 lakh daily infections for the second consecutive day, taking the active caseload to 5,90,611. The data uploaded by the health ministry at 8 am Sunday showed that the country had recorded 1,59,632 fresh Covid-19 cases and 327 deaths in the last 24 hours. The ministry said that the daily positivity rate has gone up 10.21 per cent.
Just ahead of the Budget Session of Parliament, which usually begins at the end of January, nearly 400 staffers working with Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats and allied services have tested positive for Covid-19 in the last few days, triggering a move to impose curbs on employees’ attendance. It is learnt that 65 staffers of Rajya Sabha Secretariat, 200 of Lok Sabha Secretariat and 133 of allied services have tested positive for Covid-19 between January 4-8 during regular tests.
In Delhi, 17 deaths due to Covid-19 and 22,751 infections were reported in a day as the positivity rate soared to 23.53%. The number of new cases reported on Sunday was the highest since May 1 last year when the city recorded 25,219 cases with a positivity rate of 31.61%. Currently, 1,618 Covid patients are in hospitals. Of them, 44 are on ventilator support. The city has 60,733 active cases of which 35,714 are in home isolation.
Mumbai also reported 19,474 Covid-19 cases and seven fatalities, taking the city’s tally of infections to 9,14,572 and the toll to 16,406. A day earlier the city had reported 20,318 coronavirus infections and five deaths. A total of 1,240 patients were hospitalised during the day. It said that 7,432 of the total 34,900 beds (21.3%) have been occupied in Mumbai.
In wake of the imminent third Covid-19 wave, most states and Union territories, including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi, have already announced night curfew and other restrictions.
The Himachal Pradesh government on Sunday banned social and religious functions till January 24. It also prohibited any gathering of more than 100 people indoor and 300 people for outdoor academic, sport, cultural and political events. Attendance of staff at state government offices was capped at 50 percent. The restrictions, however, will not be applicable to emergency services.
The Rajasthan government announced the closure of schools in the municipal areas till January 17, a Sunday curfew and restricted market timings and occupancy at restaurants and movie theatres. A one-day complete lockdown was enforced across Tamil Nadu and most roads and other public places wore a deserted look. Suburban and other train operations, bus and other public transport services including the Metrorail in Chennai were suspended. Chief minister M.K. Stalin had earlier ordered fresh curbs which included statewide night curfew between 10 pm and 5 am with effect from January 6.
The Puducherry government also announced that all schools conducting offline classes for students from Classes 1 to 9 would remain shut from Monday. Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope said the state government would gradually bring curbs at places of worship and other sites, including liquor vends, that attract crowds to control the coronavirus pandemic. He, however, said that even as cases are rising, hospital bed occupancy and oxygen demand remain low. “When these start rising, we will enforce stricter restrictions,” he added.