States panic as virus strikes back

Some states are even contemplating stopping incoming passengers from places like Delhi

New Delhi: From night curfews to shutting down markets and now some states even contemplating stopping incoming passengers from places like Delhi — panic has gripped several Indian states as new coronavirus cases are on a sharp rise —in Delhi, Maharashtra, Kerala, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Assam and Haryana. Upset with the chaos and rising cases, the Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Assam governments, saying that things will get worse in December if they are not prepared, and sought status reports from them in two days.

India on Monday had a total of 91.40 lakh Covid-19 cases, out of which 44,059 were new cases. The death toll overall is now 1.34 lakh, with 511 new fatalities.

The SC sought status reports from the Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Assam governments on the steps taken by them on the Covid situation and what more efforts were being made to deal with the pandemic. “Things worsened in the last two weeks, in November. Our question is: What is your present situation? What more steps are you taking? That is what we are going to look into,” the bench asked the Delhi government.

Saying the Gujarat situation was the worst after Delhi and Maharashtra, the court also pulled up the Gujarat government for allowing weddings and gatherings despite the rising Covid-19 cases. “What is your policy? What is happening? What is all this?” Justice M.R. Shah asked the counsel appearing for the state. The court was also informed that the situation in Assam was “deplorable”, and that the situation was not improving as hospitals were short of ICUs. Former Assam CM Tarun Gagoi died on Monday due to Covid-19.

In a desperate measure, the Delhi government first ordered the shutting down of heavily crowded markets in West Delhi -- Nangloi and Punjabi Basti markets -- after it was found that wearing masks and social distancing were not being followed there. These orders were, however, later withdrawn. However, street vendors were stopped from setting up stalls to prevent crowding in several parts of Delhi, an order that was widely defied.

Maharashtra, which is again seeing a sharp rise in fresh cases, is now contemplating having checks on arrivals from other states like Delhi. Maharashtra minister Vijay Waddetiwar said the authorities will take a call on allowing flights, trains and road travel to Maharashtra in eight days, while the state government made it mandatory for inbound traffic coming from Delhi, Goa, Gujarat and Rajasthan to carry a Covid negative certificate with them.

Himachal Pradesh has imposed night a curfew in four districts -- Shimla, Kullu, Mandi and Kangra -- that are witnessing high cases and are fast emerging as hotspots. Incidentally, a high number of tourists too have rushed to these places after the lockdowns were lifted to beat work from home and lockdown boredom.

The efforts by the states seem to be to hold on somehow till the vaccine shots arrive in India. On Monday, Britain’s AstraZeneca said its vaccine for the coronavirus could be around 90 per cent effective, without any serious side effects. The combined analysis from both dosing regimens resulted in an average efficacy of 70 per cent.

The vaccine developed by Oxford University was 90 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 when it was administered as a half-dose followed by a full dose at least one month apart, according to the data from late-stage trials in Britain and Brazil. No serious safety events related to the vaccine have been confirmed and it was well tolerated across both regimens, it added.

“I am delighted to hear Covishield, a low-cost, logistically manageable and soon to be widely available Covid-19 vaccine, will offer protection up to 90 per cent in one type of dosage regime and 62 per cent in the other dosage regime,” tweeted Adar Poonawala, head of the Pune-based Serum Institute of India, a company that is partnering with AstraZeneca for the production of the vaccines.

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