India’s COVID-19 caseload rose to 94.99 lakh, while the total number of people who have recuperated from the disease crossed 89 lakh pushing the national recovery rate to over 94 per cent, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Wednesday.
While the COVID-19 appears declining in India, several countries are braced for the “next wave”. Hong Kong is limiting most gatherings to just two people, and United Kingdom is mulling for for tier-based lockdown.
World leaders, the top leadership of the UN and vaccine developers will address a two-day, special session of the UN General Assembly on COVID-19 this week and discuss the pandemic’s impact as well as the multi-faceted, coordinated response required to address the greatest global health crisis in decades.
Here are the updates:
RT-PCR tests to cost lowest in country in Odisha at ₹400
The Odisha government on Wednesday capped the price of RT-PCR tests, the best available so far for detection of COVID-19, in private laboratories at ₹400, the lowest in the country.
According to a notification issued by the health and family welfare department, anyone undergoing the RT-PCR test at private laboratories within the state will now have to pay a maximum of ₹400 including the GST.
The decision followed a reduction in the cost of testing kits and other accessories, a senior official said.
Chhattisgarh be given priority in COVID-19 vaccination: CM to PM
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for making available the COVID-19 vaccine, when it is approved for use, for free to the tribal-dominated State on priority, an official release said on Wednesday.
Extending gratitude to the PM for the Centre’s support to the State, Mr Baghel said Chhattisgarh is fully prepared for the implementation of the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccination drive.
“Being a tribal-dominated state, Chhattisgarh should be given priority in the first phase of vaccination drive and the vaccine should be allocated for free,” the CM stated.
“The pandemic has resulted in stress and fear among people. It is our paramount duty to ensure peace and good health to every person in the country. As we all know, vaccination of COVID-19 is very important in prevention of the infection and related deaths,” it said.
Mr Baghel stated that the Union Health Ministry had indicated that the vaccine was likely to be available in the near future, “which is a big achievement for humanity“.
Apart from health personnel, frontline workers of departments police, revenue, urban development and rural development and media persons will be covered under the vaccination drive in the state, he added.
India’s active COVID-19 caseload drops
India’s total active COVID-19 caseload dropped to about 4.28 lakh on Wednesday, which was the lowest after 132 days. The total active cases were a little over 4.26 lakh on July 23.
“There has been a sustained decrease in the number of active cases. India’s present active caseload consists of just 4.51% of India’s total positive cases,” said a Health Ministry statement.
In all, 501 fatalities were reported in the past 24 hours. Ten States and Union Territories accounted for 79.84% of new deaths. Maharashtra recorded the maximum of 95, followed by Delhi with 86 and West Bengal with 52 daily deaths.
Bengal Minister becomes first volunteer to take ‘Covaxin’ in phase-3 trial in Kolkata
West Bengal Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim became the first volunteer to take a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin, in the Phase-3 trial in Kolkata on Wednesday. The Phase-3 regulatory trial of Covaxin started at the city-based ICMR-National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED).
“I feel I am quite lucky to be part of the trial. I am absolutely okay after taking the shot. I do not care even if I die while undertaking this trial,” the 62-year-old Minister told reporters.
Phase-3 clinical trial of Covaxin commences in Kolkata
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Wednesday inaugurated the launch of Phase-3 regulatory trial of Covaxin at ICMR-NICED in Kolkata, lauding the country’s leadership for “effectively tackling” the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Dhankhar said NICED has been chosen as one among two dozen centres in the country for the third phase trial of the indigenously developed coronavirus vaccine and expressed confidence that the procedure would be conducted smoothly.
“India has done commendably well (when it comes to handling the pandemic). It is all on account of the country’s visionary leadership,” he said.
The Governor further said that the Centre’s Ayushman Bharat scheme, which provides free health-care services, has provided succour to many amid the crisis. Notably, the scheme has not been implemented in West Bengal so far.
The TMC government had said in September that it would implement the scheme if funds for the programme are routed through the State administration, contrary to the provisions laid down by the Centre. – PTI
Interpol issues global alert on organised crime networks targeting COVID-19 vaccines
The Interpol has issued a global alert to law enforcement agencies across its 194 member countries, asking them to prepare for organised crime networks targeting COVID-19 vaccines, both physically and online.
“The Interpol Orange Notice outlines potential criminal activity in relation to the falsification, theft and illegal advertising of COVID-19 and flu vaccines, with the pandemic having already triggered unprecedented opportunistic and predatory criminal behaviour,” it said on Wednesday.
Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin Phase-3 trials begin in State
Covaxin trials are going to be successful in Karnataka and the State is fully prepared for the distribution of COVID -19 vaccine, Health and Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar said on Wednesday.
He was speaking after the launch of third phase clinical trials of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin at the Vydehi Institute of Medical Science and Research Centre here.
Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa joined the event via videoconference.
T.N. government allows holy communion in churches
In view of Christmas, the Tamil Nadu government on Wednesday modified the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) presently in place to permit eucharist/holy communion at Christian religious places.
“In a modification of the Standard Operating Procedures issued for Christian Religious Places….the Government hereby permit the eucharist/holy communion with the condition that eucharist should be offered to the devotees only in individual cups,” Chief Secretary K. Shanmugam said in a communication to all District Collectors and the Commissioner of Greater Chennai Corporation.
Over 3,000 fresh cases in Delhi
Delhi witnessed 3,944 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of cases to 5,78,324, according to a health bulletin released by the Delhi government on Wednesday.
Also, 82 more deaths have been reported in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of deaths to 9,342.
Of the total cases, 5,38,680 people have recovered and there are 30,302 active cases.
Gujarat HC mandates community service to those found violating guidelines
Coming down heavily against those not wearing mask and not following the COVID-19 protocols, the Gujarat High Court on Wednesday directed the State government to make the community service at care centres mandatory for those found violating the face mask rules.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice J.B. Pardiwala directed the State government to issue a notification regarding compulsory community service at non-medical COVID-19 centres for four to six hours for five to 15 days as punishment to those who are found not wearing a mask.
The order came on a public interest litigation petition seeking the court’s direction to make community service at COVID-19 centres mandatory for violators.
Sabarimala to receive 3000 devotees during weekend
The famous Lord Ayyappa temple here, opened for the annual Mandala-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season, is all set to receive more pilgrims now with the Kerala government deciding to allow more devotees for darshan by adhering to COVID-19 protocols.
As per the new decision, a maximum of 2000 devotees would be allowed to have darshan at the hill temple on weekdays and 3000 on Saturdays and Sundays, which was 1,000 and 2,000 earlier respectively, state Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said.
“It has been decided to allow more pilgrims at the Sabarimala temple. The entire booking will be done via online,” he said in a statement.
Pilgrims can book darshan through the virtual queue system in the concerned website from today, the minister added.
Active caseload in India drops to 4.28 lakh after 132 days
India’s COVID-19 active caseload has significantly dropped to 4.28 lakh, the lowest after 132 days and comprises just 4.51 per cent of the total coronavirus infections, the Union Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
The total active cases were 4,26,167 on July 23.
There has been a sustained decrease in the number of active cases, the ministry said.
The daily new cases added to the country’s COVID numbers have been around 30,000 since the past three days.
The number of daily new cases in a span of 24 hours is 36,604.
Rhizen Pharma gets USFDA approval for phase one clinical trials for Covid-19 drug
Rhizen Pharmaceuticals, an associate company of Alembic Pharmaceuticals, on Wednesday said it has received approval from the US health regulator to commence phase one clinical trials on retroviral oral drug for the treatment of COVID-19.
The Switzerland-based firm, which is a clinical-stage oncology-focussed biopharmaceutical company, has received approval for its investigational new drug (IND) application from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to study its oral Dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHOHD) inhibitor for SARS-CoV-2 infection, Rhizen Pharmaceuticals S A said in a statement.
The initial study would evaluate single ascending doses of the RP7214 in healthy volunteers and that dosing is expected to commence in early December, it added.
UK becomes first country to approve Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine
The UK became the first country to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19, paving the way for mass vaccinations against the deadly novel coronavirus.
The British regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), says the jab, which claims to offer up to 95 per cent protection against COVID-19 illness, is safe for roll out.
The joint vaccine, produced by American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech, had recently claimed trials suggested it works well in people of all ages, races and ethnicities.
Sunny Deol says he has tested positive for COVID-19, isolates himself in Himachal
BJP MP and actor Sunny Deol on December 2 said he has tested positive for coronavirus and appealed to those who have come in close contact with him to test themselves for the infection.
He also said that he has isolated himself after his COVID-19 test results came out positive.
“I have tested positive for coronavirus. I appeal to the people who came in contact with me recently to isolate themselves and go for the COVID test,” Mr. Deol tweeted in Hindi.
Fresh guidelines for plasma therapy
The Health Department has revised the guidelines regarding the administration of convalescent plasma therapy (CPT) to COVID-19 patients so that the treatment option is more evidence-based and offered only to those who might derive a benefit from it.
The department’s new advisory insists on screening for antibody levels in patients so that the CPT can be prioritised for risk groups with recent symptom onset, who may actually benefit from the CPT.
Plasma donors will also be screened for detecting the levels of neutralising antibodies against COVID-19 in them, before accepting plasma from them.
‘No move for universal vaccination’
The government has never spoken about vaccinating everyone against COVID-19, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said on Tuesday, speaking at a press conference in the national capital.
Mr. Bhushan added that it is important to discuss such scientific issues based on factual information only. “Vaccination would depend on the efficacy of the vaccine, and our purpose is to break the chain of virus transmission. If we’re able to vaccinate a critical mass of people and break virus transmission, then we may not have to vaccinate the entire population,” said Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Balram Bhargava, who was present at the press meet.
Odisha reports significant fall in cases
Odisha has reported significant fall in COVID-19 cases, with daily infections dropping below the 500-mark consecutively for past two days. The daily fatalities have also come down proportionately.
The State on Tuesday recorded 378 active cases, while it was 418 on Monday.
The State’s total caseload grew to 3,19,103 while total active cases stood at 5,241, which accounts for 1.64% of the total positive cases.
“I am glad to share that Odisha has recorded daily positive cases of less than 500 for the first time since July 16. I appreciate the hard work and sacrifice of our COVID-19 warriors for helping Odisha fight back the pandemic,” said Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. He warned people not to be complacent and exhorted them to wear masks till vaccine became available.
59% will not rush to take COVID-19 vaccine: survey
In a survey, 59% have said that they would not rush to take a COVID-19 vaccine, even if it was available in the near future.
LocalCircles, a community social media platform, conducted a survey between October 15 and 20 and found that 61% expressed hesitancy in getting the vaccine. This was before any of the vaccines were announced, according to a press release.
EU plans vaccines as regulator sets approval deadline
European countries were on Tuesday given a clear timeframe for the start of their vaccination programmes after the bloc’s medicines regulator said it would decide by December 29 whether to grant emergency approval for the first COVID-19 jabs.
France plans to prioritise the most fragile and exposed groups in early 2021, followed by a second campaign for the rest of the population between April and June, President Emmanuel Macron announced.
Germany has already said it is hoping to launch its immunisation drive in the first quarter of 2021 and is preparing vaccination centres across the country.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Tuesday said it would hold an extraordinary meeting on December 29 “at the latest” to consider emergency approval for a vaccine developed by Germany’s BioNTech and US giant Pfizer.