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India's Covid-19 count rises to 33,610, death toll at 1,075

NEW DELHI, April 30: Amid the citizens gearing up for a staggered removal of the 40-day nationwide lockdown after 3 May, the total number of novel coronavirus cases in the country has increased to 33,610 after 1,823 fresh positive Covid-19 patients were reported in the last 24 hours, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Along with that, with 67 more death since yesterday, the toll rose to 1,075, it said.

Currently, there are 24,162 active Covid-19 patients in the country, while 8,372 people have been discharged or cured. One patient has migrated from the country. Apart from that, the total number of confirmed cases also include 111 foreign nationals.

Speaking at the press briefing today, Lav Aggrawal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health said that till Thursday morning, as many as 8,324 Covid-19 patients, which is 25.19% of total cases, have recovered so far.

Aggrawal added, "The current fatality rate is 3.2%. Co-morbidities was found in 78% of the patients who died from the virus. Doubling rate of the cases has now increased to 11 days."

On the topic of plasma therapy on for treatment of Covid-19, Aggrawal clarified, "As far as testing and treatment protocol is concerned we have to use RT-PCR test only."

On whether Centre is considering proposal by many state governments for running special trains to transport stranded people like students and migrant labourers, the joint secretary of Ministry of Home Affairs, Punya Salila Srivastava said, "As of now, the directives are to use buses."

Meanwhile, Maharashtra continued to be the most affected state in the country with a total number of positive coronavirus cases at 9,915 while the death toll stood at 432. Mumbai alone recorded more than 6,400 cases yesterday. The death toll in the city rose to 270.

In terms of the cases reported, Maharashtra was followed by Gujarat at 4,082 cases, Delhi at 3,439 cases and Madhya Pradesh at 2,660 cases. Telangana was the latest state to cross more than 1,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.

The most-affected states according to the deaths recorded are Maharashtra (432), Delhi (56), Gujarat (197), Madhya Pradesh (130), Telangana (26), Andhra Pradesh (31), Uttar Pradesh (39), Punjab (19), Karnataka (21), Tamil Nadu (27), Rajasthan (51), West Bengal (22), Jammu and Kashmir (8), Kerala (4), Jharkhand (3), Haryana (3) and Bihar (2). Meghalaya, Odisha, Assam, Himachal Pradesh and have reported one death each.

Covid-19 cases near 32,000 in India

NEW DELHI, April 29: India's coronavirus case count rose to 31,787 on Wednesday evening, according to the latest update from Union Health Ministry.

India witnessed 71 deaths in the last 24 hours, which is the second highest jump, after the 73 deaths that were reported on Wednesday morning. The virus-related death toll in the country currently stands at 1,008.

The number of confirmed cases rose by 1,813 to 31,787.

The number of active cases jumped by 972 to 22,982 while the number of those cured/discharged rose by 770 to 7,796.

Maharashtra continues to be the worst affected state with 9,318 cases and 400 deaths. Gujarat is the second most affected state with 3,775 cases, followed by Delhi with 3,314 cases and 54 fatalities.

The Punjab government on Wednesday announced a four-hour relaxation in curfew in the state from 7 am daily. “I had said that you (people) be given some sort of relaxation. We have today decided to give relaxation from 7 am to 11 am daily," Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said in his message to people. “You (people) can come out of your houses and shops will remain open from 7 am till 11 am," Singh further said. The chief minister, however, added that the curfew or lockdown would continue in the state for at least next two weeks.

Some 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy, representing nearly half of the global labour force, are in immediate danger of losing their livelihoods due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Wednesday.

The U.N. agency's latest report sharply raised its forecast for the devastating impact on jobs and incomes of the COVID-19 disease.

After Maharashtra, Gujarat has the most number of fatalities at 181 followed by Madhya Pradesh with 119 deaths.

Covid-19 has infected more than 3.1 million people globally, killed nearly 220,000 and shut down economies.

Meanwhile, as many as 250,000 guest workers seeking a green card in the US—about 200,000 of them on H-1B visas—could lose their legal status by the end of June, according to Jeremy Neufeld, an immigration policy analyst with the Washington DC-based think tank Niskanen Center.
Thousands more who are not seeking resident status may also be forced to return home, he said. About three-quarters of H-1B visas go to people working in the technology industry, though the exact levels vary year by year.

A number of companies, from British Airways to Boeing and Uber to TripAdvisor, have announced massive layoffs amid the pandemic crisis.

Covid-19 cases in India near 29,500

NEW DELHI, April 28: The total number of coronavirus cases in India increased to 29,435 after 1,543 fresh Covid-19 cases were reported in the past 24 hours. The death toll went up to 934, showed the numbers released from Health Ministry as 62 casualties were reported in past 24 hours.

The number of active COVID-19 cases stood at 21,632, while 6,868 people have recovered, and one patient has migrated, the ministry said.

With 8,590 cases and 369 deaths, Maharashtra is the worst hit state.

80 districts of the country have reported no COVID-19 cases over the last 7 days, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said today.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said economy needs to be given importance too while fighting COVID-19 and asked chief ministers to plan for the way ahead after two phases of lockdowns end on May 3. He also cautioned that the danger is far from over.

The nationwide tally suggested that some large urban centres are facing the brunt of the virus.

An entire building need not be sealed if a Covid-19 case is found: Govt

NEW DELHI, April 28: There is no need to seal an entire building if a person living or working there tests positive for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) because disinfecting the affected floor and common areas could be enough to stop the spread of the infection, according to the Union health ministry directive.

“The health ministry has issued a detailed advisory on dos and don’ts in case a non-Covid hospital reports a Covid-19 case. The same rules apply for office premises or any other building from where a case is reported. There is no need to shut the entire premises; rather one can just do proper disinfection of the main area and other common areas,” said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary, Union health ministry.

According to the health ministry guidelines for non-Covid hospitals (facilities not exclusively dedicated to the treatment of the deadly infection), when a Covid-19 patient is identified in a building, local health authorities need to be immediately informed, and disinfection procedures at the affected areas should follow.

All contacts of the patient should be home-quarantined for 14 days, and authorities should check on their health. Their details must also be shared with the local health authorities.

The building will continue to function if local health authorities are able to identify the source of the infection; if all contacts of the patients can be traced and quarantined; and if adequate sanitisation is done.

But if the building still continues reporting new cases, it would be advisable to temporarily close the specific section of the building from where the maximum numbers are being reported. After thorough cleaning and disinfection it can be put to use again.

However, experts said, whether a building needs to be shut or not depends on its design.

“If the structure has multiple flats or different floors, then there is no need to seal the entire building as per the infection control guidelines. However, all the flats or floor got to remain under observation, and people should watch out for symptoms,” said Dr T Jacob John, professor emeritus and former head of virology at Christian Medical College.

Despite these measures, if the primary source of infection could not be established and/or the building continues reporting large number of cases, then a decision needs to be taken on whether the building would need to be shut down under intimation to the local health department.

4 areas in Delhi may come out of red zone by May 3

NEW DELHI, April 28: At least four areas in Delhi are likely to come out of the containment zone categorisation by May 3, when the nationwide lockdown to control the spread of coronavirus disease Covid-19 is scheduled to end.

These zones are Mayurdhwaj Apartment in IP Extension, Vardhman Apartment in Mayur Vihar, the sealed portion of lane number 4 in Krishnakunj Extension and four blocks of Dilshad Garden. While the first three come under the East Delhi revenue district, the fourth comes under the Shahdara revenue district.

According to the guidelines of Union health ministry, containment measures in the red zones can be “scaled down if no secondary laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 case is reported in the geographic quarantine zone for at least four weeks after the last confirmed test has been isolated and all his contacts have been followed up for 28 days”.

Health department officials said that the situation in all four zones is under control and the probability of further local transmission of the virus is close to none. The last case of Covid-19 was recorded here between April 1 and April 5.

Three more containment zones - Shahjahanabad society in Sector 11 of Dwarka, Deenpur and Ashok Nagar - are likely to become eligible for relaxations by May 10.

Delhi currently has 99 containment zones after the government on Monday added two more to the tally of 97 - Pillanji village in New Delhi district and affected areas - Nirankari Gali, Nakshtra Gali, Nala Boring Gali, Ravan Wali Gali, Jameela Masjid Baoli, dargah gurudwara wali Gali, Thane wali gali and Terminal Gali - in South district, near Mehrauli.

Meanwhile, the total number of coronavirus cases in the national capital on Monday crossed the 3,000-mark, with 190 fresh cases being reported in a day, according to the Delhi government authorities.

No fresh death was reported for second successive day on Monday.

The total number of cases have risen to 3,108, officials said, adding that 877 patients have recovered and active cases stand at 2,177.

India's Covid-19 cases near 27,000

NEW DELHI, April 26: India's coronavirus case count on Sunday evening rose to 26,917, according to the latest numbers released by Union Health Ministry.

The country witnessed jump in cases by 1,975 to 26,917, which is the second highest 24-hour jump after the 1,990 cases witnessed on Sunday morning.

The number of deaths rose by 47 to 826, which is the second highest 24-hour spike in death. The highest spike, of 49 deaths, was seen on Sunday morning.

Maharashtra continues to be the most affected state with 7,628 confirmed cases and 323 deaths.

Gujarat became the second Indian state to have more than 3,000 cases. Its case count currently stands at 3,071. The high Covid-19 mortality rate in Gujarat could be due to the dominance of the L-type strain of coronavirus, found to have been more prevalent in Wuhan in China, where the outbreak started, experts said.

The dominance of the more virulent L-type coronavirus strain as compared to the S-type one could be behind the high mortality rate in the state, which has reported 133 deaths so far. However, no research has been conducted to confirm this, they said.

A scientist at the state-run Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre (GBRC) said that the novel coronavirus used for genome sequencing recently conducted by it was found to contain the L-type strain.

Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh again emphasised on the scaling up of testing to detect Covid-19.

Gandhi in a tweet said "Experts agree that mass random testing is the key to beating corona. In India, a bottleneck is stopping us from scaling testing from the current 40,000 per day to 1 lakh tests a day, for which test kits are already in stock."

States which have reported less than 10 cases are - Tripura, Mizoram, Puducherry, Manipur, Goa and Arunanchal Pradesh.

Coronavirus cases around the world rose to 2.9 million and deaths have doubled since April 10 -- hitting nearly 203,000 people on Sunday -- with well over half of them in Europe.

The daily toll in Western countries appeared to be levelling off and even falling, but fears abound in many places of a second surge after restrictions on movement are lifted.

Of the total cases, 20,177 are active cases, 5,913 people have recovered.

Italy, the first European country to be hard-hit by the coronavirus, will allow some businesses to reopen as soon as this week while aiming to reopen manufacturing and construction from May 4, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said.

Conte gave the most detailed outline yet of plans to reopen the economy, in a newspaper interview published on Sunday ahead of the government's roadmap out of lockdown, which he said would be released no later than early this week.

Italy, hit hard by the virus weeks before other major Western countries, has been forced to serve as a model for how to fight it. It is being closely watched around the world as it takes its early steps to chart a path out of a strict lockdown it imposed in early March.

6 vaccines in human trials bring hope of early Covid-19 relief

LONDON, April 24: Human safety trials of a coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University began on Thursday even as Indian company Serum Institute of India started work on making the vaccine locally so as to be ready in case the trial succeeds.

The trial began in Oxford on Thursday, with the first two of 800 healthy volunteers recruited for the study being injected with a new vaccine, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. This is the sixth coronavirus vaccine to enter the first phase of clinical trials, raising hopes of an antidote against the virus that continues to ravage the world.

If the trials are a success, scientists hope to have one million doses ready by September, and to dramatically scale up manufacturing after that.

Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) has partnered with the Oxford University to manufacture the vaccine in India even as the trial starts. “SII plans to begin manufacturing the ChAdOx1 vaccine in anticipation of the clinical trials in the UK succeeding by September/October. SII will initiate the manufacture at its own risk to jump-start manufacturing and have enough doses available, if the clinical trials work,” said SII CEO Adar Poonawalla.

The trial will study whether the new vaccine is safe and can generate strong immune responses against Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), and protect healthy people from infection.

The vaccine is made from a weakened version of a common cold adenovirus taken from chimps and genetically modified to make it impossible for it to infect humans.

To develop the vaccine, researchers added genetic material to ChAdOx1 from the Sars-CoV-2 virus’ surface protein, spike glycoprotein (S), which helps the virus to bind to Ace2 receptors to enter human cells and cause an infection.

“This type of vaccine uses recombinant technology where you insert a gene for an important protein of the virus you want to build immunity to, into a weak virus that can safely infect human beings. Here it is the spike protein of Sars-CoV-2 by which it enters cells, into a weak adenovirus. The expectation is that the weak recombinant adenovirus infection will cause antibody development against Sars-CoV-2 spike protein, thereby creating immunity,” said Dr Anurag Agrawal, director, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology.

“The ChAdOx1 vaccine uses a modified adenovirus carrying the coronavirus spike protein like a Trojan horse to enter human cells. The cells start making and releasing spike proteins, and, bingo, the immune system responds,” said Dr T Jacob John, professor emeritus and former head of virology at Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu.

The vaccine is safe and well tolerated, but some people may report mild and temporary side effects such as a sore arm at the injection site, headaches or fevers in the first couple of days after vaccination, said researchers. In the study, half of the healthy volunteers, between 18 and 55 years old, will receive the Covid-19 vaccine, and half a control vaccine, which protects against meningitis but not Covid-19.

“By vaccinating with ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, we are hoping to make the body recognise and develop an immune response to the spike protein that will help stop the Sars-CoV-2 virus from entering human cells and, therefore, prevent infection,” said researchers led by Prof Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group.

Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the Oxford University, told The Times last week that she was “80% confident” that the vaccine being developed by her team would work.

“I think there’s a high chance that it will work based on other things that we have done with this type of vaccine. It’s not just a hunch and as every week goes by we have more data to look at,” she said.

The ChAdOx1 vaccine platform has been used to produce vaccine candidates against many viruses, including those causing influenza, chikungunya, and zika. The Oxford group has used it to develop a vaccine against Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) coronavirus, which showed promising results in clinical trials.

“Vaccines based on viral vectors offer a high level of protein expression, have long-term stability, and induce strong immune responses in humans, which make them highly effective,” said Dr NK Ganguly, former director general, Indian Council of Medical Research.

Vaccine development against Covid-19 has progressed at an unprecedented pace and scale, with 78 projects reaching the active stage of development since China shared the genetic sequence of Sars-CoV-2 with the World Health Organization on January 12, 2020, according to the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi), one of the world’s biggest public funders of vaccine development.

Like the Oxford Vaccine Group, most developers are leveraging existing work on vaccines against Mers and rapid response platforms with 2019-nCoV genetic sequences inserted to speed up vaccine development. The research focus is on platforms based on nucleotides, which are the building blocks of genetic material, DNA and RNA, because of their potential for speed and flexibility for antigen manipulation.

“The Oxford vaccine will be the third CEPI-funded vaccine to enter into phase 1 trials, along with Inovio’s INO-4800 DNA vaccine candidate and Moderna’s mRNA-1273 candidate... Producing a safe, effective, and globally accessible vaccine is our best hope in ending this pandemic. We aim to do this at a speed never before seen in vaccine development,” said Dr Richard Hatchett, chief executive officer, Cepi, in a statement.

Cepi has initiated eight Covid-19 vaccine development projects with Curevac, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Moderna, Novavax, University of Hong Kong, University of Queensland, and a consortium led by Institut Pasteur, with a goal of having at least three vaccine candidates submitted to regulatory authorities for licensure for general use.

“If an international vaccine trial is successful, its emergency use can be sanctioned globally. If a vaccine trial is well designed and successful anywhere in the world, it can be used as the virus is the same. Some other countries are more suitable for efficacy trials, but no regular trial approval is needed in India following emergency use approval,” said Dr Ganguly.

Vaccine development, on an average, takes 10.71 years from the preclinical phase, and has a market entry probability of 6%, according to a study in PLOS One, a peer reviewed scientific journal.

Adaptive and parallel vaccine development phases, innovative regulatory processes, and advanced scale up manufacturing capacity have helped fast-track development, which traditionally takes an average of a decade. Even accelerated efforts, such as that for the first Ebola vaccine, took five years.

“Our goal is a vaccine before 18 months. Normally, it takes about a decade to develop a vaccine, but global partnerships (between health agencies, academics, donors, industries, nations and philanthropies) have helped hasten development of vaccines against emerging public health threats. A vaccine against Ebola took five years, the one against zika took less than two years. The global effort to develop a Covid-19 vaccine in less than 18 months is unprecedented and would be an amazing achievement,” Dr Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist, World Health Organization, told HT on the phone from Geneva.

The Oxford scientists ar hoping to cut even that optimistic estimate by two-thirds.

India records highest 1,752 fresh cases on Friday

NEW DELHI, April 24: India on Friday recorded the biggest spike in coronavirus infection on a single day, as 1,752 fresh cases were registered taking the total number of infected people to 23,452. As many as 723 people have died due to coronavirus in India, while one patient has been migrated. However, the doubling rate of COVID-19 has improved to 10 days from 7.5 reported earlier this week, according to the Health Ministry.

Meanwhile, in what may be good news for India, US President Donald Trump has said that Coronavirus does less well in warm and humid weather. He cited a US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report while saying that coronavirus has a less chance of surviving in a warm and humid environment as opposed to cold and dry weather where it stays put.

“The scientists at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have released a report offering how the virus reacts to different temperatures, climates and surfaces. The findings confirm the virus survives better in colder, drier environments and does less well in warmer and more humid environments.”

Covid-19 cases in India surge to 21,700, death toll at 686

NEW DELHI, April 23: With 1,229 fresh cases in the last 24 hours, India's novel coronavirus count has increased to 21,700, according to the latest Ministry of Health and Family Welfare data. Along with that, the death toll due to the virus has increased to 686 after 34 more patients succumbed to the highly contagious disease since yesterday, it said.

So far, India has 16,689 active cases. There are also 77 foreign nationals who are affected by the virus, the ministry said.

Apart from that, there are at least 4,324 patients who have been discharged or cured from the highly contagious disease and one has migrated from the country.

Speaking at the press briefing today, Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Health Ministry, said, "As on today, we have 12 districts that did not have a fresh case in the last 28 days or more. There are now 78 districts (23 States/UTs) that has not reported any fresh cases during the last 14 Days." However, he also said that the increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the country is "more or less linear, not exponential."

According to the Thursday morning data of health ministry, 4,257 Covid-19 patients have been cured so far, bring the recovery rate to is 19.89% as of now, said Aggrawal. He also added, "We have been able to cut virus transmission, minimise spread of COVID-19 in 30 days of lockdown."

In the last month, number of dedicated COVID-19 hospitals rose by 3.5 times while isolation beds increased by 3.6 times, the health ministry said.

Talking about the exemptions during the nationwide lockdown imposed till 3 May, 2020, Punya Salila Srivastava, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs said that Home Ministry has clarified to states that in-house care-givers of senior citizens, prepaid mobile recharge utilities and food processing units in urban areas are exempted from lockdown restrictions.

Stressing on the urgency of the number of Covid-19 tests performed till now, CK Mishra, Environment Secretary and Chairman, Empowered Group-2, said, "On March 23, we had done 14,915 tests across the country and on April 22 we have done more than 5 lakh tests. If a rough calculation is done, it is about 33 times in 30 days. This is not enough and we need to ramp testing in this country."

Meanwhile, crossing the 5,600-mark in registering coronavirus cases, Maharashtra remained the worst hit state. The total number of cases in the state surged to 5,652 with 269 deaths. The highest number of cases were reported from Mumbai with more than 3,600 positive Covid-19 patients.

Maharashtra was followed by Gujarat, which has crossed 2,000-mark with 2,407 cases and 103 deaths, according to the latest data. Delhi comes right after Gujarat with 2,248 positive patients and 48 deaths.

Apart from Maharashtra, Gujarat and Delhi, the other most-affected states according to the deaths recorded are Madhya Pradesh (81), Telangana (24), Andhra Pradesh (27), Uttar Pradesh (21), Punjab (16), Karnataka (17), Tamil Nadu (18), Rajasthan (27), West Bengal (15), Jammu and Kashmir (5), Kerala (3), Jharkhand (3), Haryana (3) and Bihar (2). Meghalaya, Odisha, Assam, Himachal Pradesh and have reported one death each.

However, as a good news, all coronavirus positive cases in Goa and Manipur are now negative, informed respective state officials. Moreover, the health ministry added that Covid-19 growth has declined in Odisha and Kerala.

Human trials of coronavirus vaccine in UK start

LONDON, April 22: Human trials of a potential coronavirus vaccine will start in the UK on Thursday, Health Minister Matt Hancock said as he added a word of caution that "nothing about this process is certain".

In a press briefing on Tuesday, UK Health Minister Matt Hancock announced that the vaccine from the Oxford trial will be tested in people from this Thursday.

The vaccine is being developed by scientists at the University of Oxford who believe there is an 80 per cent chance of success.

Matt Hancock also promised £20 million of public money for each of the vaccine development projects. Another institute trying to develop a vaccine for Covid-19 is the Imperial College London.

The Jenner Institute team at Oxford though is planning production of the vaccine even before the trial is complete so that at least a million doses are ready by September.

Social distancing and a vaccine are the only two ways to deal with Covid-19 which has led to lockdown extensions across the world.

“The best way to defeat coronavirus is through a vaccine, after all this is a new disease, this is uncertain science, but I am certain we will throw everything we’ve got at developing a vaccine,” Matt Hancock said.

The UK health minister said they are also investing in manufacturing capability, “so if either of these vaccines safely works, then we can make it available for the British people as soon as humanly possible."

Chairman of British Medical Association Dr Chaand Nagpaul welcomed the announcement and said, “It’s clearly positive that trials are commencing for coronavirus vaccine as having an effective vaccine is the best way to eradicate it. I hope that there is co-operation with research across the world- to our collective efforts to develop a vaccine as soon as possible for it benefits all.”

UK coronavirus death toll hits 18,100 as peak nears

LONDON, April 22: UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Wednesday said Britain is making some progress through the “peak” of the coronavirus pandemic crisis as the country’s death toll from Covid-19 hit 18,100 – a daily rise of 759.

Raab, the First Secretary of State who is standing in for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he recuperates after testing positive for coronavirus, said during the daily Downing Street briefing that the UK’s strict social distancing rules were making a difference and saving lives.

“It has been a mental strain on people. We are making progress through the peak of this virus but we are not out of the woods yet,” said Raab, as he stressed that the biggest risk remains of a so-called “second peak” if the lockdown is eased ahead of time.

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel, there is certainly a glimmer… but we are not there yet,” he said.

He reiterated the five preconditions previously set by the government before any lifting of social distancing measures can be considered – protecting the National Health Service’s ability to cope; a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates; reliable data showing that the rate of infection is decreasing; confidence that the range of operational challenges such as testing are in hand; and confidence that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections.

The minister was joined at the daily briefing by General Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the UK Defence Staff, who spoke about the logistical support provided by the armed forces to the Department of Health and NHS.

“In all of my more than 40 years of service this is the single greatest logistic challenge that I have come across,” he said, adding that in just 25 days, his officers have helped the NHS deliver to nearly 50,000 customers – that figure was previously 250.

They have also created 260,000 square feet of distribution warehousing – nearly four football fields worth.

“People used to joke in this country you couldn’t build a hospital that quickly [as China], well we didn’t just build one, we built seven and we thank our armed forces for helping to make that happen,” said Raab, in reference to new makeshift hospitals built on conference centre sites around the UK.

“The sight of our armed forces working with NHS staff offers a calm reassurance to the British public,” he added.

India's Covid-19 cases shoot past 20,000, deaths top 650

NEW DELHI, April 22: The total number of novel coronavirus cases in India shot past 20,000 today. At least 1,486 fresh cases emerged in the last 24 hours, taking the Covid-19 count in the country to 20,471, according to the latest Ministry of Health and Family Welfare data. With 49 deaths recorded since yesterday, the toll now stands at 652, it said.

So far, India has 15,589 active cases. There are also 77 foreign nationals who are affected by the virus, the ministry said.

Apart from that, there are at least 3,959 patients who have been discharged or cured from the highly contagious disease and one has migrated from the country.

Speaking at the Cabinet briefing today, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said that Cabinet has approved the promulgation of Ordinance to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897. The move comes after several complaints from the medical fraternity on the acts of violence against doctors and other medical staff.

"The central government has brought an ordinance to end violence against health workers. It carries imprisonment from 6 months to 7 years if anyone is found guilty," Javadekar said adding that attacks on doctors and health professionals will not be tolerated.

He added that investigation against such violence will be done within 30 days and the accused can be sentenced from 3 months-5 years and penalised from ₹50,000 up to ₹2 lakh.

Later, a spokesperson said that the Home Ministry has issued orders to states against violence and urged states to ensure adequate security to healthcare professionals, medical staff and frontline workers to prevent violence against them.

"Strict action to be taken against those who obstruct the performance of last rites of Covid Warriors succumbing to the disease," said the spokesperson.

Head of epidemiology and communicable diseases at Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Dr Raman R Gangakhedkar on Tuesday said that 4,49,810 tests for COVID-19 have been conducted so far in India. Out of these, 35,852 samples were tested on Monday.

Meanwhile, crossing the 5,000-mark in registering coronavirus cases, Maharashtra remained the worst hit state. The total number of cases in the state surged to 5,221 with 251 deaths. The highest number of cases were reported from Mumbai with more than 3,000 positive Covid-19 patients

Maharashtra was followed by Gujarat, which has crossed 2,000-mark with 2,272 cases and 95 deaths, according to the latest data. Delhi comes right after Gujarat with 2,156 positive patients and 47 deaths.

Apart from Maharashtra, Gujarat and Delhi, the other most-affected states according to the deaths recorded are Madhya Pradesh (80), Telangana (23), Andhra Pradesh (24), Uttar Pradesh (21), Punjab (16), Karnataka (17), Tamil Nadu (18), Rajasthan (25), West Bengal (15), Jammu and Kashmir (5), Kerala (3), Jharkhand (3), Haryana (3) and Bihar (2). Meghalaya, Odisha, Assam, Himachal Pradesh and have reported one death each.

However, as a good news, all coronavirus positive cases in Goa and Manipur are now negative, informed respective state officials. Moreover, the health ministry added that Covid-19 growth has declined in Odisha and Kerala.

South Korean firm begins making rapid testing kits at Manesar facility

NEW DELHI, April 22: A South Korean company has launched the production of Covid-19 rapid antibody testing kits at its subsidiary at Manesar in Haryana, with a capacity of making 500,000 kits per week, to meet the needs of the Indian market.

The Chhattisgarh government is set to be one of the first customers for the testing kits made by SD Biosensor Healthcare, the subsidiary of the South Korean firm, with state health minister TS Singh Deo tweeting that authorities plan to procure 75,000 kits at a price of Rs 337 each kit.

The move comes against the backdrop of complaints from several state governments about the efficacy of rapid testing kits sourced from China.

SD Biosensor rolled out the first batch of test kits at its Manesar facility on April 19, the Indian embassy in Seoul said in a statement.

This is an example of the “Make In India for World” policy as the “company plans to ramp up production to meet growing demand in India as well as other part of the world”, it said.

SD Biosensor was granted a licence by the Indian government to manufacture the rapid test kits in a “very short period of time”, and this was reflected in the cooperation by the Indian and South Korean governments in the fight against the pandemic, the statement added.

The South Korean firm is sourcing materials for making its test kits from India and it “capitalises on India’s low cost, high quality resources and skilled and technical workforce”.

SD Biosensor chairman Cho Young-shik met Indian ambassador Sripriya Ranganathan on Tuesday to discuss the company’s plans for countering the Covid-19 pandemic. Ranganathan also visited the firm’s manufacturing facility in North Chungcheong province.

Chhattisgarh health minister Deo said in a string of tweets the state government is “procuring 75,000…rapid testing kits at a benchmark price of Rs 337 + GST from a South Korean company based in India, which has proven to be the lowest bidder”. He added the “rate we have been able to close at is the lowest in India” and this was due to interactions with South Korean ambassador Shin Bong-kil and Ranganathan.

Yoo Chang-ho, the minister counsellor for political affairs at the South Korean embassy, said: “South Korea and India are very close partners and we are working closely together to overcome these hard times. This production of kits in India is a good example of how dynamic our partnership really is.

“We are cooperating to fight these challenges we have in front of us while also taking the opportunity to encourage the ‘Make in India’ policy.”

10,000 cases of influenza-like illness detected in HP: CM

SHIMLA, April 21: During the active case finding campaign launched by the state government, 10,000 cases of influenza-like illness have been detected across the state, officials said on Tuesday.

Chief minister Jai Ram Thakur said that over 70 lakh people have been covered under the campaign. The CM said that during the active case finding campaign launched across the state, 10,000 cases of influenza-like illness have been detected of which 700 cases have been tested and different categories of patients are kept under observation.

Thakur said that the state government is in constant touch with people stranded outside the state and has urged the respective state governments to ensure their proper care. He asked people to remain wherever they are as the government would ensure their return to the state as soon as the situation normalizes.

CM said that plying of private vehicles for emergency services including medical emergency must be allowed even without curfew passes. He said only two persons are allowed in private vehicles whereas four persons in official vehicles including drivers.

He added that the state government was ensuring smooth plying of trucks and other private carriage carrying essential commodities and vegetables to ensure its adequate availability in the state. He said that vehicles should be sanitised and drivers and conductors should be medically examined. He directed the officers to keep a constant check on hoarding and profiteering and strict action against erring shopkeepers.

He asked the officers that farmers should be allowed to harvest their crops and motivated to implement social distancing while working in the fields. He said that steps must also be taken for the procurement of their produce so that they do not face any inconvenience due to imposition of the curfew. He said that shops dealing with farming inputs should be allowed to open to facilitate the farmers and horticulturists.

India's Covid-19 cases near 19,000-mark, death toll at 603

NEW DELHI, April 21: As the number of novel coronavirus cases in India increased to 1,329 in last 24 hours, the total count of Covid-19 cases the country surged to 18,985 on Tuesday, according to the latest data from Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Along with that, the country has recorded 603 deaths since the outbreak after 44 deaths were reported since yesterday.

So far, India has 15,112 active cases. There are also 77 foreign nationals who are affected by the virus, the ministry said.

Apart from that, there are at least 3,259 patients who have been discharged or cured from the highly contagious disease and one has migrated from the country.

Lav Aggrawal from Health Ministry said that at least 3,252 people recovered from the infection on Tuesday morning, showing that the recovery rate has gone up to over 17.47%, an improvement over 14.75% on Monday.

Aggrawal also added, "61 additional districts from 23 States/UT have not reported any fresh cases in last 14 days. 4 new districts have been included in the list-Latur, Osmanabad, Hingoli & Washim in Maharashtra."

Head of epidemiology and communicable diseases at Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Dr Raman R Gangakhedkar on Tuesday said that 4,49,810 tests for COVID-19 have been conducted so far in India. Out of these, 35,852 samples were tested on Monday.

The ICMR also advised all states not to use new rapid antibody test for Covid-19 for two days and said that it will investigate issue of faulty kits.

Meanwhile, crossing the 4,600-mark in registering coronavirus cases, Maharashtra remained the worst hit state. The total number of cases in the state surged to 4,669 with 232 deaths. The highest number of cases were reported from Mumbai with more than 3,000 positive Covid-19 patients

Maharashtra was followed by Delhi, which has crossed 2,000-mark with 2,081 cases and 47 deaths, according to the latest data. Gujarat is the latest in the list after Delhi to cross 2,000-mark as well. The other states that crossed the 1,500-mark in the number of coronavirus cases in descending order are Rajashtan, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Apart from Maharashtra and Delhi, the other most-affected states according to the deaths recorded are Madhya Pradesh (76), Gujarat (77), Telangana (23), Andhra Pradesh (22), Uttar Pradesh (20), Punjab (16), Karnataka (17), Tamil Nadu (17), Rajasthan (25), West Bengal (12), Jammu and Kashmir (5), Kerala (3), Jharkhand (2), Haryana (3) and Bihar (2). Meghalaya, Odisha, Assam, Himachal Pradesh and have reported one death each.

However, as a good news, all coronavirus positive cases in Goa and Manipur are now negative, informed respective state officials. Moreover, the health ministry added that Covid-19 growth has declined in Odisha and Kerala.

Worst is yet to come, says WHO with warning that lockdowns alone won’t end Covid pandemic

Dr TedrosGENEVA, April 20: World Health Organisation issued a dire warning on Monday. WHO said that the ‘worst’ of the Covid pandemic is ‘yet ahead’. WHO chief said lockdowns alone can’t end the pandemic. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General, W.H.O said, “We want to re-emphasize that easing restrictions is not the end of epidemic in any country.”

“Trust us. The worst is yet ahead of us,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday. “Let’s prevent this tragedy. It’s a virus that many people still don’t understand.”

He compared the coronavirus outbreak, which worldwide has sickened nearly 2.5 million people and killed more than 170,000, to the 1918 Spanish flu that killed as many as 100 million worldwide. But he said that such a dire outcome does not have to occur.

“Now we have technology, we can prevent that disaster, we can prevent that kind of crisis,” Tedros said.

He also defended the WHO against President Donald Trump’s accusations that the agency failed to adequately and transparently share information about COVID-19 in the early days if the outbreak in China in December.

Trump has halted U.S. funding to the WHO. Washington had been the agency’s biggest donor.

“There is no secret in WHO because keeping things confidential or secret is dangerous. It’s a health issue,” Tedros said Monday.

Covid-19 cases in India surge to 17,656, death toll at 559

NEW DELHI, April 20: The total number of novel coronavirus cases in India today surged to 17,656, after 1,540 fresh cases were reported in the last 24 hours, according to the latest data of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Along with that, the number of Covid-19 deaths in the country increased to 559, it said.

So far, India has 14,255 active cases. There are also 77 foreign nationals who are affected by the virus.

There are at least 2,841 patients who have been discharged or cured from the highly contagious disease and one has migrated from the country. According to the Monday morning data from the health ministry, at least 2,546 people have recovered from the infection, showing that the recovery rate has gone up to over 14.75%, an improvement over 14.2% on Sunday. The mortality rate for Covid-19 cases in India is around 3.2%. it added.

During the press briefing on Monday evening, Lav Aggrawal from Health Ministry said that since the lockdown has got implemented, the doubling rate for the virus infection has seen a significant improvement. "The duration of doubling rate for coronavirus which was 3.4 days before lockdown is now 7.5 days," he said.

Aggrawal also added that the number of districts where no case has been reported in last 14 days has increased to 59.

Dr Raman R Gangakhedkar, ICMR said informed that out of 100 coronavirus patients, 80% are asymptomatic or show mild symptoms.

With more than 4,000 positive cases, Maharashtra remained the worst hit state. The total number of cases in the state surged to 4,203 with 223 deaths. The highest number of cases were reported from Mumbai with more than 2,724 positive Covid-19 patients.

Maharashtra was followed by Delhi, which has crossed 2,000-mark with 2,003 cases and 45 deaths, according to the latest data. The other states that crossed the 1,400-mark in the number of coronavirus cases in descending order are Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan. Uttar Pradesh became the next state in the country after these to top 1,000 cases.

Apart from Maharashtra and Delhi, the other most-affected states according to the deaths recorded are Gujarat (67), Telangana (21), Madhya Pradesh (74), Punjab (16), Karnataka (16), West Bengal (12), Jammu and Kashmir (5), Uttar Pradesh (17) Kerala (3), Jharkhand (2), Andhra Pradesh (20) Rajasthan (14) Haryana (3), Tamil Nadu (15) and Bihar (2), Meghalaya, Odisha, Assam, Himachal Pradesh and have reported one death each.

However, as a good news, all coronavirus positive cases in Goa and Manipur are now negative, informed respective state officials. Moreover, the health ministry added that Covid-19 growth has declined in Odisha and Kerala.

Delhi containment zones rise to 84, West district has the most

NEW DELHI, April 20: The Delhi government on Monday raised the total number of containment zones in the capital to 84, up from the 79 notified last evening in an effort to stop the Sars-CoV-2 virus from spreading to new areas.

The health department expanded the list of containment zones in the national capital hours after it was decided to carry out random rapid testing in these hotspots. This would help the government get a clearer picture of the extent of the spread, particularly given that many people who had tested positive over the weekend did not show any symptoms.

As part of this plan, the government will send 22 Delhi Police’ prison vans that have been converted into mobile labs into these containment zones. In all, the government has decided to modify 25 prison vans.

The highest number of containment districts are in West district which has 14 containment zones. On Monday, the government had found 35 new cases in Tilak Nagar and 30 in Tughlakabad Extension. Officials said these areas have been covered in the new list.

Here is the full list:

1. Entire affected street near Gandhi Park, Malviya Nagar

2. Entire affected street of Gali No 5, 6 &7, L 1 Sangam Vihar

3. The affected area around H. No.A-176, Deoli Extension

4. Shahjahanabad society, plot no 1, Sector 11, Dwarka

5. Dinpur Village

6. Gali No. 5 & 5A, H-2 Block, Bengali Colony, Mahavir Enclave

7. Markaz Masjid and Nizamuddin Basti

8. Nizamuddin West (G and D block) areas

9. Area of Street/Gali No. 18 to 22 of Zakir Nagar and nearby area of Abu Bakar Masjid of Zakir Nagar 10 (Core) rest of Zakir Nagar as Buffer Zone

10. H. No. 811 to 829 and 842 to 835 - Khadda Colony, Jaitpur, Extension, Part-II

11. H. No. 1144 to 1134 and 618 to 623 - Khadda Colony, Jaitpur, Extension, Part-II

12. Gali No. 16, Kachhi Colony, Madanpur Khadar, Extension, Delhi

13. Mehela Mohalla, Madanpur Khadar, Delhi

14. H-Block, Near Umra Masjid, Abu Fazal Enclave

15. E-Block, Abu Fazal Enclave, Delhi

16. H No. 97 to 107 and H. No. 120-127 Kailash Hills, East of Kailash

17. E-Block (E-284 to E-294) East of Kailash, Delhi

18. H. No. 53 to 55 & 25, Shera Mohalla, Garhi, East of Kailash

19. B Block Jhangirpuri

20. Gali No. 1 to 10 (1 to 1000) C Block Jhangirpuri

21. H. No 141 to H. No 180, Gali no. 14, Kalyanpuri

22. Mansara Apartments, Vasundhara Enclave

23. 3 Galis of Khichripur including Gali containing H. No. 5/387 Khichripur

24. Gali No 9, Pandav Nagar, Delhi 110092

25. Vardhaman Apartments, Mayur Vihar, Phase I, Extension

26. Mayurdhwaj Apartments, I P Extension, Patparganj

27. Gali no. 4, from H. No. J- 3/115 (Nagar Dairy) to H. No. J- 3/108 (towards Anar wali Masjid Chowk), Kishan Kunj Extension

28. Gali No. 4, from H. No J- 3/101 to H. No. J - 3/107 Krishan Kunj Extension

29. Gali No. 5, A Block ( From H No. A- 176 to A-189), West Vinod Nagar

30. E-Pocket, GTB Enclave

31. J & K, L and H pockets Dilshad Garden; G, H, J, Blocks old Seemapuri

32. F- 70 to 90 block Dilshad Colony

33. Pratap Khand, Jhilmil Colony

34. Shastri Market, including J.J. Cluster of South Moti Bagh

35. Bengali Market/ Babar Road adjoining area of Todarmal Road, Babar Lane and School Lane, New Delhi

36. Sadar Bazaar, Central District

37. Chandni Mahal, Central District

38. Nabi Karim, Central District

39. Balaji Apartment, Sant Nagar, Burari, Delhi - 110084

40. In and around area of G-174, Capital Greens, DLF, Motinagar, New Delhi 110015

41. In and around area of B- 1/2, Paschim Vihar

42. In and around area of 11/3, 2nd Floor Ashok Nagar

43. In and around area of H. No. A-30, Mansarovar Garden

44. In and around area of A-1B/75A, Krishna Apartment, Pashchim Vihar, Delhi - 110063

45. In and around area of A-280, JJ Colony, Madipur

46. In and around area of 36/4, East Patel Nagar, Delhi 110008

47. Shop No.- J-4/49, Khirki Extension, Khirki village, New Delhi

48. Jain Mohalla, Pandit Mohalla from Epic Centre 715, Chirag Delhi

49. C-2, Block, Janakpuri, Kothi No- 119

50. Gali No 1, 2 and 3, Block-D, Sangam Vihar, House No 112B, Gali No 2, New Delhi

51. Entire gali starting from house number G-54 to F-107 and Entire gali starting from house number CN-854 to 137, Chhuriya Mohalla, Tughlaqabad Village, Delhi

52. 1100 Wali Gali (house number 1181-1200), 1200 Wali Gali (house number 1238-1268), 1300 Wali Gali (house number 1306-1331), H-3 Block, Jhangirpuri, Delhi

53. Bara Hindu Rao Area, Delhi

54. Nawab Ganj Area, Delhi

55. House number-62, Gali No-4, B-Block, Shastri Park, Delhi

56. G,H and I Block of Police Colony, Model Town

57. Street no. 6, A block, Abu Fazal enclave

58. Shaheen Bagh

59. Street no.s 3-5, East Ram Nagar

60. Shahdara

61. In and around area of C-105, Hari Nagar

62. In and around area of B-333, Hari Nagar

63. In and around area of C-785, Third Floor, Camp No.2, Nangloi

64. In and around area of RZ-168, K2 Block, Nihal Vihar

65. Gali No. 26 and 26B, H.No. 2056 to 2092 and Gali No. 27 and 27B, H.No. 2063 to 2083, Tughlakabad Extension

66. Entire effected area around H.No. 859/20, L-II, Sangam Vihar

67. H.No. 153/B, 4th floor, Savitri Nagar, Malviya Nagar, New Delhi

68. H.No. 716 to 785, H.No. 786 to 860, H.No. 861 to 950 K-Block, Jahangirpuri, Delhi

69. A Block, Khizrabad, New Friends Colony

70. Israel Camp, Rang Puri Pahari

71. Budh Nagar, Inderpuri

72. Oberoi Apartment

73. G-1 2nd Floor Mansarovar Garden

74. E-51 and E-21 street 8, Shastri Park

75. T-606 street-18 Gautam Puri

76. A-97,98,99 near Buland Masjid, Shastri Park

77. Plot No. 1294 in Theke Wali Gali opposite DC Office in Kapashera

78. EA Block in Inderpuri

79. G-Block, Jahangirpuri , Delhi

80. Gali No. 24 to 28 Tughlakabad Extension, Delhi (Core Area)

81. Gali No. 26 & 26B, H.No. 2056 to 2092, Tughlakabad Extension, Delhi

82. Gali No. 27 & 27B, H.No. 2063 to 2083 Tughlakabad Extension, Delhi

83. West Tilak Vihar area in Tilak Nagar

84. H. No. 34/156 to H. No. 34/189 (Resettlement Colony), Block-34, Tirlok Puri, Delhi 110091

India's Covid-19 count crosses 16,000-mark, death toll at 519

NEW DELHI, April 18: With 1,324 fresh cases registered in the last 24 hours, the total number of novel coronavirus count in India crossed more than 16,000 to reach 16,116 confirmed cases so far, according to the latest Ministry of Health and Family Welfare data. Along with that, the country's death toll has increased to 519, it said.

According to the Sunday morning data from the health ministry, at least 2,230 people have recovered from the infection, showing that the recovery rate has gone up to over 14.2%, an improvement over 13.85% on Saturday and 13% on Friday.

There are currently 13,295 active patients in the country while 2,301 patients have been discharged or cured from the highly contagious disease. One patient has migrated from the country. There are also 77 foreign nationals who are affected by the virus. The mortality rate for COVID-19 cases in India is around 3.2%. It also said that there are 755 dedicated COVID-19 hospitals and 1,389 dedicated healthcare centres set up in country.

During the press briefing on Sunday evening, Lav Aggrawal from Health Ministry said that 54 districts in 23 States/Union Territories didn't report any cases in last 14 days.

Aggrawal also added, "Historical data across the world show that there is not a big percentage of asymptomatic persons testing Covid-19 positive. It's important for us to be aware of this challenge. High risk asymptomatic persons are part of sampling criteria. We need to test and monitor them."

Dr Raman R Gangakhedkar, ICMR said, "We have done 3,86,791 tests so far. Yesterday 37,173 tests were done, out of these 29,287 tests were done in labs of ICMR network. 7,886 tested in private sector labs."

Earlier, on Saturday, Aggrwal had said that 14.4% of the deceased were in the age group of 0-45 years, 10.3% in age group of 45 - 60 years, 33.1% in age group of 60 - 75 years and 42.2% above 75 years. This implied 75.3% of the dead were above 60 years of age.

The latest state-wise data shows that with more than 3,600 positive cases, Maharashtra remained the worst hit state. The total number of cases in the state surged to 3,651 with 211 deaths. The highest number of cases were reported from Mumbai with more than 2,110 positive Covid-19 patients.

Maharashtra was followed by Delhi, which is now nearing the 2,000-mark with 1,893 cases and 43 deaths, according to the latest data. The other states that crossed the 1,300-mark in the number of coronavirus cases in descending order are Madhya Pradesh, Gyujarat, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan. Uttar Pradesh became the next state in the country after these to top 1,000 cases.

Apart from Maharashtra and Delhi, the other most-affected states according to the deaths recorded are Gujarat (58), Telangana (18), Madhya Pradesh (70), Punjab (16), Karnataka (14), West Bengal (12), Jammu and Kashmir (5), Uttar Pradesh (17) Kerala (3), Jharkhand (2), Andhra Pradesh (15) Rajasthan (11) Haryana (3), Tamil Nadu (15) and Bihar (2), Meghalaya, Odisha, Assam, Himachal Pradesh and have reported one death each.

In a positive note, all coronavirus positive cases in Goa are now negative, informed state's Health Minister, Vishwajit Rane.

India sends 85 mn HCQ tablets to 50 countries

NEW DELHI, April 16: India has dialled up its medical diplomacy, sending loads of medicines to 100-plus countries over the last two weeks to help them fight the Covid-19 pandemic. A top government official said that India is supplying nearly 85 million hydroxychloroquine tablets and close to 500 million paracetamol tablets to the 50 countries.

This is apart from the 1,000 tonnes of paracetamol granules that have been sent to make tablets.

“As we speak, a total of 4,000 plus consignments to 50 countries are being cleared for dispatch,” the government official cited above said. In all, the medicine supplies will cover 108 countries.

Many of the supplies have been made through special Indian Air Force flights, foreign evacuation charters and even diplomatic cargo.

It is a huge exercise, and complicated too given that most countries, including India, have shut flight operations.

As one example, officials speak about how Indian HCQ tablets to be delivered to the Dominican Republic, which is the current President of the UNSC, were placed as diplomatic cargo on a US evacuation flight to Atlanta, Georgia. This diplomatic cargo will then be flown from New York to the island in the Carribean region in a Dominican charter later on Thursday.

The HCQ tablets sent as gifts to Mauritius and Seychelles were loaded on special Indian Air Force planes on Wednesday for delivery. For reaching the medicines to Afghanistan, efforts are being made to send the medicine by a special charter.

According to South Block officials, 5 million HCQ tablets and a large quantity of paracetamol has been either supplied or in the process of being supplied to 31 countries as grant assistance to combat Covid-19.

“The emphasis has been on clearing consignments to those friendly countries first which are badly affected by the virus. We will also be clearing requests from some other countries who have sought help in this hour of need. This will be done in a day or two,” said a senior official.

Basically, India has decided to supply all the drugs that were lying in special economic zones or 100 percent export oriented units after ensuring that there was an adequate buffer stock for domestic requirements in a worst-case scenario.

“Broadly, almost everything that was ready and lying at the airports/ports that cannot be used domestically as on April 14 has been cleared for exports,” said a Ministry of External Affairs official.

India has already supplied 80 million HCQ tablets to 24 countries through commercial contracts including US, UK, Russia, France, Spain and Netherlands. It has also supplied large quantities of paracetamol to 52 countries including Italy, Sweden and Singapore. In some cases, both HCQ and paracetamol tablets were supplied.

WHO chief hails India’s step to engage in polio surveillance network to fight Covid-19

Dr TedrosGENEVA, April 15: WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday appreciated India’s collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the systematic engagement of polio surveillance network across the country to fight against coronavirus.

In a series of tweets, Ghebreyesus said, “Great news: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and World Health Organisation-South-East Asia initiated a systematic engagement of the WHO’s national polio surveillance network, and other field staff, for India’s Covid-19 response, tapping into the best practices and resources that helped India win its war against polio.”

The WHO chief thanked India’s Health Minister Harsh Vardhan for his leadership and engagement with the UN body to fight the global crisis.

“My thanks to Minister @drharshvardhan for his leadership and collaboration with @WHO. Through these joint efforts, we can defeat the #coronavirus and save lives. Together! #COVID19,” he tweeted.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the WHO have initiated a systematic engagement of WHO’s national polio surveillance network and other field staff, for Covid-19 response, WHO said in a statement.

“Time and again, the Government of India and WHO together have shown our ability, competence and prowess to the whole world. With our combined meticulous work, done with full sincerity and dedication, we were able to get rid of polio,” said Harsh Vardhan in the statement.

“Today, I would like to remind you of your potential and ability and the big things we can do together. All of you in the field - IDSP, state rapid response teams and WHO - are our ‘surveillance corona warriors’. With your joint efforts we can defeat the coronavirus and save lives,” he added.

The minister, along with Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia, was addressing WHO and other field staff, simultaneously connected from over 1 000 sites all over the country - from capital cities to the remotest corners.

Singapore reports record jump in coronavirus infections

SINGAPORE, April 16: Singapore late Thursday reported a record jump in coronavirus cases, most of them linked to packed dormitories housing foreign workers, as it battled a second wave of infections.

The affluent city-state had initially been held as a gold standard in the global fight against the Covid-19 disease, but a surge in the number of cases has left the government scrambling to contain the spread.

The Ministry of Health reported 728 new cases as of midday Thursday -- the biggest rise in a single day -- bringing the total number of infections to 4,427, including 10 deaths.

“The number of new cases amongst Work Permit holders residing in dormitories has increased significantly, in line with our continued efforts to actively test and isolate the infected workers,” the ministry said in a statement.

It said 654, or around 90 percent, of the new cases were linked to the dorms and another 26 were foreign workers living outside the facilities.

Around 200,000 workers, mostly from South Asia, live in 43 dorms across the island, forming an essential part of the country’s work force.

Many of them are construction workers typically toiling for long hours, earning in the region of $400 to $500 a month building the city-state’s glittering skyscrapers and shopping malls.

Following criticism of poor living conditions in the dorms, the government swung into action, moving thousands of them to other accommodation -- including a floating complex -- in order to decongest the facilities and lessen the chances of infection.

The government is also providing meals and ramped-up cleaning services at quarantined dorms, and is helping run the facilities, which are usually privately operated.

Writing on Facebook this month, veteran Singapore diplomat Tommy Koh slammed “the disgraceful way” in which the foreign workers were being treated.

He said it should be a “wake-up call to treat our indispensable foreign workers like a first world country should”.

 

 


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