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Covid Challenge Not Over, Focus on Vaccinating Kids, Need for Coordination: Modi

NEW DELHI, April 27: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said that the challenge from Covid-19 is not yet over and cautioned the country against the sub variants of Omicron. The prime minister was interacting with chief ministers on the emerging Covid-19 situation in the country on Wednesday through video conferencing.

Several chief ministers, including West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee, Chhattisgarh’s Bhupesh Baghel and Punjab’s Bhagwant Mann, participated in the interaction.

Modi said Covid vaccination of all eligible children at the earliest is a priority for the government and specialised programmes will need to be conducted for it in schools. “Our scientists and experts are continuously monitoring the national and global situation. We have to work on their suggestions with a pre-emptive, pro-active and collective approach," he said.

The prime minister said that despite managing the Covid crisis better as compared to other countries, many states are witnessing an uptick in infections. He also called for a coordination between the states and the centre and focused on boosting medical infrastructure in the country.

He lauded the vaccination campaign in the country and said that it’s a matter of pride that 96 percent of the adult population has been vaccinated with the first dose.

“It’s a matter of pride for every citizen that 96 percent of our adult population has been vaccinated with the first dose of the vaccine and 85 percent of the eligible population above 15 years of age inoculated with the second dose of Covid-19 vaccine,” he added.

Stopping the infection at the very beginning has been our priority as well and it should remain the same even today. “We have to implement our strategy of Test, Track and Treat equally effectively. In the current situation of coronavirus, it is necessary that we have 100 per cent RT-PCR test for patients admitted in hospitals who are serious influenza cases.

India recorded 2,927 fresh infections in a day which pushed the case tally to 4,30,65,496 while the active caseload increased to 16,279, according to Union Health Ministry data on Wednesday. The death toll has climbed to 5,23,654 with 32 more fatalities, the data updated at 8 am stated.

16 districts in the country are reporting positivity rate higher than 10 percent while five states have more than 100 active cases. Delhi contributes to over 27 percent of the total active cases in the country.

Apart from Delhi, Kerala, Haryana and Karnataka are recording the majority of the cases in the country.

Italy Reports 70,520 Coronavirus Cases Today, 143 deaths

ROME, April 23: Italy reported 70,520 COVID-19 related cases on Saturday, against 73,212 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily number of deaths fell to 143 from 202.

Italy has registered 162,609 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February 2020, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth highest in the world. The country has reported 16.1 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with COVID-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 9,914 on Saturday, down from 10,076 a day earlier.

There were 43 new admissions to intensive care units, decreasing from 46 on Friday. The total number of intensive care patients stood at 409, edging down from a previous 411.

Some 421,533 tests for COVID-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 437,193, the health ministry said.

No one safe until all vaccinated for Covid-19: Johns Hopkins scientist

WASHINGTON, April 21: Vaccine inequity remains an issue both within India, where less than 2 per cent of the population has received a Covid booster, and the globe with 56 countries unable to inoculate even 10 percent of their people, says Johns Hopkins scientist Amita Gupta.

Tracking hospitalisation rates which provide an indicator of severity of illness is key, the chief of the Division of Infectious Disease, and Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said while stressing that no one is safe from Covid until everyone in the world gets vaccinated.

She cited the example of the Omicron variant to buttress her point.

The highly transmissible variant is believed to have emerged in November last year in South Africa and Botswana due to inadequate immunisation in African countries before spreading globally, Gupta said, adding that another variant is likely to follow the same trend.

Global vaccine inequity remains an issue both within India and globally. For example, in the continent of Africa less than 20 per cent of the population is currently vaccinated and there are countries in Africa still with less than 2 per cent vaccinated, Gupta told PTI in an email interview.

As immunities wane and new Covid variants emerge, it is more important than ever that communities are fully vaccinated and boosted, she said.

It is not enough to fully vaccinate only a few countries. Health workers and highest-risk populations in all countries must be fully vaccinated to stop the pandemic, she added.

In India, Gupta said, there are some hard to reach areas and there is urgent need to increase booster vaccination for those who are eligible.

It is hard to predict whether further mutations in SARS-CoV-2 will increase or decrease the intrinsic virulence of the virus or the severity caused by it, the public health expert said.

What we do know is that no one is safe from COVID-19 until everyone in the world is safe. The vast majority of vaccines have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Fifty-six countries have been effectively excluded from the global vaccine marketplace and have not been able to vaccinate even 10 per cent of their population, she added.

A large, densely populated country like India must ensure that the population has some measure of protection against severe disease -- either through immunization or previous infection.

As immunities wane and variants emerge, Gupta said, it is more important than ever that communities are fully vaccinated and boosted.

Less than 2 per cent of the population (in India) currently has received a Covid booster even though there is no shortage of supply. This number needs to increase.

The cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in India crossed 187 crore on Wednesday, according to the Union Health ministry. The total number of precaution doses given to adults stands at 2,35,786 (2.3 lakh).

Going forward, Gupta anticipates periodic increases in cases with new, more transmissible variants. Tracking hospitalisation rates is pivotal.

While some countries like the UK are seeing local increases in the number of cases, hospitalisations are not increasing significantly and health systems are managing the increases.

Anticipate a similar situation will occur in India with these current sub variants. It is possible that India could face another surge but will be better prepared as people are more aware, systems have been strengthened and surveillance is ongoing, she added.

The pandemic, Gupta noted, is still not over and it is difficult to predict when new variants will emerge and how these strains will behave.

We should continue close surveillance for early detection of Covid cases through existing surveillance networks in the country and be prepared to trigger recommendations to resume masking, social distancing if and when surges occur, she said.

According to the World Health Organization, BA.2, a more contagious Omicron sub variant, is now driving most coronavirus cases around the world.

Gupta said the new variants are more transmissible than previous variants and an increase of cases is being observed.

Vaccines continue to protect against manifestations of severe disease. Future morbidity and mortality depend on age demographics, weariness to guidelines, and vaccine and booster intake, she said.

Global vaccinations and accurate disease surveillance will reduce the infection rate. In India, 73 per cent received the first dose, 61 per cent two doses, and 1.7 per cent received a booster as of April 13 so continuing to encourage the remaining population to get vaccinated is important, Gupta explained.

Studies have shown that current Covid vaccines have had some reduction in efficacy in protecting people from infection and from developing severe disease with Omicron and its sub-variants.

Vaccines, Gupta stressed, are still reducing risk of severe disease in over 50 per cent of those who get the infection.

A lot of work is ongoing to prepare newer vaccines to optimise efficacy in preparation for additional new variants.

Many experts in the past have said that Covid in India was moving towards endemicity, a stage when the presence of a disease becomes steady in a particular region or at least predictable.

There are three possible futures: ongoing peaks of high disease and evolution of the virus with increased infection rate, seasonal epidemic COVID-19, and endemic COVID-19. We are not yet at a place where we can say COVID is endemic, Gupta explained.

For future pandemics, Gupta said it is crucial to apply the lessons learned from Covid and invest in health infrastructure to better equip the country to prevent tragedy.

She said long-term investment and sustained commitment are needed for strengthening public health and healthcare systems, and biomedical science in India.

The scientist noted that Johns Hopkins University has many different types of partnerships with India. These include working together to fight infectious diseases and identifying new diagnostics, treatments and prevention strategies for diseases such as TB, HIV, Covid, dengue, pneumococcal pneumonia and hepatitis.

India is a critical partner for addressing global public health challenges and we learn so much from each other in Indo-JHU health partnerships, Gupta said.

We are working together on models of public health and medical training, health systems strengthening, biomedical discovery, clinical research, data science and development of low-cost, accessible, affordable technologies to improve the health of communities and individuals across the globe, she added.

India Logs Over 2,000 New Covid Cases In 24 Hours

NEW DELHI, April 21: With 2,380 new coronavirus infections being reported in a day, India's total tally of COVID-19 cases rose to 4,30,49,974, while the active cases increased to 13,433, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Thursday.

The number of deaths climbed to 5,22,062 with 56 fresh fatalities, the data updated at 8 am stated.

The active cases comprise 0.03 per cent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate remained at 98.76 per cent, the ministry said. An increase of 1,093 cases has been recorded in the active COVID-19 caseload in a span of 24 hours.

The daily positivity rate was recorded as 0.53 per cent and the weekly positivity rate as 0.43 per cent, according to the ministry.

As Covid Numbers Rise, Delhi Government Announces Free Booster Doses
The precautionary vaccine dose for Covid will be available for free in all hospitals run by the Delhi government. The free dose will be available to those aged between 18 years and 59 years, the Arvind Kejriwal government has said in the order.

1,009 New Covid Cases In Delhi, 60% Jump In A Day; Positivity Rate 5.7%

NEW DELHI, April 20: Delhi today recorded 1,009 new Covid cases in the last 24 hours, a 60 per cent rise from yesterday. This was the maximum number of cases recorded in Delhi since February 10 when 1,104 infections were reported.

The positivity rate has gone up to 5.7 per cent. Positivity rate is the number of active cases per 100 tests conducted.

After a steady fall in Covid cases, Delhi has been seen a spurt in new infections with the positivity rate registering a nearly three-fold rise between April 11 and 18, according to the Delhi Health Department's data.

Despite a spurt in Covid cases in Delhi, hospitalisation has so far been low accounting for less than three per cent of the total active cases, according to government data.

Earlier today, the wearing of masks in public places has been made mandatory in Delhi in view of the rising cases.

India reported 2,067 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, taking the case count to 4,30,47,594. The active cases comprise 0.03 per cent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate remained at 98.76 per cent, the health ministry said.

Delhi accounted for more than 30 per cent of the 2,067 new cases that India reported on Wednesday.

30 per cent Covid patients develop 'Long COVID': US study

LOS ANGELES, April 19: As many as 30 per cent people infected with COVID-19 developed Long COVID, a set of symptoms that persist for months beyond the initial phase of a SARS-CoV-2 infection, according to a study conducted in the US.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the US found that people with a history of hospitalisation, diabetes, and higher body mass index were mostly likely to develop Post Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC), commonly known as Long COVID.

The study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found that ethnicity, older age, and socioeconomic status were not associated with the syndrome even though those characteristics have been linked with severe illness and greater risk of death from COVID-19.

Of the 309 people with long COVID studied, the most persistent symptoms were fatigue and shortness of breath (31 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively) in hospitalised persons, and loss of sense of smell (16 per cent) in outpatients.

"This study illustrates the need to follow diverse patient populations longitudinally to understand the Long COVID disease trajectory and evaluate how individual factors such as pre-existing co-morbidities, sociodemographic factors, vaccination status and virus variant type affect type and persistence of Long COVID symptoms," said Sun Yoo, health sciences assistant clinical professor at UCLA.

"Studying outcomes in a single health system can minimise variation in quality of medical care," Yoo said in a statement.

The researchers wanted to evaluate the association of Long COVID with demographics and clinical characteristics in order to devise the most effective treatments.

They studied 1,038 people who were enrolled in the UCLA COVID Ambulatory Program between April 2020 and February 2021. Of those, 309 developed Long COVID.

A person was determined to have the syndrome if they reported persistent symptoms on questionnaires 60 or 90 days after infection or hospitalisation.

Potential weaknesses in the study include the subjective nature of how patients rated their symptoms, the limited number of symptoms the researchers evaluated, and limited information about patients' pre-existing conditions.

"Because persistent symptoms can be subjective in nature, we need better tools to accurately diagnose Long COVID and to differentiate it from exacerbations of other emerging or chronic conditions," said Yoo.

"Finally, we need to ensure equitable access to outpatient Long COVID care," Yoo added.

632 New Covid Cases In Delhi Today, Positivity Rate Reduces To 4.42%

NEW DELHI, April 19: COVID-19 cases in Delhi today rose 26 per cent to 632 since yesterday. The positivity rate or confirmed cases every 100 tests fell from 7.72 per cent yesterday to 4.42 per cent today.

After a steady fall in Covid cases, Delhi has been seen a spurt in new infections with the positivity rate registering a nearly three-fold rise between April 11 and 18, according to the Delhi Health Department's data.

On April 11, the positivity rate stood at 2.70 per cent, which jumped to 3.95 per cent on April 15, followed by 5.33 per cent on April 16, and 7.72 per cent on April 18, data shows.

Doctors have said Covid cases are expected to surge in the coming days.

The trend is, however, not concerning as most of the cases are mild. "The XE variant has more transmissibility but is causing mild infection. It is causing upper respiratory infection and not lower respiratory infection," said Dr Jugal Kishore, head of community medicine, Safdarjung Hospital.

India's overall COVID-19 cases remain low, though there has been an uptick in cases in the last week in several cities. Delhi, for example, is reporting rising COVID-19 cases among children in schools, which is a worrying sign, the country's top biomedical scientist Dr Gagandeep Kang told NDTV last week.

She had said the gradual rise in cases cannot be yet called the onset of a fourth wave. "Saying so would be a stretch," Dr Kang said, adding people should be prepared for reinfections, whether they have been infected before or vaccinated.

China Defends Its 'Zero-Covid Policy' Amid Growing Global Criticism

BEIJING, April 13: Amid growing global criticism over its zero-Covid policy, China on Tuesday defended its strict coronavirus measures that have resulted in hardship in several Chinese cities including the global financial hub Shanghai.

Speaking at the press conference on Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the country's "dynamic" zero-Covid policy and anti-epidemic protocols are based on science and expert opinions.

Zhao said the policies are also consistent with its national realities and the WHO's guiding principles.

"They have effectively protected the life and health of Chinese and foreign nationals living in China and made important contributions to the global fight against the pandemic. The international community, the WHO included, has spoken highly of them," he said.

This response comes as the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said Covid lockdowns have caused "significant disruptions" for many companies. Nearly half of German firms said in a survey their supply chains have been impacted.

Further defending the country's COVID-19 policies, the Chinese spokesperson said some Chinese cities have adopted a host of prevention and control measures in response to sporadic outbreaks.

"Although these measures have had some impact on daily life and production, the effect is limited in both duration and scope. Thanks to such measures, the vast majority of the population in most regions can enjoy normal life and production," he said.

He said all prevention and control measures "come at a price."

"All these efforts are worthwhile to protect people's life and health. Facts have proven that the overall guideline of dynamic zero-Covid is proper as it fits China's realities and has delivered desirable results," he added.

Covid: India reports 1st case of XE variant in Mumbai, fully jabbed woman found infected

MUMBAI, April 6: India's first case of the XE variant of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) was reported from Mumbai on Wednesday.

Results of the 11th genome sequencing declared by the city civic body Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC,) found one sample positive for XE variant and another for Kappa variant.

The individual who tested positive for the XE variant was a fully vaccinated 50-year-old women with no comorbidity and asymptomatic, BMC officials said. She had come from South Africa on February 10 and had no prior travel history. On arrival, she had tested negative for the virus.

The woman, a costume designer, had been inoculated against the virus with two doses the Comirnaty vaccine.

On March 2, in a routine test at Suburban diagnostics, she was found infected and was quarantined in a room in Taj Lands End. Officials said another test was done on the next day by Spice Health, where she tested negative.

The BMC had tested 230 samples which 99.13 per cent or 228 samples tested positive for the Omicron strain that had driven the spread of the virus earlier this year across the country.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had earlier said the new subvariant – ‘XE’ – a hybrid strain of two Omicron sub variants, could be the most transmissible coronavirus strain so far.

According to the global health body, early studies indicated the variant had a growth rate advantage of 10 per cent as compared to BA.2, one of the very contagious variants.

A study in UK, which is facing a fresh wave of infections, suggested that while there were signs of “community transmission” of XE in England, it remained less than one per cent of the totally sequenced coronavirus cases.

WHO Suspends UN Supply Of Covaxin; No Impact On Efficacy, Says Bharat Biotech

NEW DELHI, April 3: The World Health Organisation said on Saturday it has suspended supply through United Nations agencies of COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin, produced by India's Bharat Biotech, to allow the manufacturer to upgrade facilities and address deficiencies found in an inspection.

The WHO asked countries that have received the vaccine to take appropriate actions, according to the statement, but did not specify what the appropriate actions would be.

According to the WHO, it is "confirming the suspension of supply of Covaxin produced by Bharat Biotech, through UN procurement agencies and recommending to countries that received the vaccine to take actions as appropriate."

The WHO said the vaccine is effective and no safety concerns exist, but the suspension of production for export will result in the interruption of Covaxin supply.

It said the suspension is in response to the outcomes of WHO post emergency use listing (EUL) inspection conducted from March 14 to 22, and the vaccine maker has indicated its commitment to suspend production of Covaxin for export.

Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech today in a statement said there is "no impact on efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin". "For the millions who have received Covaxin, the vaccine certificates issued still stand valid as there is no impact on efficacy and safety of the vaccine," Bharat Biotech said in the statement.

Bharat Biotech said it is slowing down the production of Covaxin for facility optimisation. "For the coming period the company will focus on pending facility maintenance, process and facility optimization activities," it said.

The WHO said the company has "committed to comply by addressing the GMP (good manufacturing practice) deficiencies and is developing a corrective and preventive action plan, for submission to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) and WHO".



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