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Covid-19: ‘Distributed curve’ due to ‘very effective’ lockdown, says govt




NEW DELHI: Amid a spurt in Covid-19 cases, the government on Tuesday said India learnt from the experience of nations that suffered high mortality and was able to “distribute the curve” of the coronavirus infection due to a “very effective” lockdown and avoid the “huge peak” those countries had in terms of deaths. At a press briefing, Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Dr Balram Bhargava, also said reinfection was “very, very rare” with Covid-19, but it can happen.

Bhargava, however, said it was not a matter of serious concern.

The government also asserted that there is absolutely “no shortage” of medical oxygen, vital in the treatment of coronavirus patients, at the national level, while urging states to ensure a proper inventory management at hospital-level and advance planning for timely replenishment so that there is no stockout.

Asserting that India has one of the largest number of Covid-19 recoveries, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said there are 14 states and union territories (UTs) in the country where the number of active cases are less than 5,000.

Bhushan said there are 18 states and UTs in the country where the total number of active cases are between 5,000 and 50,000, while there are only four states with more than 50,000 active cases.

“India’s Covid-19 recoveries have surged to more than 38.59 lakh, which is one of the highest in the world. According to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, this is the highest number of recoveries in the world,” he said.

India’s Covid-19 caseload sprinted past 49 lakh with 83,809 people testing positive in a day, while 38,59,399 people have recuperated so far taking the national recovery rate to 78.28 per cent on Tuesday, according to the Union Health Ministry data. The total number of coronavirus cases mounted to 49,30,236, while the death toll climbed to 80,776 with 1,054 people succumbing to the disease in a span of 24 hours, the official data showed.

Talking about India’s Covid-19 fight, Bhargava said, “If you look at the countries of Europe and the United States, they had a peak and then they came down and during that peak whether it was Spain, the UK or Sweden or Italy, there were huge number of mortalities. Then there was a peak which came down and then they had a second wave which is recently occurring in those countries.”

“Fortunately, we took learnings from that in India and we were able to, what we call, ‘distribute the curve’. We distributed the curve in such a way that we did not have those large number of deaths and that was attributable scientifically because of a very effective lockdown that was imposed in the months late March, April and May. So, we did not really have a huge peak from that perspective,” he said.

The National Task Force on Covid-19 and the joint monitoring group (JMG) in the Union Health Ministry will take a decision on whether to continue plasma therapy in the treatment of Covid-19 patients in India after reviewing data of its randomised controlled trial, Bhargava said.

Asserting that there has been a progressive rise in India’s Covid-19 testing, Health Secretary Bhushan said, “We took 27 days to double our testing from 1 crore to 2 crore. However, we took only 10 days to jump from 4 crore tests to 5 crore tests.”

More than 5.8 crore tests have been conducted so far, out of which, more than 76 lakh tests were conducted in the last week.

“The number of tests that a state or UT conducts has to be seen in tandem with the rate of positivity reported by them. Because test numbers on its own would not give any significant input to us. If in spite of a large number of tests being conducted, if the positivity remains high the state or UT needs to ramp up the testing further,” Bhushan underlined.

In this context, he said Maharashtra has a positivity rate of 21.5 per cent and hence, requires to increase testing.

Similarly, states like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh which have a positivity rate of above 12 per cent will have to further ramp up their testing.

The health secretary stressed that states should aspire to keep their positivity rate below the national average of 8.4 per cent. Presently, active cases of the infection (9,90,061) are only one-fifth of the total Covid-19 cases so far, he said.

Five states –Maharashtra (29.5%), Karnataka (9.9%), Andhra Pradesh (9.4%), Uttar Pradesh (6.8%) and Tamil Nadu (4.7%)- account for 60 per cent of the total active cases in the country, Bhushan said.

He presented a graph showing the daily average of new cases on a week-on-week basis, starting from first week of July in the top five states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

The graph shows an increasing trend of cases in Maharashtra, while stabilization is observed over the last three weeks in Karnataka, he stated.

Again, the graph of Uttar Pradesh shows a rising trend, while stabilization over the last three weeks is also observed in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu shows initial signs of decline in the number of cases, Bhushan highlighted.

A rising trend of deaths is also observed in Uttar Pradesh, while Andhra Pradesh is showing early signs of decline over the last three weeks and Tamil Nadu is showing signs of decline over the last four weeks, he said.

India’s cases per million population at 3,573 is amongst the lowest in the world, while the global average is 3,704, Bhushan said.

He also underlined that India’s Covid-19 deaths per million population at 58 is also amongst the lowest in the world, against global average of 118. While addressing a query on sero-survey, Bhargava stated, the national sero-survey, which was done in April-May and is being repeated after three months, has been completed in 68 out of 70 districts.

After analysis of the results by this month end, the two studies can be compared. He added that sero-survey also brings out infection fatality rate, which was found to be between 0.5-0.6 in the last national sero-survey, which was much below that in many other countries.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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Govt will need 80,000 crore for Covid vaccine, says Serum CEO




MUMBAI: The government may need Rs 80,000 crore over the next one year for distribution of Covid-19 vaccine and immunization of the country’s population, Adar Poonawalla, CEO and promoter of the world’s largest vaccine producer, Serum Institute, said on Saturday.

Calling it the “next concerning challenge”, which needs to be tackled, Poonawalla posted a tweet tagging the Prime Minister’s Office, which read: “We need to plan and guide vaccine manufacturers both in India and overseas to service the needs of our country in terms of procurement and distribution.”

Serum has tie ups with global manufacturers AstraZeneca and Novavax for potential Covid-19 vaccines, which are currently undergoing clinical trials. The tweet, perceived by many as alarming, also raised concerns over the government’s ability to fund the massive vaccine programme.

“The government has assured that there will be plenty of funds available for vaccines. We have now been assured by the highest levels in the government that enough funds will be available for vaccine procurement, supply and logistics. This is good news,” Poonawalla told TOI, when contacted.

While addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday PM Modi said that as the world’s largest vaccine producing country, India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help people across the world.

Although further details on Poonawala’s calculations were not immediately available, sources said, it could be assuming the benchmark price of $3-5 per dose, and including two doses for the over 1.3 billion population.

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Congress may rope in Prashant Kishor for 2022 Punjab election




NEW DELHI: Pollster Prashant Kishor may get to manage Congress in the Punjab elections scheduled for early 2022. Party sources said CM Amarinder Singh is in talks with the former JD(U) member and election strategist, and a decision may be announced soon.

While Kishor is likely to get the contract for advance poll planning in the state, Congress members said he could even get an official perch to manage the affairs. Kishor had widely been credited with helping Congress ride back to power in the state in 2017. A senior AICC manager said the talks are being held by the chief minister and that the party is not involved in the negotiations.

While speculations about Kishor coming on board the Congress campaign in Punjab have been on for a while, it is only now it appears to be reaching a finality. Having been expelled from JD(U) following a scrap with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, Kishor is said to be on the lookout for a new political platform – a reason why there are also speculations that he is looking for an entry in Congress.

Well-placed sources in Congress said Kishor has a direct line with the Gandhi siblings, a reason why not many are willing to hazard a guess about the pollster. There is some confusion in Congress ranks about Kishor.

Sources said a possible reason for CM Singh to get Kishor on board in Punjab would be to ensure that he does not work for Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP, which is set to make a strong pitch in the state in the next polls.

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India slams Pakistan PM at UNGA for terror export




NEW DELHI: After Pakistan PM Imran Khan again raised the Kashmir issue at UNGA, India slammed Pakistan saying terrorism was its only crowning glory. Exercising its Right of Reply, the Indian mission also accused Khan of warmongering and of using the multilateral forum to spread lies, misinformation and malice.

“This august forum witnessed a new low on its 75th anniversary. The leader of Pakistan today called for those who incite hate and violence to be outlawed. But as he went on, we were left wondering, was he referring to himself?” said Mijito Vinito, the first secretary in the permanent mission of India to the UN, Mijito Vinito, exercising India’s Right of Reply.

The only crowning glory, he said, that this country has to show to the world for the last 70 years is terrorism, ethnic cleansing, majoritarian fundamentalism and clandestine nuclear trade. “This hall heard the incessant rant of someone who had nothing to show for himself, who had no achievements to speak of and no reasonable suggestion to offer to the world. Instead, we saw lies, misinformation, war mongering and malice spread through this Assembly,” he added.

Pakistan later exercised its right of reply too, in which it claimed that Jammu & Kashmir was never a part of India. Alluding to the “stellar record” of Pakistan, Vinito said this is the country that has the “dubious distinction” of hosting the largest number of terrorists proscribed by the United Nations, a reference to terror masterminds such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) head Masood Azhar.

“This is the same country that provides pensions for dreaded and listed terrorists out of state funds. The leader whom we heard today is the same person who referred to terrorist Osama Bin Laden as a ‘martyr’ in the Pakistani Parliament in July,” Vinito said.

He added that it is Pakistan that brought genocide to south Asia 39 years ago when it killed its own people and it is also the country that is “shameless enough” not to offer a sincere apology for the horrors it perpetratedeven after so many years. India asserted in its Right of Reply that Khan, “who spewed venom today”, admitted in 2019 in public in the US that his country still has about 30,000-40,000 terrorists, who have been trained by Pakistan and have fought in Afghanistan and in the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

“This is the country that has systematically cleansed its minorities , including Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and others, through the abuse of its blasphemy laws and through forced religious conversions,” Vinito said.

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