New Delhi:India reported 48,698 new Covid-19 cases and 1,183 deaths on Saturday, according to data from the Union Health Ministry.
The total number of coronavirus cases in the country now stand at 3,01,83,143 while the overall death toll has touched 3,94,493. There are 5,95,565 active cases in the country at present while as many as 2,91,93,085 people have recovered from the disease, the ministry said.
The active caseload has dropped below six lakh – the lowest since April 1 when there were 5.84 COVID-19 cases. As of Saturday morning there are 5.95 lakh cases in India. The national daily positivity rate – the percentage of tests returning positive results – is 2.79 per cent; it has stayed below the five per cent danger level for 19 consecutive days.
61.19 lakh vaccine doses were administered in the last 24 hours, as the government looks to ramp up vaccination amid concern over a third wave. Nearly 31 crore doses have been administered since January 16, but the daily numbers are still far below the high recorded on June 21 – over 90 lakh doses were given then.
There are 48 cases of the ‘delta plus’ variant across 11 states, the Health Ministry said Friday, insisting the spread is “very localised”. Maximum cases so far have been reported from Maharashtra (20), with Tamil Nadu recording nine and Madhya Pradesh 7.
The ‘delta plus’ variant is a ‘variant of concern’ and the government has urged three states, including Maharashtra, to take “immediate steps”. Maharashtra has reported its first ‘delta plus’-linked death and district officials are to impose Level 3 restrictions till further notice. Madhya Pradesh has also reported a death due to this variant.
Concerns over the ‘delta plus’ strain have led to renewed calls to increase pace of vaccinations. It has also led to calls to reduce the 85-day gap between the required two doses of the vaccine; research suggests a single dose is only 33 per cent effective in guarding against the virus, while both doses offer nearly 90 per cent protection.
The government has said Covishield and Covaxin offer protection against variants of concern – ‘alpha’, ‘beta’, ‘gamma’ and ‘delta’. Both vaccines are effective even if they offer “slightly reduced” antibody responses, the government said. Covaxin has a three-fold reduction and Covishield a two-fold reduction against the ‘delta’ variant.
In a major policy change Friday the government said pregnant women can be vaccinated. Until as recently as last month lactating women were eligible but pregnant women were not; the government said this was due to a lack of safety and efficacy data since clinical trials for vaccines do not typically include pregnant women as participants.
Children, however, remain ineligible. Some countries have said those under 18 are now being infected, but the government has cited a lack of relevant data to quell concerns. Nevertheless, next month’s sero survey will include 14,000 kids over the age of six, and trials to test vaccine efficacy on below-18 demographic have begun.
A political row erupted Friday between Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party and the centre over claims the city “exaggerated” oxygen needs by four times at the peak of the second wave. The AAP insisted the report – which central source said is an interim document by a Supreme Court-appointed team – is “malicious and false” propaganda.
The WHO has slammed the world’s richer countries for hoarding vaccines and refusing to share unused stocks with poorer nations. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus flagged the situation in Africa, where new infections and deaths jumped nearly 40 per cent last week compared to the previous week.