Union home minister Amit Shah on Sunday held a review meeting with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and other officials as the National Capital is facing a third wave of COVID-19.
Shah’s meeting in Delhi was attended by Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan, Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain and senior officers of the Central government. The meeting on Sunday was convened to devise a strategy to contain the spread of the virus in Delhi, especially in view of the festival season and the onset of winter accompanied by rising pollution.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government is gearing up to reopen places of worship from Monday.
In Manipur, Chief Minister N Biren Singh on Sunday said that he had tested positive for COVID-19. “I have tested positive for COVID-19. I request all those who came in close contact with me recently, to self isolate and get tested,” he tweeted.
A snapshot of the COVID-19 situation countrywide showed that 41,100 new cases on Sunday took the total caseload to 88,14,579. The Union health ministry added that the number of new cases in a day had remained below 50,000 for eight consecutive days.
India’s recovery rate rose to 93.09 percent with more than 82 lakh COVID-19 patients having recuperated so far. On the other hand, the toll climbed to 1,29,635 with 447 new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.
The number of active cases also remained below five lakh for the fifth consecutive day. There are 4,79,216 active cases in the country currently, which accounts for 5.44 percent of the total caseload, the ministry said.
RT-PCR tests in Delhi to be doubled, CAPF doctors to be deployed: Amit Shah
Taking stock of the situation in Delhi, Shah issued a slew of instructions in a bid to curb the surge of the virus in the National Capital. He was quoted by The Times of India as saying that the number of RT-PCR tests conducted will be doubled in the city, and the Centre will airlift additional doctors from CAPFs and paramedical staff, in view of shortage of health care workers.
“Mobile Testing Vans of ICMR and health ministry to be deployed at vulnerable spots. Few MCD hospitals to be converted into COVID-19 dedicated hospitals for treatment of COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms,” he also said, adding, “More oxygen cylinders, high flow nasal cannula and other necessary equipment will be made available to Delhi government by the Centre.”
He added, “Dedicated multi-department teams to visit all private hospitals in Delhi for inspection of availability of COVID-19 medical infrastructure, admission of patients and availability of beds.”
Factors like the festival season and air pollution have contributed to a surge in COVID-19 cases in Delhi over the last few weeks, officials have said. On Wednesday last week, Delhi recorded highest single-day spike of 8,593 cases.
Taking cognisance of the situation in the National Capital, Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla held a meeting with state and central officials on 2 November. Bhalla had attributed the third wave to festivals and a greater movement of people, accompanied by laxity in adhering to the basic principles of COVID-appropriate behaviour, PTI reported.
However, in a virtual press conference last week, Kejriwal asserted that pollution was the “biggest” reason for the spike in the cases.
Maharashtra govt’s SOPs for reopening places of worship tomorrow
Places of religious worship in Maharashtra, which have been shut since the COVID-19 lockdown in March, will reopen from Diwali ‘Padwa’ on Monday, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said.
As per the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) released by the state government, religious places located outside containment zones will be allowed to open as per the timings decided by authorities, and devotees will be allowed inside in a staggered manner.
The chief minister was repeatedly being targeted by the Opposition BJP for keeping the places of worship shut even as unlocking began in June. However, Thackeray had defended his decision saying it was difficult to follow physical distancing at the places of worship.
“Crowding will have to avoided. The reopening of religious places is not a government order, but the wish of the Almighty. Shoes will have to kept outside the premises and wearing masks is mandatory,” he said.
Only asymptomatic people will be allowed inside such places and wearing of a face mask is mandatory for devotees, as per the SOP.
The number of people to be allowed inside such places in a particular time slot will be decided based on the size of the structure and ventilation. Devotees will have to maintain social distancing while the authorities will have to conduct thermal scanning and make available hand wash or sanitiser.
Local authorities can further add any directions to these guidelines taking into consideration the local conditions.
“Only asymptomatic people will be allowed and staggering of visitors will be done. Footwear should be preferably taken off inside vehicles. Otherwise there should be separate slots for individuals or families. Seating arrangement should be made in such a way that proper social distancing is followed,” as per the guidelines.
Touching of statues, holy books, idols is not allowed and large gatherings continue to remain prohibited, as per the SOP. In view of the potential threat of spread of the coronavirus infection, only recorded devotional music should be played, and choir or singing groups are not allowed, it said.
Among other guidelines, common prayer mats should be avoided and devotees should bring their own prayer mats or pieces of cloth, which they can take back with them. Physical offering of ‘prasad’, distribution or sprinkling of holy water is not allowed.
Floors at places of worship should be cleaned multiple times in a day, and community kitchens and langars should follow physical distancing, the guidelines said. Workers at places of worship will have to undergo pre-joining and weekly COVID-19 tests for highly exposed groups, as per the SOP.
However, the government said that no decision has been made on reopening monuments in the state.
Life likely to return to normal by next winter: BioNTech scientist
Professor Ugur Sahin, who is the co-founder of BioNTech, was quoted by BBC as saying that the COVID-19 vaccine is likely to show “significant” effects by over the coming summer season (June-September in the UK) and “life is likely to get back to normal by next winter (December to March).”
Sahin, whose BioNTech is developing a COVID-19 vaccine in partnership with Pfizer and showcased encouraging analysis of the vaccine candidate last week, added that “this winter would still be hard as the vaccine would not have a big impact on infection numbers”.
Last week, the analysis showed the vaccine candidate could prevent over 90 percent of the total 43,000 volunteers from getting COVID-19.
“I’m very confident that transmission between people will be reduced by such a highly effective vaccine — maybe not 90 percent but maybe 50 percent — but we should not forget that even that could result in a dramatic reduction of the pandemic spread,” he was quoted by the report as saying.
The health ministry on Sunday said that 79.91 percent of the new recovered cases are contributed by ten states and UTs.
With 7,117 people recovering from COVID-19, Delhi saw the most number of recoveries. Kerala registered 6,793 daily recoveries, while West Bengal reported 4,479 new recoveries.
Ten states and UTs have contributed 82.87 percent of the new cases of coronavirus infection.
Delhi reported 7,340 cases in the last 24 hours. Kerala recorded 6,357 new cases, while Maharashtra reported 4,237 new infections in a span of 24 hours, the ministry said.
Of the 447 fatalities that have been reported in a day, 85.01 percent are from 10 states and UTs, with 23.5 percent of new fatalities reported from Maharashtra which reported 105 deaths. Delhi and West Bengal follow with 96 and 53 new deaths, respectively.
Twenty-one states and UTs have deaths per million lower than the national average of 94, the ministry said.
With inputs from agencies