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Active Covid Cases Rising Again

NEW DELHI, Feb 23: For the fifth consecutive day, the active Covid-19 cases in India kept rising on Tuesday going past 1.5 lakh mark again after a gap of 17 days and the total infections crossing 1.10 crore.

According to the Union Health Ministry data, the surge in active cases is due to Maharashtra, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh reporting a spike in the daily infections.

In Maharashtra which till February 10 was witnessing a flattening of both new and active cases, began recording a jump in infections. From February 1 to 9, Maharashtra recorded an average of 2,489 cases a day. In the same period, active cases fell from 43,701 to 34,640. Due to faster recovery numbers, active cases fell to 30,265 on February 11.

From February 10, the number of infections has only risen. Since then, until February 22, Maharashtra has added 59,937 new cases, averaging 4,610 cases daily and active cases have risen to 53,113. As many as 22,848 cases have been reported in 11 days.

In terms of the proportion of deaths, too, Maharashtra is the worst-hit in the country. On Friday, 44 of India’s 100 Covid-19 deaths (44%) were in Maharashtra. Overall, of the 144,329 deaths recorded in India till February 22, Maharashtra accounted for 53,113 or 36.8%. Only Kerala with 55,468 deaths, has more Covid fatalities in absolute terms.

The government and the local bodies have been alarmed at the rise, most of which has been reported in Vidarbha, Pune, and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), which includes Thane district, one of the largest in India.

The Health department officials say that they have been unable to pinpoint the exact reasons for the sudden surge. Some of them attribute it to laxity in Covid-appropriate behaviour, weather, a possible mutation of the virus in the Vidarbha region, local elections, and social events such as weddings that were put on hold in 2020.

Mumbai reported a jump of 11.42% in active cases between February 10 (5,372) and February 22 (5,986). Mumbai’s overall caseload is now 319,889, the highest for any city in the country, except Delhi where the caseload on February 22 was 638,028.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) took stock of its preparedness on Monday, four days after it issued a new set of strict guidelines for the city. It warned cases will be filed against those breaking home quarantine rules. BMC said new containment zones will be created in buildings with over five Covid-19 cases. It will allow the police to penalise people for not wearing masks in public places.

Following the surge in cases in Maharashtra and Kerala, Karnataka has created a series of check posts across the Karnataka-Maharashtra border in Belagavi, Bagalkot, Vijayapura, Kalaburagi and Bidar districts to make sure that those entering the State have COVID-19 negative reports.

Posters were put up stating that RT-PCR negative certificate was mandatory for crossing into Karnataka.

Continuing to take stricter measures to check re-surge of Corona, the Karnataka government announced that marshals would be deployed at marriage halls and at events to ensure adherence to COVID-19 protocols.

Speaking to reporters Minister for Health and Medical Education K. Sudhakar admitted that VVIPs, VIPs were also not following the COVID-19 protocols recommended by the Technical Advisory Committee.

“Even when we attend events, organisers ask us to remove the mask. Protocols are routinely flouted. Marshals will levy fines against all violators. A circular has been issued with regard to their deployment,” he said and remarked that it was “unfortunate” that protocols were violated by leaders and thousands who participated in the Panchamasali rally in the city on Sunday.

In Gujarat the State government has decided to set up border check posts to screen people coming from neighbouring States, including Maharashtra, through roads.

The decision to conduct coronavirus test on people coming to Gujarat has been taken in view of “continuous increase in COVID-19 cases in the neighbouring states like Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh”, said a government release.

Apart from setting up border check posts at entry points, the State government has also decided to start screening of passengers arriving at major railway stations like Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot and Bhavnagar from different parts of the country by trains, it said.

Screening booths will also be created at all the major airports of Gujarat, the release said.

Meanwhile, acclaimed virologists and government officials, who participated in BioAsia-2021, which began on Monday, said they were not surprised that the novel coronavirus has mutated and that there are new strains of the virus. What is, however, is important is that there are the consequences of the new variants and its biological effect, they added.

The focus on the first day of the two-day BioAsia 2021 was Global Health and COVID-19. As part of it, virtual panel discussions on ‘Immunising the world’ and ‘COVID-19 – hits, misses, and hidden pandemic’ were held on Monday.

A senior official of the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) has underlined the role India can play in accelerating COVID-19 vaccine supplies globally and ensuring equitable distribution.

“We will need to collaborate, to do our part in the US to be able to export as much vaccines as we can. But we want India and others to do all of the production that they can to help us globally,” said Peter Marks, director of Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, USFDA.

Taking questions after his virtual keynote address at BioAsia 2021, Marks said India and US are in very “good mutual alignment” and ought to use the mutual pharmaceutical capacities to help bring an end to the pandemic.

(Manas Dasgupta)