There is an upsurge in daily new COVID-19 cases in Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, according to the Union Health Ministry.

In the past week, Maharashtra exhibited a spike in the number of daily new cases. In the last 24 hours, 6,112 daily new cases have been reported in the State. Chhattisgarh reported 259 cases, Punjab 383 and Madhya Pradesh 297, said the Ministry.

Eighteen States/UTs have not reported any COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours and these include Telangana, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Tripura, Assam, Chandigarh, Lakshadweep, Manipur, Meghalaya, Ladakh (UT), Mizoram, Sikkim, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

 

You can track coronavirus cases, deaths and testing rates at the national and State levels here. A list of State Helpline numbers is available as well.

Here are the latest updates:

Nagpur

Maharashtra Minister postpones son’s wedding reception

Maharashtra Minister Nitin Raut said he was postponing his son’s wedding reception scheduled for Sunday due to the recent surge in coronavirus cases in Nagpur.

The wedding took place on February 19, a statement issued by the Minister’s family said.

Some Vidarbha districts, along with Mumbai and Pune, are witnessing a spike in COVID-19 cases over the past few days.

Mumbai

COVID-19 outbreak to affect 2021 as well, says health expert

An epidemiology and communicable diseases expert has predicted that the COVID-19 outbreak could be around all through 2021.

Speaking during a panel discussion on a Marathi news channel, Dr Raman Gangakhedkar, former Head Scientist of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases at Indian Council of Medical Research called the outbreak situation “complicated”.

“If anyone is under the illusion that the COVID-19 phase will end anytime soon, then they are mistaken. The coronavirus infection was there in 2020 and is likely to affect all of 2021,” he said.

Bangalore

Karnataka minister cautions people about possible second wave

Urging people to take necessary precautions, while cautioning about a possible second wave of COVID-19, Karnataka Health Minister K Sudhakar said that according to experts, the time till March end is crucial.

Also ruling out any COVID curbs like lockdown or curfew measures in Karnataka for now, he said the State has not come to that situation and all necessary precautions were being taken so that the State does not reach such a stage.

The Minister also said the health department is seeking cooperation from Home and Revenue departments besides district administrations to control COVID spread in districts bordering Kerala and Maharashtra, States that have seen a spike in cases in recent days.

Vaccination

AIIMS chief calls for PPP for large-scale rollout of vaccination programme

Terming the recent drop in COVID-19 cases in the country as a “small window of opportunity”, AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria on Saturday called for a public-private partnership (PPP) for rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme at a large scale.

Speaking at an AIMA event here, Mr. Guleria said the vaccine is the only weapon available to gain immunity and help reduce mortality rate due to the infectious disease.

He noted that there was a need to put healthcare at the centrestage and not consider it only as a service sector.

 

Manipur Anganwadi worker

Manipur Anganwadi worker dies a week after taking COVID-19 vaccine

A 48-year-old Anganwadi worker in Manipur has died a week after receiving her first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, officials said on Saturday.

W. Sundari Devi of Kumbi Terakha area in Bishunpur district had received her first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine on February 12 at Kumbhi primary health centre (PHC), they said.

She was taken to the Moirang community health centre (CHC) on February 18 as she had breathing problems and died at the CHC on Friday.

Health Department officials said that a special team will conduct the post-mortem of the deceased to ascertain the true cause of the death.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister N. Biren Singh met the family members of Sundari and heard their grievances. He expressed deep condolences and assured the family members of suitable compensation duly considering the post-mortem report. – PTI

United States

Biden believes U.S. will be approaching normalcy by end of this year

President Joe Biden has said that he believes the U.S. will be approaching normalcy by the end of this year as the country races to deliver coronavirus vaccines to millions of Americans.

Mr. Biden on Friday toured a manufacturing facility of Pfizer in Kalamazoo, Michigan, seeking to highlight efforts to mass produce a coronavirus vaccine as his administration looks for ways to increase supply and streamline distribution.

“I believe we’ll be approaching normalcy by the end of this year. And God willing, this Christmas will be different than the last,” Mr. Biden said responding to a question at the site in Michigan.

At the same time, he refused to make any commitment. – PTI

Gap between vaccine jabs

Three month gap between Oxford vaccine jabs provides better efficacy: Study

A three-month interval between doses of the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine results in higher vaccine efficacy than a six-week gap, according to a new study which says the first dose can offer up to 76 % protection in the months between the two jabs.

The results of the analysis from a phase 3 randomised controlled trial, published in The Lancet journal, suggest that the interval between doses can be safely extended to three months given the protection a single dose offers.

According to the researchers, including those from the University of Oxford in the UK, this dosage regimen is beneficial while vaccine supplies are initially limited, and may allow countries to immunise a larger proportion of the population more rapidly.

“Vaccine supply is likely to be limited, at least in the short term, and so policy-makers must decide how best to deliver doses to achieve the greatest public health benefit,” said study lead author Professor Andrew Pollard from the University of Oxford. – PTI

National

13,993 new cases, highest in 22 days

Daily COVID-19 cases in the country climbed to about 14,000 after nearly 22 days taking India’s tally to 1,09,77,387, while the recoveries surged to 1,06,78,048, according to Union Health Ministry data updated on Saturday.

A total of 13,993 new cases were registered in a span of 24 hours. The death toll increased to 101 daily new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.

On January 29, 18,855 daily cases were recorded.

The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 1,06,78,048 which translates to a national recovery rate of 97.27 per cent and the case fatality rate stands at 1.42 per cent.

The COVID-19 active caseload remained below 1.5 lakh.

There are 1,43,127 active cases of coronavirus infections in the country which comprise 1.27 per cent of the total caseload, the data stated.

According to the ICMR, 21,02,61,480 samples have been tested up to February 19, with 7,86,618 samples being tested on Friday.

The 101 new fatalities included 44 deaths from Maharashtra, 15 from Kerala and 8 from Punjab

Maharashtra

No foreign virus strain in Maharashtra

Maharashtra State health department denied the presence of any new virus strain in the samples tested from Amravati, Yavatmal and Satara. The latest surge has taken the number of active cases to 44,765. Mumbai city, along with Pune, Nagpur and Amravati districts contributed to 40% of the surge.

 

Argentina

Argentina’s Health Minister resigns amid vaccine scandal

President Alberto Fernández asked Argentina’s Health Minister to resign after a well-known local journalist said he had been given a coronavirus vaccination preferentially after requesting one from the Minister, a government official said Saturday.

ThePresident “instructed his chief of staff to request the resignation of Health Minister” Ginés González García, who is in charge of the government’s COVID-19 strategy, said the official, who was not authorised to release the information and spoke on condition of anonymity. He did not say who would replace Mr.González García.

 

Vaccine storage

Pfizer vaccine can be stored at low temperatures for two weeks, company claims

On Friday, the U.S.-based Pfizer claimed that its COVID-19 vaccine is stable when stored in low temperatures of minus 25°C to minus 15°C, which are commonly found in pharmaceutical freezers and refrigerators.

In a release, the company said data had been submitted to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to support a proposed update to the U.S. Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) Prescribing Information. It claimed that the vaccine could be stored at low temperatures for a “total of two weeks as an alternative or complement to storage in an ultra-low temperature freezer”.

 

Hyderabad

‘Enhanced genome studies, social vaccine can keep check on new coronavirus mutations’

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 genome has evolved as it transmits through its human hosts, but luckily the novel variants worrying many countries globally have had a low prevalence here. But, the low prevalence of — immune-escape ‘E484K’ mutation and the ‘N501Y’ mutation with higher transmission rate — could also be simply because not enough sequencing has been done.

“More coronavirus genomes need to be sequenced across the country to accurately identify the emergence of these two and any other new variants,” asserted CSIR-CCMB Director Rakesh Mishra on Friday.

(With inputs from our Correspondents, agencies)