The nationwide vaccination drive was rolled out on 16 January with healthcare workers getting inoculated while frontline workers began getting the shots from 2 February.
The second phase of the world’s largest vaccination campaign commenced on 1 March for those who are over 60 years of age and for people aged 45 and above with specified co-morbid conditions.
The government’s move to ease the age limit for coronavirus vaccination is expected to provide a big boost to the inoculation programme in the country amid a recent spurt in daily Covid-19 cases in some states.
In another major development, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued new guidelines, asking all states to enhance the proportion of RT-PCR tests, strictly enforce the ‘test-track-treat’ protocol and speed up the pace of vaccination to cover all priority groups.
All you need to know about India’s fight against Covid-19
India to vaccinate all above 45 from 1 April
Union minister Prakash Javadekar has said that now even people without comorbidities who are more than 45 years of age can get vaccinated.
“Today after discussion and on the advice of the task force and scientists, it was decided that from April 1 the vaccine will open for everybody above 45 years of age,” he said.
“Our appeal is that all above 45 years should take vaccine as early as possible, that will provide them the shield against coronavirus and they should register for getting vaccinated.”
Javadekar said the Cabinet also decided that the second dose of the vaccine can be taken between four and eight weeks, on the advice of doctors. It was allowed to be taken between four to six weeks earlier, but scientists have now said that taking the second dose between four and eight weeks gives improved results.
He said till this day, 4.85 crore doses of the vaccine against Covid-19 have been administered with more than 32 lakh people getting the jabs in the last 24 hours, which was the highest single-day vaccination so far.
Vaccines are available in enough number and there is no scarcity and the supply chains and supply line is intact, he said.
To a question on rise in Covid cases in some states, he said the central government is in touch with them and there will be effective management.
“We hope that virus would not be allowed to spread.”
Govt tells states to ‘test, track, treat’ to counter Covid surge
The government has issued a fresh set of guidelines directing all states and Union Territories (UT) to ‘test-track-treat’ in a bid to counter the renewed surge of coronavirus infections.
MHA has asked all states and UTs to enhance the proportion of RT-PCR tests, strictly enforce the ‘test-track-treat’ protocol and speed up the pace of vaccination to cover all priority groups.
The new set of guidelines issued by the MHA will be effective from 1 to 30 April.
The MHA noted in its guidelines that while the Covid vaccination drive is proceeding smoothly, the pace is uneven across different states and UTs and, the slow pace of vaccination in some states and UTs is a “matter of concern”.
The guidelines said the vaccination in the present scenario is critical to break the chain of transmission and hence all state and UT governments should rapidly step up the pace to cover all priority groups in an expeditious manner.
Delhi, Karnataka see record daily spike in cases
Delhi and Karnataka have registered a record spike in fresh Covid-19 cases. While Delhi saw an increase of 1101 new cases, its highest since December 19 last year, Karanataka added more than 2,000 cases in the last 24 hours.
Amid the surge and the state government’s measures to contain the spread, the Karnataka government had decided to make a negative Covid report not older than 72 hours mandatory for travellers from Punjab and Chandigarh. The government had already made the provision for those from Kerala and Maharashtra.
The rising number of coronavirus cases in Delhi prompted authorities to impose restrictions on Holi celebrations. Citing the prevailing Covid-19 situation, the AAP-led Delhi government has imposed a ban on Holi celebrations in public places.
Maharashtra’s Covid numbers
Maharashtra has reported 28,699 new Covid-19 cases, 13,165 recoveries, and 132 deaths in the last 24 hours.
According to the State Health Department, the total count of cases has gone up to 25,33,026 including 2,30,641 active cases and 22,47,495 recoveries.
Pune district reported 5,722 positive cases and 38 deaths in the last 24 hours.
The cumulative cases in the district stand at 4,79,521, while the total number of recoveries stand at 4,27,400.
There are 42,650 active cases in Pune. As many as 9,640 people in the district succumbed to the virus.
Mumbai reported 3,512 new Covid-19 cases taking the cumulative cases in the capital city to 3,69,426.
While 1,203 people have recovered from the disease, eight people succumbed to the virus in the last 24 hours.
Total recovered cases in the city stand at 3,29,234 and the death toll is 11,600, Mumbai has 27,672 active cases.
India’s total cases of mutant Covid-19 variants reach 795
The total number of cases with the UK, South Africa and Brazil variants of SARS-CoV-2 in the country has reached 795. From 400 cases reported on March 18, the infections by mutant strains have increased to 795 in the country.
Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey told Rajya Sabha on March 16 that no case of reinfection by mutant variants of SARS-CoV-2 virus has been reported from India so far.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in the three countries where the pandemic is being driven by the variant mutants of SARS-CoV-2 virus, namely the UK, South Africa and Brazil, the South African and Brazilian variants have the potential to reinfect persons who have been previously infected with SARS-CoV-2, he said in a written reply.
The UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 was first reported in India on December 29.
International flights remain suspended in India till April-end
In view of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Indian government on Tuesday extended the suspension on scheduled international passenger flights till 30 April, 2021.
“However, international scheduled flights may be allowed on selected routes by the competent authority on a case-to-case basis,” noted the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in a circular.
The circular said the suspension does not affect the operation of international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by the DGCA.
Scheduled international passenger services continue to remain suspended in India since March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic.