Impose local curbs during upcoming festivals amid Covid surge: Centre tells states

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As Covid-19 cases in the country surge to record over 40,000 new infections on Wednesday, the Union Health Ministry has asked states to consider imposing local restrictions in wake of upcoming festivals and possible social gatherings to curb the spread of virus.

In a letter, Union Health Additional Secretary wrote to Chief Secretaries/Administrators of states and UTs saying,” may consider imposing local restrictions in public observations of Holi, Shab-e-Barat, Bihu, Easter and Eid-ul-Fitr and limit mass gatherings”.

“Any laxity at this point in ensuring strict adherence to various SoPs issued by MoHFW to contain the spread of CoVID-19, may result in losing the impetus and benefits that our country has gained so far in managing the virus. Strict adherence to CoVID appropriate behaviour in public places and gatherings is the key to break the chain of transmission and reduce the incidence of cases in the country,” the statement further read.

Meanwhile, India has detected a new “double mutant variant” of the novel coronavirus, the health ministry said on Wednesday, adding to concern as the government struggles with the highest single-day tally of new infections and deaths this year.

Genome sequencing and analysis of samples from Maharashtra state found mutations in the virus that do not match previously catalogued “variants of concern” (VOC), the ministry said in a statement.

Maharashtra is one of India’s worst-affected states but the ministry said it was not clear if the new variant was causing an upsurge there or in other states.

“Though VOCs and a new double mutant variant have been found in India, these have not been detected in numbers sufficient to either establish a direct relationship or explain the rapid increase in cases in some states,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Ministry also said that 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, it said,

With the Union Health Ministry highlighting that six states have reported a surge in daily new cases and accounted for nearly 81 per cent of the new infections in the country, the Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) issued new guidelines asking all states and union territories to enhance proportion of RT-PCR tests, strictly enforce ‘test-track-treat’ protocol and speed up the pace of vaccination to cover all priority groups.

It also said that COVID-19 vaccine will be made available for everyone above 45 years from April 1 in order to expand the inoculation drive amid a surge in new cases with the doubling time having sharply reduced since the start of this month.

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