Like every wave in the past, cases fuelled by the Omicron variant of COVID-19 have initially spread only in the urban areas. However, many rural and semi-rural places recorded a sharp spike in infections in the past week. At the start of this year, 50% of the cases were from urban centres such as Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata. However, the share reduced to 35% by Wednesday.
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Here are the updates:
Odisha activates telemedicine service for non-COVID patients
Keeping in view the risk to non-COVID patients in accessing medical facilities in hospitals amid a surge in coronavirus cases, the Odisha government has allowed the activation of telemedicine service for them.
The State government on Thursday issued an order asking telemedicine platforms to provide distance medical assistance to the needy.
“The present COVID-19 situation has raised a big challenge to the accessibility of patients to hospitals for general healthcare. Taking the situation into account, it has been decided to use telemedicine centres effectively and proactively established in medical colleges and other hospitals,” the notification said. -PTI
Daily rise in COVID-19 cases highest in 239 days
India saw a single day jump of 2,64,202 new coronavirus infections, the highest in 239 days, taking the total tally of COVID-19 cases to 3,65,82,129 which includes 5,753 cases of the Omicron variant, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Friday.
There has been a 4.83% increase in Omicron cases since Thursday.
The active cases have increased to 12,72,073, the highest in 220 days, while the death toll has climbed to 4,85,350 with 315 fresh fatalities, the data updated at 8 am stated.
The active cases comprises 3.48% of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has decreased to 95.20%, the ministry said. -PTI
Indonesia approves Merck’s COVID-19 pill for emergency use
Indonesia has approved Merck & Co Inc’s COVID-19 antiviral pill molnupiravir for emergency use, the country’s food and drug agency said in a statement.
A batch of 400,000 pills had arrived in Indonesia, health minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said this week. The pill was jointly developed by U.S.-based Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. -Reuters
After six-week surge, Africa’s Omicron-driven fourth pandemic wave flattens: WHO
Africa’s fourth pandemic wave, driven primarily by the Omicron variant, is flattening after a six-week surge, the WHO has said even as it stressed that the shortest-lived surge to date in the continent was “steep and brief but no less destabilising.” The new Omicron variant was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on November 24. The World Health Organisation (WHO) on November 26 declared it as a variant of concern.
“Early indications suggest that Africa’s fourth wave has been steep and brief but no less destabilising. The crucial pandemic countermeasure badly needed in Africa still stands, and that is rapidly and significantly increasing COVID-19 vaccinations. The next wave might not be so forgiving,” WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said. -PTI
WHO approves two new COVID-19 treatments
The World Health Organization approved two new COVID-19 treatments on Friday, growing the arsenal of tools along with vaccines to stave off severe illness and death from the virus.
The news comes as Omicron cases fill hospitals around the world with the WHO predicting half of Europe will be infected by March.
In their recommendation in British medical Journal the BMJ, WHO experts said arthritis drug baricitinib used with corticosteroids to treat severe or critical Covid patients led to better survival rates and reduced need for ventilators. -AFP
Pfizer says it applied for Japanese govt approval for oral COVID-19 drug
Pfizer Inc said on Friday it applied for Japanese government approval for its oral COVID-19 treatment.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said last month he spoke with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla to secure 2 million doses of Pfizer’s antiviral pill. -Reuters
Greece extends curbs, calls in army on Covid tests
Greece’s health minister said on Thursday the army would help boost Covid-19 testing after extending entertainment restrictions to contain the Omicron variant.
In a radio interview, Health Minister Thanos Plevris said 50 additional free testing locations would be set up near army camps, after days of long queues at pharmacies. -AFP
Biden to double free COVID-19 tests, add N95s, to fight omicron
President Joe Biden announced Thursday that the government will double to 1 billion the rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests to be distributed free to Americans, along with the most protective N95 masks, as he highlighted his efforts to “surge” resources to help the country weather the spike in coronavirus cases.
Biden also announced that starting next week 1,000 military medical personnel will begin deploying across the country to help overwhelmed medical facilities ease staff shortages due to the highly transmissible omicron variant. -AP
U.S. Supreme Court halts COVID-19 vaccine rule for businesses
The Supreme Court has stopped the Biden administration from enforcing a requirement that employees at large businesses be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing and wear a mask on the job.
At the same time, the court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the US.
DDMA permits CAs, income tax practitioners to work from offices
The DDMA on Thursday included offices of chartered accountants (CAs) and income tax practitioners in the list of ‘exempted category’ permitted to work from their offices amid the rising number of Covid cases in Delhi.
The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) in an order on Tuesday had directed the closure of all private offices, except those in exempted categories as coronavirus cases witnessed a sharp rise in the national capital.
The relaxation was granted to CAs and income tax practitioners to work from their offices in consideration of a letter from the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), Ministry of Finance, which requested exemption to them. -PTI
Hungary to offer fourth virus jab as Omicron spreads
Hungary said Thursday it will offer a fourth coronavirus vaccine dose to citizens, after a consultation with a doctor amid a rapid rise in Covid-19 infection cases.
Denmark is the first EU country to offer a fourth dose to citizens. -AFP
Haryana extends Covid curbs across the State
Amid a spurt in Covid cases, the Haryana government on Thursday extended various restrictions in all over the state.
The restrictions imposed by January 5 order in “Group A” districts, which had witnessed a big spike in cases, shall now be imposed in all districts, the Haryana State Disaster Management Authority (HSDMA) said. -PTI
Delhi govt suspends routine, elective surgeries at LNJP, GTB hospitals
The Delhi government has suspended routine and elective surgeries at the LNJP and the GTB hospitals to deal with the surging coronavirus cases in the national capital, officials said.
Delhi on Thursday reported 28,867 COVID-19 cases, the sharpest single-day spike since the pandemic began, and 31 deaths, while the positivity rate surged to 29.21 per cent, according to health department data. Delhi’s previous biggest daily jump of 28,395 cases was recorded on April 20 last year. -PTI
Most COVID patients in Ernakulam in 30-45 age group
People in the 30-45 age group have been found to be more infected in the latest spike in COVID-19 cases in Ernakulam, according to the Health department.
The surge in cases among this age group may be due to their frequent movement in public spaces compared to the other age groups, including the elderly. With most of them having taken two doses of the vaccine, they may have visited crowded places or attended public functions, especially at the time of Christmas and New Year celebrations, said Dr. V. Jayashree, District Medical Officer.
70 of 97 COVID deaths were unvaccinated people: Delhi govt. data
Almost three-fourths of the 97 COVID-related deaths in the Capital between January 9 and 12 were of unvaccinated people, as per Delhi government data.
Seventy of the 97 people who died were unvaccinated and 19 had taken only one dose of the vaccine, while only eight had taken both doses of the vaccine.
Karnataka seeks central assistance to raise the number of oxygenated beds and oxygen plants
Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Thursday sought central assistance to raise the number of oxygenated beds and oxygen plants in the state.
Bommai sought the assistance today while taking part in a video conference held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chief Ministers of various states over the COVID-19 situation in the country. -PTI
Maharashtra seeks more Covaxin doses for precautionary shot
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh tope on Thursday said the state has sought additional stocks of Covaxin for providing precautionary or booster dose to co-morbid people aged above 60, health and frontline workers.
Mr. Tope, who participated in a virtual meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the prevailing COVID-19 situation in the country, later told reporters that the state has sought 40 lakh doses of Covaxin. -PTI
Bengaluru civic body issues new advisory for apartment complexes
With containment zones predominantly in apartment complexes, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) on Thursday issued a new advisory urging residents to avoid gyms, swimming pools, and other sports facilities. Events and gatherings at club houses or community halls should be avoided
The advisory also makes clear the containment strategy. If there is a single case on a floor, individual flats on that floor shall be declared as a containment zone. If there are three cases in one floor, the entire floor shall be a containment zone.
If there are 10 cases in a tower, either single on a floor or on multiple floors, the entire tower will be deemed a containment zone. In instances where there are 50 cases in an apartment complex of 50-100 households, or fewer than a hundred cases in a complex with less than 100 households, the entire complex will be declared as a containment zone.
Third wave sees cases doubling every two days
The COVID-19 virus is spreading rapidly during the third wave of the pandemic, with cases doubling every two days or so. In the first wave, it took around 10-12 days, while the doubling time was eight days during the second wave.
But in the third wave, cases are doubling every two or two-and-a-half days, said Health and Family Welfare Minister K. Sudhakar on Thursday.
‘Children out of school will also be vaccinated’
With the vaccination drive for the 15-18 age group under way, the Government is contemplating measures to ensure that eligible beneficiaries who are out of school are also covered.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister B.C. Nagesh said here on Thursday that measures such as organising camps for children who are out of school for various reaons will be undertaken to get them vaccinated.