Asserting that there is clear indication that pollution is a major contributor to COVID-19 mortality, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said on Tuesday that children who were earlier thought to be better protected against the virus were now showing some evidence of being spreaders or even super-spreaders.
“This has been seen in Mizoram, where the number of active COVID cases is small. Children (under 17) form only a very small portion (8%) of the total active cases across India,” ICMR Director-General Balram Bhargava said
Here are the latest updates:
At workplaces, de-densification hacks take centrestage
A Colliers’ India survey says most companies are now evaluating lowering workplace density by up to 20%. It also says that until the pandemic subsides, de-densification of workplaces will push companies to scout for more space.
A majority of them have adopted cost-effective solutions, such as staggered timings, reduced shifts or alternate duty-rosters.
Lockdown brings spotlight back on bicycles
The COVID-19 pandemic has made many pick up cycling to boost their fitness level and some have even started cycling to work. However, many cyclists complain of lack of safety and stress the need to have adequate infrastructure to encourage cycling.
The Greater Chennai Corporation has set up bicycle lanes of 17 km on two stretches in the city. However, these lanes are mostly occupied by cars and other vehicles, forcing the cyclists to fight for space on the main road. “I used to cycle from Royapuram to my office on Anna Salai till September. However, after traffic increased, I stopped. Drivers of big vehicles do not respect cyclists and since there is no dedicated lane on main roads, it feels risky,” said S.K. Prabhu, who now commutes by a motor vehicle to work.
The fear lingering in the minds of cyclists like him are not unfounded as 45 cyclists were killed and 143 were injured in the city in road accidents in 2019. However, despite the risks, many people continue to cycle.
Decentralised committees to enforce rules on masks, social distancing
With an aim of putting in place more stringent measures to ensure people wear masks covering their mouth and nose, and maintain social distancing in public, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has formed four committees, at the ward, division, zonal levels, and BBMP head office level.
The BBMP head office committee, which has eight senior officials, will monitor enforcement in the entire city.
According to an order issued by the BBMP Commissioner: “It is observed that in spite of large IEC activities and appeal to citizens to wear masks and maintain social distancing in all public places, it is found that some citizens are blatantly violating the COVID-19 directives and, accordingly, a penalty of ₹250 is being imposed for every such wilful violation.”
The BBMP has provided handheld devices to all police stations, 220 marshals, and health inspectors to levy fines. A fine of ₹250 is being levied for not wearing masks and not maintaining social distancing in public places.
Panel to chalk out modalities of vaccination in Karnataka
The Karnataka government will within a week form a committee to look into the modalities of distribution of COVID-19 vaccine, said Health and Family Welfare and Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar. The State could have access to the vaccine early in 2021, he said.
He was speaking at a press conference after a meeting with the officials of AstraZeneca, one of the firms involved in research and trial of COVID-19 vaccine. The Minister said that the company, in collaboration with Serum Institute, Pune, has been conducting vaccine trials in the country and has also been conducting trials in collaboration with Oxford University.
When asked if the vaccine would be provided to people in the State free of cost, Dr. Sudhakar said no decision had been made in this regard. “The vaccine is still in the trial stage. Once it is out, our State government would take a decision,” he said. Earlier, Deputy Chief Minister C.N. Ashwath Narayan had announced free vaccination for all.
Kerala gears up to tackle post-COVID syndrome
The Health Department is in the process of drawing up a protocol for following up an ever increasing pool – which has already crossed three lakh now – of persons who have recovered from COVID-19 but who might be experiencing “long COVID” or the post-COVID syndrome, which could in some cases be life-threatening or just debilitating.
“It is a long road to recovery after COVID-19 and even those who had asymptomatic or mild disease could be experiencing a range of multisystemic manifestations such as chronic fatigue, sleep disorders, short-term memory loss or brain fog. We have been following up a cohort of some 400 health-care workers who had contracted the infection. Our estimation is that while about 10% of the patients experience “long COVID”, which lasts typically for about three weeks, about 2% will go on to experience chronic post-COVID syndrome lasting over three months,” R. Aravind, Head of Infectious Diseases, Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram, says.
However, screening and management of the unmanageable number of recovered patients is posing a major challenge for the Health Department . It is exploring all possibilities from telemedicine to self-monitoring and reporting, so that the focus remains on picking up those patients who might experience life-threatening or chronic post-COVID syndrome.
Social distancing norms given the go-by in buses and trains
Social distancing has gone for a toss in several RTC buses and trains as people return to Visakhapatnam after Dasara. Many passengers reveal that their return journey to the city after the festival was a nightmare as passengers have even ignored the mandatory rule of wearing masks.
While many bus conductors followed COVID-19 safety protocols by making sure the vehicle is not overcrowded, several inter-district buses plying in Visakhapatnam region were seen jam-packed. There were heated arguments between passengers in a few buses over occupying seats and not wearing masks.
“When I boarded the bus at Palasa RTC complex, the conductor made sure that passengers without reservation do not board the bus. However, when the bus crossed Srikakulam, the vehicle was overcrowded and the conductor was helpless. Passengers were moving without masks. When some people made sure that the middle seat is vacant to ensure social distancing, other passengers entered into heated arguments to allow them to sit,” said G. Ramesh Kumar, a resident of Palasa, who boarded a bus from Palasa to Visakhapatnam.
Concern over fall in COVID tests
The Centre has expressed concern over the decline in the number of daily COVID-19 tests in Odisha.
At a recently held meeting with 14 States, the Union Health Ministry said there was a steady decline in the number of tests being conducted in Odisha.
The State, which had touched 68,906 tests on August 22, has been bringing them down consistently. The last over 50,000 tests were carried out on September 29. According to the Health Department, 30,303 tests were conducted during the past 24 hours.
Delhi schools to remain closed till further orders: Sisodia
All schools in Delhi will continue to be closed till further orders in view of the COVID-19 situation, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia announced on Wednesday.
“Parents are not in favour of reopening schools either,” Mr. Sisodia said at an online press conference.
The Delhi government had earlier announced that schools will remain closed till October 31.
China reports 42 new confirmed COVID-19 cases
China has reported 42 new COVID-19 cases, including 22 from Kashgar prefecture in Xinjiang province where all the 4.74 million people underwent tests following the detection of a villager as an asymptomatic carrier, the health authorities said on Wednesday.
This comes a day after the Kashgar prefecture reported 183 coronavirus cases after the completion of COVID-19 tests for all the residents in the region, according to official media reports.
Of the news cases, 22 infections were reported in Kashgar’s Shufu County, the National Health Commission said on Wednesday.
The local health authorities said an epidemiological survey for virus tracing is still underway and the medical expert team has so far ruled out a connection between Kashgar and the epidemic in the regional capital of Urumqi in July.
No clarity yet on whether vaccine will be free for all in India
There is no clarity on whether a COVID-19 vaccine, whenever it is ready, will be free of cost for everyone in India and it being so would depend on the outcome of clinical trials underway to test the vaccine, said the head of the committee overseeing vaccine development as well as planning its distribution.
“We’ll have more clarity in the weeks ahead when trial data from the ongoing trials (phase 3) of the Serum Institute of India (which is testing the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine) is available. The success of it and the other candidates will determine the availability and the dosage required and then we can discuss financing. The next three weeks will yield clarity on this,” said Dr. V.K. Paul of the NITI Aayog, who heads the Centre’s expert committee on vaccines. He was speaking on the sidelines of a press briefing on Tuesday.
At the briefing, in response to a question from The Hindu, Dr. Paul said that “for the foreseeable future” it looked like “resources wouldn’t be a problem” in making vaccines available for free.
European Union warns not enough vaccines for all in Europe until 2022
Only part of the European Union population can be inoculated against the new coronavirus before 2022, E.U. officials said in an internal meeting, as the vaccines the bloc is securing may not prove effective or may not be manufactured in sufficient doses.
The 27-nation bloc, with a population of 450 million, has booked more than 1 billion doses of potential COVID-19 vaccines from three drugmakers. It is negotiating the advance purchase of another billion vials with other companies.
“There will not be sufficient doses of COVID-19 vaccines for the entire population before the end of 2021,” a European Commission official told diplomats from E.U. states in a closed-door meeting on Monday, a person who attended it told Reuters.
Testing drops over two days in Karnataka
For the second consecutive day, the number of COVID-19 tests conducted in Karnataka declined.
On Monday (reflected in Tuesday’s health bulletin), as many as 66,701 tests were conducted in the State. As many as 3,691 new COVID-19 cases were reported on Tuesday. On Sunday, the total tests stood at 65,862. This is in contrast to previous days when the tests crossed the one lakh mark.
C.N. Manjunath, nodal officer, labs and testing, COVID-19 task force, said that the number of tests may have declined due to the holiday and the festive season. He however argued that the positivity rate was still around 5%. “We will ensure that our testing is robust and rigorous in the coming days,” he said.
Lab technician, ASHA worker fired for issuing false COVID-19 reports
The service of a lab technician and an ASHA worker, who were allegedly involved in issuing false COVID-negative certificate without any verification, have been terminated.
Medical Education and Health and Family Welfare Minister K. Sudhakar said that a police complaint will also be lodged against the lab technician who was working on contract basis.
Sources said that it was found that they were allegedly taking a bribe of ₹1,500 to ₹2,500 to issue false COVID-19 negative tests without conducting any test. Sources also added that it would be investigated if more people were involved in this racket.