COVID-19 | Policies, Initiatives and advisors

Former president and Bharat Ratna Pranab Mukherjee passed away

Former president Pranab Mukherjee passed away on Monday at the age of 84. Mukherjee had recently undergone brain surgery at the Army's Research and Referral Hospital in New Delhi.  The news of the veteran Congress leader's demise was announced by his son Abhijit Mukherjee. "With a Heavy Heart, this is to inform you that my father Shri #PranabMukherjee has just passed away inspite of the best efforts of Doctors of RR Hospital & prayers, duas & prarthanas from people throughout India! I thank all of You Folded hands," tweeted Abhijit. The former president was admitted to the Army hospital in Delhi cantonment on August 10. He underwent a surgery for removal of a clot in his brain on the same day. The former president later developed a lung infection. He had also tested positive for the novel corona virus prior to the procedure. Meanwhile, President Ram Nath Kovind took to twitter to express his condolences and described Mukherjee's demise as "passing of an era". "Sad to hear that former President Shri Pranab Mukherjee is no more. His demise is passing of an era. A colossus in public life, he served Mother India with the spirit of a sage. The nation mourns losing one of its worthiest sons. Condolences to his family, friends & all citizens," tweeted President Kovind.

MHA issues new Guidelines, Unlock 4 opens up more activities outside Containment Zones

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued new guidelines on 29th August, 2020 for opening up of more activities in areas outside the Containment Zones. In Unlock 4, which will come into effect from September 1, 2020, the process of phased re-opening of activities has been extended further. The new guidelines, issued are based on feedback received from States and UTs, and extensive consultations held with related Central Ministries and Departments. According to the new guidelines Metro rail will be allowed to operate with effect from 7th September 2020 in a graded manner, by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs/ Ministry of Railways, in consultation with MHA. In this regard, Standard Operating Procedure will be issued by MOHUA. Social/ academic/ sports/ entertainment/ cultural/ religious/ political functions and other congregations will be permitted with a ceiling of 100 persons, with effect from 21st September 2020. However, such limited gatherings can be held with mandatory wearing of face masks, social distancing, and provision for thermal scanning and hand wash or sanitizer. Open air theatres will be permitted to open with effect from 21st September 2020. It has been decided that Schools, colleges, educational and coaching institutions will continue to remain closed for students and regular class activity up to 30th September 2020.  State/ UT Governments shall not impose any local lockdown (State/ District/ sub-division/City/ village level), outside the containment zones, without prior consultation with the Central Government. There shall be no restriction on inter-State and intra-State movement of persons and goods. No separate permission/ approval/ e-permit will be required for such movements. MHA will monitor the effective implementation of National Directives.

On a steep rise, India conducts more than 4.23 cr tests

Starting from a single test in one lab in Pune in January 20202, the daily testing capacity has been scaled up to more than 10 lakh in August 2020. The cumulative tests have crossed 4.23 cr today. 8, 46,278 tests were conducted in the past 24 hours. India has registered 78,512 cases in the last 24 hours (Sunday, 30th August 2020). Hence the report by certain Media Entities of about 80,000 cases in the last 24 hours is without any basis. Seven States have contributed to 70% of these new cases in the last 24 hours. Of these, Maharashtra has contributed the maximum case load amounting to almost 21%, followed by Andhra Pradesh (13.5%), Karnataka (11.27%) and Tamil Nadu which stands at 8.27%. Uttar Pradesh with 8.27%, West Bengal with 3.85%, and Odisha with 3.84% is the remaining States contributing to the increased caseload. Of the total cumulative number of cases, 43% are recorded in just three states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. While Tamil Nadu has contributed 11.66% of the total cases. Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka account for about 50% of the deaths added in the last 24 hours due to COVID-19, with Maharashtra leading with 30.48%.

Centre reviews measures for containing spread of COVID-19 in UTs

Union Home Secretary and Secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) jointly reviewed the measures for containing spread of COVID-19 infection in the Union Territories of Puducherry, Lakshadweep, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu, in a meeting held on 29.08.2020 through Video Conferencing. The senior officers of UTs, briefed the Union Home Secretary about steps taken by them for testing, management of COVID positive cases, isolation of COVID positive cases, availability of health infrastructure/medical personnel, para-medical staff, etc. Both the Secretaries asked senior officers to ensure that the administrative officers, medical professionals, para-medical staff and other people associated with containing spread of COVID-19 infection and management of COVID-19 situation work in close tandem. The Union Territories were advised to ramp up COVID testing facilities; maintain effective surveillance for early identification of COVID positive cases; effective contact tracing; augmenting house to house surveillance by medical/para-medical teams; better monitoring of home isolation cases; clear demarcation and enforcement of containment measures in the Containment Zones; augment health infrastructure. The UTs were also advised to ensure enforcement of precautionary measures like maintaining social distancing, sanitization, wearing of masks, etc.

Health Ministry to rush Central teams to UP, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has decided to deploy high level Central teams to four States of Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha. These States are seeing a sudden surge in the number of COVID cases and some of them are also reporting high mortality.  The teams will support the State efforts towards strengthening containment, surveillance, testing and efficient clinical management of the positive cases. They shall also guide the States in effectively managing the challenges related to timely diagnosis and follow up. As an ongoing effort, the Central Government has been deputing Central teams from time to time to visit various States to interact with the authorities and get a first hand understanding of the challenges and issues being faced by them so as to strengthen their ongoing activities and remove bottlenecks, if any.

Centre Advisories / Policies / Updates

Amit Shah recovers after post-Covid care, discharged from AIIMS Delhi

Union Home minister Amit Shah has recovered from post corona virus disease (Covid-19) care and was discharged from the All India Medical Sciences (AIIMS) hospital in New Delhi on Monday morning. Shah had tested positive for Covid-19 on August 2 and later tested negative for the viral disease on August 14. However, he was admitted to AIIMS on August 18 again for medical care after recovering from the viral infection. “Sh Amit Shah, Honourable Home Minister has been complaining of fatigue and body aches for last 3-4 days. He has tested negative for Covid -19.He has been admitted to AIIMS for post Covid care. He is comfortable and is continuing his work from hospital,” the hospital had said. A team of multidisciplinary specialists led by AIIMS director, Dr. Randeep Guleria, was monitoring Shah’s health. Shah, 55, was earlier discharged from Medanta Hospital in Gurugram after testing negative for the corona virus disease. He had announced his health status on Twitter after testing positive for the virus, and urged those who came in contact with him in recent days to isolate themselves and get tested. 

Covid-19 has taught us a certain lesson: Dr. Harsh Vardhan

Union health minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan on Sunday expressed hope that we should have "very significant control" over Covid-19 by Diwali. "...hopefully that in the next couple of months, maybe by Diwali time, we should have a very significant control over the corona virus," Vardhan said. Addressing the Nation First webinar series organized by Ananth kumar Foundation, he said experts like Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty and Dr. C N Manjnath will probably agree that after some time this will also become endemic like many other viruses which have come to the globe in the past. "But, the virus has taught us a certain lesson, it has taught us there has to be a new normal and we need to be more diligent about, more cautious about our lifestyle...," he added. Vardhan also expressed hope about having a vaccine against Covid-19 by the end of this year.

Global Advisories/Policies/Updates

US FDA may fast track Covid vax before Phase-3 trials complete

After Russia and China, the US drug regulator is now willing to consider giving emergency authorization to a Covid-19 vaccine even before the end of crucial Phase-3 trials, according to the head of US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In an interview with the Media published on Sunday, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said emergency authorization of Covid-19 could be the right decision if the benefits outweigh the risks. The development comes barely a week after US President Donald Trump lashed out at the FDA for its approach to giving drug makers the approvals for testing vaccines and medicines. Trump accused the FDA of trying to delay the approval process in a bid to harm his prospects in the November elections.

Is food packaging spreading Corona virus infection? Here’s what WHO said

Among rising concerns of Corona virus transmission via food packaging, the danger has been downplayed by the World Health Organization and people are urged to not be afraid of the virus entering the food chain. It is to note that in two Chinese cities, some traces of COVID-19 were found in food packaging of imported frozen food. This alarmed people into believing that shipments of contaminated food may cause some additional transmission and lead to new cases of viral infection. WHO stepped in and made a statement to ease the fear in the minds of people. The people should not be afraid of food, or food packaging along with processing and delivery of food. Ryan who is heading the emergencies programme at WHO during a briefing in Geneva highlighted that no evidence of Corona virus transmission has been found through the food chain and people should have the fear of getting infected rather they should feel comfortable. 

Singapore's tally of Covid-19 cases reaches 56,812

Singapore has reported seven imported COVID-19 cases, including from India, the health ministry said, as the country's total number of infections reached 56,812. The country reported 41 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, including three from community who are foreigners on work passes, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said. With this, the national tally of corona virus cases has reached 56,812. The seven imported cases reported on Sunday came from Bangladesh, India, and the Philippines, UAE and Pakistan between Aug 8 and 22.

State Advisories / Policies / Updates

535 new Covid-19 cases in Jammu and Kashmir

Jammu and Kashmir on Monday recorded 535 new cases of corona virus, taking the total number of infected persons to 37,698 even as nine deaths were reported from the union territory during the past 24 hours, officials said. They said among the new cases, 245 were from the Jammu region while 290 were from the Kashmir valley. Jammu district reported the highest number of 139 new cases, followed by 90 in Srinagar district, the officials said. There are 7,980 active cases of the corona virus disease in the UT at present while 29,015 patients have recovered so far, they said.

Lockdown extended till September 30 in containment zones in WB

Complete lockdown will be imposed across West Bengal on September 7, 11 and 12 to contain the spread of COVID-19, Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha said on Monday. The state government had earlier announced these dates for complete lockdown in September, but the Centre, in its Unlock 4 guidelines issued recently, had made it clear that states cannot enforce local lockdown without prior consultation. The order issued by Sinha also said lockdown will be extended in containment zones in West Bengal till September 30. Schools, colleges, cinema halls, swimming pools and parks will remain closed till the end of September, it said.

Over 5,000 fresh Covid-19 cases, 63 more deaths in Uttar Pradesh

The death toll due to corona virus climbed to 3,486 in Uttar Pradesh with 63 fresh COVID-19 fatalities reported from the state, a senior official said on Monday. Additional Chief Secretary (Medicine and Health) Amit Mohan Prasad said as many as 5,061 fresh cases have been reported from the state. The total count of COVID-19 cases in the state stands at 2, 30,414 while the number of active cases stands at 54,788, he said. The total count of COVID-19 cases in the state stands at 2, 30,414 while the number of active cases stands at 54,788, he said. Till now, as many as 1, 72,140 COVID-19 patients have recovered from the disease and have been discharged in the state, Prasad said. He also informed that on Sunday over 1.36 lakh samples were tested, taking the total count of samples tested so far to 56.26 lakh in UP.

272 new Covid-19 cases in Indore, 800 more beds to be arranged

Indore administration has planned to arrange 800 more beds in hospitals here within a week in view of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the Madhya Pradesh district, officials said on Monday. The district recorded the highest single-day spike of 272 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, they said. With this, the total number of cases in the district has gone up to 12,992, officials said. So far, 393 patients have died due to the disease, while 8,934 people recovered after treatment, they said.

 Industry Updates

No side effects seen in trials of Covaxin so far

Preparations are underway at a hospital here for the commencement of the second phase of human clinical trial of 'Covaxin', India's indigenous COVID-19 vaccine, officials said. Preparations are underway at a hospital here for the commencement of the second phase of human clinical trial of 'Covaxin', India's indigenous COVID-19 vaccine, officials said. "The Phase I of the trial is still continuing as we are planning for the start of the Phase II trial shortly," Dr. E. Venkata Rao, Principal Investigator of the trial at Institute of Medical Sciences and SUM Hospital, faculty of medical sciences, said. The blood samples collected from the volunteers who received the vaccine were to ascertain how effective the vaccine was in terms of the level of antibodies developed, Dr. Rao said, adding that there had been 'no side effects' in the first phase trial of the vaccine. The IMS and SUM Hospital is one of the 12 medical centres in the country chosen by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) for conducting the human trial of the vaccine developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech.  "Two doses of the vaccine were administered to each volunteer after they were selected through a screening process conducted over a period of three to seven days prior to vaccination. The first dose was administered on Day Zero while the blood sample was collected. The second dose was given on Day 14 and the blood sample was also collected," Dr. Rao said.

IIT Madras-backed start-up develops textiles that can deactivate corona virus in 5 mins

Muse Nanobots, a subsidiary of Muse Wearables founded by IIT Madras Alumni and supported by the institute's incubation cell, has developed a nanotech-coating on textiles that can deactivate corona virus within five minutes of contact. Muse nano-coated textiles offers enhanced protection to travelling people and to frontline healthcare, hospital, hotels and restaurant workers, the company claims. Muse Nanobots conducted a study with the US-based Situ Biosciences, an independent product test laboratory in Chicago that specialises in providing microbial product testing. The study, conducted to gauge the effectiveness of Muse Nanobots antiviral coating on corona virus 229E, showed that it inactivated 99.99 per cent of the pathogen within five minutes of contact. The study was conducted in accordance with international standards for determining antiviral activity of textile products, according to a press release.

Prepared by Impact Health Research Team

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