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Coronavirus LIVE Updates: Kapil Sibal urges Modi to declare national health emergency; Rahul Gandhi suspends Bengal poll rallies

Coronavirus LIVE Updates: Kapil Sibal urges Modi to declare national health emergency; Rahul Gandhi suspends Bengal poll rallies

Coronavirus LIVE Updates: The April session of the entrance exam was scheduled to be held from 27-30 April. The February and March sessions have been completed.



Coronavirus Latest Updates: Amid a steep rise in COVID-19 cases, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal on Sunday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare a national health emergency. The former Union minister also called on the Election Commission to declare a moratorium on election rallies in view of the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhiy said he is suspending all his public rallies in West Bengal in light of the coronavirus situation.

The National Testing Agency, in a notice, said it has decided to postpone the JEE-Main 2021 April session, in view of the coronviurs situation and taking into account safety and well-being of candidates and exam functionaries. The revised dates will be announced later and at least 15 days before the examination, the notice said. 

Under the leadership of Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat, it has been decided to cancel Class 10 board exams and suspend the Class 12 board exams for the protection and safety of students in view of the coronavirus pandemic, said state education minister Arvind Pandey.

A record single-day rise of 2,61,500 coronavirus infections has taken India’s total tally of COVID-19 cases to 1,47,88,109, while active cases have surpassed the 18-lakh mark, according to Union Health Ministry data updated on Sunday. The toll increased to 1,77,150 with a record 1,501 new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.

The country on Saturday recorded a frightening single-day spike in COVID-19 cases with over 2.34 lakh fresh infections, crossing the two lakh-mark for the third straight day, as demands for increased supply of oxygen cylinders, vaccine doses and Remdesivir were raised by 11 states and UTs, including Delhi, where the pandemic situation was described as “worrisome” by the chief minister.

As India’s COVID-19 tally inched towards the 1.50 crore-mark and the toll climbed above 1.75 lakh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union health Harsh Vardhan held meetings to review measures taken by states for prevention, containment, and management of the recent surge.

In the meeting to review the preparedness of the public health response to the COVID-19 situation, Modi called for close coordination with states to defeat the virus as also for utilization of the entire national capacity to ramp up vaccine production.

Reiterating that there is no substitute to testing, tracking and treatment, Modi said all necessary measures must be taken to ramp up the availability of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, and also asked local administrations to be proactive, sensitive to people’s concerns.

He also reviewed the status of supply of Remdesivir and other medicines, and called for speeding up the installation of approved medical oxygen plants.

Earlier in the day, the prime minister also appealed that participation in the ongoing Kumbh Mela be kept symbolic in view of the unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases.

The Hindu religious gathering in Haridwar has been at the centre of controversy amid fears that it could be a super spreader event with lakhs of devotees attending the event without following the COVID-19 protocols.

During the meeting with Vardhan, health ministers of 11 states and Union Territories (UTs) demanded increased supply of medical-grade oxygen cylinders and Remdesivir in hospitals.

The states, including Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, West Bengal, Delhi, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, which have been reporting an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases, attended the meeting.

Many of them raised the issue of dovetailing the medical oxygen supply lines and capping of prices of essential drugs like Remdesivir which has been sold in the black market at exorbitant prices. The double mutant strain in Maharashtra was a key point of concern.

The Delhi government requested additional beds in Central government hospitals as was done in 2020 to help tide over the emergent health crisis, the ministry said in a statement after the meeting.

The notification of the home ministry, granting permission to states to utilize up to 50 percent of their annual allocation of State Disaster Response Fund, and that of the Union health ministry, allowing utilization of unspent pending balance under National Health Mission as on 1 April, 2021 for COVID management purposes, were reiterated, it said.

Describing the pandemic situation in the National Capital, which reported 24,000 COVID cases on Saturday with positivity rate jumping to the highest-ever 24 percent, as “very serious and worrisome”, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said oxygen stock, and drugs like remdesivir and tocilizumab drugs for patients were in short supply.

He said that the number of beds are also running out fast and the Delhi government is trying to increase beds on a large-scale in the coming days.

“The cases of COVID-19 are rising fast in Delhi. In the last 24 hours, around 24,000 fresh cases have been reported. Within a day, the number has gone up from around 19,500 to around 24,000. So, the situation is very serious and worrisome,” Kejriwal said.

This is the highest single-day surge in the National Capital till date.

Kejriwal also instructed all district magistrates to check with laboratories about pendency of samples before giving them more to test, in order to prevent any delay in test report. He said some labs in the city have been taking more samples than their capacity, because of which results are getting delayed by 3-4 days.

According to the Union health ministry, 10 states —Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan — reported 79.32 percent of the new cases.

Sixteen states and UTs — Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Kerala, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal — are displaying an upward trajectory in daily new cases, it said.

The ministry said five states — Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala — cumulatively account for 65.02 percent of India’s total active cases. Maharashtra alone accounts for 38.09 percent of the total active caseload of the country.

Meanwhile, the cumulative number of COVID19 vaccine doses administered in the country nearly reached 12 crore on Saturday as part of the world’s largest vaccination drive.

The number of active coronavirus cases in the country has surpassed the 16-lakh mark, according to the Union health ministry.

With many states reporting shortage and black marketing of remdesivir injection, used in the treatment of COVID-19 , National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) said pharmaceutical companies have reduced the price following the government’s intervention.

Drug companies like Cadila Healthcare, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories and Cipla have cut the prices of their respective brands of remdesivir injection (100 mg/vial). The antiviral drug is used in the treatment of COVID-19 .

Union Chemicals and Fertilizers Minister Sadananda Gowda hailed the decision taken by the drug companies. In a tweet, he said: “In a huge relief to people in this crucial time, after govt’s intervention, the price of Remdesivir is now reduced! I am grateful to pharma companies for standing along with PM Narendra Modi’s fight againt Covid.”

Many states and UTs also took steps to ensure adequate supply of medical oxygen to their hospitals grappling with demand due to the spurt in the COVID cases. While the Jammu and Kashmir administration constituted a committee to ensure adequate and timely supply of medical oxygen to all hospitals, the Goa government announced a ban on the export of oxygen cylinders and ordered that the stock of this life-saving gas meant for the industry be diverted to health services.

Meanwhile, the Congress Working Committee, the highest decision-making body of the opposition party, accused the central government of “colossal mismanagement” in the war against the COVID pandemic and cautioned of an “unprecedented catastrophe” unless urgent corrective measures are taken.

Also on Saturday, the global toll from the coronavirus surged past three million people, according to the John Hopkins University.

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Updated: April 18, 2021 — 6:43 am

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