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Covid-19: More Lockdowns and Curbs as States Grapple With Soaring Cases, Depleted Vaccine Stocks

(Credit: PTI)

(Credit: PTI)

Fifty high-level central teams have been rushed to Maharashtra, Punjab and Chhattisgarh.

Maharashtra on Wednesday reported nearly 60,000 fresh infections - an all-time high - and state capital Mumbai too broke records as it breached the 10,000 mark for the second time. Amid a countrywide shortage of vaccine doses despite the Centre vehemently denying it, the Panvel municipal corporation, neighbouring Mumbai, suspended the inoculation drive and is being forced to turn away beneficiaries. Satara administration also reportedly halted the vaccine programme owing to depleted stocks.

Given the fresh surge, 50 high-level central teams have been rushed to Maharashtra, Punjab and Chhattisgarh to assist the states in Covid-control and management measures. These teams will be stationed in the states for 3-5 days.

Experts say there could be various factors at play — immune escape variants that are not detected by antibodies, laxity due to less fear of COVID-19 infection and a largely susceptible population. “Most importantly, the pace of vaccination is not as fast as one would expect India to be in. The pace at which the vulnerable have to be covered is not satisfactory," Dr Giridhara R Babu, Professor and Head, Lifecourse Epidemiology, Public Health Foundation of India, said States have been forced to reimpose restrictions after the alarming rise in cases, though many have ruled out a complete lockdown.

More lockdowns and curbs

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The Chhattisgarh government announced a lockdown in capital Raipur with effect from April 9 to 19, while the Madhya Pradesh government has imposed night curfew and lockdown on Sunday in urban areas from Thursday, besides suspending bus operations with Chhattisgarh till April 15. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced the extension of night curfew to the entire state and a ban on political gatherings till April 30.

As part of the fresh curbs, the number of people who can attend funerals and weddings has been reduced to 50 people indoors and 100 for outdoors. Singh also made it clear that no other social, cultural or sports gatherings and related functions will be allowed till April 30.

The Maharashtra government had on Sunday announced a weekend lockdown and night curfew during the weekdays from Monday to April 30, in addition to a slew of other restrictions like the closure of private offices, theatres and salons. Besides, prohibitory orders will be in force during the daytime on weekdays. Odisha has started imposing night curfew from 10 pm to 5 am in Sundargarh, Bargarh, Jharsuguda, Sambalpur, Balangir, Nuapada, Kalahandi, Malkangiri, Koraput and Nabarangpur districts to contain the spread of the disease.

The district administration in Puri, where the iconic Shree Jagannath Temple attracts lakhs of visitors, has made it mandatory for travellers from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Kerala to the pilgrim town to produce RT-PCR negative reports at the railway station and bus terminus, a district official said. Delhi also has imposed a night curfew. The national capital on Wednesday recorded 5,506 fresh COVID-19 cases, the sharpest daily spike this year, that pushed the infection tally to 6,90,568 while20 more people succumbed to the disease, taking the death toll to 11,133, according to the city’s health department.

With coronavirus infections and fatalities hitting 7.7 per cent and 2 per cent respectively last week in Punjab, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh set a vaccination target of two lakh shots per day from the current 90, 000. Vaccination is the only way to prevent the spread, he said. Singh said he would again urge the Union government for relaxation in the age criteria for vaccinating people under the age of 45 years in areas showing a weekly doubling of the positivity rate.

Delhi Health Minister Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain also renewed his government’s demand that vaccination should be made open to all adults, except those who are not medically compliant. Vardhan, however, said when states ask to open up vaccine supplies to everyone over 18, “we must presume that they have done saturation coverage of healthcare workers, frontline workers and senior citizens".

“But the facts are altogether different," he said while pointing out that Maharashtra has vaccinated just only 86 per cent of health workers with the first dose, while the equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 72 per cent and 64 per cent. On the other hand, 10 Indian states/UTs have done more than 90 per cent, he added.

The minister further said Maharashtra has vaccinated just 41 per cent of healthcare workers with the second dose, while the same for Delhi and Punjab are 41 per cent and 27 per cent, though there are 12 Indian states/UTs that have done more than 60 per cent. Meanwhile, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday sought response of the Union government on a petition requesting that door-to-door vaccination facility be made available for the citizens above 75 years and also for those people who cannot visit inoculation centres because they are either bed-ridden or wheelchair-bound.

Hearing public interest litigation (PIL), a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni also asked the Union government if the procedure laid down for registration for vaccination can be made more user friendly.

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