COVID cases spike in metros: Restrictions kick in even as people advised not to panic
Official figures downplay Omicron variant among Covid cases, putting it at just about two percent. It could be because of low level of testing as not all labs are equipped for genome sequencing
Flight restrictions, school shut downs, night curfews, advisory for work from home, restrictions on gatherings and mandatory RT-PCR tests are among the slew of measures announced over the weekend in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. While people are being advised not to panic, experts say the situation is alarming.
India, experts say, is following the rest of the world in the transmission of the new variant, Omicron. While official figures put the incidence of Omicron as just 2 percent of the total Omicron cases, it could be because not all labs are equipped to conduct genome sequencing.
A NDTV report on Sunday reported that just two labs consulted by the media outlet confirmed the incidence of Omicron as high as 60% among all Covid cases. With the cases spiking, the report warns that Omicron is spreading much faster than the Delta variant during the second wave of the pandemic last year.
A round up of reports from India and abroad on Sunday evening:
COVID curbs: Bengal shuts schools, colleges; offices allowed with 50% workforce
The West Bengal government brought back stricter COVID-related restrictions amid a steep rise in cases, shutting all educational institutions from Monday and allowing offices to operate with 50 per cent workforce.
At a press conference on Sunday, Chief Secretary HK Dwivedi announced that only essential services will be permitted between 10 pm and 5 am in the state.
Local trains would be allowed to operate with 50 per cent capacity till 7 pm, while all shopping malls and markets would be allowed to remain open till 10 pm but with half their capacities, he said.
Long-distance trains will operate as per their usual schedule. Metro trains in Kolkata will also operate as per their usual timing but with 50 per cent capacity.
All tourist attractions, including the zoos, would remain closed. Besides, swimming pools, parlours, spa, wellness centres and gyms were also told to shut down, he added.
Flights from Mumbai and New Delhi will ply only twice a week, and no flights from the UK will be allowed for the time being, Dwivedi said.
Cinema halls and theatres have been allowed to operate with 50 per cent capacity. Meetings and conferences have been allowed with a maximum of 200 people at a time or 50 per cent capacity of the hall, whichever is lower.
Bars and restaurants were allowed to remain open with 50 per cent capacity till 10 pm, while home delivery of food and other essential products was permitted as per usual operational hours.
Not more than 50 persons shall be allowed in weddings, and only 20 persons will be allowed during funeral and burial services, the chief secretary said.
The state government asked the management of industries, factories, mills, tea gardens and other commercial establishments to ensure strict compliance with the guidelines.
West Bengal on Saturday reported 4,512 fresh COVID-19 cases, 1,061 more than the previous day, with Kolkata accounting for 2,398 new cases, as per the state health department.
Delhi records 3,194 new cases, positivity rate jumps to 4.59 pc; Mumbai reports 8,036 cases
The national capital on Sunday reported 3,194 fresh Covid cases, the highest single-day rise since May 20, and one death while the positivity rate rose to 4.59 per cent, according to data shared by the city's health department.
Under Graded Response Action Plan, approved by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, if the positivity rate is over five per cent for two consecutive days a 'Red' alert can be sounded leading to 'total curfew' and halting of most economic activities.
Sunday's tally of coronavirus cases was 17 per cent higher than the 2,716 infections registered a day before.
Whereas, Mumbai reported 8,036 new cases, 578 recoveries on Sunday. Active cases 29,819 Mumbai reported 6,347 infections yesterday
Covid cases are rising in Delhi, but don't panic: Kejriwal
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday that although Covid-19 cases were rising, there was no need to panic.
"Covid-19 cases are increasing rapidly in Delhi, but there is no need to panic," Kejriwal said at a press briefing.
He said that only 247 hospital beds were occupied on Saturday and all the cases were mild and asymptomatic.
Kejriwal said that in the last three days, cases have tripled.
However, he added that the data shows that the impact of the rise in cases is far lesser than what it was during the second wave.
The Chief Minister said that most of the Covid patients do not requite hospitalisation as they have mild symptoms.
He also said that only 82 oxygen beds are occupied so far in the city. Out of total 37,000 beds made operational by the Delhi government, only 0.22 per cent have been occupied so far, said Kejriwal.
However, he cautioned people not to drop their guard against Covid-19 and follow pandemic appropriate behaviour.
Tamil Nadu govt to commence virtual treatment for COVID-19 patients: Health minister
The Tamil Nadu government has planned to offer virtual treatment via home isolation to COVID-19 patients who have received both doses of vaccination and have been affected by the Omicron variant, Health Minister Ma Subramanian said on Sunday.
The virtual treatment would include the Omicron-affected individuals who have not received the vaccination but are 'asymptomatic'. They would be under constant monitoring by a medical team, the Minister for Health and Family Welfare said.
Referring to the sharp rise in new cases in the state, the minister reiterated that people should wear a face mask while going out and unvaccinated ones should get themselves inoculated.
Greater Chennai Corporation Commissioner Gagandeep Singh Bedi said the civic body has collected Rs 105 crore as fines from people who have not adhered to COVID-19 protocols in public. He said those who want to seek information on COVID-19 may contact the 24x7 call centre facility: 044-2538 4520 and 044-4612 2300.
Genome sequencing started in Patna's IGIMS
In a bid to combat corona's new Omicron variant, the Bihar government on Sunday began genome sequencing in the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS) in Patna.
Till now, the hospitals of Bihar were sending samples of Covid-19 patients to the NCDC lab in Delhi to check for the virus strain.
Reports pertaining to infected persons will be available in 7 days. An official of IGIMS said that the lab had the equipment and space for genome sequencing earlier but it is lacking a reagent which is required to conduct the test.
"Now, we have adequately arranged reagents as well as medical equipment to conduct tests. We will conduct 25 tests in one day," he said.
Gurugram, Faridabad, Sonipat seeing spike in Covid cases: Khattar
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Sunday said Gurugram, Faridabad, Panchkula, Sonipat, and Ambala districts have been seeing spike in Covid-19 cases.
"These districts have been kept in Group A as the risk of spread is high in such districts," he said while reviewing the pandemic situation.
The Chief Minister asked the Deputy Commissioners to review the Covid cases on a daily basis.
He said the bus stands, mini secretariats, malls, gyms, and other public places should be kept under surveillance and entry of people without vaccination certificates should be strictly restricted.
Also the night movement should be strictly observed. There is a provision to impose a fine of Rs 500 on individuals and Rs 5,000 on institutions for violating the Covid-19 guidelines.
About 3 lakh vaccination doses are being administered every day and so far about 3.45 crore people have been vaccinated, an official statement said.
Face masks mandatory in England schools
Secondary school students in England will be required to wear face coverings in classrooms amid the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the UK government said on Sunday.
The rules, which bring England in line with other parts of the United Kingdom, are to be brought in on a temporary basis in time for students to return to classrooms after the Christmas holidays next week.
Pupils are also being asked to take part in on-site rapid COVID tests and to get their vaccines, if due, before the start of the new term.
"The Prime Minister [Boris Johnson] and I have been clear that education is our number one priority. These measures will bolster our support to schools as we do everything in our power to minimise disruption," said UK Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi.
The classroom rule, which does not include teachers, will apply until a review planned for January 26. The government also announced it would be making 7,000 air cleaning units available to schools and colleges as part of efforts to tackle the spread of Omicron.
The announcement comes as the UK recorded another 162,572 new COVID-19 cases in the country on Saturday. It has led to the government drawing up contingency plans over fears that up to a quarter of public sector workers could be absent due to the high number of cases.