The government had on Monday directed that all passengers coming from the UK on arrival at Indian airports should be tested main concerns over coronavirus strain spreading in Britain
Ahead of the festive season, Karnataka on Wednesday became the second state after Maharashtra to announce night curfew amid concerns over a new mutation of the coronavirus which is spreading in the UK.
Several states stepped up contact-tracing and testing of those who have recently come from the UK. A few states also announced restrictions on gatherings for Christmas and New Year while Rajasthan announced a night curfew in cities on 31 December.
According to a NDTV report, at least 22 persons who arrived in India from the UK have tested positive over the past few days. So far, 11 passengers who came from or via the UK have tested positive in Delhi, eight have been found COVID-19 positive in Amritsar, two in Kolkata and one in Chennai, the report quoted authorities as saying.
The government had on Monday directed that all passengers coming from the UK on arrival at Indian airports should be tested. It also issued a stringent set of SOPs mandating RT-PCR tests at airports for each traveller from the country and isolation in a separate unit of an institutional facility for positive cases.
Additionally, India has now suspended all passenger flights connecting the UK from Wednesday till 31 December or till further orders.
India’s caseload mounts to 1,00,99,066
India’s COVID-19 caseload on Wednesday rose to 1,00,99,066 with 23,950 new infections being reported in a day, while the number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 96,63,382, according to the Union health ministry. The toll increased to 1,46,444 with 333 new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.
The national recovery rate rose to 95.69 percent, while the COVID-19 case fatality rate stands at 1.45 percent.
There are 2,89,240active cases of coronavirus infection in the country which comprises 2.86 percent of the total caseload, the data stated. The COVID-19 active caseload remained below 3 lakh for the second consecutive day.
The ministry said 26 states and UTs have less than 10,000 active cases. India’s tests per million population (TPM) are 1,19,035. Twenty-three states and UTs have better tests per million than the national average, the ministry said.
Sixteen states and UTs have weekly positivity rate less than the national average. Fifteen states and UTs have cumulative positivity rate less than the national average, the ministry said. According to the ICMR, 16,42,68,721samples have been tested up to 22 December with 10,98,164 samples being tested on Tuesday.
Health secy review status of passengers from UK
Amid concerns over the new coronavirus strain, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan reviewed in a meeting held through video-conferencing the status of passengers coming from the UK and found positive in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Goa, Punjab, Gujarat and Kerala.
According to a health ministry statement, states and UTs were advised to access details of passengers from UK from the online portal AIR-SUVIDHA and Bureau of Immigration. They were also asked to send the samples of those found positive to the laboratories identified for genome sequencing.
According to the NDTV report quoted earlier, samples of those who have tested positive so far have been sent to laboratories to determine if the infection is due to the mutant strain.
Night curfew in Karnataka till 1 Jan
The Karnataka government on Wednesday said night curfew will be enforced between 11 pm and 5 am from 24 December till 1 January, but midnight mass will be allowed on Christmas Eve (24 December) without any restiction.
As per the orders issued by the state government, the movement of individuals shall remain strictly prohibited between 11 pm to 5 am, except for essential activities. However, there shall be no restriction on the movement of all types of goods through vehicles and industries and offices requiring night operations will be allowed to function with 50 percent staffing.
Long-distance buses, trains and flights will be allowed during the night curfew hours and taxis and auto are permitted for dropping or pickup of people to or from bus stops, railway stations and airports if valid tickets are shown.
In guidelines issued on 17 December, the Yediyurappa government has asked organisers and supervisors at churches to ensure that a large number of people don’t gather at a time and social distancing is maintained. It also prohibited parties, special DJ dance programmes and special events at clubs, pubs, restaurants and other places that attract people in large numbers without social distancing from 30 December to 2 January.
The chief minister said all those travelling to the state and arriving at Bengaluru or Mangaluru airports from abroad must have an RT-PCR COVID-19 negative certificate which should have been obtained 72 hours before their departure time.
Health minister K Sudhakar said all those who have arrived in the state from the UK since 25 November will be mandatorily monitored for 28 days, adding that they will have to quarantine themselves.
A total of 2,500 people have come to the state since 25 November to 22 December in two flights: Air India and British Airways.
About reports that a couple of people who have come from the UK have tested positive, the Sudhakar said information is still awaited as tests are being done.
Situation in Delhi under control, says Jain
In the National Capital, 11 passengers on four flights from the UK were found COVID-19 positive after being tested on arrival at the Delhi airport, said Gauri Agarwal, founder of the Genestrings Diagnostic Centre which is handling coronavirus testing of all passengers at the airport. She said 50 passengers of these four flights have been put under institutional quarantine.
Earlier in the day, Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain said people who have arrived in Delhi from the UK are being rigorously traced and tested for any COVID-19 -like symptoms. He asserted that the coronavirus situation in the city is under control with the positivity rate plummeting below one percent.
Interacting with reporters, Jain said the suspension of flights to and from the United Kingdom was a prompt move by the Centre and will help in containing the spread of the new coronavirus strain detected in that country. “We are alert and watchful at our end. People who have arrived here from the UK in the last several days are being rigorously traced and tested for slightest of COVID-like symptoms,” Jain said.
“A team has been made and house-to-house tracing is being done… they (UK returnees) are being advised self-isolation too,” he added.
Stressing on the need to remain alert, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath said those who came to the state from abroad between 15 November and 8 December should undergo tests for detection of COVID-19 . Those who arrived in UP from abroad after 9 December must undergo RT-PCR test, he told officials at a review meeting.
The Madhya Pradesh health department has asked 33 people who returned to Indore from the UK in the last 15 days to remain in home isolation. Indore district nodal officer for COVID-19 prevention, Amit Malakar, said these 33 people were being tested by RT-PCR method.
Maharashtra widens scope of night curfew
Maharashtra had on Monday declared a night curfew in municipal corporation areas as a precautionary step amid growing concerns over the new coronavirus variant in Britain. Widening the scope of the night curfew, the state government on Wednesday authorised district collectors to issue similar orders, subject to approval from the state’s chief secretary.
All passengers from the UK who test positive for COVID-19 will be kept under institutional quarantine while those who test negative will be home quarantined along with daily updates by district surveillance officers, news agency PTI quoted a Maharashtra government official as saying.
Curbs in Rajasthan cities on 31 Dec
The Rajasthan government has imposed a night curfew (8 pm to 6 am) on 31 December in all cities having a population of over one lakh, said an order issued by the home department.
No New Year party will be organised on the occasion while bursting of firecrackers will be banned and markets will be closed at 7 pm.
The Gujarat government said no religious public gatherings, rallies, prayers in public places or public procession will be allowed during Christmas and New Year. However, the government allowed local authorities to take a call on allowing celebrations at public places “in special cases”.
“If permission is granted in special cases, the administration must ensure full compliance with COVID-19 related guidelines at such places and ensure that only a limited number of people attend such events,” a release quoted Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja as saying.
“The number of persons who can gather at a church or any place of worship must be 50 percent of the occupancy limit or 200 people, whichever is less. No public rally, gathering or procession is allowed as part of the religious celebrations,” said the release.
Jadeja said that SOPs issued earlier will remain applicable for the upcoming festivals and more police personnel will be deployed at various public places to ensure effective implementation of the guidelines.
The Dehradun administration has banned collective celebrations like parties at hotels, bars, restaurants and other public places on Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year. Any violation of the ban will be punishable under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the Epidemic Diseases Act and other relevant sections of the IPC, said an order issued by Dehradun district magistrate Ashish Shrivastava.
The ban will have its effect in Dehradun, Mussoorie and Rishikesh where a large number of tourists come to celebrate Christmas and New Year.
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh urged people to exercise extreme caution and strictly follow all COVID safety norms amid reports of the new strain of the virus spreading in some parts of the world. The last flight that landed in Amritsar from the UK on Tuesday had reported eight positive cases, he said, hoping that the new strain of the virus had not entered Punjab.
UK imposes travel curbs on South Africa
Meanwhile, in the UK, health secretary Matt Hancock announced curbs on travel from South Africa with immediate effect, following the discovery of two cases another new variant of coronavirus in Britain.
“This new variant is highly concerning, because it is yet more transmissible, and it appears to have mutated further than the new variant that has been discovered in the UK,” AFP quoteds Hancock as saying.
Hancock said that all individuals in the UK who had contracted the variant originating in South Africa and their close contact had been placed in quarantine. In addition to the travel restrictions, Hancock said the government was also asking anyone who has been in close contact with someone who had been in South Africa in the last two weeks to quarantine.
In developments related to the COVID-19 vaccine, Canada’s health regulator authorised the Moderna vaccine, the second in the country, reported AP In The UK, the University of Oxford and drug manufacturer AstraZeneca have applied to the UK health regulator for permission to roll out their vaccine, news agency AFP reported. Qatar and Dubai rolled out the Pfizer-BionTech jabs with the elderly and front-line workers among the first to receive shots.
With inputs from agencies
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