ICMR to conduct national sero survey in June to assess Covid-19 spread — Health ministry
New Delhi, June 11 (PTI): The ICMR’s fourth round of national-level sero survey to assess the intensity of the spread of Covid-19 in India will begin this month, but all states/UTs should also be encouraged to conduct them so that information from all geographies can be collected, the Centre said on Friday.
At a press conference, NITI Aayog member (Health) V K Paul said the Covid situation in the country appears to be stabilising with decline in daily and active cases and the positivity rate coming down to almost 5 per cent.
He, however, urged people to continue following the Covid appropriate behaviour and social distancing norms.
“The ICMR will begin work for the next sero survey this month which will help assess the intensity of spread of Covid-19. But if we want to protect our geographies, we cannot depend on one national sero survey alone and will have to encourage states/UTs to do sero surveys at their levels also,” Paul said.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the sero survey will be held across 70 districts in 21 states and will include children aged 6 years and above.
Speaking about the improving Covid scenario in the country, Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, health ministry said almost 78 per cent decline in daily new Covid-19 cases has been noted in India since the highest reported peak in daily cases on May 7.
He also said that there has been a 74 per cent decrease in weekly Covid-19 positivity rate since the highest such rate was reported between April 30-May 6 at 21.6 per cent.
The official noted that there has been 70 per cent decrease in active cases, by more than 26.2 lakh, since the peak was reported on May 10.
The Centre underlined that breaking the chain of transmission ensures lesser strain on the health infrastructure and better quality of care.
There should be no laxity. Gatherings have to be avoided and partying time has not yet come, Paul said.
On the US’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) denying Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) to Bharat Biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin, the health ministry said, We respect each country’s regulatory system, but it will have no impact on India’s vaccine programme.
In a setback that could potentially delay the launch of Covaxin in the US, the FDA there has “recommended” Ocugen Inc, the US partner of the Indian vaccine maker, to go for Biologics Licence Application (BLA) route with additional data.
Commenting on the development, Paul said each country has its own regulatory system which India respects and hoped that the manufacturer will be able to comply with it by doing whatever requires to be done.
“Each country has its own regulatory system. Some parameters might be common while some might be different which we respect. Our country’s regulatory system also takes decisions in a similar manner. The scientific framework is the same but nuancing is on context… These are scientific considerations, especially in those countries where science is strong and for us manufacturing is strong.
“We expect that our manufacturer will be able to comply with it by doing whatever it requires to be done. It will have no impact whatsoever on our programme clearly. We are satisfied our regulator has approved it. We have so much data on safety and so much data on phase-3 trial that has been screened by them,” he added.
He further said that the phase 3 trial publication of Covaxin will also come in next 7-8 days.
“We are doing very well. We respect their decision, but it will have no bearing on our track at this moment,” he added.
Paul said in the next six months, Biological E’s vaccine can come and Zydus Cadilla’s DNA vaccine is likely to come too, and Genova RNA vaccine and J& J production can take place here.
“The vaccine development uses cutting edge technology which has helped in increasing Indian scientific community’s grasp over the subject and two specific example is mRNA technology and this is a very significant development and BioE has adapted technology with a Canadian firm, and these mRNA vaccines will be made and they can also tackle the variants. This technology is not of a company, but of the country, and as and when need arises it will be cloned,” he said.
“Then there is DNA technology which is being brought forward by Zydus. The whole trial has been done and it is path breaking and if it succeeds then a new platform will emerge. So this effort made in the country is extraordinary, exceptional and unprecedented,” he added.
On vaccine passports’, Agarwal said technical discussions are going on in WHO over it.
“Vaccine passport is having a common understanding under which vaccines you have been administered gets approved, now the issue is the World Health Organisation (WHO) which is supposed to take this initiative…technical discussions are going on there and its evidence is being studied,” he said.
Regarding travelling abroad, he said, the focus around the world is to undertake testing before one goes out and that model will continue.
On increase in gap between the first and second dose of Covishield, the official said Covishield’s length of period based on existing evidence was increased, but for those who have to go abroad it was changed so if one month has elapsed then they can go.
India records 91K Covid cases & 3,403 deaths
India recorded 91,702 new Covid cases as 3,403 people succumbed to the virus in last 24 hours, according to data released by the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry on Friday.
This is the fourth consecutive day when India has reported less than one lakh case.
On June 8, India recorded 86,498 cases, lowest since April 2 when the country logged 89,129 new cases.
India’s overall tally of Covid-19 cases now stands at 2,92,74,823 with 11,21,671 active cases and 3,63,079 deaths so far.
After battling a brutal second wave for weeks, fresh Covid cases came down below the three lakh-mark for the first time on May 17 after touching record high of 4,14,188 on May 7.
According to the Health Ministry, a total of 11,21,671 people have been discharged in the last 24 hours, taking the total discharge to 2,77,90,073 till date.
The Health Ministry said that a total of 24,60,85,649 people have been vaccinated so far in the country, including 32,74,672 who were administered vaccines in the last 24 hours.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, 37,42,42,384 samples have been tested up to June 10 for Covid-19. Of these 20,44,131 samples were tested on Thursday.
27% succeeded in getting vax appointment on CoWIN in last 7 days — Survey
Only 27 per cent of those who tried to get Covid vaccine appointment on the CoWIN/Aarogya Setu app in the last seven days were able to do so, said a survey by LocalCircles.
The survey sought to understand the magnitude of issues with the CoWIN portal that still persist. When people were asked about their experiences with the CoWIN site, 21 per cent said “was able to register and get an appointment easily”, while 6 per cent said “was able to register after many attempts and get an appointment”.
Breaking down the poll further, 44 per cent said “was able to register easily but couldn’t get an appointment”, 20 per cent said “was able to register only after many attempts but couldn’t get an appointment”, while 9 per cent said “wasn’t able to register due to OTP or other issues”.
On an aggregate basis, the findings of the poll indicated that only 27 per cent of those who tried to get the Covid vaccination appointment on CoWIN site or Aarogya Setu app in the last seven days were able to do so. This question in the survey received 8,278 responses.
The survey also said that with vaccine hesitancy at a low of 18 per cent, many more people are now seeking the vaccine as compared to early March.
This coupled with supply, procurement and distribution issues has led to a shortage with 70 per cent citizens surveyed having someone in their social network who could not find a vaccine dose when they went for vaccination in May.
The availability of vaccines is likely to rise in the coming months with India placing an order for 400 million additional doses.
The survey found that 70 per cent citizens had someone in their social network who could not find a vaccine dose when they went for vaccination in May.
The percentage of citizens who were unable to find a vaccine dose at the vaccination centres went up by almost 4 times from April to May.
Govt. considering plea for INR 4 lakh to Covid victims, SC told
The Centre on Friday informed the Supreme Court that it was considering a plea to provide monetary compensation of INR 4 lakh to the family members of those who have died due to Covid-19.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, submitted before a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and M.R. Shah that the issue raised in the PILs is important, and the government would file its response in the matter.
Mehta said that the government is contemplating a national policy, and sought two weeks to file its reply.
As the bench queried why two weeks were needed, Mehta replied: “As your lordships are aware, the entire machinery is occupied with certain other pressing issues.”
A counsel appearing in the matter submitted that the death happening because of the black fungus is also result of Covid, therefore, the death certificate must mention this reason. To this, Mehta replied: “Your case is genuine, and it will be addressed by the Central government.”
After a brief hearing in the matter, the bench said: “The Centre seeks time to file a reply. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta says issues are under consideration and a reply will be filed.., List these petitions on June 21.”
Two PILs were filed by advocates Gaurav Kumar Bansal and Reepak Kansal seeking court’s intervention for payment of Rs four lakh ex-gratia amount to Covid victims’ families.
On May 24, the court had sought a response from the Centre on the plea, and also asked it to inform whether there was a uniform policy on issuance of death certificates, when cause of death was Covid. The bench had noted that said many time reasons given in a death certificate can be heart attack or lung failure, but these could be triggered by Covid-19.
Bansal cited Section 12 (iii) of the Disaster Management Act (DMA) providing for ex gratia monetary compensation for the families of those who died during a notified disaster.
“It is respectfully submitted that as per Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 it is the fundamental duty of National Disaster Management Authority to provide minimum standards of relief to persons affected by disaster….,” said his plea.