Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba on Saturday held a high-level review meeting with the chief secretaries of Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Telangana and Jammu & Kashmir.

These states and Union Territory have reported a surge in coronavirus infections. Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research Balaram Bhargava, NITI Aayog Empowered Group members, health professionals for states and union territory and representatives from the home ministry also attended the meeting.

In a statement, the ministry said that Gauba asked the states to maintain a strict vigil in containing the spread of the virus. “They were advised not to lower their guard, enforce Covid-19 Appropriate Behaviour and deal firmly with violations,” the statement said. “It was strongly underlined that they need to follow effective surveillance strategies in respect of potential super spreading events. Need for effective testing, comprehensive tracking, prompt isolation of positive cases and quick quarantine of close contacts were also strongly emphasised.”

Meanwhile, India on Saturday registered 16,488 new coronavirus cases, taking the overall count to 1,10,79,979. The new cases were marginally lower than Friday’s count of 16,577. The country’s toll rose to 1,56,938 as 113 deaths were reported in 24 hours.

The number of active cases stood at 1,59,590 while the number of recoveries reached 1,07,63,451. So far, more than 1.42 crore health and frontline workers have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. Of these, 7,69,904 recieved their shots on Friday.

Six states – Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat – account for 85.75% of the new cases. Besides them, Madhya Pradesh and Harayana were showing an upward trajectory in daily new cases.

Maharsahtra continues to be the worst-affected states by the pandemic, reporting 8,333 new cases, followed by Kerala with 3,671. The remaining states accounting for the 85.75% of the new cases are reporting cases below the 1,000 mark.

Six states account for nearly 86% of daily Covid-19 cases. (Source: Ministry of Health)

Pune has now overtaken Bengaluru to become the second-worst affected city after Delhi, according to The Indian Express. For the last four consecutive days, it has reported more than 1,000 Covid-19 cases. Delhi and Bengaluru are now reporting cases in the lower hundreds.

Second phase of vaccination

The second phase of the vaccination drive, which will cover people above the age of 60 and those over 45 with comorbidities, will also begin from March 1. Ahead of this exercise, the central government on Friday held a meeting with states to discuss the rollout strategy, The Indian Express reported.

The Centre informed them that registrations will be carried out in three ways. The first method is called advance self-registration, where beneficiaries will be able to register themselves in advance through the CO-Win 2.0 portal and other platforms, including the Arogya Setu app. The second way is on-site registration, where beneficiaries can walk into identified Covid-19 vaccination centres and register on-site.

The third option is facilitated cohort registration. Under this, the states were explained that on specific dates, target groups of potential beneficiaries will be vaccinated. ASHA workers, Auxiliary nurse midwives, Panchayati raj representatives, and women’s Self Help Groups will be utilised for mobilising the target groups.

Additionally, private hospitals may be allowed to charge a user fee of up to Rs 100 from each beneficiary, the Centre said.

Restrictions on international flights extended

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation on Friday extended the suspension of international commercial passenger flight services till March 31.

“In partial modification of circular dated June 26, 2020, the competent authority has further extended the validity... regarding scheduled international commercial passenger services to and from India till 23.59 pm IST of March 31, 2021,” the aviation regulator said.

However, international flights may be allowed on select routes by the competent authority on case-to-case basis, it said. The restriction will not apply to cargo flights and flights specifically approved by DGCA, the circular added.

World updates

  1. The coronavirus has infected 11.33 crore people across the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 25.17 lakh people have died of the infection. The number of recoveries has gone up to 6.39 crore.
  2. Health advisors in the United States endorsed a one-dose coronavirus vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, AP reported. The acting head of the Food and Drug Administration said that the agency will move quickly to follow the recommendation, which would make J&J’s shot the third vaccine authorized for emergency use in the US after the Pfizer and Moderna shots.
  3. Brazil is seeking the immediate suspension of purchases of India’s vaccine Covaxin, Reuters reported, citing a document. This came a day after the country’s health ministry signed a contract to purchase 2 crore doses. The vaccine made by private Indian company Bharat Biotech has yet to be backed up with Phase III clinical trial results, the prosecutors at the Federal Audit Court argued.