8.58 pm: The United Kingdom says it is sending life-saving medical equipment to India to help the country deal with the deadly second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, reports NDTV.

“Vital medical equipment, including hundreds of oxygen concentrators and ventilators, is now on its way from the UK to India to support efforts to prevent the tragic loss of life from this terrible virus,” says Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a statement.

Johnson also says Britain stands “side by side” with India to fight the pandemic.

8.28 pm: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also assured help to India in tackling the Covid-19 surge.

8.14 pm: The European Union has promised to help India tackle the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič tweets: “Upon request for assistance by India, we have activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The EU will do its utmost to mobilise assistance to support people of India. Our #ERCC is already coordinating EU MS that are ready to provide urgently needed #oxygen & medicine rapidly.”

7.52 pm: “All manufacturing units may be allowed to maximise their production of liquid oxygen, and make it available to the government, for use for medical purposes only,” the home ministry says.

7.51 pm: The Union Ministry of Home Affairs says that the Centre has reviewed the oxygen supply situation and has decided that “with immediate effect, use of liquid oxygen, including the existing stock, will be allowed for medical purposes only”.

7.47 pm: Mumbai reports 5,542 new Covid-19 cases, 8,478 discharges, and 64 deaths in 24 hours. There are 75,740 active cases in the city, and the toll stands at 12,783, reports ANI.

7 pm: Karnataka reports 34,804 new coronavirus cases, 6,982 recoveries, and 143 deaths in 24 hours, reports ANI. There are 2,62,162 active cases, 2,62,162 recoveries. The state toll is 14,426.

6.53 pm: Kerala reports 28,469 new Covid-19 cases, 8,122 recoveries, and 30 deaths in 24 hours, reports ANI, citing the state health department.

6.44 pm: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal writes to India’s top industrialists, seeking help in the national Capital’s oxygen crisis, reports ANI. “Please help the Delhi government if you have oxygen and tankers...help us in whatever way you can,” the letter reads.

6.37 pm: Rajasthan reports 15,809 new Covid-19 cases, 6,649 recoveries, and 74 deaths in 24 hours, according to the state health department, reports ANI. There are 1,36,702 active cases in the state, 3,74,134 recoveries and the toll stands at 3,601.

5.23 pm: The Rajasthan government has decided to provide free Covid-19 vaccines to those over 18 years, announces Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.

5.15 pm: AIIMS HoD of Medicine Dr Naveet Wig says: “If we have to defeat Covid-19, we will have to save healthcare workers. Many of them are testing positive. If we save healthcare workers, they will be able to save patients. If we save both, only then will we be able to save economy. It is linked.”

5.08 pm: Director General of Health Services, Sunil Kumar, says citizens should follow responsible behaviour, reports ANI. “GoI [Government of India] carried its duty responsibly and ramped up testing capability,” he adds. “We must have faith that our government takes concrete and scientific steps with suggestions from doctors, microbiologists, epidemiologists.”

5.05 pm: Medanta chairperson Naresh Trehan tells ANI that 90% of coronavirus patients can recover at home if they are given correct medicines on time. “As soon as your RT-PCR report comes positive, my advice would be to consult your local doctor with whom you’re in touch,” he says. “All doctors know protocol and will begin your treatment accordingly.”

4.58 pm: Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia urges hospitals in the national Capital not to raise alarms unnecessarily on oxygen shortage. Such acts hamper efforts to provide help to hospitals that really need assistance, he adds.

“This morning, I got an SOS call from a hospital that had 18 kilo litres of oxygen in stock,” he tweets. He adds that the hospital requires 4.8 kilo litres of oxygen a day and has a storage capacity of 21 kilo litres, meaning it still has three days of supply left.

4.33 pm: The first “Oxygen express” train for Delhi, carrying around 70 tonnes of medical oxygen, will depart from Jindal Steel Works plant in Raigarh on Sunday night, Chairman Railway Board Suneet Sharma says, reports PTI. The train, ferrying four tankers, will reach the Capital on Monday night.

4.32 pm: Himachal Pradesh imposes a night curfew in four districts from April 27 to May 10, reports PTI.

4.29 pm: Railway Board Chairperson says discussions are ongoing about oxygen supplies to Delhi. “Regarding Delhi, talks are on and we’re about to move 4 tankers (Oxygen) from Jindal Plant in Raigarh,” he tells ANI. “I am told that tankers are getting loaded there. Railways has already provided wagons which are ready. As soon as tankers are loaded, they’ll be moved.”

4.24 pm: At 5 pm, AIIMS Delhi Director Dr Randeep Guleria, Medanta Chairperson Dr Naresh Trehan, Professor and HoD of Medicine, AIIMS, Dr Naveet Wig and Director General Health Services Dr Sunil Kumar will jointly address issues related to Covid-19, reports ANI.

4.16 pm: The Union health ministry writes to officials of states and Union Territories on the systematic implementation of the third phase of India’s inoculation programme, reports ANI.

4.08 pm: The Madhya Pradesh administration has contacted senior officials of the Uttar Pradesh government after a vehicle carrying medical oxygen for hospitals in Sagar district was stopped during transit, reports PTI, citing officers.

3.56 pm: The Delhi Police’s Crime Branch has arrested three people during a raid in Laxmi Nagar area for alleged black marketing of antiviral drug remdesivir, reports PTI. According to the police, the accused were selling a remdesivir injection at Rs 40,000. The drug is used to treat critical coronavirus patients.

3.55 pm: All shops and business are shut in Puducherry as a weekend lockdown has been imposed to rein in the pandemic, reports PTI. The weekend lockdown came into force at 10 pm on Friday and will end at 5 am on Monday.

3.53 pm: Italy has joined a list of countries to ban foreign travellers who have been in India in the past 14 days from entering the country amid a surge in cases, reports Reuters.

Italian residents will be allowed to return from India with a negative coronavirus test result at their departure and one at their arrival, says Health Minister Roberto Speranza. The residents will also have to undergo quarantine.

3.46 pm: Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu says the state is being given “step-motherly treatment” in the vaccination drive, reports PTI.

“The Centre should provide the vaccine and essential life-saving medicines,” he adds. “If the Centre does not support us, how can we roll out the vaccination drive? We are only hand-to-mouth on vaccines. The Centre should allot the vaccine and provide it to us.”

3.44 pm: The health ministers of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Jharkhand accuse the Narendra Modi government of “hijacking” vaccine stocks from manufacturers, reports PTI. At a virtual joint press conference, the health ministers of the four Congress-ruled states say are prepared for the next phase of vaccination drive from May 1, but the manufacturers have expressed inability to provide them vaccine shots.

“How do we vaccinate adults of 18-45 years as Serum Institute has said they will not be able to provide vaccine till May 15,” says Rajasthan Health Minister Raghu Sharma. “We have the capacity, but not the vaccine. States should get the supplies. The Government of India should provide vaccine as per their requirements.”

3.15 pm: One of two persons taking a RT-PCR test in Kolkata and its suburbs is testing positive for Covid-19, reports The Times of India. In the rest of West Bengal, one in four people ares testing positive.

“Laboratories in Kolkata and surrounding areas are reporting a positivity rate of 45-55% while in other parts of the state the positivity rate is around 24%, up from 5% at the beginning of this month,” a doctor in one of the biggest Covid-19 testing laboratories tells the newspaper.

2.39 pm: The Maharashtra government announces free Covid-19 vaccines for those between 18 and 45 years, reports ANI.

2.36 pm: Palaniswami writes: “The states to which allotment has been made have lower number of active cases than us and have major steel industries located within their state/close to their states. So, I request that diversion of 80 metric tonnes from Sriperumpudur plant, may immediately be cancelled.”

2.33 pm: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami writes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the oxygen supplies allotted to his state. “In National Medical Oxygen allotment plan allocation for Tamil Nadu fixed at 220 metric tonnes and based on the wrong allotment, 80 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen diverted from manufacturing facilities at Sriperumpudur in Tamil Nadu to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana,” he writes, according to ANI.

2.01 pm: Chhattisgarh Health Minister TS Singh Deo accused the Centre of doing politics on the coronavirus vaccines, reports ANI. “There is no way vaccination can be done if vaccines are not available,” he says. “We have the vaccination sites ready and can complete the vaccination in 30-40 days.”

1.58 pm: Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik says the state government will give coronavirus vaccines to all its residents for free, reports NDTV.

12.50 pm: Rajasthan Health Minister Raghu Sharma says the state has started two helpline numbers – 2225624 and 2225000. “The positivity rate is 6.08% and the recovery rate is 73.69% in the state,” says Sharma. He says that the Centre has allotted 140 metric tonnes of oxygen but adds that the state needs more than 250 metric tonnes.

12.47 pm: Indian Railways says that special trains carrying three oxygen tankers with 14 tonnes capacity each is planned to leave Rajkot Division in Gujarat for Kalamboli in Maharashtra, reports ANI. It adds that the tankers are supplied by Reliance Industries, Jamnagar.

12.45 pm: Union minister Babul Supriyo and his wife tests positive for the coronavirus. He adds that he will not be able to vote in Asansol.

12.40 pm: The Prime Minister’s Office says that these oxygen generation facilities would address the day-to-day medical oxygen needs of hospitals, reports ANI. The office adds that the liquid medical oxygen would serve in addition as a “top up” to the captive oxygen generation.

12.33 pm: The Prime Minister’s Office says that Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund has given in-principle approval for allocating funds for installing 551 Pressure Swing Adsorption Medical Oxygen Generation Plants inside public health facilities, reports ANI.

“PM [Narendra Modi] has directed that these plants should be made functional as soon as possible,” ANi reports, citing his office. “These dedicated plants will be established in identified government hospitals in district headquarters in various States/UTs. The procurement will be done through [the] Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.”

12.31 pm: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal says the Aam Aadmi Party government has started a portal that will be updated every two hours by oxygen manufacturers, suppliers and hospitals for better management of oxygen supply, reports ANI. He adds that the Delhi government and the Centre were working together on this.

12.08 pm: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal extends the lockdown in Delhi by a week. It will now be in place till 5 am on May 3, ANI reports.

11.28 am: “I urge people to not fall prey to any rumour about vaccine,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi says.

He adds that the country’s corporate sector can also participate in the vaccine drive by getting their employees vaccinated. “Government of India’s free vaccination program will continue in future too. I request states to ensure benefits of this free vaccination program reaches as many people as possible,” he adds.

11.20 am: The prime minister also urges everyone to only seek information on the pandemic through reliable sources.

11.15 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi says the government of India is dedicated to taking forward the efforts of the state governments to tackle the current health crisis, ANI reports.

11.11 am: “Our health workers and doctors are currently fighting a major battle against Covid 19,” he adds. “In the past one year, they have had several kinds of experiences about the pandemic.”

11.09 am: “I’m speaking to you at a time when Covid-19 is testing our patience and capacity to bear pain,” the prime minister says, according to ANI. “Many of our loved ones left us untimely. After successfully tackling first wave, nation’s morale was high, it was confident but this storm [the second wave] has shaken the nation.”

11.08 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi calls the second wave of the pandemic a storm and says it has shaken the country. “To tackle this wave of Covid, I have held meetings with experts from many fields like pharma industry and oxygen production,” he says in his Mann-ki-Baat radio programme.

11.04 am: Twenty railway coaches have been set up for isolation of coronavirus patients in Bhopal, ANI reports.

11.01 am: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi urges members of the party to leave political work and help the public during the health crisis.

“‘System’ failed, so it’s important to do Jan ki baat,” he says in a tweet, just minutes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mann-ki-Baat radio programme. “In this crisis, the country needs responsible citizens. I request my Congress colleagues to leave all political work – just provide all help and ease the pain of our countrymen. This is the Dharma of the Congress family.”

10.34 am: Uttar Pradesh records its highest single-day surge in infections as well as coronavirus-related deaths with 38,055 fresh cases and 223 fatalities, reports PTI. With this, the overall infection count stands at 10,51,314 and the toll at 10,959.

10.32 am: A man has been arrested in Spain on suspicion of assault after he allegedly infected 22 people with the coronavirus, reports BBC. He is said to have walked around in Majorca, pulling his mask down, coughing and telling his colleagues that he was going to infect them.

10.31 am: Police arrest five persons in Nagpur for allegedly selling antiviral drug Remdesivir at Rs 45,000 per vial, reports PTI.

10.28 am: Jammu and Kashmir administration announces free vaccination against coronavirus for all above 18 years of age, reports The Times of India.

10.25 am: Tamil Nadu announces a new set of restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, reports the Hindustan Times. The restrictions will come into effect from 4 am on April 26 on top of the existing measures in the state.

10.24 am: Kerala Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala appeals to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan government to airlift surplus medical oxygen cylinders to Delhi after Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal requests states for supplies, reports ANI.

10.23 am: Twenty isolation railway coaches set up for coronavirus patients in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, reports ANI.

10.21 am: The Jagannath Temple administration closes the shrine for devotees till May 15 in view of the coronavirus cases, reports the Hindustan Times.

10.20 am: Several coronavirus patients were on Saturday forced to wait outside state-run Sir Sayaji General Hospital in Vadodara, Gujarat, for hours before admission as the medical facility ran out of oxygen, reports the Hindustan Times.

10.18 am: The Centre cuts the basic customs duty and health cess on medical grade oxygen and 15 other related equipment to boost oxygen availability in the country amid the coronavirus crisis which has battered the health infrastructure, reports the Hindustan Times.

10.38 am: A parliamentary panel had in November last year suggested the Centre should augment hospital beds and oxygen production, reports PTI. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health had said that the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, a government agency that controls the prices of pharmaceutical drugs, should take measures to cap the price of oxygen cylinders in order to ensure their availability as well as affordability, according to a report.

10.15 am: Several states in America resume the use of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, reported The Guardian. Europe’s medicines regulator had said that blood clots should be listed as a “very rare” side effect of Johnson & Johnson vaccine but that the benefits of the shot still outweighed the risks, according to AFP.

10.09 am: A large number of people seen on roads in Shivvamogga in Karnataka as grocery shops are allowed to remain open between 6 am and 10 am during the statewide curfew, reports ANI.

9.45 am: India reports a record-breaking 3,49,691 new cases in a day, taking the total number of infections to 1,69,60,172 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. This is the highest ever single-day rise in cases reported by any country so far, and the fourth consecutive day when the country has set such a grim global record.

For the first time, 2,767 deaths were registered. The toll is now 1,92,311, while there are 26,82,751 active cases.

9.37 am: The Punjab government, meanwhile, stopped operations at iron and steel plants to divert oxygen for medical use, PTI reports.

9.30 am: Six critically ill patients died at a hospital in Amritsar in Punjab on Saturday, the Hindustan Times reports. They died due to a shortage of oxygen.

The hospital authorities claimed that the district officials prioritised government hospitals. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has ordered an inquiry.

9.20 am: A complete weekend curfew is underway in Jammu and Kashmir. It will in place till 6 am on Monday.

9.10 am: At least 23 people died after a fire broke out at a hospital in Baghdad, Iraq. The explosion was caused by “a fault in the storage of oxygen cylinders”, according to AFP. The fire broke out inside a coronavirus intensive care unit at Ibn al-Khatib hospital. The flames reportedly spread out over many floors.

9 am: The United States is “deeply concerned” by the severe Covid outbreak in India, says White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, according to ANI. “We’re working around the clock to deploy more supplies and support to our friends and partners in India as they bravely battle this pandemic.”

8.50 am: “Our hearts go out to Indian people in the midst of the horrific COVID outbreak,” says US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, according to ANI.” We’re working closely with our partners in the Indian govt, and we’ll rapidly deploy additional support to the people of India & India’s healthcare heroes.”

8.40 am: The second wave of Covid has hit India more like a tsunami, with a deadly toll. Here are some ways we make the best of the crisis we are facing. It is imperative that we build on to what we previously did right and rectify our past mistakes, says a Mumbai doctor.

Read more here:

Five suggestions for flattening India’s Covid-19 second wave by a Mumbai doctor

8.30 am: From Saturday night, only German citizens would be able to enter Germany from India, ANI reports. “In order not to jeopardise our vaccination campaign, we need to significantly limit our passenger traffic with India,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

The temporary restrictions come as India witnesses a record rise in Covid cases. Canada, UAE, Hong Kong and the UK are among some other countries that have restricted travel from India.

8.20 am: The Centre has approved 4.3 lakh vials of antiviral drug remdesivir to Maharashtra, the Hindustan Times reports.

“The central government today has approved the supply of 4,35,000 vials of Remdesivir to Maharashtra till April 30th,” the chief minister’s office said on Saturday. “CM Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray has thanked the Hon’ble PM Narendra Modi for accepting his request.” Around 2.69 lakh vials were sent earlier.

8.10 am: The Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi announces that it has received 5 tonnes of oxygen at 4.15 am, ANI reports. “Oxygen running in full pressure after a long time,” the spokesperson says.

Ganga Ram and the Gandhi Hospital in Uttam Nagar had sounded an alarm around midnight, warning that they only had oxygen left for a few more hours, according to NDTV. Both hospitals later received help.

8 am: Biotechnology company Bharat Biotech’s coronavirus vaccine, Covaxin, will cost Rs 600 per dose for state governments and Rs 1,200 for private companies. The vaccine will be priced between $15 and $20 (approximately Rs 1,120 and 1,500) for export.

Read more here:

Coronavirus: Covaxin priced at Rs 1,200 for private companies, Rs 600 for states

7.50 am: The police in Madhya Pradesh make Covid guidelines violators make squats as a punishment, ANI reports.

7.40 am: West Bengal reported 14,281 coronavirus cases on Saturday and 59 deaths on Saturday, PTI reports. This is the state’s highest single-day rise in cases since the pandemic broke out in March 2020. It now has 7,28,061 cases and 10,884 deaths. The number of actives cases is 81,375.

7.30 am: Globally, the coronavirus has infected more than 14.6 crore people and killed over 30.96 lakh since the pandemic broke out in December 2019, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 8.41 crore people have recovered from the infection.

Here are the top updates from Saturday:

  • On Saturday, it reported 3,46,786 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours, the third consecutive day that the country set a global record for daily infections since the pandemic began last year. With this, the country’s tally of infections rose to 1,66,10,481. As many as 2,624 deaths were registered, taking the toll to 1,89,544.
  • Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appealed to chief ministers for spare oxygen. He took to Twitter to say that the severity of the coronavirus wave was such that “all available resources are proving inadequate”, despite the Centre’s help. Earlier in the day, at least 20 patients died at a Delhi hospital due to oxygen shortages.
  • Serum Institute defended its vaccine pricing, saying the initial rates were based on advance funding. The vaccine maker’s comment came after it was pointed out that a price of Rs 600 per dose would mean that Indians getting inoculated with Covishield at private hospitals from May 1 could end up paying the highest price in the world for this vaccine. The Centre has, however, said it will continue to procure the vaccine from Serum Institute at Rs 150 per dose.
  • The Delhi High Court on Saturday said it would “hang” any official found obstructing the pick up or supply of oxygen. The court was hearing a petition filed by Maharaja Agrasen Hospital in the national Capital concerning shortage of oxygen at the facility for coronavirus patients.
  • Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday expressed solidarity with India amid the massive second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted not just in an unprecedented rise in cases, but also strained the health infrastructure. The country’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also tweeted pledging support to India. The remarks came after several Pakistani social media users on Friday tweeted, many of them using hashtags like #IndiaNeedsOxygen, to lend support to India.
  • The Centre has asked states to set up field hospitals in the lead up to the third phase of vaccination. The Centre also asked states to register more Covid vaccination centres by engaging with private hospitals, hospitals of industrial establishments, and industry associations.