Coronavirus highlights, January 6: India to conduct second vaccine dry run on Jan 8, new strain tally touches 73

Here are the top Covid-19 developments that you need to know today.

With the Centre gearing up for the rollout of Covid-19 vaccine, the second round of dry run will be conducted across the country on January 8 to ensure efficient planning and management for vaccine delivery. The first round of dry run was held on January 2.

A meeting of Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan with the state/UT Health Ministers will be held on January 7 to guide them on the conduct of dry run. Uttar Pradesh and Haryana will be exempted from the country-wide exercise as the former will conduct the mock drill on January 7 while the latter conducted it on January 5. Around 1.7 lakh vaccinators and 3 lakh vaccination team members have been trained on the process to be followed at the vaccination sites which include beneficiary verification, vaccination, cold chain and logistics management, bio-medical waste management, AEFI management and reporting on Co-WIN software.

India’s Covid caseload rose to over 1.3 crore with 18,088 infections being reported on Wednesday, while the recoveries are nearing one crore. Over 1.5 lakh people have died of the infection, including 264 people who succumbed to the disease in the last 24 hours. Meanwhile, the number of people who have tested positive for the new UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the country climbed to 73, the Union health ministry has informed.

Two vaccines — Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech with Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), and Covishield, a variant of Oxford AstraZeneca’s AZD1222 manufactured under licence by the Serum Institute of India — have received emergency use approval from India’s drug regulator.

Here are the other Covid-19 developments that you need to know today

Can’t dilute Covid protocols, follow 50 per cent cap on theatre occupancy: Centre tells TN govt

The Centre directed the Tamil Nadu government to revoke its order increasing the seating capacity in cinema halls from existing 50 per cent to 100 per cent. The Ministry of Home Affairs has issued a letter reminding the state government that it cannot dilute the covid safety protocols issued by the Centre.

The letter also urged the state government to immediately withdraw its order allowing 100 per cent occupancy in theatres.

Punjab to reopen schools from Jan 7; Gujarat from Jan 11

The Punjab government decided to reopen all schools from January 7 for students of classes 5 to 12.

State Education minister Vijay Inder Singla said following the persistent demand of parents, the state government has decided to reopen all government, semi-government and private schools from January 7 onwards.

The Gujarat government has also decided to reopen schools for classes 10 and 12, as well as final-year graduate and all post-graduate courses, from January 11 onwards. While attendance would not be compulsory, and online classes would continue, it is mandatory for students to submit a consent letter from parents to attend physical classes.

The national capital is also contemplating the reopening of schools in the city. The Delhi government is brainstorming on how early schools can be reopened and the future strategy to resume classroom studies will depend on when a vaccine is available to the public after frontline workers are inoculated, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said.

Centre rushes high-level team to support Covid management in Kerala

The Centre will send a high-level team to support public health interventions for Covid management in Kerala as the state has been reporting a “very high” number of daily coronavirus cases, the health ministry said. The team headed by the Director of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr S K Singh, will reach Kerala on Friday.

During the last seven days, a total of 35,038 new cases were logged in Kerala.

Shashi Tharoor suggests cancelling R-Day festivities

A day after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called up Prime Minister Narendra Modi and expressed “regret” that he would not be able to visit India to be Chief Guest for the Republic Day celebrations, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has suggested cancelling the Republic Day festivities, saying getting crowds to cheer the parade as usual would be “irresponsible”.

Johnson took this decision in view of the fresh national lockdown in his country, as his government responded to the new, more contagious mutant strain of the novel coronavirus. India has to now look for an alternative Chief Guest for the Republic Day celebrations, which may, however, be truncated on account of the pandemic. Last year’s Independence Day celebrations had been scaled down as well.

EU agency approves Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine

The European Unions medicines agency gave the green light Wednesday to Moderna’s Covid vaccine, a decision that gives the 27-nation bloc a second vaccine to use in the desperate battle to tame the virus rampaging across the continent, AP reported.

The approval recommendation by the European Medicines Agency’s human medicines committee — which must be rubber stamped by the EU’s executive commission — comes amid high rates of infections in many EU countries and strong criticism of the slow pace of vaccinations across the region of some 450 million people.

It’s ‘misunderstanding’: China on WHO’s rebuke for delaying virus team to probe COVID-19 origin

An embarrassed China on Wednesday acknowledged that there could be some “misunderstanding” between Beijing and the World Health Organisation over granting timely permission to experts to visit the country to probe the origin of the coronavirus, even as it gave no indication about when it will allow them to come.

In a rare instance of criticism from the global body, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a media conference in Geneva on Tuesday said, “Today, we learned that Chinese officials have not yet finalised the necessary permissions for the team’s arrival in China.

“I’m very disappointed with this news, given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute, but had been in contact with senior Chinese officials.”

UK: One in 50 now infected with novel coronavirus

More than 1 million people in England now have coronavirus, the British government said, as medics race to vaccinate the most vulnerable against the rapidly spreading disease.

Rocketing case rates from the new virus strain mean one person in every 50 in England now has Covid-19, while in London one in 30 is infected, official survey results showed.

PM Johnson unveiled the statistics as he vowed to speed up the government’s vaccination program, in order eventually to lift the latest lockdown. He said 23% of all over-80s in England have now been given a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, meaning some of those at the greatest risk are starting to get the protection they need. (Read the Bloomberg report here)

Explained today: How antibodies target different parts of coronavirus in mild and severe cases

Antibodies against Covid-19 preferentially target a different part of the virus in mild cases and a different part in severe cases, according to a new study by researchers at Stanford Medicine. The study is published in the journal Science Immunology.

SARS-CoV-2 binds to human cells via a structure on its surface called the spike protein. Once inside, the virus sheds its outer coat to reveal an inner shell encasing its genetic material. Soon, the virus created multiple copies of itself, which are then released to infect other cells.

(Input from agencies: AP and PTI)

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