COVID INDIA … Union health ministry says India has arrested the Covid spread; one-fifth of districts report no new incident in past one week


NEW DELHI: The worst is over and good days past the Covid-19 pandemic, it seems, are round the corner. The Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan stated as much on Thursday.

He said India has halted the rise in Covid-19 infections, with a fifth of its districts reporting no new cases for a week, even as its immunization campaign has covered 2.4 million people. The country of 1.35 billion has recorded the highest number of cases in the world after the United States, though the rate of infection has come down significantly since a mid-September peak. Some studies have suggested pockets of India have attained herd immunity through natural infection.

“India has successfully contained the pandemic,” Harsh Vardhan said, noting that fewer than 12,000 cases were reported in the past 24 hours. He said 146 of India’s 718 districts have had no new cases for a week and 18 districts for two weeks. India has flattened its Covid-19 graph,” he added.

With infections falling, the government said that from Feb. 1 it would lift curbs on the use of public swimming pools, allow cinema halls and theatres to seat more than 50% of capacity and let all types of exhibition halls to operate.

The world’s second most populous country started its COVID-19 immunisation programme on Jan. 16, with the aim to reach 300 million people by July-August.

India has so far reported 10.7 million infections and 1,53,847 deaths – one of the world’s lowest fatality rates from the disease, attributed partly to its younger population.

Thyrocare Technologies Ltd, one of India’s top-three diagnostic chains, told Reuters antibody tests it had done on more than 700,000 people showed that 55% of the country’s population may have already been infected. The World Health Organization says at least 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the population needs to have immunity to break the chain of transmission. A top Indian vaccine official was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying he did not think India had reached that level yet, but that even a smaller percentage could help slow the spread of the virus.

KERALA AS WORST CASE: The Union health ministry, out of the 20 worst-affected Covid districts, 12 are in Kerala. Ernakulam and Kozhikode top the state in Covid-19 cases. The Indian Medical Association (IMA)’s Kerala chapter has asked the state government to take stringent measures in Ernakualm including a lockdown . The state government appears to be reluctant because it could impact upcoming assembly polls, which are expected by April-May. However, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan stated two days ago that police would be asked to ensure people followed the covid regulations strictly, mainly in the worst-hit areas of the state.

The Kerala state health ministry said there are 3,050 ICU beds — 1,200 in government hospitals and 1,850 in the private sector — and of them about 90 per cent are occupied.  State health minister KK Shailaja has noted that though the infection rates in Kerala remain high, the fatalities are not at a high level. Some 3,500 people have died of the infection so far, against the national figure of over 1.50lakh.

The situation in Kerala turned serious in the last three months. Covid-19 cases started to rise after a brief lull in October (called the second wave). The average test positivity rate (TPR) rose to 13% and on October 13 it went up to 18.16%. In November, the TPR came down to 8% and in December it went up to 9%, shows the ministry data.

In the second half of January, the cases started rising again with the TPR increasing to 12.48 per cent on January 25 from 10.88 in mid-January. As the positivity rate rose, the number of active Covid cases also increased. Average active cases in the last three months were between 65,000 and 70,000, statistics show. On Wednesday, the active caseload was 71,607, a report noted. — Agencies, IHN-NN


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