Meanwhile, the Delhi government announced that schools will remain closed till further orders, and the DGCA extended the suspension of international passenger flights till 30 November
The north-eastern state of Mizoram recorded its first death due to the coronavirus infection while Union minister Smriti Irani tested positive on Wednesday as India’s case count inched closer to 80 lakh while the toll touched 1,20,010.
As India recorded 43,893 fresh cases, 58,439 recoveries, and 508 fatalities in the 24 hours between 8 am on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Union health ministry claimed that India has sustained its global position of recording one of the lowest COVID-19 cases as well as deaths per million population.
Meanwhile, the Delhi government announced that schools will remain closed till further orders, and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) extended the suspension of international passenger flights till 30 November.
Goa said casinos in the state can throw open their doors from 1 November while Maharashtra wrote to the railways proposing the easing of curbs on the suburban trains.
Smriti Irani tests positive
Union minister Smriti Irani took to Twitter to inform that she has tested positive for COVID-19. The Union minister for women and child development and textiles asked the people who came in contact with her to get themselves tested for the disease.
It is rare for me to search for words while making an announcement; hence here’s me keeping it simple — I’ve tested positive for #COVID and would request those who came in contact with me to get themselves tested at the earliest 🙏
— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) October 28, 2020
Union ministers Hardeep Singh Puri, Piyush Goyal, Prahlad Joshi, and Jitendra Singh, BJP leaders Tejasvi Surya and Poonam Mahajan were also among those who wished Irani a speedy recovery.
On Tuesday, Irani campaigned for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the Bihar Assembly polls, the first phase of which took place on Wednesday in 71 constituencies amid special arrangements and precautions to prevent the virus from spreading.
Mizoram reports first fatality
A 62-year-old man succumbed to the infection at the state-run Zoram Medical College near Aizawl, its medical superintendent, Dr HC Laldina told news agency PTI. The patient, who also suffered from a heart ailment, was undergoing treatment for 10 days, the official said.
Mizoram, which has been facing a steady rise in coronavirus cases since June, has been observing ‘COVID-19 no tolerance fortnight’ since 26 October. A lockdown has been imposed in Aizawl municipal area since 27 October to curtail the rising number of locally transmitted cases.
The state-wide drive will continue till 9 November, while the lockdown in Aizawl is scheduled to end at 4.30 am on 3 November.
On Wednesday, the north-eastern state’s caseload rose to 2,607 as 80 more people, including 27 school students and 11 Army personnel, tested positive for the infection.
Other states and Union Territories too reported fresh cases and deaths. The number of deaths in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday crossed 11,000 with 35 more deaths while 2,516 fresh coronavirus cases pushed the cumulative total to 7,16,751. West Bengal saw its highest single-day recoveries with 3,925 persons recovering from the disease in a day while the toll rose by 60 to 6,664.
Maharashtra reported 6,738 new infections and 91 deaths, taking the aggregate case count to 16,60,766 and toll to 43,554.
Maharashtra proposes easing restrictions on Mumbai locals
An official said on Wednesday that the state government has written to railway authorities, proposing that the general public be allowed to travel by Mumbai local trains during non-peak hours. At present only certain categories of persons, including essential services staff, are permitted to travel by the local trains.
The Maharashtra government has suggested that any person holding a valid ticket be allowed to board the local trains till 7.30 in the morning, between 11 am to 4 pm, and between 8 pm till the end of the day.
The time between 8 am and 10.30 am, and from 5 pm to 7.30 pm should be reserved for essential services staff having valid QR coded identity cards, and there should be ladies special trains every hour.
In a letter marked to general managers of Central Railway and Western Railway as well as the Government Railway Police commissioner, it also sought an increase in the frequency of suburban services that are being operated for essential services staff since 15 June.
Currently, the Railway authorities are operating 1,410 special services on the Mumbai suburban network, including 10 ladies special trains.
Goa casinos to re-open from 1 Nov
Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant announced that the state Cabinet has decided to allow casinos to reopen from 1 November onwards. The casinos will have to operate at 50 percent of their capacity and follow all the standard operating procedures laid down by the state Home department, he added.
Sawant also said that casino operators will have to pay the license fees before resuming operations.
The coastal state has six offshore and around a dozen onshore casinos, which have been shut since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in March.
Schools in Delhi to remain shut
In Delhi, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia announced that schools in the National Capital will remain closed till further orders, stating that parents have expressed concerns over the safety of such a move. Earlier the state government had announced that schools will be shut till 31 October.
“We keep getting feedback from parents that they are really concerned about whether it is safe to reopen schools. It is not. Wherever schools have reopened, COVID-19 cases among children have risen. So, we have decided that as of now schools in the National Capital will not reopen. They will continue to be closed till further orders,” Sisodia said.
According to the Centre’s ‘Unlock 5‘ guidelines, states can take a call on reopening schools in phases. Several states including Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Sikkim have begun the process of reopening schools while states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, and West Bengal have decided against it for now.
India registers 43,893 cases in 24 hours
Earlier in the day, the Union Health Ministry had said that India’s COVID-19 caseload mounted to 79,90,322 with 43,893 fresh cases being reported in 24 hours, while the toll climbed to 1,20,010 with 508 new fatalities.
A total of 72,59,509 people have recuperated from COVID-19 so far and the national recovery rate stands at 90.85 percent, while the case fatality rate stands at 1.50 percent, the data updated at 8 am showed.
The active cases of coronavirus infections remained below seven lakh for six days in a row, the ministry said. There are 6,10,803 active cases of coronavirus infection in the country as on date, which comes up to 7.64 percent of the total caseload, it said.
According to ICMR, a cumulative total of 10,54,87,680 samples have been tested up to 27 October, of which 10,66,786 samples were tested on Tuesday.
In a statement, the health ministry said that India has sustained its global position of recording one of the lowest COVID-19 cases as well as deaths per million population.
While the global figure for COVID-19 cases per million is 5,552, India is reporting 5,790 cases per million population. USA, Brazil, France, UK, Russia and South Africa are witnessing much higher numbers. The COVID-19 deaths per million population in India is 87, substantially lower than the world average of 148, the ministry said, attributing these outcomes to “targeted strategies in COVID-19 management and the proactive as well as calibrated public health response over the last several months”.
Ten states and UTs account for 77 percent of the recovered cases, the ministry said adding that Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Kerala have contributed more than 7,000 fresh recoveries. Seventy-nine percent of the new cases were reported from 10 states and UTs, the ministry highlighted, adding that Kerala has overtaken Maharashtra with the highest number of new infections.
International flights to remain suspended till 30 Nov
The DGCA said that the suspension of scheduled international passenger flights has been extended till 30 November but added that flights on selected routes may be given permission by the competent authority on a case to case basis.
The DCGA circular also mentioned that the suspension does not affect the operation of international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by it.
Scheduled international passenger services have been suspended in India since 23 March due to the coronavirus pandemic. But special international flights have been operating under the Vande Bharat Mission since May and under the bilateral ‘air bubble’ arrangements with selected countries since July.
Cipla launches antibody detection kit
In another development, drug firm Cipla announced the launch of its antibody detection kits for COVID-19 in India under the brand name ‘ELIFast’ in partnership with KARWA Ltd.
“As part of the collaborative effort, Cipla will be responsible for the marketing and distribution of the SARS CoV-2-IgG antibody detection ELISA that will be manufactured by KARWA Ltd,” Cipla said in a statement. ICMR has provided the requisite technical know-how and process for developing the test kits to the approved manufacturers. The product will be marketed under the brand name ELIFast, it added.
Cipla’s distribution network will help in ensuring the seamless supply of kits across the country. Supply will be undertaken through the channels approved by ICMR to ensure equitable access, the statement said.
ELIfast has been validated and approved by ICMR and the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, it added.
IgG antibody tests identify the immune status of the individuals to COVID-19. ICMR has recommended these tests for conducting sero-surveillance, the statement said.
Two million cases across the globe last week, says WHO
Globally, the novel coronavirus has infected a total of 4,41,03,094 people and claimed the lives of 11,69,052, according to John Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker.
According to the World Health Organisation, two million confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported last week, the shortest time for such an exponential increase since the pandemic began.
In a weekly analysis of COVID-19, the WHO said for the second consecutive week, the European region accounted for the biggest proportion of new cases, with more than 1.3 million reported cases or about 46 percent of the worldwide total. The UN health agency said deaths were also on the rise in Europe, with about a 35 percent spike since the previous week.
Although the number of deaths is gradually increasing, the proportion of deaths to cases remains relatively low, compared to the early phase of the pandemic in the spring, the WHO said.
The countries reporting the highest numbers of cases remain unchanged as for the past three weeks: India, the US, France, Brazil, and the UK.
With inputs from agencies