The central government on Tuesday said that 37 districts across nine states, including 11 districts in Kerala and seven in Tamil Nadu, are showing a rising trend in the average daily new COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks even as the corresponding nationwide figure continues to register a decline.
At a press briefing on the pandemic, officials said the reproduction number or R number that indicates the speed at which COVID-19 is spreading is more than 1 in five states — Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh — which remains a cause for concern.
Andhra Pradesh, Goa and Nagaland have their reproduction number at 1, Joint Secretary in the Union Health Ministry Lav Agarwal said.
For India, it is around 1, he said.
The Reproduction number or Rt refers to how many people an infected person infects on average. In other words, it can tell how efficiently a virus is spreading, Agarwal explained.
He said, “37 districts across nine states — Kerala (11 districts), Tamil Nadu (7), Himachal Pradesh (6), Karnataka (5), Andhra Pradesh (2), Maharashtra (2), West Bengal (2), Meghalaya (1) and Mizoram (1) — are still showing rising trend in daily new COVID-19 cases during the last two weeks.”
The increasing trend of reproduction number in some states is cause for concern, although there is stabilisation in COVID-19 cases in the country, NITI Aayog member (Health) V K Paul said, adding there are significant reasons to enforce pandemic control measures.
“If we look at the overall picture, we are hovering with a reproduction number of around 1 and it is more than 1 in some states. An increasing trend is a cause for concern. So a profound word of caution: Himachal has R number of 1.3 and for Punjab it has been recorded at 1.3 and showing an increasing trend.
“Though there is a stabilisation in the overall number of cases we still have significant reasons to be concerned, reasons to be vigilant and significant reasons for us to enforce pandemic control measures in every possible way,” he said.
Agarwal further said 44 districts across 11 states and union territories, including Kerala (10), Manipur (10), Mizoram (6) and Arunachal Pradesh (5), reported a weekly positivity rate of more than 10 per cent in the week ending August 9.
However, districts with more than 100 daily cases have declined from 279 in week ending on June 1 to 48 in week ending on August 8, 2021, Agarwal informed.
Only one state has more than 1 lakh active cases, eight states have active cases between 10,000 and 1 lakh, and 27 states and UTs have less than 10,000 active cases currently.
“I would like to emphasise once again that this is no time to lower the guard. Staying vigilant, following Covid-appropriate behaviour, compliance with masks, avoiding crowds and not creating crowds even in close rooms, avoiding unnecessary travels, all these precautions continue to be very, very important for us,” Paul stated.
Agarwal said Kerala reported 51.51 per cent of the total COVID-19 cases recorded in India in the past seven days. The southern state currently contributes 43.77 per cent of the total active cases in the country, followed by Maharashtra with 18.48 per cent cases.
For Kerala, it is clear that containment measures must be paid more attention to. “We do not have to allow the spread and that is the policy of the government that we talk about containment not mitigation. We need to bring herd immunity with vaccines and not infection,” Paul said.
“One more message is that Delta variant is ruling the nation, in fact ruling the world. Everywhere you can see the spread of Delta and because of it surge across many countries have been reported,” Paul stated.
The government said Delta Plus variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in 86 samples in India, including 34 in Maharashtra, as on August 9.
On vaccination, Paul said the advantages of increasing coverage of vaccination is already being seen.
“We must also see that how vaccines are helping in economic activities and bringing us towards normalcy. As the vaccination coverage is rising, we must also see how preferentially it helps the workforce and we encourage corporates in this direction. There is a clear need that our educational institutions run and taking that in mind we need to connect teachers with vaccination. Many teachers have been vaccinated and for the rest all efforts must be made,” he said.
On vaccine availability, Paul said all vaccines have different terms of importing under different circumstances. Sputnik is being imported from outside and it is also being made here, Moderna has a different grant.
“J&J (vaccine) is being made in the country so all situations are different and there are issues that need to be sorted and when you want to access these vaccines there are certain conditions clauses, MoUs agreed upon this takes time,” he said.
He said that indemnity is not needed in the process followed for emergency use authorisation of Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccine. Zydus Cadila, Biological E, Covavax and mRNA vaccines might appear in this sequence but it is a dynamic situation and there is continuous progress, he said.
India logged 28,204 new coronavirus infections, the lowest in 147 days, taking the total tally of cases to 3,19,98,158, while the active cases fell to 3,88,508, the lowest in 139 days, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Tuesday.
The death toll has climbed to 4,28,682 with 373 fresh fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.
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