Over 9 lakh covid patients on oxygen support across India, 1.7 lakh on ventilator: Health Minister

News Network
May 8, 2021

New Delhi, May 8: While 1,70,841 Covid patients across the country are on ventilator, as many as 9,02,291 patients are on oxygen support, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Saturday.

In his virtual address at the 25th meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM) to discuss the pandemic situation, the minister said that 1.34 percent of Covid caseload was in ICU, 0.39 percent of cases were on ventilators and 3.70 percent Covid patients were on oxygen support.

He said that across the country, the number of patients in ICU beds is 4,88,861 while 1,70,841 patients were on ventilators and 9,02,291 patients were on oxygen support.

The meeting was attended by Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar, Minister of Civil Aviation Hardeep S Puri, Minister of State for Ports, Shipping and Waterways and Chemical and Fertilizers Mansukh Mandaviya and Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs Nityanand Rai.

Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State, Health and Family Welfare and Dr Vinod K Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog were present virtually.

Paul gave a detailed report on the work of the Empowered Group-1 and highlighted the various efforts made towards ramping up hospital infrastructure for effective clinical management of hospitalised patients.

Giridhar Aramane, Secretary, Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways (Chair, EG-2) presented the current scenario of Liquid Medical Oxygen Production, Allocation and Supply.

Aramane stated that the production of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) has been maximized to meet the present demand of Covid patients.

The domestic production has increased to more than 9400 MT/day, the health ministry quoted him, adding that he also enumerated steps to import LMO, the status of establishment of PSA oxygen plants through the support of PMCARES fund with the support of DRDO and CSIR, enhancement of tanker availability, the functioning of the web portal and mobile application for Real-Time Tracking of LMO Tankers.

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News Network
June 8,2021

Bengaluru, June 8: The Karnataka Common Entrance Test for various vocational courses, including engineering, is scheduled to be conducted on August 28 and 29.

"The CET exam will take place on August 28 and 29. Each subject will carry 60 marks," Deputy Chief Minister C N Ashwath Narayan said at a press conference on Tuesday.

The Maths and Biology exams will be held on the first day while Physics and Chemistry on the second day. Registration will commence from June 15, he said, adding that the PUC marks will not be taken into account. Narayan further said students will be required to score a minimum mark to clear the entrance test.

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News Network
June 1,2021

Bengaluru, June 1: Universities in Karnataka have collectively urged the state government to vaccinate college students at the earliest and said that they will be unable to start regular or offline classes for the academic year 2021-22 without students being vaccinated.

The varsities stuck to the online mode of teaching during the previous year. Their demand comes even as students going abroad for higher education have sought vaccination at the earliest in the wake of foreign universities mandating the same. 

Fr V M Abraham, Vice-Chancellor, Christ University said students can be invited to campus only if they had completed both doses of vaccination. “The university is even planning to conduct convocation only after all students are vaccinated. I think it is justified in the interest of everyone’s health and safety. Until then, the institution will stick to online classes,” he said.

M R Doreswamy, Chancellor, PES University had a similar view. Whether a student was from within the state or outside the country, vaccination should be mandatory before starting offline classes, he said. While urging the government to ensure vaccination for all college students at the earliest, Doreswamy said offline classes were necessary for effective learning. “Online classes cannot replace offline classes. It can only be a temporary solution,” he observed. 

Many universities in Karnataka, especially those in Bengaluru, also see a number of foreign students. “Those travelling to India for studies will be required to produce proof of vaccination,” said Dr N V H Krishnan, Registrar, Jain Deemed-to-be University. Once the lockdown is lifted, the university will give an option to students to choose between offline and online classes, he added. 

Government universities have different challenge to face. Many of them cater to a large number of rural students. Since rural Karnataka is now seeing a spike in cases, faculty in these universities have also urged the government to vaccinate students at the earliest. 

“Unless the government takes initiative in vaccinating all these students, it will be a challenge to conduct offline classes,” said University of Mysore Vice-Chancellor G Hemantha Kumar. While the university can comfortably conduct online classes for about eight weeks in a semester, it will have to go for offline classes for the rest. “Since there will be practical work, students need to come to the campus,” he said.

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News Network
June 11,2021

New Delhi, June 11: A group of public health experts, including doctors from AIIMS and members from the national taskforce on Covid-19, have said that mass, indiscriminate and incomplete vaccination can trigger emergence of mutant strains and recommended that there is no need to inoculate those who had documented coronavirus infection.

In their latest report, the experts from Indian Public Health Association (IPHA), Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine (IAPSM) and Indian Association of Epidemiologists (IAE) said vaccinating the vulnerable and those at risk, instead of mass population-wide inoculation including children, should be the aim at present.

"The present situation of the pandemic in the country demands that we should be guided by the logistics and epidemiological data to prioritise vaccination rather than opening vaccination for all age groups at this stage.

"Opening all fronts simultaneously will drain human and other resources and would be spreading it too thin to make an impact at the population level," the experts said in the report which has been submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Highlighting that vaccination of young adults and children is not supported by evidence and would not be cost effective, they said unplanned inoculation can promote mutant strains.

"Mass, indiscriminate, and incomplete vaccination can also trigger emergence of mutant strains. Given the rapid transmission of infection in various parts of the country, it is unlikely that mass vaccination of all adults will catch up with the pace of natural infection among our young population," they said in the report.

There is no need to vaccinate people who had documented Covid-19 infection. These people may be vaccinated after generating evidence that vaccine is beneficial after natural infection, the recommendations stated.

Evidence-based flexibility in vaccine schedules may need to be considered for areas or populations experiencing surge on account for specific variants; for example, a reduced interval for the second dose of Covishiled for areas with surge due to the delta variant.  

"Vaccine is a strong and powerful weapon against the novel coronavirus. And like all strong weapons it should neither be withheld nor used indiscriminately; but should be employed strategically to derive maximum benefit in a cost-effective way," they said. 

While it makes perfect sense to vaccinate all adults, the reality is that the country is in the midst of an ongoing pandemic with limited availability of vaccines, the report said.

In this scenario the focus should be to reduce deaths, majority of which are among older age groups and those with co-morbidities or obesity. Vaccinating young adults, given the present constraints, will not be cost-effective, they stated. 

The report suggested implementing repeated local level serosurveys in real time at the end of the second wave to map the vulnerability at district level to guide vaccination strategy and long term follow up of the cohort of recovered Covid-19 patients to document re-infection, severity and outcome to provide evidence base on duration of immunity after natural infection.

Ongoing research on vaccine effectiveness under field conditions by following cohorts of vaccinated and unvaccinated in different age strata should be prioritised.

Stating the current wave is largely attributable to multiple variants, the experts pointed out that India has done genome sequencing of less than 1 per cent of its positive samples and also lags behind other high incidence countries in another crucial measure, sequence per 1,000 cases.

Achieving a target of genomic sequencing of 5 per cent positive samples looks challenging at the moment, but all efforts should be made to reach at least 3 per cent mark, they recommended while appreciating setting up of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) of 10 national laboratories timely and addition of 17 more laboratories.

The molecular epidemiology investigations need to be accelerated with INSACOG scientists, field epidemiologists and clinical specialists working in synergy to delineate the epidemiological features of the variants with specific reference to transmissibility and fatality. 
 
Genetic sequences need to be tracked to delineate virus transmission both across the community and in health care settings. It can detect outbreaks that may otherwise be missed by traditional methods, the experts pointed out.

They also recommended that syndromic management approach should be rolled out in a planned manner after sensitisation of healthcare staff, along with the optimum utilisation of laboratory testing.

There is an acute shortage of testing facilities for SARS-CoV-2 in rural and peri-urban areas. 

The sensitivity of RAT is quite low; there are chances that some truly positive cases would remain unidentified and thus continue to spread the disease.

"Timely testing of each and every symptomatic patient is not possible and will put a huge burden on the health system and will delay the isolation and treatment. The optimal solution in such a situation is to adopt a syndromic management approach. It should put focus on making diagnosis based on clinical symptoms and epidemiologically linked suspects," they said.

They further recommended that the vaccination status of all individuals tested for Covid-19 must be entered into the sample referral form in the RTPCR app both for individuals tested by RTPCR and RAT. 

The collected information must be analysed periodically to know the status of vaccinated individuals with regards to Covid-19 and its severity including mortality.

As way forward, the experts said that district level sero surveillance may be planned with the methodology of EPI cluster sampling.

" If the seroprevalence at district level, is more than 70 per cent (on account of a combination of natural infection and vaccination,) there should not be any lockdown and return to normalcy should be attempted. 

"This will also help in prioritizing the districts for vaccination i.e. districts with lower seroprevalence should be given priority for vaccination. A fine balance is needed to be maintained between life and livelihood."

The experts also said that if very large number of individuals are vaccinated at a fast pace with limited resources for monitoring of adverse events following immunization (AEFI), some adverse events and deaths will be missed. Also, while some of these AEFI may be coincidental, it may end up contributing to vaccine hesitancy. 

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