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COVID-19 spreading faster than last time: Health Ministry

(Asian News Hub) – The Health Ministry addressing the media on Tuesday confirmed that Covid is spreading faster than ever before while terming the situation in Chhattisgarh to be a cause of concern.

A day after India’s daily COVID cases crossed one lakh for the first time since the pandemic, the Health Ministry officials said that Chhattisgarh’s Durg was among the top 10 districts with high active COVID cases. Other districts s included seven in Maharashtra, including Mumbai and Pune, and one in Karnataka.

The intensity of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased in India and it is spreading faster than last time, they added.

According to Health Ministry, Maharashtra, Punjab and Chhattisgarh remain states of maximum concern on account of high daily COVID-19 cases, deaths.

“The intensity of the pandemic has increased and it is spreading faster than last time. In some states, it (the condition) is worse than others but the upswing (in cases) can be observed across the country,” he said.

“People’s participation is vital to control the second wave. The next four weeks are going to very critical. The entire country has to come together and make efforts to fight the pandemic.”

He said the number of coronavirus cases is increasing and along with that mortality is also on the rise.

“Still, in terms of the population size and in terms of deaths per million we are doing well and the pandemic is in control.”

Detailing the COVID-19 situation in India, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said Chhattisgarh’s Durg is among the top 10 districts with high active COVID cases.

“Among these 10 districts, seven are in Maharashtra and one in Karnataka. Delhi, counted as one district, is also in the list.”

The 10 districts with the highest number of new cases are Pune, Mumbai, Thane, Nagpur, Nashik, Bengaluru Urban, Aurangabad, Ahmednagar, Delhi and Durg, he said.
Bhushan further said that Maharashtra, Punjab and Chhattisgarh still remain states of maximum concern.

“Given their population, the number of deaths being reported by Punjab and Chhatisgarh is a cause of extreme concern,” he said.

The Centre has constituted 50 high-level multi-disciplinary public health teams and deployed them to districts reporting a surge in cases and mortality in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Punjab, the Union health secretary said.

These teams were being deployed in 30 districts of Maharashtra, 11 of Chhattisgarh and nine of Punjab.

Maharashtra, Gujarat and West Bengal were among the states that administered the maximum number of COVID vaccine doses, Bhushan said and emphasised that the immunisation drive has to be ramped up in a scientific manner.

“Chhattisgarh is a cause of concern for us. Despite being a small state, it reports 6% of total COVID cases and 3% of total deaths in the country. The condition of Chhattisgarh has deteriorated in the second wave of infections,” said Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan.

Stressing the need for RT-PCR tests, the Health Secretary said we have asked state governments to increase the percentage of RT-PCR tests, which had been falling in Maharashtra in the last few weeks.

Only 60% of total tests were done using the RT-PCR method in Maharashtra last week. We suggest states to take it to 70% or above, he explained.

Maharashtra, Gujarat and West Bengal were among states that administered the maximum number of COVID vaccine doses, it was noted.

In India, 96,982 daily cases have been reported in a span of 24 hours, while the death toll increased to 1,65,547 with 446 daily new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.

(With agencies inputs)

National

Link claiming to change Whatsapp in Pink is a virus, can hack mobile phone: Cyber experts

(Asian News Hub) – Cyber experts have warned users from falling into the prey of a virus link which claims to turn Whatsapp in pink colour and comes with new features.

According to cyber security experts, clicking on the link claiming to be an official update from Whatsapp will hack users phone and they may lose access to their Whatsapp.

“Beware of WhatsApp Pink!! A Virus is being spread in whatsapp groups with an APK download link. Don”t click any link with the name of #WhatsappPink. Complete access to your phone will be lost,” cyber security expert Rajshekhar Rajaharia posted on social media platforms.

Several Whatsapp users were seen sharing the malicious link.

Cyber intelligence firm Voyager Infosec director Jiten Jain said that users are strictly advised never to install any APK or mobile app other than those available on official App store of Google or Apple.

“Such malicious apps can be used to compromise your phone and steal personal data like photos, sms, contacts etc. Keyboard based malwares can be used to track everything you type. It can be used to capture and steal banking passwords. The current case of Pink Whatsapp or Whatsapp Gold is also a case of malware impersonating as fake whatsapp feature apps,” Jain said.

When contacted, Whatsapp said, “Anyone can get an unusual, uncharacteristic or suspicious message on any service, including email, and anytime that happens we strongly encourage everyone to use caution before responding or engaging. On WhatsApp in particular, we also recommend that people use the tools that we provide within the app to send us a report, report a contact or block contact.”

PTI

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COVID-19: India has emerged as the new epicentre of the global pandemic

Hospitals on the brink, thousands dying on a daily basis, and new variants spreading rapidly across the country – India has emerged as the new epicentre of the global pandemic

(Asian News Hub) – India was hit hard by coronavirus last year, recording one the highest caseloads in the world alongside the US and Brazil. But numbers started declining rapidly after last summer and by January this year, as vaccines started to roll out, the health minister proclaimed the country had reached the end of the pandemic.

But after months with few restrictions, and just as life was starting to look normal again, cases have suddenly exploded, with a tsunami of infections sweeping the country and putting ICUs into what doctors have called a “war-like” situation.

With many other nations making rapid progress on vaccinations, the country is now the global epicentre for the disease, while concerns are mounting about the new variants involved. Doctors in the Indian states facing the worst pressure paint a grim picture, describing a chaotic and overwhelming intake of desperately sick patients.

Loved ones wailing outside hospitals, ambulances queued up with patients, crematoria and graveyards drowning in dead bodies, failed resuscitations and families scrambling for beds, plasma, and even basic medical supplies such as oxygen, stretchers and ventilators.

“Patients are dying suddenly of hypoxia. There are more patients here than the doctors could attend and all the monitoring equipment has been exhausted. We are suffering,” a resident doctor from Mumbai’s state-run Sion hospital tells The Independent, on condition of anonymity.

Maharashtra, the state where Mumbai is located, has for several weeks been painted as an outlier in terms of the new outbreak, but the situation is now no better in the capital Delhi, where Dr Atul Gogoi of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital says ICU beds and even general wards are out of capacity. He says the situation is becoming increasingly difficult with each passing day.

Having to remain “aloof” during this “war-like” fight against the disease is taking its toll, he says. “We are worn out physically as the workload is constantly increasing, [but also] mentally as we regularly deal with emotional breakdowns of elderly people.”

India’s outbreak is worse now than it was at any point last year, with the country registering a series of grim milestones in the past few weeks. As well as overtaking Brazil in total caseload, the country has recorded daily spikes of more than 200,000 new infections over a 48-hour period in the last week.

While there remains insufficient data to attribute the new wave to any one cause, scientists say an indigenous variant of the virus called B.1.617 is likely to be fuelling the flames, coupled with a fatigue with safety precautions that has seen a return to crowding and a reluctance to wear masks across the country.

It may be that multiple more infectious variants are at play here. Testing has shown the presence of the UK’s B.1.1.7, South Africa’s B.1.351 and Brazil’s P1 spreading among the population. These variants have been found in Maharashtra, Punjab, Kerala, Delhi, and Karnataka states, which between them contribute a high proportion of new cases.

However, the greatest concerns swirl around India’s B.1.617, which has been dubbed the “double mutant” variant in media reports, although it actually has 15 mutations from the original virus. This is because it carries two specific and concerning mutations in its spike protein that have cropped up elsewhere during the pandemic – known as E484Q and L452R. It is the first time that these genetic changes have evolved together in a single variant.

With inputs from Independent

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Rising COVID-19 cases putting huge strain on health system: AIIMS Director

(Asian News Hub) – Noting that the country was seeing a “huge strain” on the health care system due to a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, AIIMS Delhi Director Dr Randeep Guleria has said that there is a need to go back to all the strategies that were being followed six-seven months back to bring about a reduction in the number of cases.

In an interview with ANI, Dr Guleria said causes for the fast spread of the virus are “multi-factorial”.

“But two main causes are that when in January and February vaccination started and cases went down, people stopped following COVID appropriate behaviour and at this time the virus mutated and it spread more rapidly,” he said.

The vaccination drive was launched on January 16 in the country.

Dr Guleria said if 15 per cent of COVID-19 cases require hospital care and one person is admitted on average for five to seven days, hospital beds get occupied and with more patients coming, the hospitals may run out of beds.

“At present, we are not only seeing record-breaking numbers but we are also seeing a huge strain on the health care system. Because no health system will be able to manage so many patients. And we will have a crisis in terms of patient management. Doctors are already over-burdened. They have been working for more than a year and that also includes other healthcare workers,” he added.

He said there is a need to keep increasing hospital beds and resources for the increasing number of cases.

“We also have to urgently bring down the number of COVID-19 cases,” he said.

Dr Guleria called for a “multipronged attack” to contain the virus.

“There is a need to go back to all the strategies that we were following six-seven months ago to decrease the number of cases,” he said.

He noted that there has been a huge increase in the number of cases in a very few days “rather than weeks or months that we had seen last time”.

Asked about some people testing positive for COVID-19 even after taking the vaccine, he said vaccine prevents a person from getting the more severe disease but it does not prevent you from the infection totally.

“We have to remember that no vaccine is 100 per cent efficient. You may get the infection but the antibodies in our body will not allow the virus to multiply and you’ll not have severe disease,” he said.

Answering a query, he said this a time when a lot of religious activities happen in the country and polls are also underway.

“We must understand lives are also important. We can do this in a restricted manner so that religious sentiment is not hurt and COVID appropriate behaviour can be followed,” he said.

Dr Guleria said there was no specific answer to how long the second wave of COVID-19 will continue in India and it depends on how quickly and efficiently the spread of virus is contained.

Asked about the situation in Delhi, he said the city has a larger spike compared to the situation six-seven months ago.

“A lot of containment zones were made, almost like a mini-lockdown in those areas. We need to start looking at the same strategies,” he said.

ANI

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