New Delhi: Asserting that the coronavirus second wave was not yet over, the Central government on Thursday said the months of September and October would be crucial in pandemic management and cautioned that festivals should be celebrated in accordance with Covid-19-appropriate behaviour.
Addressing a media briefing, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan reiterated that the country is still in the midst of the second wave.
Bhushan said, "We are still in the midst of the second surge of COVID-19 in our country. The second surge has not yet concluded. It is not over and therefore, we have to maintain all necessary precautions, particularly in light of our experience that after every festival we see a spike."
ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava said an upsurge is being witnessed in a few districts.
"Vaccines are disease modifying and not disease preventing so it is very important to continue the use of masks even after vaccination."
"We have 41 districts reporting a COVID-19 weekly positivity rate of more than 10 per cent and there are 27 districts which have weekly test positivity between 5 and 10 per cent.
"Population density is causing the spread. So wherever Covid-appropriate behaviour is not being followed there we are seeing an upsurge in cases," he said.
Highlighting the importance of vaccination, he said vaccines reduce the disease severity, reduce the possibility of hospitalisation and also avert deaths to the tune of nearly 98-99 per cent.
"Mass gatherings have to be discouraged," Bhargava said, underlining that "full vaccination offers protection against severe disease and death and should be a prerequisite if attending a gathering is critical." According to the government, daily new COVID-19 cases continue to show a decline and 58.4 per cent of the total cases last week were reported from Kerala.
Only one state, Kerala, has more than 1 lakh active cases, or 51.19 per cent of the countrywide number.
Four states -- Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh -- have active cases between 10,000 and 1 lakh, while 31 states and union territories have less than 10,000 active cases currently.
The average daily COVID-19 vaccination rate has increased from 39.89 lakh per day in June to 43.41 lakh per day in July and to 52.16 lakh per day in August.
As far as doses are concerned 99 per cent of the healthcare workers have received the first dose while 83 per cent of the eligible healthcare workers have taken the second dose.
Hundred per cent of the frontline workers have been administered the first dose, while 73 per cent of them have been given the second dose.
Fifty per cent of those aged above 18 have been administered the first dose and 15 per cent of them have got the second dose, Bhushan said.
On media reports about fake vaccination certificates in Telangana, Bhushan said, "We have seen the reports and we have closely analysed them. We have shared media reports with concerned state governments and asked them for their inquiry into this. However, I would like to reiterate that...the CoWin system...remains foolproof...if there are instances where people have used other means to generate digital certificates, we will definitely take appropriate action." Bhushan said that in the past two-three weeks no such report of vaccine shortage from any state has been received.
"We give daily reports of unutilised and balance vaccine doses and in the past two-three weeks the balance/unutilised vaccine doses quantity has not gone below 2.5 crore so we believe that the present situation is satisfactory and we have repeatedly told states and UTs that vaccination pace must be increased," he said.
"We had a meeting with states on the matter just yesterday and results are also being seen that 80 lakh doses were administered in the last 24 hours and even today 47 lakh doses were administered," he said.
Responding to a question on preparations to augment oxygen availability, Bhushan said after the second surge there has been a concerted effort to ensure that at the hospital level and within the states at regional levels oxygen buffers are created.
"We create an oxygen buffer by ensuring that public health facilities must have their own captive oxygen generation plants and a large intervention in this has been undertaken. More than 1,500 such plants have been sanctioned and around 900 of them have been commissioned and they have been commissioned at a very fast pace so that is one element of creating an oxygen buffer," he said.
The second element of creating oxygen buffer is to enable public health facilities to have medical oxygen storage tanks.
Under the COVID-19 Emergency Response Package, funds are being provided to states and UTs to procure these medical oxygen tanks and install them wherever required.
The third element is to create equitably distributed oxygen storage capacities within a state and municipal corporation area, Bhushan said.
With 46,164 people testing positive for the coronavirus infection in a day, India's total tally of COVID-19 cases has increased to 3,25,58,530, while the active cases rose to 3,33,725, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Thursday morning.
The death toll climbed to 4,36,365 with 607 fresh fatalities, according to the data updated at 8 am.
The active cases account for 1.03 per cent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate was recorded at 97.63 per cent, the ministry said.
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