Coronavirus live updates | Allahabad HC urges Centre to stop political rallies in election-bound States amid Omicron scare

White House says it is ‘grateful’ Trump got, promoted COVID-19 booster shot

More than 60% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Thursday.

“Accomplishing more new feats! Congratulations India. Aided by public participation & dedicated efforts of our health workers, over 60% of the eligible population fully vaccinated now,” he said in a tweet.

Amid the rise in cases of the Omicron variant in India, AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria on Wednesday emphasised on adhering to COVID-appropriate behaviour while observing that people have become lax in following these norms.

You can track coronavirus cases, deaths and testing rates at the national and State levels here. A list of State Helpline numbers is available as well.

Here are the updates:

₹19,675 cr spent on COVID-19 vaccine procurement: Govt data

The Centre has spent ₹19,675 crore to procure COVID-19 vaccines for free of cost supply to states and Union territories, according to government data.

The government had earmarked ₹35,000 crore in the Union Budget 2021-2022 for COVID-19 vaccination.

"It is informed that an expenditure of ₹19,675.46 crore has been incurred for procurement of COVID-19 vaccines for free of cost supplies to states and Union territories by December 20," read a reply to an RTI application filed by social activist Amit Gupta. – PTI

Over 140.24 crore Covid vaccine doses administered in India so far, says government

The cumulative COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in India crossed 140.24 crore on Thursday, the Union Health Ministry said.

Over 51 lakh vaccine doses have been administered on Thursday till 7 pm, it said.

The ministry said the daily vaccination tally is expected to increase with the compilation of the final reports for the day by late in the night. – PTI

White House says it is ‘grateful’ Trump got, promoted COVID-19 booster shot

The White House is grateful that former U.S. President Donald Trump received and promoted getting the COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, press secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday.

The Republican former president recently said in an interview that he received a booster shot, and called the COVID-19 vaccines "one of the greatest achievements of mankind."

"The ones that get very sick and go to the hospital are the ones that don’t take the vaccine," Trump said in an interview with conservative commentator Candace Owens. "If you take the vaccine, you’re protected." – Reuters

U.K. study makes case for AstraZeneca booster shot

A third dose of both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines significantly increased the immune response to the Omicron variant, according to a new study by University of Oxford researchers.

The laboratory study, which has not been peer reviewed yet, compared antibody levels in blood samples from people who received two doses of vaccine with samples from those who had received a third dose.

While two doses provided much less protection against Omicron than earlier variants, levels of neutralising antibodies rose sharply after a third dose, the study found. – PTI

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PM Modi calls for ‘high alert’ on Omicron

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a review meeting on Thursday, directed top officials coordinating India’s COVId-19 response, to maintain a “high level of vigil and alertness at all levels”.

He directed the Centre to closely coordinate with States to support their efforts of public health measures of containment and management. Union Health Secretary, Rajesh Bhushan, had in a letter on Wednesday, directed States to impose stringent restrictions on people’s movement if test positivity and bed occupancy in their districts crossed certain thresholds.

Officials briefed the Prime Minister about the emerging global scenario driven by the new variant, Omicron with an overview of surge in cases in countries having high vaccination coverage and presence of the variant. India has so far reported 236 instances of the Omicron variant since December 4.

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COVID-19 spreading within family, extended contacts in Chennai

The number of Chennai’s daily COVID-19 cases, which remains above 100, has been fluctuating for quite sometime now. However, a majority of the patients who have tested positive were family and extended contacts, say officials.

In the last one week, the number of daily cases ranged from 127 on December 17 to 132 on December 21, increasing to 145 on December 23.

“Nearly 30-40% of the total cases are index cases. A majority of our daily cases are family and extended contacts. The travel history and contact history of index cases are undertaken extensively like how we traced and tested all family and extended contacts of the person who first tested positive for Omicron variant. Another recent cluster occurred at a private laboratory where 12 staff tested positive for COVID-19 after a person living in Mumbai visited them,” an official said.

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Omicron worries may impact PV supply: FADA

Automobile dealers’ body FADA said passenger vehicle (PV) supplies may get affected further, if chip-making countries go under lockdown due to the spread of the Omicron variant.

FADA, however, noted on Thursday that it expects the semiconductor shortage situation to normalise by the second half of next year.

“We see year 2022 as a neutral year as the rise of Omicron has once again created fear globally,” Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations (FADA) President Vinkesh Gulati said. – PTI

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Omicron threat | Ban rallies, put off U.P. polls, Allahabad High Court urges PM, Election Commission

The Allahabad High Court has requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Election Commission of India (ECI) to immediately ban rallies and public meetings of political parties, and consider postponing the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election owing to rising cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The court requested the ECI to possibly postpone the U.P. election scheduled to be held in February by one or two months. Citing news reports of increasing COVID-19 cases and deaths, the HC said the third wave “is at our doorstep”.

Justice Shekhar Kumar Yadav, while hearing a bail petition on December 23, appealed to the ECI to bring an immediate end to the large rallies and public meetings being organised by political parties for the election. Justice Yadav appealed to the ECI to direct the parties to not campaign through rallies and public meetings but through newspapers and “doordarshan” or the television medium.

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Merck’s at-home antiviral COVID-19 pill gets U.S. authorisation

The U.S. on Thursday authorised Merck & Co’s antiviral pill for COVID-19 for certain high-risk adult patients, a day after giving the go-ahead to a similar but more effective treatment from Pfizer Inc.

Merck’s drug, molnupiravir, developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, was shown to reduce hospitalisations and deaths by around 30% in a clinical trial of high-risk individuals early in the course of the illness.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorised Merck’s drug to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults who are at risk for severe disease, and for whom alternative COVID-19 treatments are not accessible or clinically appropriate. – Reuters

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Students returning from high-risk States to Dakshina Kannada should undergo tests: DC

Dakshina Kannada Deputy Commissioner K.V. Rajendra on Thursday said students from Kerala and Maharashtra should return with COVID-19 negative certificates to hostels/paying guest accommodations after spending Christmas and year-end holidays in their native places and undergo RT-PCR tests on arrival.

Dr. Rajendra told reporters here there were fluctuations in new COVID-19 cases in the last few days because of some clusters. The district has 164 active cases: 35 in hospitals and 129 under home isolation.

The case fatality ratio was at 1.17.

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