Covid Pandemic: India red flags West Bengal’s rising cases
Amidst mounting concerns over the detection of the new and faster-spreading variant of the Delta-plus coronavirus in certain parts of India, the country's health authorities have asked the West Bengal government to check the rising number of fresh Covid-19 cases in the state, particularly in Kolkata, following the Durga Puja festival.
The state government has prompted the Sonarpur-Rajpur Municipality authorities in south 24 Parganas district to shut down all markets and shops in all its 35 wards barring those dealing in essential commodities for three days from October 28 because of a surge in Covid cases in the last one week.
The step has been taken to break the chain of infections, said a state health ministry official.
Some micro-containment zones with restrictions on the movement of people and transport have been set up in parts of Purba Medininpur district.
West Bengal has been reporting about 800 new Covid-19 cases for the last one week after registering nearly 1,000 infections for a couple of days, according to the state health department data.
The state's cumulative tally of cases rose to 15,88,066, while the 15 fresh fatalities took the death toll to 19,081.
In a letter to West Bengal Health Secretary, Indian Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan expressed concern over the rising Covid cases and said if the trend is allowed to continue unchecked, it may severely strain West Bengal's health facilities.
Despite the warning by doctors, the Bengal government relaxed Covid-19 curbs during the Durga Puja celebrations and there were major violations of Covid protocols as lakhs of people, many of them without masks, had swarmed thousands of puja pandals without maintaining social distancing.
The spurt in Covid cases in West Bengal comes at a time when the number of Delta AY.4.2 variant of coronavirus, which is spreading rapidly in some countries, has gone up to seven in the southern state of Karnataka.
The new mutant, which has already caused concerns in the UK and Russia, was earlier detected in seven persons in the central Indian city of Indore and around 26 cases in the western state of Maharashtra.
Bhushan asked the West Bengal authorities to expedite the administering of the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccines and ensure strict adherence to safety protocols.
PANDEMIC 'FAR FROM FINISHED': WHO
The Covid-19 crisis is far from over, said the World Health Organisation's emergency committee on Tuesday as it called for research into the next generation of vaccines for the long-term control of the pandemic, reports AFP.
The 19-member committee meets every three months to discuss the pandemic and make recommendations.
"While progress has been made through increased uptake of Covid-19 vaccines and therapeutics, analysis of the present situation and forecasting models indicate that the pandemic is far from finished," the WHO said in a statement on Friday's four-hour virtual meeting.
The committee called for further research into reusable masks and respirators, and next-generation vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics "for long-term control of the pandemic".
The use of masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and improving the ventilation of indoor spaces remain key to reducing transmission of SARS CoV-2, the statement said.
The committee said the protracted pandemic was making humanitarian emergencies, mass migration and other crises more complex. States should therefore revise their preparedness and response plans.
It raised concerns about Africa's challenges in tackling the pandemic, including access to vaccines, tests and treatments as well as collecting and analysing data to monitor the pandemic's evolution.
The committee first declared on January 30 last year that the virus was a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) -- the highest alarm the WHO can sound.
It also said that proof of vaccination should not be required for international travel or be the only condition for it "given limited global access and inequitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines".
Countries instead should consider a "risk-based approach to the facilitation of international travel by lifting or modifying measures, such as testing and/or quarantine requirements, when appropriate".