COVID vaccine for all above 45 years from April 1


New Guidelines issued


NEW DELHI: COVID-19 vaccine will be made available for everyone above 45 years from April 1 as the Centre on Tuesday announced expanding the inoculation drive amid a surge in new cases with the doubling time having sharply reduced since the start of this month.

J&K records 157 fresh COVID cases, 2 more deaths
Srinagar: The COVID-19 tally in Jammu and Kashmir rose to 1,28,679 on Tuesday with 157 fresh cases, including 41 travellers, even as two new fatalities due to the virus were reported in the past 24 hours, officials said. Out of the fresh cases, 52 were reported from the Jammu division and 105 from the Kashmir division of the Union Territory, they said.
The officials said Srinagar district recorded the highest of 56 cases, including 25 travellers, followed by 39 in Jammu district.
While six districts did not report any fresh case, 10 other districts had cases in single digits.
The number of active cases, which has been rising steadily over the past week, has now reached 1,410 in the Union Territory, while 1,25,443 patients have recovered so far, the officials said.
The death toll in Jammu and Kashmir due to the disease is 1,983 as two new fatalities were reported from the Kashmir Valley in the past 24 hours, they added.

DG prisons authorised to grant special parole to convicts in J&K
Jammu: The Jammu and Kashmir government on Tuesday authorised the DGP (prisons) to grant special parole to convicts for a period of two months, extendable for another two months if the coronavirus situation in the Union Territory does not improve. The order to this effect was issued by Additional Secretary to the Home Department Qazi Irfan here.
In exercise of the powers conferred under sub-section (5) of section 432 of the code of criminal procedure, 1973 the government hereby authorises the DGP (prisons) J&K being the competent authority, under the Jammu and Kashmir suspension of sentence rules, 2020, to grant special parole, in respect of categories of convict prisoners, mentioned in government order No. 100-Home of 2020 dated April 2 2020, for a further period of two months, extendable for another two months if the COVID-19 pandemic situation in the UT of J&K does not improve or further worsens subject to the condition laid down in the order ibid,” the order read.

Suspension of scheduled international passenger flights extended till April 30
New Delhi: The coronavirus-induced suspension of scheduled international passenger flights has been extended till April 30, Indian aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said on Tuesday.
“However, international scheduled flights may be allowed on selected routes by the competent authority on a case-to-case basis,” the DGCA added.
Scheduled international passenger services have been suspended in India since March 23, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But special international flights have been operating under the Vande Bharat Mission since May and under bilateral “air bubble” arrangements with selected countries since July.

With the Union Health Ministry highlighting that six states have reported a surge in daily new cases and accounted for nearly 81 per cent of the new infections in the country, the Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) issued new guidelines asking all states and union territories to enhance proportion of RT-PCR tests, strictly enforce ‘test-track-treat’ protocol and speed up the pace of vaccination to cover all priority groups.
Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu collectively account for 80.90 per cent of the 40,715 cases reported in a span of 24 hours, the Health Ministry said in its daily update of the COVID-19 situation in the country.
The countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on January 16 with healthcare workers getting inoculated while frontline workers began getting the shots from February 2.
The next phase of the world’s largest vaccination drive commenced on March 1 for those who are over 60 years of age and for people aged 45 and above with specified co-morbid conditions.
Briefing reporters on the decisions taken by the Union Cabinet after its meeting, Union minister Prakash Javadekar said now even people without comorbidities who are more that 45 years of age can get vaccinated.
“Today after discussion and on the advice of the task force and scientists, it was decided that from April 1 the vaccine will open for everybody above 45 years of age,” he said.
“Our appeal is that all above 45 years should take vaccine as early as possible, that will provide them the shield against coronavirus and they should register for getting vaccinated.”
Javadekar said the Cabinet also decided that the second dose of the vaccine can be taken between four and eight weeks, on the advice of doctors. It was allowed to be taken between four to six weeks earlier, but scientists have now said that taking the second dose between four and eight weeks gives improved results.
He said till this day, 4.85 crore doses of the vaccine against COVID-19 have been administered with more than 32 lakh people getting the jabs in the last 24 hours, which was the highest single-day vaccination so far.
Vaccines are available in enough number and there is no scarcity and the supply chains and supply line is intact, he said.
To a question on rise in COVID cases in some states, he said the central government is in touch with them and there will be effective management.
“We hope that virus would not be allowed to spread.”
A statistical graph released by the Union Health Ministry showed that the doubling time of the COVID cases has reduced from 504.4 days on March 1 to 202.3 days on March 23.
Doubling time is the number of days required for cases in an epidemic to double. A lower doubling time suggests a faster spread of infection.
The MHA noted in its guidelines that while the COVID vaccination drive is proceeding smoothly, the pace is uneven across different states and UTs and, the slow pace of vaccination in some states and UTs is a “matter of concern”.
The guidelines said the vaccination in the present scenario is critical to break the chain of transmission and hence all state and UT governments should rapidly step up the pace to cover all priority groups in an expeditious manner.
The MHA said the main focus of the guidelines is to consolidate the substantial gains achieved in containing the spread of COVID-19, which was visible in the sustained decline in the number of active cases, continuously for about 5 months.
It is also emphasised that in order to ensure that the resumption of activities is successful and to fully overcome the pandemic, there is need to strictly follow the prescribed containment strategy, and strictly observe the guidelines and SOPs issued by the home and health ministries.