Second wave worrying; RT-PCR tests need to be ramped up: Centre
STATE TIMES NEWS
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday stressed the need for united global efforts to deal with the coronavirus crisis, saying mankind will not be able to defeat it unless everyone comes out of it.
In an address at the Raisina Dialogue, the Prime Minister said India tried to protect its 1.3 billion nationals from COVID-19, and, at the same time, tried to support pandemic response efforts of others.
“We understand fully, that mankind will not defeat the pandemic unless all of us, everywhere, regardless of the colour of our passports, come out of it. That is why, this year, despite many constraints, we have supplied vaccines to over 80 countries,” he said at the conference, held virtually.
The Prime Minister further said, “We will continue to share our experiences, our expertise and also our resources with humanity in the fight against the pandemic.”
India approves Sputnik V
New Delhi: Pharma major Dr Reddy’s on Tuesday said it has received regulatory approval for emergency use of Sputnik V, which will be imported from Russia, paving the way for the third COVID vaccine in India.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund said more than 850 million doses of Sputnik V are going to be produced annually in India — the 60th country to approve the vaccine.
The company has received permission from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) to import the Sputnik vaccine into India for restricted use in emergency situations, Dr Reddy’s said in a regulatory filing.
“We are very pleased to obtain the emergency use authorisation for Sputnik V in India. With the rising cases in India, vaccination is the most effective tool in our battle against COVID-19. This will enable us to contribute to our nation’s effort of vaccinating a significant proportion of our population,” said Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Co-chairman and MD GV Prasad.
Sputnik V ranks second among coronavirus vaccines globally in terms of the number of approvals issued by government regulators, Dr Reddy’s said.
In September 2020, the company had partnered with the RDIF to conduct the clinical trials of Sputnik V and distribute the vaccine in India. In addition to the trials conducted in Russia by RDIF. Phase II/III clinical trials of the vaccine were carried out by the company in India, Dr Reddy’s said.
Sputnik will be the third vaccine to be used in India against coronavirus. In January, DCGI had given the emergency use authorisation for two COVID-19 vaccines — Covaxin of Bharat Biotech and Covishield of Oxford-AstraZeneca manufactured by Serum Institute of India in Pune.
RDIF has reached agreements with the leading pharmaceutical companies in the country (Gland Pharma, Hetero Biopharma, Panacea Biotec, Stelis Biopharma and Virchow Biotech) aimed at production of more than 850 million doses per year, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund said.
“Approval of the vaccine is a major milestone as Russia and India have been developing an extensive cooperation on clinical trials of Sputnik V in India and its local production”, RDIF CEO Kirill Dmitriev said.
The Russian vaccine has efficacy of 91.6 per cent and provides full protection against severe cases of COVID-19 as demonstrated by the data published in one of the leading medical journals, The Lancet, he added.
“India is a vaccine-manufacturing hub and our strategic partner for production of Sputnik V. RDIF has created partnerships with a number of India’s leading pharmaceutical companies for production of Sputnik V which will provide for both vaccination of the population in India and global distribution of the Russian vaccine,” Dmitriev said.
The price of the vaccine is less than USD 10 per shot and it uses two different vectors for the two shots in a course of vaccination, providing immunity with a longer duration than vaccines using the same delivery mechanism for both shots, RDIF said.
The Sputnik V vaccine can be stored in a conventional refrigerator without any need to invest in additional cold-chain infrastructure, it added.
Shares of Dr Reddy’s Laboratories were trading at Rs 4,831.95 per scrip on BSE, down 3.15 per cent from its previous close.
While we may be used to having ‘Plan A’ and ‘Plan B’ but there is no Planet B and only Planet Earth, he said and added so, we must remember that we hold this planet merely as trustees for our future generations.
The Prime Minister also said that during this pandemic, in our own humble way, within our own limited resources, we in India have tried to walk the talk.
Organised by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), a think-tank, in partnership with the Ministry of External Affairs, Raisina Dialogue is India’s premier conference on geopolitics and geo-economics, and its sixth edition is being held from April 13 to 16.
Meanwhile, noting that India’s COVID-19 cases trajectory in the second wave is “worrying”, the Centre said states like Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat need to ramp up RT-PCR tests.
Addressing a press conference, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the Centre is continuously trying to help states and union territories in tackling the pandemic in a more effective manner.
He said the previous highest surge has already been crossed and the “trend is going upward and that is a cause for worry”.
The previous highest surge was 94,372 daily cases in September which is now 1,61,736 every day while the daily deaths are also showing an increasing trend, Bhushan said.
In case of Maharashtra, he said the average daily cases week-on-week have grown significantly and have reached a level of over 57,000.
“The tests per million are also growing but they are not keeping pace with the average daily cases. The share of RT-PCR tests is progressively coming down so that is something we repeatedly request the state to address,” he said.
Bhushan said the ideal proportion is 70 per cent RT-PCR tests and 30 per cent rapid antigen tests as both are important.
Rapid antigen tests have their value as a screening test in areas which are densely populated and in those areas which are showing recent cluster of new cases. Those who test negative in RAT have to be mandatorily subjected to RT-PCR tests, he said.
For Maharashtra, the weekly positivity rate is very high at 24.66 per cent and this is when RT-PCR tests are relatively low so “we have reason to believe that if RT-PCR proportion go up then the positivity may show a corresponding increase and it is not specific to Maharashtra but to all such states”.
“We have offered to the states that if they desire then they could make use of mobile testing laboratories. These technologies have been perfected through the country and they are being provided in a cost effective way. RT-PCR machines have also been put on government e-market place GEM so procurement could be easier and take lesser time,” Bhushan said.
He said in Chhattisgarh, the average daily cases up to 11504 and RT-PCR ratio very poor.
“The weekly positivity rate in case of Chattisgarh is increasing from 1.40 per cent to 27.95 per cent. This is another cause of concern,” he said.
In Uttar Pradesh, Bhushan said from average 89 cases per day it has increased to 10,000 cases a day.
“Average tests per million are increasing but not at the corresponding rate of cases. The average RT-PCR test is 45 per cent and it has to be ramped up. The weekly positivity rate is below 5 per cent but it is showing a rising trend,” he said.
For Punjab, over 3000 daily cases are being reported and average tests per million have increased but not in the same proportion as the number of cases. The RT-PCR share is 70 per cent. A decline in weekly positivity rate is being seen but it is still 8 per cent, he said.
In Karnataka, Bhushan said from 404 daily cases in February mid, now 7776 new cases are being reported.
“The average RT-PCR test is quite good, it is 92.2 percent but the weekly positivity rate is increasing and it is at 6.45 per cent now,” he said.
In Gujarat, from 275 cases per week they have increased to 4500 cases, Bhushan said.
“The tests per million have substantially increased from 267 to 1574 but they have to be increased further. If we look at the share of RT-PCR tests it is still hovering around 48-50 per cent and it needs to go up. Weekly positivity is again climbing up,” he added.
In Madhya pradesh, Bhushan said from 267 cases now the average cases per day are 4912.
“The tests per million 441 there is needed to further increase it. The RT-PCR rate is 73 per cent which is a matter of satisfaction but the weekly positivity rate continues to be 13.06 per cent,” he said.
Tamil Nadu also has a similar situation, from 450 daily cases in February mid the cases have increased to over 5000. The average tests per million increased but is reducing now. Weekly positivity rate is over 7 per cent now, Bhushan said.
In Delhi, he said from average 134 cases, a weekly average of over 8000 new cases are being reported now. The tests per million is 5256 need to be further increased.
“The RT-PCR share has increased too and needs to be further increased. The weekly positivity rate has increased,” he said.
In Haryana, daily cases have increased to 2900 every day.
“Average tests per million have increased but it has to be further increased. The RT-PCR share is good. it is 89.4 percent while the weekly positivity rate is continuously increasing which is a matter of concern that is why there is a need to increase these tests,” Bhushan said.
“In Kerala, we were seeing a declining trend but the cases have again started increasing in the past three weeks. In Kerala, cases were 1800 per day but it is again over 5000 now. The average tests per million was declining and this needs to be increased. The RT-PCR test is 43 per cent and this has to be increased too. The weekly positivity rate had gone below 2 per cent, it has now increased to 8.13 per cent,” he said.
Bhushan said apart from these states the cases are also rising in other parts of the country.
“These are the states of concern but cases are also increasing in other states. Wherever cases increase we advise states to scale up test, track treat and follow COVID appropriate behaviour and vaccination. We need to efficiently implement these,” he said.
Bhushan said there are 53 central teams which are camping in 53 districts of the country which are showing a surge in cases and these central teams are helping the district administration as well the state administration particularly health department and revenue officials in tackling the pandemic.