Staff ReporterPanajiAfter much delay, Goa’s first genome sequencing facility has been made operational at the North Goa District Hospital (NGDH) in Mapusa.Even though the facility is yet to be certified by the INSACOG forum of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Directorate of Health Services has claimed that it is at par with the Pune-based National Institute of Virology (NIV).The INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium) has been set up by the Union Health Ministry to study and monitor genome sequencing and virus variation of circulating strains of COVID-19 in India.Addressing a press conference in Panaji, state epidemiologist Dr. Utkarsh Betodkar said that from now onwards the genome analysis will be carried out in the new facility at the North Goa DistrictHospital.It is pertinent to note that the genome study ascertains the different variants of the coronavirus that are in circulation in Goa.“INSACOG certification is only for reporting under national level and for just national recognition. We have applied with them and the process is on. Our quality check is with NIV, which is a hub laboratory for our state. They have already certified it…gone through, and we have made it functional. Now onwards, samples from Goa will be tested at our new facility at NGDH,” Dr. Betodkar said. Previously, in the absence of a genome sequencing facility in the state, samples drawn from different parts of the state were sent either to the NIV orthe National Centre for Cell Science, which is also based in Pune.A medical team of the NGDH,headed by the district hospital’s senior pathologist Dr. Varsha Munj,had undergone two-day training formaking the genome sequencing facility operational at the hospital.Dr. Betodkar informed that recent reports received from the NIV Pune have revealed that Omicron sublineage BA.2 has been the dominant variant in Goa in the last four months. “During the third wave, two strains of Omicron were there in Goa –B.1.1.529and BA 2. But in the last two months only BA 2 is prevalent,” he said.
Panaji: Omicron BA.2 is the Covid-19 strain presently circulating in Goa, said state epidemiologist Dr Utkarsh Betodkar. Both Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 strains were detected in Goa during the third wave over the past four months, but the last two months have seen only the Omicron BA.2 variant which is why the severity of cases, hospital admissions and death rate have been low, he said. Goa reported 11 new cases on Tuesday, taking the active tally to 67. A total of 799 samples were tested with a case positivity rate of 1.3% Hospitalisations and deaths continued to be nil. tnn
With caronavirus induced lockdowns and restorations have been affecting tourism related activities in the state over the last two years, the 'tourist season' in the state has been rather short with barely any international tourists visiting and domestic tourists visiting for shorter trips, especially on long weekends. While the Christmas and New Year week saw a huge spike in tourists, the omicron scare the following week discouraged tourists from coming in. There was another dip in tourist footfalls after the code of conduct due to elections and restrictions on opening timings and sale of alcohol further. However, the long Holi weekend saw tourists flock to the state. Stakeholders talk about how there are fewer visitors on weekdays, and there's a spike over the weekend. Several restaurateurs from the tourist belt claim that they are seeing a higher footfall over the weekend, as compared to weekdays. "Restaurants are doing well currently. Holi weekend was great. Now with the news of the new strain and rumours about lockdowns and travel restrictions, people are living by the day, and heading to Goa for the weekends or for short trips, which is helping businesses here. But if there's another night curfew or restrictions, things will come to a standstill again," says Sandeep Sreedharan from Mahe and Elaa Cafe in Anjuna. Joshua Proenca, from Pousada by the Beach in Calangute The timing of omicron also coincided with the code of conduct, and there were not much tourists coming to Goa. Even the crowd who was here couldn't go out, which discouraged tourists from visiting. Post elections, business has been good. People aren't scared to come to Goa, because a lot of people who have already tested positive before have realised we just have to live with the virus being around. Goa is become a weekend destination and business is booming during the weekend. Goa has been getting a lot of high profile guests post the lockdown, and people's choice in alcohol has got better, and there's a crazy demand for good quality brands."
After a slump due to Omicron, hotels in Goa are seeing a spike in bookings over the weekends. "After Holi, the event and wedding season has commenced. The occupancy levels at hotels goes up to 70-80% on weekends, which is quite positive for Goa, as of now, with domestic tourists," says Nilesh Shah, president of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa. He also mentioned that it was a very short charter season this year too. While the first charter arrived in mid-December, the Ukraine war has impacted charters. "The Russian and Ukrainian charters which form a major chunk of charters that come to the state have suspended charters due to the Ukraine war. They may commence it again. But charter season ends up early-April. The demand for charters look very encouraging and there's demand, " says Nilesh.
Panaji: Results of genome sequencing released by the directorate of health services have indicated that the third wave was largely an Omicron driven one, with most reports from genome sequencing supporting this. Like earlier, this time too, the results from genome sequencing arrived only after the wave had ebbed. A similar situation was seen during the devastating second wave, where it was belatedly reported that the Delta variant was the prevalent one. Out of 306 samples sent to NIV Pune in January this year, only 186 reports have been received. Of these, 54 were attributed to Omicron and one to the Delta variant. In February, out of 413 samples sent, only 167 reports were received out of which 148 samples tested positive for Omicron and none for Delta. Meanwhile, according to Sunday’s Covid update, the number of daily infections had dropped to 20 while one person had succumbed to the infection. A 78-year-old man from Navelim died within 24 hours of being admitted at the sub-district hospital at Chicalim after experiencing breathlessness. He was vaccinated, but suffered from comorbidities including diabetes, hypertension and liver cirrhosis. The current number of active cases has dropped to 301 and the state’s positivity rate is at 1.9% from the 1,046 samples tested. No patients were hospitalised, while 20 opted for home isolation. The state’s recovery rate currently stands at 98%. North Goa’s weekly positivity rate, at 4%, continues to be higher than that of South Goa which is at 2.15% for the week ending February 26.
D. M. DeshpandeThe RBI took everyone by surprise, including the markets, by announcing an accommodative monetary policy. Of course, it was a pleasant surprise, for, it was widely believed that the Central bank would signal the end of soft key rates.Both the key rates, the repo and the reverse repo, were held; even in the reverse repo rate no hike was announced. The 3.35 per cent reverse repo rate is 0.65 per cent lower than the repo rate of 4.0 per cent. It was expected that this difference would be narrowed to bring about a rate ‘corridor’ correction to bring back a semblance of normalcy. Normally, the difference between the two key rates is 0.25 per cent.It is over 21 months since the last policy rates were changed, both repo and reverse repo rates were revised downward by 40 basis points. The RBI believes that the inflation is not such a great threat and that it is manageable. Therefore, it has put all its weight behind propelling growth which is showing signs of recovery from the pandemic hit disruptions in economic activities.In other words, it does not want to disturb the apple cart when the going is apparently good in terms of GDP growth. It seems to have relied on three factors. One, good monsoons, of which there are early favourable signs as per weather forecast reports. Second, the COVID 19 and its variants like Omicron may not cause more disruptions in 2022-23 and third, the contact industries that were hit would emerge stronger with government credit line support that is extended till March 2023.But the inflation risks emanate both from external and internal environments. At $90 per barrel, the oil prices have skyrocketed in recent months. With state elections taking place in India, retail prices of oil and its products have not been hiked, but now it is just a matter of time before the inevitable happens.When the oil rates were revised last time, the world oil price was hovering around $75 dollars a barrel. The silver lining is that global oil price may have peaked considering the forecast of an average global inflation of 4.5 per cent. Central banks of most of the large economies have shifted gear and have embarked on a rate hike cycle.The Federal Reserve has said that not only the rate hike is imminent but may be done twice, thrice to combat growing threat of inflation. In that sense, India’s dovish stance is in sharp contrast with the RBI reiterating that the accommodative stance shall continue as long as it is needed to bring growth back to normal levels.The RBI was at pains to explain how the Indian inflation threat is different and why it should not be compared with the EU or the US. But the global supply chain disruptions will impact India too. Besides, being a major trading nation, a part of inflation may be imported as well.India is not immune to global changes in this regard; the liquidity hang over the economy is persisting in India too though compared to the west, it may be less to some extent. The US is having an inflation of 7.5 per cent and there is a high risk of importing inflation from abroad.Internally, the Indian economy is experiencing price rise since Oct 2021.The WPI has shot up to nearly 14 per cent in Dec. 2021. However, the RBI tracks and is more concerned with retail inflation. Even the retail inflation went up to 5.59 per cent in December. But as per the January data, it has breached the band of ‘tolerance’ limit of 6 per cent set by RBI, marginally though. Under the Fiscal Responsibility Act, it is given a target of 4 per cent with two per cent leeway on either side. However, pressures to inflation have further intensified in the last one month and therefore, it is the question of the RBI being ahead of the inflation curve.Surprisingly, the RBI has revised downwards its 2022-23 first quarter rate to 4.9 per cent from the earlier forecast of 5 per cent it made in December. Further, it believes by the 3rd quarter will be down to 4 per cent, the mandated level! Optimistic, these projections are, they are probably done after factoring in the growth predictions.The Budget 22 predicted a growth for 2022-23 to be in the region of 8 to 8.5 per cent. Now, the RBI expects the growth rate to be 7.8 per cent. The difference may not be much but no one knows how the Omicron or the other COVID variants will play out.If the growth is hit, then there will be a double whammy. It may give a fillip to both current as well as future inflation. Perhaps one reason why the RBI has not raised rates is to facilitate the massive borrowing program of the government. As per the Budget estimates, the central government has set a target of borrowing Rs.14.95 lakh crores for the next year. By not raising the rates, it is trying to cool yields on bonds. However, in doing so it is going against the general trend of returning to normal by leading central banks of the world. The RBI has explained that it is necessary to decouple from the rate policy directions of western nations.This puts the onus on everyone including the public and private enterprises to expand their economic activities. If that doesn’t happen, then the dovish stance of RBI may well become counterproductive. The RBI Governor invoked the memorable song of late Lata Mangeshkar ‘Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna (desire) hai’. That is fine but he did not quote the second line, ‘Aaj phir marane ka irada (intent) hai’. That is dreadful!The author has four decades of experience in higher education teaching and research. He is the former first vice-chancellor of ISBM University, Chhattisgarh.
Year 2022 started off on a slow note for automobile sales in India as the market for car and four-wheelers in January continued to be hit by the semi-conductor shortage while two-wheelers suffered from poor demand.Overall vehicle sales declined 10.7 per cent (year-on-year) during January, said the Federation of Automobile Dealers Association of India (FADA.)Information disclosed by the dealer’s body shows that, passenger vehicle sales fell 10 per cent in January, while two-wheelers sales decreased 13.4 per cent due to rural India remaining in distress. On the other hand, three-wheelers and commercial vehicle sales were up 30 per cent and 20.5 per cent respectively.Commenting on the reduced volumes, Vinkesh Gulati, president, FADA, said, “The month of January continues to show weak performance. In fact 55 per cent of dealers in our internal survey said that they lost over 10 per cent sales due to the Omicron wave. It shows that India is yet to recover from the COVID effect. In spite of good demand, passenger vehicle continues to face the brunt of semi-conductor shortage resulting in void of a healthy inventory. Coming to 2-wheeler category, the rural distress coupled with price rise and Omicron wave played a villain’s role for this segment. With the revival in economy, CV segment continues to show growth especially in heavy commercial vehicle category. With increased infrastructure spending by central as well as state governments, the overall CV segment remains in momentum.”The dealer’s body however, expects auto sales to turn positive in the coming months. “As India gets back on its feet post the 3rd wave of COVID we expect auto retail to slowly turn positive. Semi-conductor shortage is also showing some signs of easing as many passenger vehicle OEMs assure of better dispatch. We hence expect vehicle availability to improve going further” added Gulati.He said that, the Budget 2022 stressed on developing 25,000 kms of new highways. “It will further push infrastructure spending, thus resulting in an increase in commercial vehicle sales. Added to this, some traction is also being witnessed in replacement demand after a period of two years. Rural India has generally been a key driver for 2-Wheeler and entry level passenger vehicle segment. With government’s plan for 2.3 lakh crore direct payment as MSP to farmers, it may work as a booster for 2-wheeler, tractor and entry level PV sales. The upcoming marriage season will also trigger some demand revival for the 2-Wheeler segment,” said the FADA president.Figures put out by FADA on January sales show that, Maruti Suzuki India is the top player by way of volumes with the company selling 1.2 lakh vehicles and holding a market share of 46.8 per cent. Sales volume of Hyundai Motors was 35,140 vehicles (market share 13.6 per cent, Tata Motor 32,408 vehicles (market share 12.5 per cent), Mahindra and Mahindra 18,638 vehicles (7.2 per cent) and Toyota Kirloskar 10,799 vehicles (market share 4.2 per cent) in January.
Panaji: Even as the first month of 2022 has ended, 100% fitments of digital fare meters in Goa’s taxis appears to be a far dream. With the snail-paced movement of the installation process, only about 8,900 vehicles have been fitted with the device till January 31, despite the high court hearing scheduled in March. “Not every taxi operator is coming on the road right now, owing to which it is not possible to achieve the 100% status as per the high court directions. Currently, there are bookings made for the remainder of the vehicles. However, those vehicle owners are yet to show up at the fitment centres for the scheduled installation,” a transport officer said. The government had earlier set a deadline of October 31 for the series-wise fitments of digital meters, following which, the pending taxi operators were given until November-end to get the installation complete. The transport department was optimistic of completing the process in January. However, an increase in taxi business during the peak tourist season in December and a spike in Omicron related Covid-19 cases last month slowed down the fitment process. “Owing to the code of conduct, the process has further slowed down and we will have to wait until after the code is lifted to take this matter up,” the officer said.
Panaji: The lone Goa to Pune interstate bus being operated by Kadamba Transport Corporation limited (KTC) has been suspended owing to a rise in Omicron related Covid-19 cases. This was the only interstate bus being operated by the coropration after it temporarily suspended several of its other interstate buses operating from Goa to Maharastra, Karnataka and Hyderabad. “Currently it has been decided that none of the KTC buses will be operating on interstate routes. This is only a precautionary measure,” Kadamba Transport Corporation general manager, Sanjay Ghate told TOI.
Staff ReporterPanajiDr. Chitralekha Nayak, a prominent physician in Goa, pointed out that elderly people are most vulnerable to the Omicron variant of Coronavirus, and said the symptoms of virus appearing in older adults were different from those seen in younger patients.Speaking on clinical management of COVID-19 patients and about her personal experience in dealing with such patients during an online panel discussion organised by Tiswadi unit of the Indian Medical Association-Goa branch on Wednesday, Dr Nayak said that elderly people were coming in with atypical symptoms.“A majority of patients in 70-75 age group and above, whom I have treated, had no fever, cough or respiratory symptoms. Patients and their relatives assume that they have some other disease but actually these patients had COVID-19. They are tested late and brought late to the facility. The symptoms that elderly complain of now are giddiness, palpitation, chest pain, and they can also have stroke-like symptoms,” she said.Dr Nayak said that the other early warning signs of COVID-19 in elderly people include loss of appetite, fatigue, and excessive sleep.“Sometimes their sodium level also drops. If you do not test them in time then probably their parameters are going to change and they will require treatment under hospitalisation for a longer period of time,” she warned.The physician said that kidney failure patients, liver failure patients, bed-ridden dementia patients, patients with heart disease, having low pumping capacity and severe asthma patients are extremely at a high risk.Dr Nayak said that there is a high possibility of them developing complications in the second and third week of infection and added that elderly people should be tested within the first two days of the symptoms of the virus so as to provide immediate medical attention.She further said that in re-infection cases, be it young or old, the patients require monitoring for any post COVID-19 complications particularly lung involvement.Dr Nayak advised COVID-19 patients of all age groups whose fever persists till sixth-seventh day to take adequate rest in the second week and third week and avoid engaging in household work or physical exercise.Stating that patients under home isolation were taking paracetamol tablets round the clock to suppress the fever, Dr Nayak said that it should not be taken without checking the body temperature.She said that at least 2.5 litres of liquid intake is must for a normal healthy adult when he/she gets COVID-19.The state immunisation officer Dr Rajendra Broker, in his presentation, informed that during this ongoing third wave of the pandemic as many as 636 patients had been hospitalised in different health facilities.Senior chest physician Dr Anil Mehndiratta also spoke on the occasion. He differentiated in detail between Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19.One of the prominent members of the state task force on COVID-19 management Dr Shekhar Salkar urged the people to continue following appropriate COVID-19 behaviouras it is the first line of defense against the virus. State IMA president Dr Rufino Monteiro highlighted the various initiatives taken by IMA-Goa in the fight against COVID-19 including re-opening of paid COVID care centres.
Panaji: Detection of Covid-19 infection in majority of the fatalities since the third wave has been “incidental” as patients reported life-endangering ailments. Many came after suffering a heart attack, stroke or other severities, with bleak chances of survival, and were found to have Covid due to the high infectivity of the Omicron variant, doctors say. It was also noted in several cases that patients having severe comorbidities sought medical help very late. “They died due to the severity of their ailment or other complications rather than of Covid infection, but such cases were termed as Covid deaths. Besides, the families of the deceased also insisted on the Covid test to claim government compensation,” said GMC dean and Covid hospital in-charge Dr S M Bandekar. The state pays compensation of Rs 2 lakh to families who have lost a member to Covid. The family is also entitled to an ex-gratia payment of Rs 50,000 if a member dies due to Covid. In the last two weeks, several people were either brought dead or died within a few hours of being hospitalised. “When a patient dies due to another ailment, there’s no need for a swab test, but families force us to do it and the toll rises,” he said. In the last two days, five people were declared brought dead to the hospital. Though Goa has witnessed growth in Covid infections, reporting a daily average of 3,000 cases for over a week, fatalities have been low as compared to the second wave. From one or two cases a day, fatalities rose but have so far have remained in the single digits. In the last four days, the daily average Covid toll has been 8.5. Bandekar also did not rule out the possibility of few deaths due to the Delta variant. “The third Covid wave is due to both Omicron and Delta,” he said. While other states are well aware of the variants that have been causing the spike, Goa does not have its own genomic sequencing facility and is still ignorant about the proportion in which the Omicron variant has been responsible for the steep rise in cases.
It is dominant in several metros: INSACOGNew Delhi: The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is in the community transmission stage in India and has become dominant in multiple metros where new cases have been rising exponentially, the INSACOG has said in its latest bulletin.It also said BA.2 lineage, an infectious sub-variant of Omicron, has been found in a substantial fraction in the country.The INSACOG, in its January 10 bulletin that was released on Sunday, said while most Omicron cases so far have been asymptomatic or mild, hospitalisations and ICU cases have increased in the current wave and the threat level remains unchanged.“Omicron is now in community transmission in India and has become dominant in multiple metros, where new cases have been rising exponentially. BA.2 lineage is in a substantial fraction in Indiaand S gene dropout based screening is thus likely to give high false negatives,” it said.S-gene dropout is a genetic variation like that of Omicron.“The recently reported B.1.640.2 lineage is being monitored. There is no evidence of rapid spread.”“While it has features of immune escape, it is currently not a variant of concern. So far, no case has been detected in India,” the INSACOG said.The INSACOG, in its bulletin of January 3 which was also released on Sunday, also said Omicron is now in community transmission in India and has become dominant in Delhi and Mumbai where new cases have been rising exponentially.“Further spread of Omicron in India is now expected to be through internal transmission, not foreign travellers, and a revised sampling and sequencing strategy of INSACOG is being worked out to address genomic surveillance objectives in the wake of dynamic changing scenario of virus infection,” the INSACOG said.“COVID appropriate behaviour and vaccination are main shields against all form mutations of SARSCoV-2 virus,” it said.The INSACOG, under the Union ministry of health and family welfare, reports genomic surveillance of SARS CoV-2 across the country through sequencing of samples from sentinel sites and also detailed state-wise district analysis for some states.A total of 1,50,710 samples have been sequenced and 1, 27,697 samples have been analysed so far by INSACOG.
Panaji: Even as Goa’s positivity rate stays above 40%, with over 3,000 infections being reported a day, the state is still none the wiser about which variant is driving the spike. The results of most samples sent to the National Centre for Cell Sciences, Pune, are yet to be received. Since last month, the directorate of health services received over 20 reports, with many of them testing positive for the Omicron variant, which also included some local cases. The result of over 200 samples sent for testing after December 15 are pending. But considering the high infectivity in the state over the past 20 days and since the start of the third wave, it is assumed that as in some other states, in Goa too, Omicron could be leading the spread. “The spread of this third wave has been very swift and knowing the enhanced transmissibility of Omicron, the results of the S gene as a marker and going by what's happening in other states doing significant genome sequencing, we can definitely make an intelligent guess and say that it is the predominant variant at the moment,” said director of health services Dr Ira Almeida. Goa had learnt that it was Delta that played havoc during the second wave two months after the wave subsided as the results of the genomic sequencing of April-May 2021, sent to outstation laboratories, were belatedly received somewhere in August-September. Chest physician Dr Anil Mehndiratta said that it appears that the Omicron variant has been responsible for the big rise in infections reported in the state from mid-December. “The vaccine does not prevent an Omicron infection but seems to protect against severe disease and hospital admissions,” he said. “Omicron rarely affects the lungs and hence there’s a 70% lower chance of admission. People should not take unnecessary medicines, especially steroids, during the first five days of infection.” However, senior consultant pathologist Dr Eugene D’Souza said, “Goa doesn’t have any data on break-ups of the variants to plan a strategy. No one has any idea what quantum of delta and its sub-variants, besides Omicron, has been responsible for the infections reported since last month”. Relying on the sequencing data of Karnataka, which showed a high percentage of delta and delta sub-variants, D’Souza said that it is alarming because of the risk of infections spreading further through untested Covid-positive travellers coming to Goa. At the borders, only unvaccinated travellers are tested. Director of the Arogyam pathology centre that has been handling the testing at border check posts, Jairaj Joshi, said that a month ago, the positivity rate among travellers was close to zero, but since the past few days, at least 25-30 of the 400-odd tests done per day return positive results.
Panaji: Amid rising COVID cases, international tour operators on Wednesday said that the COVID third wave is having a worse effect on Goa’s tourism industry than earlier expected.Foreign charter flights that were expected to continue operating during the third wave have taken a major hit of more than 50% by way of frequency and number of passengers, said the tour operators.“International charters are coming but with reduced capacity. One flight from Russia is coming every 10 days and one from Kazakhstan every week. They will be the only two charter flights which are operational as of now,” said Anupam Kumar, director, Caper Travels.“Not many people are ready to travel because of fear of Omicron and the travel restrictions. Tourists are feeling hassled because of the COVID restrictions and they have to shell out extra on the RT-PCR testing,” disclosed Kumar.He added that the tour operators who had made arrangements with foreign flight operators are presently facing losses due to the drop in business.“With less number of passengers it is very difficult to work on sustainable level. We have to maintain the same manpower just to keep the momentum going so that we don’t have to start from zero in the next foreign charter season,” said Kumar.Tour operators expect the ongoing international tourist season to continue up to mid-April this year, despite the less number of flights. A charter flight from Russia is expected to land on January 22.“The only silver lining is that, several European countries are declaring Omicron as flu and opening up airports and air travel. It may result in fewer cancellations from tourists who had previously booked tickets,” said Ernest Dias, SITA- TCI.Previously charter carriers from Kazakhstan and Russia had booked 40 landing slots at Dabolim Airport, of which about eight-ten flights arrived in the state. However the flights are coming in empty.Meanwhile the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) extended the suspension of international flights further till February 28. Flights under air bubble arrangements will continue as we well as charter flights to the state.Goa accounts for 92 per cent of charter flights in India and in 2018-19 about two lakh charter tourists visited the state. In pre-COVID days, the state received about 900 foreign charter flights with the bulk coming from Russia, followed by UK.
By D. M. DeshpandeThere are ominous signs of the Omicron spreading rapidly and quickly in India. The COVID 19 variant has already played havoc in the US and several parts of Europe. It still continues to be dominant and is showing no signs of relenting.That is the reason why the WHO has termed it as a variant of concern. It is relatively new in India though it is speculated that it must have been present in India for over a month or even in two. Yet the confirmed Omicron positive numbers are still low, around 5,000, here despite the fact that globally it has doubled in a matter of 2 to 3 days.However, paradoxically, as it may seem, there is a sudden surge, in fact a big spike of around 2 lakh overall fresh COVID cases in the country. In tandem, the positivity rate has crossed the 10 per cent mark.Actually, Omicron numbers may be misleading because genome sequencing and testing are not happening in adequate numbers. As health experts and scientists point out, genome sequencing is resource intensive and is done in batches of 24, 96 or 384. And every test costs upwards of Rs10,000.If the number of cases taken up are less than the optimum then, the per unit cost rises even higher. So waiting for the numbers to add up is delaying the exercise. It also takes 12 hours for genome sequencing and another 2 to 3 days for analysis and manual confirmation.Therefore, Karnataka nodal officer of the state advisory board Dr. Ravi is of the opinion that for the present we should treat all COVID cases as Omicron. This is also the view of the other experts in the field.With rising case load, there are questions of whether the nation’s healthcare system would be overwhelmed. It indeed did happen in the peak of the second wave when the daily cases were over 4.5 lakh and there was acute shortage of hospital beds, ICU facilities, oxygen supplies and even medical and para-medical staff in some of the worst affected areas.Overall, we seem to be better prepared to combat the spread of Omicron as well as the earlier and probably still prevalent delta variant. The experience of other nations seems to suggest that Omicron appears to be less lethal. Hence, when the assessment of adequacy of health infrastructure is made, it is more important to consider the hospitalisation rate and percentage of patients requiring ICU facilities.It appears that there will not be an enhanced need for ventilators to combat Omicron. Presently pan- India hospitalisation rate varies between 5 to 10 per cent. Compare this with the peak of the second wave in India when it was 25 per cent. Hence, it was not possible for governments and hospitals to cope up with sudden surge in beds, oxygen cylinders and ICU units. Therefore, even a positivity rate of 25 per cent in Delhi has not resulted in shortage of medical care facilities.Supply of oxygen to hospitals has been ramped up learning from the bitter experience of the second wave. The count of cryogenic tanks in hospitals has gone up from 790 in December 2020 to more than 1,200 now. Similarly, oxygen cylinders have increased to 12.5 lakhs now compared to 8.7 lakhs in Dec.2020.Further medical infrastructure in terms of hospital beds too has improved. In managing Covid patients, both isolation and ICU beds are critical. Their numbers have scaled up from 10,180 and 2,168 in March 2020 to more than 18 lakh beds and around 1.25 lakh ICU beds as of Aug.2021.Vaccination has also helped in a big way in this third wave. About 90 per cent of the eligible population is already partially vaccinated and 60 per cent is fully vaccinated. Besides, for the age group between 15 to 18 years vaccination drive has started early in this month. Government sources claim that over three crore teens have been vaccinated. Since there is no dearth of vaccines, booster doses are also planned to be administered in a phased manner starting with health workers and senior citizens.Omicron multiplies and spreads much faster than the earlier Delta variant. As WHO points out, it has a growth advantage over Delta and the doubling time is 2 to 3 days. This is evident from the data available from the affected countries including where it has become now dominant as in cases of the UK and the USA.Health experts also believe that the numbers in this third wave will rise quickly and decline, too will be quite rapid. It will be mild though highly infectious. Obviously, home quarantine and treatment at home have increased. And this will be critical in managing and curbing the spread of the virus.Online consulting and medical facilities need to be enhanced. Primary healthcare and volunteers’ teams would play a vital role. Ensuring adequate supply and availability of basic medicines such as paracetmol and others will help in home care and patients’ treatment.As rightly pointed out by Dr Rahul Pandit of the Maharashtra COVID task force, there will always be a subset who would still need hospital care. And if numbers rise too quickly and spread to the rural areas, the health care system will be overwhelmed. That is the reason why the WHO also calls it a variant of concern.State cannot take its eyeballs away from the action scene. The time tested 3 T’s have stood us in good stead-test, trace and treat. It is no different in the third wave. Social distancing, masking and washing of hands continue to be preventive measures to arrest the spread of a virus that does not move itself; rather we help it to spread its tentacles.The author has four decades of experience in higher education teaching and research. He is the former first vice-chancellor of ISBM University, Chhattisgarh.
Nandkumar M KamatThe scientific world is learning rapidly from the seasonal behaviour and genetic mutational dynamics of SARS COV 2 during the ongoing pandemic. This will lead to better preparedness to deal with future pandemics and help to control novel human zoonotic diseases likely to emerge due to impact of human interference in different ecosystems and the climate change.With the dramatic entry of Omicron, the novel Variant Of Concern (VOC), in November 2021, the pandemic has reached a critical stage of the epidemiological cycle with some countries planning measures to “tolerate and live with SARS COV 2’ with full vaccination and periodic calibrated booster doses. But keeping the seasonal behaviour of new coronavirus in sight, epidemiologists, virologists, immunologists, and vaccine designers, are waiting patiently for the emergence of the next VOC after Omicron. The nomenclature would use the Greek alphabet Pi for the next VOC.As expected, Omicron is producing many sub-variants due to a small number of mutations. The origin of Omicron itself has come as a surprise for epidemiologists because it defied the normal frequency of mutations fixed at roughly two to three changes in the amino acids per month or 20-40 mutations per year. Omicron in Pango lineage was originally identified as B.1.1.529 before WHO renamed it. It has a total of 60 mutations compared to the reference or ancestral variant. These comprise 50 nonsynonymous mutations, eight synonymous mutations, and two non-coding mutations. What surprised the molecular geneticists and virologists was the large number of mutations in spike proteins. With 32 mutations in spike protein Omicron began to function differently. However, there is no linear relationship between the number of mutations and infectivity and lethality of such viruses. It all depends on where these mutations take place and whether these would help the viruses to infect the host at a much faster rate. In terms of evolution considering how bats as mammals have developed immunity against the coronaviruses, it is not in the long-term survival interest of such coronaviruses to induce lethality and kill the host in large numbers. Epidemiologists know this scenario – such respiratory viruses frighten you in the initial stages and later they just use your cells to multiply and disperse and during this full cycle, the host is made to pay the price by falling sick while the virus multiplies rapidly in the cells. Actually, in molecular virology it takes decades to understand the structure -function relationship of any virus infecting any host. It will take years before molecular virologists fully understand the structure and functions of all the SARS COV 2 strains and their sub-strains. They would have to combine the clinical pathology with structural aspects of the virus. Structural aspects would depend on the genomic sequence. Genomic sequence would be impacted by the mutations. Among these mutations, scientists would have to decode why certain mutations lead to higher infectivity and lethality. The future vaccine design would depend precisely on such accurate decoding.But right now, a vigil is being maintained worldwide for a possible successor to Omicron- a new variant of concern. Nobody knows from where it could originate. Nobody had been able to predict South Africa as the origin of Omicron. On December 1, 2021, an article in Science, ‘Where did weird Omicron come from’ by Kai Kupferschmidt proposed three possibilities- first -the virus could have circulated and evolved in a population with little surveillance and sequencing. Second-it could have gestated in a chronically infected COVID-19 patient and third -it might have evolved in a nonhuman species, from which it recently spilled back into people. The research work is still in infancy to prove or disprove any of these possibilities. But by logical extension of these possibilities, one could see how the next VOC could evolve.With global distribution of the SARS COV2 RNA now the virus is also rapidly adapting to various selection pressures including resistance from the vaccinated hosts and those who have developed natural immunity. So, it is difficult to predict the place of origin, the genetic lineage, the total number and the sites of mutations in the next VOC. However, three epidemiological scenarios are possible, and these could vary as per the locations and the weather. The first scenario is that Pi the new VOC could be much more infectious than Delta or Omicron and therefore the next wave would spread faster. But nothing can be said with certainty about its lethality because that depends on the sites of mutations. If mutated spike protein shows a better ability than Delta or Delta Plus in attacking the ACE-2 receptors, then there would be a global emergency as mortality would increase. If the new VOC proves weaker, then the world would escape lightly. The second scenario is due to a new VOC with moderate or slow rate of infection but more lethal but then it is possible to manage such infections and such a slow wave will be easily controlled. The third scenario is due to a super spreading and highly infectious new VOC which could be the most lethal among the all the known SARS COV2 variants. The world is just not ready to deal with such a worst-case scenario. But scientists need to take into consideration all the scenarios and get prepared to deal with the novel VOCs.Standard models generally assume that like the rest of coronaviruses SARS-COV-2 would also become weaker, less infectious, and less lethal with time and people would begin to treat minor illnesses induced by it like the common cold. It is true that the common cold virus which attacks us has 160 variants, but we don’t rush to get RT PCR tests done because we have learned to live with these Rhinoviruses closely related to respiratory Coronaviruses.The end of the pandemic is now in the hands of Pi, the next VOC. Till then all must strictly follow COVID-19appropriate behaviour.
3,145 new COVID infectionsPanaji: The state saw a slight dip in new coronavirus infections: 3,145 new positive cases of the deadly COVID-19 were reported on Friday as against the 3,728 cases recorded on Thursday.The positivity of the 8,043 samples recorded is 39.10%. With these new cases, the tally of active cases rose to 18,597.Also, three more patients passed away due to the COVID pandemic in the last 24 hours.The confirmed cases of COVID in Goa currently stand at 2,03,969, of which 1,81,826 patients have defeated the deadly disease.Till date, the pandemic has claimed 3,546 lives in the state.A significant number of patients undergoing treatment in the super-speciality block (COVID facility) of the Goa Medical College and Hospital, Bambolim, had actually come to the hospital for another medical condition and were found COVID positive upon screening.A senior health officer told ‘The Navhind Times’ that as on Friday afternoon, 157 COVID patients are admitted at the SSB. But only 50 of them are on medical oxygensupport. “The hospitalisation rate is rising with every passing day and continuing to be a worry. But we cannot deny that of these 157 patients, most of them had visited the GMC to seek medical attention for other reasons,” he claimed.“For example, If a person visits the GMC to seek treatment for fracture, and if he/she is required to be admitted then the person has to undergo the COVID test. If the test report is negative then the patient is directly shifted to the concerned ward. But if the test report is positive then patients are taken to the SSB where they receive treatment, as they can’t be kept along with non-COVID patients,” the officer explained.PTI ADDS FROM NEW DELHI: India added 2,64,202 new coronavirus infections, the highest in 239 days, taking the total tally of COVID cases to 3,65,82,129 which includes 5,753 cases of the Omicron variant, according to the Union health ministry data updated on Friday.There has been a 4.83 per cent increase in Omicron cases since Thursday.The active cases have increased to 12,72,073, the highest in 220 days, while the death toll has climbed to 4,85,350 with 315 fresh fatalities, the data updated at 8 am stated.
3,728 more people test positive for coronavirusPanaji: A medical expert on Thursday warned that the health infrastructure in Goa could collapse if people fail to do their bit in controlling the fast spreading coronavirus, which ensnared 3,728 more people in the last 24 hours.The whopping 3,728 new COVID infections pushed up the positivity rate to 39.41%, making the state reach a grim milestone of 2 lakh confirmed cases of the dreaded virus.Goa had touched the 1-lakh mark of confirmed cases of COVID on May 4, 2021.A prominent member of the state task force-cum-steering committee on COVID management Dr. Shekhar Salkar said that Goa could be hit by the peak of the third wave of the pandemic in the next eight days, adding that 10,000 to 15,000 cases may be recorded during that period before showing a downward trend.“Even though we have said that this COVID strain is less lethal, we fear that there could be a sudden jump in hospitalisation rate. Quite a sizable number of doctors and other medical staff have contracted the virus. And if patients start coming to hospitals in large numbers then the healthcare system may collapse as there will be a huge burden and pressure,” he said in a video message.He said that fortunately a negligible number of people are currently require treatment on oxygen support.“In order to prevent this, people ought to take precautions and follow COVID norms and protocols,” he emphasised.Dr. Salkar, who is also a member of the state’s expert committee of doctors, said that it has been proven that vaccination does help. It does not prevent infection, but helps a person from going into complications.He said that every eligible person needs to get vaccinated against the virus, which claimed the lives of four more people on Thursday.With the massive surge in cases, the active caseload has risen to 16,887 in the state and the recovery rate has dropped to 89.83%. As many as 43 patients were hospitalised in the last 24 hours, while the remaining patients opted for home isolation.The confirmed cases of COVID in Goa currently stand at 2,00,824 of which 1,80,394 patients have defeated the deadly disease. Till date, 3,543 patients have succumbed to the disease.According to the data shared by the government, of the targeted 11,66,000 population in the state, a total of 11,33,141 have been fully vaccinated while 6,160 eligible people like healthcare workers, frontline workers and senior citizens with co-morbidity have received the booster dose.PTI ADDS FROM NEW DELHI: India logged 2,47,417 new coronavirus infections, the highest in 236 days, taking the total tally of COVID cases to 3,63,17,927 which includes 5,488 cases of the Omicron variant, according to the Union health ministry data updated on Thursday.The country saw a single-day jump of 620 cases of the Omicron variant, the highest so far, taking the total tally of such cases to 5,488, out of which 2,162 people have recovered or migrated so far.The active cases have increased to 11,17,531, the highest in 216 days, while the death toll has climbed to 4,85,035 with 380 fresh fatalities, the data updated at 8 am stated.
With the Omicron looking less deadly that the previous Delta variant businesses in the state will be able to weather the COVID third wave, believes CII-Goa.“The third wave may not have a major disrupting effect on operations of local units. Industry is better prepared this time. The protocols are in place for COVID spread. Companies have got their employees vaccinated and most of the local industrial workers have received two shots of the jab. It is boosted the confidence level of employees and workers,” said Atul Jadhav, chairman, CII-Goa.According to Jadhav the government’s decision to reduce the quarantine period to seven days will prevent staff shortage experienced during the previous wave.CII- Goa is not in favour of lockdowns or curbs restricting the movement of people. The industry body is also against mandatory RTPCR testing for tourists visiting the state. “Compulsory RTPCR will discourage tourists and derail the revival of the Goan hospitality industry,” said Jadhav.Several companies in the state have restarted work-from-home due to rapidly spreading Omicron. However factories in industrial estates are continuing to function normally.“Industry will function unless the government imposes curbs. During the first wave the quarantine period was 17 days, followed by 14 days in the second wave and now it is seven days. The quarantine period is not a big deal,” said Jadhav.He said that, industry fears government restrictions and frequent changes in rules.According to Jadhav, Goan industry is yet to recover fully from the previous two waves. “Local units are struggling due to 30-40 per cent increase in cost of raw material. They are also facing high logistics and transportation costs,” he said.With the government announcing a booster dose for the front-line workers in the state, Jadhav said that, even industrial workers and hospitality industry employees should be considered for the booster dose. “They must be next in line after doctors, health care workers,” he said.A CII study in the state on the COVID impact on industry post- first wave had revealed that, majority of local units closed down or functioned at less than 25 per cent of capacity due to restrictions in movement of workers as the government imposed lockdown.Further the supply chain movement was adversely affected due to which companies found it difficult to resume operations. Industrial units were also afraid of public ire against COVID outbreak in their offices.“COVID first wave was a difficult period for industry and the second wave was also tough because of the seriousness of the virus. Comparatively the third wave looks better,” said the CII-Goa chairman.
The Health Ministry had submitted a report on the resurgence and the status of vaccination coverage across the nation. (File Photo: IANS)The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Saturday said the upcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur will be held in seven phases. Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said Uttar Pradesh will go to poll in seven phases from February 10 to March 7; Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa to vote on February 14 and Manipur to vote on Feb 27 and 3 March. The counting of votes will be held on March 10.The Union Health Ministry on Friday said that it presented the status of Covid spread and vaccination coverage in the five poll-bound states with the Election Commission of India. The meeting was held on Thursday.LIVE NOW | Assembly Election 2022: 5 States To Vote In 7 Phases Between Feb 10 And March 7; Results On March 10According to the ministry, the Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan in his meeting with ECI presented the overall global and domestic status of spread of Covid, as well as Omicron, in the country. The details were also presented on the status of preparedness of the public health response within the states for control and management of the increasing numbers of Covid cases.Ban on Poll Rallies Till Jan 15 as EC Learns from Bengal Missteps During 2nd Covid WaveUttarakhand Elections 2022: Voting on Feb 14, Counting on March 10. Peek Into the Battle for the HillsThe ministry quoted some media reports, which said: “Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in a meeting with the Election Commission of India (ECI) yesterday suggested that the ‘COVID situation in the country is nothing to be worried about’ and ‘there is no cause of alarm or concern in the view of the very few cases of Omicron in the poll-bound states". The health ministry clarified and said, “These reports are highly ill- informed, misleading and far from the truth. These reports have a very high tendency to start a mis-information campaign in the midst of a pandemic."Earlier, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had briefed the poll panel on December 27. During the interaction, the EC had asked the government to ramp up the vaccination programme in the poll-bound states. The EC could announce the dates for elections in these five states in the next few days.Several political parties have already announced cancellation of political rallies and are focusing more on digital campaigns in the wake of the unabated surge.The poll body had on Thursday reviewed the current Covid situation in the five poll-bound states with Bhushan, AIIMS Director, Dr Randeep Guleria, and ICMR chief Dr Balram Bhargava.The health experts have briefed the top Election Commission officials to focus majorly on virtual rallies, seeing the unprecedented rise in the Covid cases across the country. The need to ramp up the vaccination process was also emphasised.Recently, it also held a virtual meeting with political parties and poll officials from Manipur and said that for the first time, the option of postal ballot would be provided during the upcoming Assembly elections to 80+ citizens, persons with disabilities and Covid suspects or affected persons.“The postal ballot facility is an optional facility and ensures total secrecy of voting. Representatives of candidates will be present during the process and the total procedure will be videographed. In the state, 14,565 persons with disabilities and over 41,867 80+ citizens have been mapped," the poll panel said.(With inputs from agencies)Read all the Latest News, Breaking News and Coronavirus News here.
Panaji: Health minister Vishwajit Rane on Friday said that 95% of the eligible population has completed the second dose of Covid-19 vaccine. He also said that there is no shortage of oxygen in the state. Rane said that Covid-19 patients infected with the Omicron variant mostly opt for home treatment and that there are few hospitalisations. “Omicron is prevalent all over the country and we have to deal with it. In anticipation that there could be a rise in cases, we have made all provisions on what needs to be done at stage 1, stage 2 and stage 3 and level 1, level 2 and level 3,” Rane said. Asked if there is a need to impose lockdown or curfew to control the spread of Omicron, he said, “When you take a decision, it has to be an overall decision. Any such decision has to be thoroughly deliberated by the government. Isolation days have been reduced from 10 to seven. The situation is evolving in different ways. Let’s us see how things move ahead and accordingly we will take a decision. We are closely monitoring the situation every day to ensure it does get out of hand.”
Panaji: Over 7,500 15-18-year-olds took first doses of their vaccines on Tuesday. State immunologist Dr Rajendra Borkar said that Monday’s count was updated and stood at 8,500. Similarly, Tuesday’s count will also be updated. “We have been able to vaccinated 20% of the 15-18 target population in two days. We hope to finish this population within a week before vaccination begins for healthcare and front-line workers on January 10,” Dr Borkar said. When asked about any adverse effects following vaccination of the adolescents, Dr Borkar said there hasn’t been a single serious case. “We have had two cases of fainting which can happen with any injection but they recovered within five to ten minutes and went back,” he told reporters. “It is necessary to get this age group vaccinated to protect them as well as the elderly and those with comorbidities before they could become super-spreaders. All parents must bring their children to school to get vaccinated,” he said. Reacting to Whatsapp messages claiming expired vaccines were being used, director of health services, Dr Ira Almeida told reporters on Tuesday that Goa has received around 75,000 doses of Covaxin which expire in September 2022 and that people should not worry. Dr Almeida said most of those who have fallen ill and have succumbed to Covid-19 are those who are unvaccinated. She added, “With 95% of the population vaccinated, the state doesn’t have to panic as there is a major difference between the second and third waves.” Vaccination for the 15-18 year category is being held on rotation basis in schools with some yet to begin their vaccination sessions. Although health ministry guidelines don’t make written consent from parents mandatory, the health department had initially circulated the forms and schools are ensuring that parents give their assent. The target population of the 15-18-year-olds is 74,192 and the state that has already received around 75,000 doses is expecting another one lakh doses. The adolescents will take the second dose of their Covaxin after 28 days. State epidemiologist Dr Utkarsh Betodkar told reporters that Covid patients currently hospitalised are those who are either unvaccinated or have comorbid conditions, of which uncontrolled diabetes tops the list. Another 796 persons in the 18+ category took their first dose of the vaccine on Tuesday and 2,478 their second dose.
Inoculation against COVID-19 for 15-18 age group in 529 schoolsPanaji: The state will kick-start COVID-19 vaccination for children in the age-group of 15-18 from Monday.The Directorate of Health Services (DHS) is targeting to complete the first dose of vaccination for an estimated 72,000 eligible beneficiaries in the 15-18 age group in the next four days. Children can register and book vaccination slots online on CoWin portal or do spot registration when the DHS team visits their schools.Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had informed about the decision of his government to expand the country’s COVID-19 vaccination drive so as to include children between 15 and 18 years of age.All such teenagers in the state will be administered the first dose of Covaxin at their respective government, government-aided and private secondary and higher secondary schools from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A special vaccination room has been made ready for the purpose in altogether 529 schools around the state.These youngsters – mostly students from class X to XII – will receive their second dose 28 days following administration of the first. The educational institutions will also provide manpower to the officials of the DHS during the vaccination exercise.Director of Education Bhushan Sawaikar informed this daily that the parents of the teenagers receiving the vaccine would have to sign a related consent form. He further informed that those teens between 15 and 18 years, who are not studying in any school or are dropouts can visit health centre near their place of residence and avail the facility of the vaccine.The students will be kept under observation for half-an-hour following the administration of the vaccine.In the event of the youngsters failing to take the first dose of vaccine during the week-long vaccination drive, they would be referred to the nearby health centre. Such students will be allowed to take the vaccine at the health centre every Wednesday.The students will also be provided with a helpline number so that they can get replies to their pre-vaccination as well as post-vaccination queries.Meanwhile, Health Minister Vishwajit Rane informed that necessary arrangements and preparations have been made by the DHS to roll out the vaccination and added that multiple teams of healthcare workers and professionals have been formed to inoculate the children.Earlier in the day, Rane attended a virtual meeting, along with senior health officers, that was chaired by Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya to review the state’s preparedness to tackle the worsening of COVID-19 situation and also to intensify vaccination drive to further improve coverage.“There is a need to flatten the (rising COVID-19) curve to stop the spread of the virus. I have suggested that there should be a uniform guideline for every state and if required freedom to tweak and implement it,” Rane said interacting with media persons after the meeting.He claimed that “several” passengers of a cruise ship that arrived from Mumbai to Goa have tested positive for COVID-19.“The particular ship has over 2,000 passengers and several of them have been found to be positive. I have issued directions that they shouldn’t be allowed to dock the ship until everyone is tested,” Rane said.
Panaji: Health minister Vishwajit Rane said on Sunday that 72,000 students in the 15-18 age group would be administered the first dose of the Covid vaccine Covaxin within four days, beginning on Monday. Last week, PM Narendra Modi, in a public address, had opened the vaccination drive to this age group, as well as to senior citizens with comorbidities. Rane said that the government is ready to administer the first dose to students aged 15-18, and added that the state has sufficient vaccines to vaccinate them. The students will be administered the vaccine across 529 schools. The health department is planning to vaccinate as many students as possible in this age group within the next four days, so that the vaccination doesn’t overlap with the third wave, said director of health services Dr Ira Almeida. The director said this would also leave students with enough time to build immunity, so that they do not contribute to the spread of the virus. The expert committee recently recommended that all schools be shut for 15 days during the current surge in Covid-19 cases. Immunisation officer Dr Rajendra Borkar said that consent forms from parents are not mandatory, and children can get vaccinated at their schools, which are coordinating with the health department. Those who have comorbidities or are anxious about taking the vaccine can opt to get it done at a district hospital or primary health centre on Wednesday mornings, he said.
Many states and UTs are soon expected to achieve 100 per cent vaccination very quickly, the statement said. (File photo/PTI)Schools Shut, Offices Allowed With 50% Workforce from Monday: Bengal Govt Issues Covid Curbs. Check HereThe West Bengal government on Sunday announced to re-impose stricter Covid-related restrictions due to the surge in the number of coronavirus cases in the state. At a press conference, Chief Secretary HK Dwivedi said the new restrictions will come into effect from January 3 and will be in place till January 15. READ MOREGoa Aims to Vaccinate All 72,000 Children in 15-18 Age Group with First Dose in Next 4 Days: MinisterThe Goa government is aiming to inoculate all 72,000 children in the 15-18 age group against COVID-19 with the first dose in the next four days after vaccination opens for them on Monday, state Health Minister Vishwajit Rane said on Sunday. Rane attended a meeting of Health Ministers of states chaired by Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya. READ MORETMC"s Presence in Goa to Help BJP in Polls, Claims Sanjay RautGoa Reports 1,789 Covid-19 Cases; Positivity Rate Up to 23.25 PcKareena Kapoor Khan Praises Brother-in-Law Kunal Kemmu’s Caption Game on This Adorable Pic With Soha Ali KhanKareena Kapoor Khan, who shares a very close bond with her sister-in-law Soha Ali Khan and her husband Kunal Kemmu was recently impressed by the latter and that too for his caption game. The actor took to Instagram to share a couple of photos with her, in one of which they can be seen embracing each other. READ MOREAAP Slams Channi Govt for Not Arresting Majithia as His Photos Surface OnlineAAP leader Raghav Chadha on Sunday slammed the Charanjit Singh Channi government in Punjab for not arresting Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia who has been booked under the NDPS Act. Alleging that Majithia is roaming around openly, Chadha claimed that pictures of the Akali leader surfaced on social media on Saturday showing him paying obeisance at the Golden Temple. READ MOREIt’s Been a Pleasure to Work With Someone Like Virat Kohli: Rahul Dravid Hails Test Captain’s LeadershipTeam India head coach Rahul Dravid heaped huge praise on Virat Kohli for his leadership qualities and keeping the morale high of the group after arrival in South Africa. Kohli has been under a lot of scanners for his off-field controversies with the BCCI regarding his T20I captaincy relinquishment but the head coach feels that the 33-year-old has been absolutely phenomenal over the last 20 days. READ MORE2 Tourists Found Dead in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli Were from Mumbai: PoliceThe two tourists, who were found dead at a snow-laden alpine meadow in Chamoli district, were from Mumbai, police said on Sunday. They were identified as Sanjiv Gupta (50) and Sinsa Gupta (35), Joshimath station house officer Rajendra Singh Kholia said. Sanjiv and Sinsa had travelled to Auli, a famous skiing destination in the state, by a ropeway on December 31, Kholia said. The cause of their death is being investigated, he said. READ MORERead all the Latest News, Breaking News and Coronavirus News here.
Goa will set up a genome sequencing machine in the next 15 days to avoid delay in the testing of suspected Omicron var.iant samples (Representative image/PTI)Panaji: The Goa government is aiming to inoculate all 72,000 children in the 15-18 age group against COVID-19 with the first dose in the next four days after vaccination opens for them on Monday, state Health Minister Vishwajit Rane said on Sunday. Rane attended a meeting of Health Ministers of states chaired by Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya.He said Mandaviya reviewed preparations for rolling out the vaccination drive. "Goa has already received 72,000 doses to vaccinate the children between the age group of 15 to 18 years, which would be administered within 3-4 days from January 3 onwards," Rane told reporters. He said teams of medical professionals will visit schools if needed. Rane said the Goa government was taking all measures as per protocols to flatten the COVID-19 curve. Responding to a query, the health minister said a cruise ship with 2,000 passengers on board was not allowed to dock at Goa port on Sunday. Operators of this cruise ship have been asked to conduct COVID-19 tests on all the passengers through the Vasco-based Salgaonkar Medical Research Centre (SMRC) Hospital before allowing them to alight.Rane also said Goa will set up a genome sequencing machine in the next 15 days to avoid delay in the testing of suspected Omicron variant samples, which are currently sent to the Pune-based NIV. He said Chief Minister Pramod Sawant will hold a meeting of Task Force on Monday in which certain measures are likely to be announced to curb the spread of coronavirus infections. .Read all the Latest News, Breaking News and Coronavirus News here.Panaji: The Goa government is aiming to inoculate all 72,000 children in the 15-18 age group against COVID-19 with the first dose in the next four days after vaccination opens for them on Monday, state Health Minister Vishwajit Rane said on Sunday. Rane attended a meeting of Health Ministers of states chaired by Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya.He said Mandaviya reviewed preparations for rolling out the vaccination drive. "Goa has already received 72,000 doses to vaccinate the children between the age group of 15 to 18 years, which would be administered within 3-4 days from January 3 onwards," Rane told reporters. He said teams of medical professionals will visit schools if needed. Rane said the Goa government was taking all measures as per protocols to flatten the COVID-19 curve. Responding to a query, the health minister said a cruise ship with 2,000 passengers on board was not allowed to dock at Goa port on Sunday. Operators of this cruise ship have been asked to conduct COVID-19 tests on all the passengers through the Vasco-based Salgaonkar Medical Research Centre (SMRC) Hospital before allowing them to alight.Rane also said Goa will set up a genome sequencing machine in the next 15 days to avoid delay in the testing of suspected Omicron variant samples, which are currently sent to the Pune-based NIV. He said Chief Minister Pramod Sawant will hold a meeting of Task Force on Monday in which certain measures are likely to be announced to curb the spread of coronavirus infections. .Read all the Latest News, Breaking News and Coronavirus News here.
Staff ReporterPanajiThe High Court of Bombay at Goa has directed the Goa government to place on record what action it has taken in view of rising cases of COVID and the new variant Omicron.The High Court heard a petition related with COVID-19. There is massive surge in the active COVID-19 cases in the state and it is nearly after seven months that the state has seen a single-day spike of 1,000 COVID cases.It may be noted that the government has ordered the closure of all offline classes being conducted in the schools around the state.Health Minister had said, “I always give a factual report on Twitter. We have detected more Omicron cases. As a result, the cases that we receive as Delta are getting converted to Omicron. So, the problem is that it is getting late (in receiving reports of genome sequencing from the Pune-based laboratory) because we don’t have a genome sequencing machine.”
Panaji: At least 12 charter tourists from Russia and Kazakhstan have tested positive on arrival since the state government started testing all international travellers from last week. They were sent into a state-run isolation facility as they were Omicron suspects. While a stay of charter tourists is normally limited to two to three weeks, it means those who test positive for Covid-19 will have to spend their holiday in isolation and return home. Local operators fear cancellation of schedules with the rise in cases, though no cancellations have been reported so far. Sita Travels chief operating officer Ernest Dias said that if restrictions are imposed by the state, there will be cancellations, and it will be the end of the charter season. “We haven’t seen cancellations in bookings so far, but there may be, if restrictions come into force. It is worrisome that some travellers, despite testing negative before boarding a flight, have tested positive after landing. It is said that they will spend their holiday in an isolation facility,” Dias said. Anupam Kumar, director, Caper India that handles Kazakhstan tourists, said that all schedules stand as of Wednesday. Presently, Goa is receiving charters from Russia — one in ten days and from Kazakhstan — three once a week. Charters from the UK too were scheduled to arrive in Goa from mid-last last month, there were arrivals after England was categorised “at risk” country by India, requiring all travellers from there, to be staying in 14-day quarantine, irrespective of whether they tested positive or negative for Covid-19. Hotelier Savio Messias said it is almost certain that Goa will not receive any charter flight from the UK during the ongoing season though earlier stakeholders were expecting some positive development by mid-January. With the Omicron variant leading the rise in cases across the globe, it is unlikely that everything will be back to normal very soon.
Panaji: Goa’s Omicron count further increased to 19 on Wednesday as eight more samples tested positive. Three persons whose samples tested positive for the Omicron variant of coronavirus had travel history, while five samples were drawn from various parts of Goa. “Five had no travel history. The cases are from Margao, Bardez, Chicalim and Canacona,” said health minister Vishwajit Rane. With Thursday’s five omicron cases, so far, state has six local cases. On Tuesday, state recorded six omicron cases, and the samples were that of international travellers. Goa health services it yet to admit that state has Omicron transmission. On Tuesday, Dr Ira Almeida director of health services had told reporters that they will have to wait until more samples test positive. tnn
Panaji: Goa recorded six more Omicron cases, taking the overall tally to 11. The six whose samples tested positive for the variant were UK returnees. “All are asymptomatic,” health minister Vishwajit Rane said. On Monday, four Omicron cases were added. Three were international travellers, while a local had visited Kolhapur. Director of health services Dr Ira Almeida had told reporters earlier in the day that they will have to examine more sample before arriving at a conclusion if the state has community spread of Omicron variant. However, since the last 10 days, Goa has seen a faster growth of the virus, and have added over 1,000 new cases in the last two days.
Rohan ShrivastavPanajiStating that the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has started in Goa from December 28, 2021, Director of Health Services Dr. Ira Almeida on Tuesday said the focus and efforts of the health authorities are now directed towards flattening the rising curve.Addressing a press conference in Panaji, Dr. Almeida said, “The start of the third wave was from December 28 onwards. We have arrived at this conclusion, as there was a sustained rise in the previous week and there was a doubling of cases 24 hours prior to December 28. The wave has started hitting different states, so we know that this third wave has come. We want to flatten the wave slightly so that we have time to keep things under control.”The infection is spreading rapidly across the state including in remote areas, and in the past few days, the cases have been rising incrementally. The state saw a single-day surge of 592 cases at a positivity rate of 13.89% in the last24 hours.The Director of Health Services said Goa saw a high positivity rate of 26% on Monday, as only symptomatic patients turned up at the health facilities for COVID-19 testingon Sunday.Spelling out the state’s preparedness plan, Dr. Almeida informed that the COVID-19 casualty ward has been restarted in the North and South Goa district hospitals. She said the patients requiring medical treatment under the supervision of doctors will be given admission in the super-speciality block (SSB) of the Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMC) at Bambolim and when the hospital occupancy reaches 50%, both the district hospitals will activate their COVID-19 wards.She said that an intensive care unit (ICU) facility is being made available in the GMC and the South Goa District Hospital. Dr Almeida further said that all the public and private health facilities in the state together have around 4,000 COVID-19 beds and a capacity of testing 10,000 samples per day.She informed that the GMC has a total bed capacity of 830, while the old South Goa District Hospital has 200 beds, including 18 ICU beds. The North Goa District Hospital has a capacity of 100 beds.“And if the cases continue to rise, 150-odd beds will be made available in the new South Goa District Hospital. If all these facilities become full, then ESIC Hospital in Margao will be notified as COVID-19 hospital and once it reaches 50% occupancy, then the sub-district hospitals will be opened up and thereafter all primary health centres,” the director of health services said.She said that an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) ICU consultant has been roped in to oversee the admissions of severe cases and those who may require ventilation support.Six more cases of the highly transmissible Omicronvariant have been confirmed in Goa,Health Minister Vishwajit Rane informed late night on Tuesday.He said all the six persons had returned to Goa from the United Kingdom. Withthis, the total number of Omicron cases in Goa has risen to 11.It is pertinent to note that Goa, on December 27, 2021, had detected its first confirmed case of Omicronwhen an eight-year-old child was found to be infected with the strain. On January 3, 2022, four more such cases were reported of which one was a Goa resident with no travel history.Dr Almeida said that currently, enough data is not present to suggest local transmission of the Omicron variant. “Previous two peaks were having Delta positives but it appears that now we are having Omicron, which is mild. However, the sheer infectivity might give us a lot of numbers. So, we are prepared and have our plans ready to tackle it,” she said.Dr Almeida said the COVID-19 clusters in the state have emerged following weddings where protocols were flouted by people.State epidemiologist Dr Utkarsh Betodkar said the directorate of health services (DHS) will ramp up testing and draw at least 3,500-4,000 samples on a daily basis. He pointed out that the current proportion of RT-PCR tests is 76% while the rapid antigen-based tests (RAT) are 24%. “If we continue to witness high positivity rate, we will increase RAT and cover more people in peripheries,” Dr Betodkar said.As on Tuesday, a total of 35 COVID-19 patients are under hospitalisation including nine, who were admitted in the last 24 hours.State Immunisation Officer Dr Rajendra Borkar informed that 95% of the targeted adult population of Goa has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with both the doses administered. In the age group of 15-18, the DHS has managed to inoculate around 8,000 children (20% of the targeted 72,000 children) with the first dose of the vaccine in the first two days of the vaccination programme, he said.When asked what advice the DHS would like to give to the people, who turn up in large numbers at political rallies, Dr Borkar said, “On behalf of madam (Dr Ira Almeida), we are advising people not to be a part of political rallies and such big gatherings.”