The Indian Express | 2 months ago | 05-04-2023 | 11:45 am
After a lull of more than a year, the industrial city of Pimpri-Chinchwad near Pune is witnessing a rise in Covid positive cases. The city has seen at least 20 cases a day in the last 15 days and there were 203 active cases by Tuesday. Till March 9, the city did not have a single active case.“There is a slight rise in Covid cases in the city. The rise has been seen since last month. We are seeing at least 20 positive cases a day,” said Dr Laxman Gofane, who heads PCMC’s medical department.The PCMC administration, however, said the patients who have tested positive for Covid had mild symptoms. “As a result, many of them are in home isolation. So far, only three patients who had severe symptoms have been hospitalised,” Dr Gofane said.The first Covid case in Maharashtra was reported in Pimpri-Chinchwad on March 10, 2020. Soon after, the city in the next two years registered as many as 4,630 Covid deaths.In view of the anticipated rise in Covid cases, the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) said it had issued directions to the medical and health department to keep men and machinery ready to tackle the situation as it emerges. “We are keeping a plan ready to tackle the emerging situation,” the administration said. Last week, Municipal Commissioner Shekhar Singh held a meeting with top officials and doctors and directed them to keep the infrastructure ready to tackle any rise in the number of Covid patients.The PCMC administration has urged the public to wear masks in crowded places. “Social distancing is mandatory. If anyone has Covid-like symptoms, he should immediately report to the nearest civic hospital,” Dr Gofane said.
The Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh lost yet another Cheetah when a six-year-old male feline, translocated from South Africa in February, died on Sunday, officials said. The reasons for its death are still unknown, said officials.The cheetah, who was recently named Uday following a mass competition organised by the government platform mygov.in, had been faring well till Saturday. It suddenly took ill on Sunday, said officials of the Madhya Pradesh forest department.This is the second cheetah death in Kuno after the translocation of the big cats from Namibia and South Africa to India that started in September last year. On March 27, a Namibian cheetah named Sasha had died of kidney complications.Uday’s post-mortem will be carried out at the park on Monday to ascertain the cause of death, said the officials.Unlike Sasha, whose kidney ailment was known to forest officials, Uday’s death took everyone by surprise. Sasha was believed to have contracted the kidney ailment during her captivity in Namibia and had been unwell since she arrived at Kuno.She was never let out of the quarantine Boma, where all the cheetahs had been kept for a month after their arrival. Eight Namibian Cheetahs were brought and released in Kuno in September last year. Another batch of 12 South African cheetahs were brought by the Indian government on February 18 this year.“We run daily checks on the cheetahs. When our team went for the inspection yesterday (Saturday), all the cheetahs were in perfect health and were doing well. There were no visible problems. This morning, when a team went out to check on them, Uday seemed low on energy, looked unwell and was walking with his head down,” said Madhya Pradesh Chief Wildlife Warden J S Chauhan.The South African cheetahs had completed their quarantine period at Kuno and had been released into the larger 6 sqkm enclosure built at the park just a week ago.“The (inspection) team immediately informed the park director and a team of vets was sent out to the enclosure. Uday was tranquilised and brought back to the quarantine for examination. He was being administered medication and saline, and even as the treatment was underway, he passed away at 4 pm today (Sunday). The team did not even get time to assess what happened exactly. Tomorrow (Monday) morning, a veterinarian from Veterinarian University at Jabalpur, and another from Bhopal, will go to Kuno to carry out the post-mortem. Only then will we be able to ascertain what happened,’’ said Chauhan.The senior officer said the Madhya Pradesh forest department has the previous medical records of all the South African cheetahs and no disease or medical issue had been detected in Uday’s case. He added that all other felines in the park have been faring well.
With the number of Covid cases rising in the national capital, doctors are advising that people follow Covid-appropriate behaviour. Wearing a mask in public places is the ideal thing to do at the moment, says Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant, Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals. Here are a few tips from Dr Chatterjee on dealing with the current situation:With Covid cases increasing, how can we protect ourselves from getting infected?Covid-appropriate behaviour should return because wearing a mask in crowded places and workplaces is not compulsory but, ideally, people should start doing that.Should the government enforce Covid regulations again?It should not come as a government regulation as of now but people can voluntarily start wearing masks. Avoiding crowded places and washing hands are fine but at this moment, wearing a mask is enough. In short, Covid-appropriate behaviour should come back.What to do if a fever-like situation arises?Don’t ignore your symptoms if you have fever, cough or sore throat. Don’t think that it is viral. Speak with your doctor and get it investigated and if it is Covid, further treatment can be started.The government is doing genome sequencing and more can also be done if the cases increase further to understand the type of viruses circulating in the country.Who is more prone to getting infected?Take care of the elderly and people with comorbid conditions like diabetes, hypertension, kidney failure and people with transplants.What about those who have not taken the second or third dose of the vaccine?There is no use forcing people to get vaccinated because we really do not know if it will be effective because right now we have older vaccines. Now, if the newer vaccine is effective against the new viruses, for that studies need to be conducted.
After a three-year hiatus, China has announced the resumption of all types of visas for Indian travellers, including those for tourism purposes. “The Chinese Embassy and Consulates General in India will resume issuing various types of Chinese visas, starting March 15,” it announced Tuesday.With this, China has resumed all types of visas for foreigners, including tourism visas, port visas, and multiple visa-exemption policies, as a move to reopen its borders for the first time after the coronavirus pandemic struck in early 2020. However, inbound travellers have been advised to consult with their local China embassies or consulates for more detailed requirements and procedures.Under its zero-Covid policy, China had imposed strict travel restrictions on international arrivals starting March 28, 2020, to stop the spread of coronavirus disease cases from abroad. In addition to the reduced frequency of international passenger flights, the restrictions included limited visa availability – including a suspension of tourist visas – and strict Covid-19 testing and quarantine requirements before and after arrival in China.However, late last year, the country had shifted from a “zero-Covid” policy to “living with Covid”, with the removal of centralised quarantine for inbound travellers. Gradually, they reopened visa applications for most types of visas, even as visa applications for tourism and medical treatment were still on hold.Now, “with the latest policy adjustment” announced by the embassies across the world – including in Canada, France, Kuwait, Malta, New Zealand, Thailand, the US, and the UAE – these restrictions will finally be removed.In August 2022, the Chinese embassy had resumed services for 10 types of ordinary visas for Indian citizens, including long-term study, business, work, family visits, personal visits, and talent introduction, among others. However, applications for visas to China for travel, medical treatment and other reasons remain suspended.Even as the number of Indian citizens entering China with visas for business visits, family visits are also expected to rise significantly after this move, experts in the travel industry say this may not mean much till direct flights to China are resumed. Currently, China and India are said to be negotiating details for the resumption of direct flights, which were curtailed during the pandemic.
China on Saturday marked the first day of “chun yun”, the 40-day period of Lunar New Year travel known pre-pandemic as the world’s largest annual migration of people, bracing for a huge increase in travelers and the spread of Covid-19 infections.This Lunar New Year public holiday, which officially runs from Jan. 21, will be the first since 2020 without domestic travel restrictions. Over the last month China has seen the dramatic dismantling of its “zero-Covid” regime following historic protests against a policy that included frequent testing, restricted movement, mass lockdowns and heavy damage to the world’s No.2 economy. Investors are hoping that the reopening will eventually reinvigorate a $17-trillion economy suffering its lowest growth in nearly half a century.But the abrupt changes have exposed many of China’s 1.4 billion population to the virus for the first time, triggering a wave of infections that is overwhelming some hospitals, emptying pharmacy shelves of medicines and causing long lines to form at crematoriums. The Ministry of Transport said on Friday that it expects more than 2 billion passengers to take trips over the next 40 days, an increase of 99.5% year-on-year and reaching 70.3% of trip numbers in 2019.There was mixed reaction online to that news, with some comments hailing the freedom to return to hometowns and celebrate the Lunar New Year with family for the first time in years. Many others, however, said they would not travel this year, with worry of infecting elderly relatives a common theme.“I dare not go back to my hometown, for fear of bringing the poison back,” said one such comment on the Twitter-like Weibo.Also Read |BF.7 and BA.5.2: The Omicron sub-variants driving the China surgeThere are widespread concerns that the great migration of workers in cities to their hometowns will cause a surge in infections in smaller towns and rural areas that are less well-equipped with ICU beds and ventilators to deal with them. Authorities say they are boosting grassroots medical services, opening more rural fever clinics and instituting a “green channel” for high risk patients, especially elderly people with underlying health conditions, to be transferred from villages directly to higher level hospitals.“China’s rural areas are wide, the population is large, and the per capita medical resources are relatively insufficient,” National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng said on Saturday.“It’s necessary to provide convenient services, accelerate vaccination for the elderly in rural areas and the construction of grassroots lines of defense.”INFECTION PEAK REACHEDSome analysts are now saying the current wave of infections may have already peaked. Ernan Cui, an analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics in Beijing, cited several online surveys as indicating that rural areas were already more widely exposed to Covid infections than initially thought, with an infection peak already reached in most regions, noting there was “not much difference between urban and rural areas.”On Sunday China will reopen its border with Hong Kong and will also end a requirement for travelers coming from abroad to quarantine. That effectively opens the door for many Chinese to travel abroad for the first time since borders slammed shut nearly three years ago, without fear of having to quarantine on their return.More than a dozen countries are now demanding Covid tests from travellers from China. The World Health Organization said on Wednesday that China’s Covid data underrepresents the number of hospitalizations and deaths from the disease. Chinese officials and state media have defended the handling of the outbreak, playing down the severity of the surge and denouncing foreign travel requirements for its residents.On Saturday in Hong Kong, people who had made appointments had to queue for about 90 minutes at a Centre for PCR tests needed for travel to countries including mainland China.Also Read |What is BF.7, the Omicron sub-variant driving the new surge in China?TREATMENT TO THE FOREFor much of the pandemic, China poured resources into a vast PCR testing program to track and trace Covid-19 cases, but the focus is now shifting to vaccines and treatment. In Shanghai, for example, the city government on Friday announced an end to free PCR tests for residents from Jan. 8.A circular published by four government ministries Saturday signaled a reallocation of financial resources to treatment, outlining a plan for public finances to subsidies 60% of treatment costs until March 31. Meanwhile, sources told Reuters that China is in talks with Pfizer Inc to secure a license that will allow domestic drugmakers to manufacture and distribute a generic version of the U.S. firm’s Covid antiviral drug Paxlovid in China.Many Chinese have been attempting to buy the drug abroad and have it shipped to China. On the vaccine front, China’s CanSino Biologics Inc announced it has begun trial production for its Covid mRNA booster vaccine, known as CS-2034. China has relied on nine domestically-developed vaccines approved for use, including inactivated vaccines, but none have been adapted to target the highly-transmissible Omicron variant and its offshoots currently in circulation.The overall vaccination rate in the country is above 90%, but the rate for adults who have had booster shots drops to 57.9%, and to 42.3% for people aged 80 and older, according to government data released last month. China reported three new Covid deaths in the mainland for Friday, bringing its official virus death toll since the pandemic began to 5,267, one of the lowest in the world. International health experts believe Beijing’s narrow definition of Covid deaths does not reflect a true toll, and some predict more than a million deaths this year.
Australia and Canada have joined a growing list of countries requiring travellers from China to take a COVID-19 test prior to boarding their flight, as China battles a nationwide outbreak of the coronavirus after abruptly easing restrictions that were in place for much of the pandemic.Australian health authorities said Sunday that from January 5 all air travellers from mainland China, Hong Kong or Macao will need to show a negative COVID-19 test taken within two days of their departure.Canadian authorities announced similar measures that will also come into effect January 5 in a statement dated Saturday — a move experts say isn’t very effective.Kerry Bowman, assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine, said the requirement is “not based on science at this point.” “This isn’t the early days of the pandemic,” he said. “It’s pretty clear that point-of-entry screening is not very effective at all.Often people can test positive days and weeks later.” Dr. Isaac Bogoch, associate professor at University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine, said it’s not entirely clear what the policy’s goals are, but such measures have not helped.“We know from the past that very focused and targeted travel measures such as this don’t do much to prevent the spread of COVID, either by importing COVID to Canada, or by the threat of variants of concern in Canada,” he said.Australia and Canada join other countries including the US, UK, India, Japan and several European nations in imposing tougher COVID-19 measures on Chinese travellers amid concerns over a lack of data on infections in China and fears of the possibility that new variants may spread.Research has shown how the virus spreads through human mobility, which means that the next variant of the virus may not even emerge from China, and even if it did, it could land in Canada from other indirect routes, Bowman said, adding that a more effective measure would be testing wastewater from airplanes and airports to check for the viral load and mutations.Vancouver International Airport said Saturday it would expand its wastewater testing pilot programme.China, which for most of the pandemic adopted a “zero-COVID” strategy that imposed harsh restrictions aimed at stamping out the virus, abruptly eased those measures in December. Chinese authorities previously said that from January 8, overseas travellers would no longer need to quarantine upon arriving in China, paving the way for Chinese residents to travel.Hong Kong is also preparing for quarantine-free travel to China, with plans to resume operations of more border checkpoints as early as January 8, according to a Facebook post by Hong Kong Chief Secretary Eric Chan.However, a quota will remain in place limiting the number of travellers between the two places.“Depending on the first phase of the situation, we will gradually expand the scale for a complete reopening of the border,” Chan said.In China, eased restrictions meant that residents could celebrate New Year’s in large-scale gatherings that were prohibited for much of the pandemic, even though the country is experiencing a massive outbreak of cases.“There are still some worries, more or less,” said Wu Yanxia, a 51-year-old Beijing resident who works at a logistic company. “I hope that next year everything will be normal, such as domestic travel.” Others hope that 2023 will bring better things after a difficult past year.“We have experienced a very uneven year, particularly unforgettable, with many things out of our imagination,” said Li Feng, a teacher in Beijing, adding that 2022 was a difficult year for both the people and the government.“But I think we have come through and everything will be fine,” Li said. “All of us will be better, and better in both work and life.”