Globally, COVID-19 confirmed cases continue to rise with numbers reaching 2,671,024. The death toll is 186,372. The total number of positive cases in India stand at 22,906, with the death toll now at 716.
The Home Ministry of India, however, gave a positive picture on the spread of the virus in the country. In its briefing on Thursday it said that the growth of the virus in the country has been linear and not exponential, and that the government has been able to cut transmission and minimise its spread in 30 days of the nationwide lockdown.
A presentation made by C.K. Misra, chairman of one of the 11 empowered groups of officers that the government had formed to deal with various aspects of the coronavirus, also noted that recovery rates had improved to 19.89 per cent, with 4,257 people being discharged after receiving treatment. The recovery rate last week was 9.99 per cent last week.
“The growth of COVID-19 cases has been more or less linear, not exponential; this indicates that the strategies we adopted have succeeded in containing the infection to a particular level. Post imposition of lockdown, while the number of new positive cases has increased by 16 times, testing has increased by 24 times,” Misra said.
“During the 30 days of lockdown, we have been able to cut transmission, minimise spread, and increase doubling days of COVID-19. We have been able to consistently ramp up testing and utilise our time preparing for the future in case the virus spreads further,” he added.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), on the other hand, has warned that most countries were still in the early stages of tackling the coronavirus pandemic and that the infection was here to stay for a long time to come. Further, there were “worrying upward trends” in early epidemics in parts of Africa, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe, according to Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who was speaking to journalists via a virtual briefing.
“Most countries are still in the early stages of their epidemics and some that were affected early in the pandemic are starting to see resurgence in cases,” he added. “Make no mistake: we have a long way to go. This virus will be with us for a long time.”
In a significant development, the Finance Ministry of India on Thursday issued an order freezing the Dearness Allowance (DA) to Central government employees and Dearness Relief (DR) to Central government pensioners at current rates till July 2021.
On Thursday, The Congress Working Committee in its meeting (held virtually) on Thursday demanded that the remaining period of lockdown be used to prepare and publish a detailed ‘exit strategy’ and a comprehensive ‘road map’ for the future. “The states must be empowered to devise solutions to the challenges due to COVID-19,” says the resolution adopted unanimously by the CWC, the party’s highest decision-making body.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi also took aim at the government over the poor quality of testing kits. “We have repeatedly urged the Prime Minister that there is no alternative to testing, tracing, and quarantine programmes. Unfortunately, testing still remains low and testing kits are still in short supply and of poor quality. PPE kits are being provided to our doctors & healthcare workers but the number and quality is poor,” she said.
Meanwhile, the row between the West Bengal government and the Governor of the state continues with no signs of ebbing. In this time of grave health crisis, this is most unwanted, to say the least. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote a five-page letter to Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and accused him of “forgetting” that she was the elected head of government in the state and he was merely a nominated one. Ms Banerjee wrote, “Let the people of Bengal and India judge who has breached the constitution,” citing BR Ambedkar and the Sarkaria Commission Report on the powers of the Governor. “You have attacked me, my ministers and my officers. Your tone, tenor and language are unparliamentary. There have been repeated and consistent interference in administration. Decency and the constitution have been flagrantly transgressed,” Ms Banerjee said.
The two groups of an Inter Ministerial Central Team (IMCT), in the meantime, checked COVID-19 hotspots, hospitals, and quarantine centre in West Bengal. The monitoring by the central team continues to be done in the backdrop of the West Bengal chief minister calling the team’s visit a unilateral action and accusing the Central government of sending faulty testing kits.
Now, some positive news. Oxford University has begun human trials of potential COVID-19 vaccines. If all goes well, the production of the Oxford trial vaccine could start as early as September this year.
Germany, too, has given approval for testing of a vaccine developed by pharma majors BioNTech and Pfizer, on human volunteers. As Deutsche Welle reports, the Health Minister Jens Spahn has announced the first clinical trials of a coronavirus vaccine. The Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), the regulatory authority which helps develop and authorizes vaccines in Germany, has given the go-ahead for the first clinical trial of BNT162b1, a vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
It was developed by cancer researcher and immunologist Ugur Sahin and his team at pharmaceutical company BioNTech, and is based on their prior research into cancer immunology.