Health workers administer COVID-19 vaccines to beneficiaries during a drive for tribal people at Aarey Colony, Mumbai, August 3, 2021. Photo: PTI
New Delhi: The government on Tuesday said that the reproductive number or R-value that indicates the speed at which COVID-19 is spreading is more than one in eight states and UTs, including Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, which is cause of concern.
The R number is a measure that highlights the number of people a coronavirus positive person infects, thereby reflecting the severity of its spread. A number of one or below one indicates a slowly spreading virus, while any number above one indicates a rapid spread.
Addressing a press conference, Joint Secretary from Health Ministry Lav Agarwal said the pandemic is far from over as a surge in cases is being noted globally, and the second wave, as far as India is concerned, is still not over. The daily new COVID-19 cases being reported across the world are still high as more than 4.7 lakh infections are being recorded everyday, he said.
“Presently, the R number in eight states and UTs – Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Lakshwadweep, Tamil Nadu, Mizoram, Karnataka, Puducherry and Kerala – is showing an increasing trend and is more than one which is a cause of concern,” he said and underlined that containment measures have to be implemented strictly in such places.
“There is an increase in R number world over and for India it is 1.2,” Agarwal said, giving examples of the US, Canada and Australia.
“Delta variant is spreading in our country and is a dominant problem… The pandemic is still raging and we are concerned that some states have the R number which is rising, which shows the virus wishes to expand and we must curb it,” NITI Aayog Member (Health) Dr V K Paul said underlining states must do contact tracing and create containment zones wherever clusters are identified.
Agarwal said 44 districts across 12 states and UTs, including Kerala, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, are reporting more than 10 per cent weekly positivity in the week ending August 2.
Also, 18 districts across six states – Kerala (10 districts), Maharashtra (3), Manipur (2), Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Mizoram (1 each) – are reporting an increasing trend in daily new cases during the last four weeks.
He added that in the last week, 49.85 per cent of the total cases were reported from Kerala.
However, districts with greater than 100 cases declined from 279 in the week ending June 1 to 57 in the week ending on August 1, Agarwal said.
An overall declining trend was observed across India in weekly positivity since week ending May 10 and the weekly positivity was recorded less than 2 per cent (1.98 pc between July 27 to August 2) for the first time in three months, he said.
“A mixed picture is coming to the fore. Those districts reporting more than 100 cases daily have decreased, there is an overall decline in COVID positivity rate but at the same time new districts are showing up with high positivity, and reproduction number is more than 1 and is increasing in some states and UTs. So its a mixed picture and continuing high active caseload in Kerala continues to be of significant worry,” Paul said.
On the vaccination front, Agarwal said the total number of doses administered in July is more than double of that in May.
While 6.10 crore vaccine doses were administered in May, 11.96 crore were given in June and a total 13.45 crore doses were given in July.
Elaborating on how the vaccination pace has picked up, Agarwal said India crossed the 30 crore mark in 159 days. It then took 24 days more to reach the 40 crore mark thereby giving 40 crore doses in 183 days and administering 45 crore in another 11 days.
Seven states, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal, have administered more than 3 crore doses, Agarwal said.
In response to a question, Paul said that the government is in talks with Moderna.
“We are still in consultation with them and it takes coming together on the ground on the conditions of the contract and other issues we will visit, we have made progress, we hope to make more progress”.
Agarwal said that Johnson & Johnson did not apply for emergency use approval (EUA) for its COVID-19 vaccine and has withdrawn their application for conducting its phase 3 clinical trial.
“The application was to undertake clinical trial and when we issued relaxed guidelines in which we said if you have approval from regulatory bodies of other countries then exemption will be given from clinical trials and emergency use authorisation will be given and trial can be continued later on, so now since they did not need it they withdrew that application,” he said.
In a bid to fast-track emergency approvals for all foreign produced jabs, the Centre had announced that COVID-19 vaccines which were approved for restricted use by regulators in the US, UK, Europe and Japan, or which were on the Who’s Emergency Use Listing, wouldn’t have to conduct bridging clinical trials in India.
On media reports that the latest sero-survey shows that a large number of cases were not detected, Paul said national sero-surveys that have been done give a national picture and are not meant to cover the granularity at the state or sub-state level.
“Sero-surveys include a huge number of people who were asymptomatic, extrapolating that and saying mortality happened in this proportion is biased, irrational and misplaced…,” he said.
Also, there is no discussion on reducing the allocation of vaccines to private hospitals presently, Paul said.