Covid-19 wreaking havoc on India, 300,000 new cases, 2,023 deaths on Tuesday

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Deadly fungus infection found in COVID-19 patients in India
Some sufferers lost their upper jaws and eyes after contracting it, according to media reports

Author of the article:Bloomberg News
Bloomberg News
Bhuma Shrivastava
Publishing date:May 10, 2021 • 1 day ago • 1 minute read • 13 Comments
A health worker wearing a protective gear walks past COVID-19 patients inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a COVID care centre in New Delhi on May 10, 2021.
A health worker wearing a protective gear walks past COVID-19 patients inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a COVID care centre in New Delhi on May 10, 2021. PHOTO BY ARUN SANKAR /AFP via Getty Images
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India’s health authorities are warning about a fungal infection seen in some COVID-19 patients which can disfigure facial features and even kill, as the country continues to grapple with the world’s fastest-growing coronavirus outbreak.

Mucormycosis, also called the “black fungus” infection, can damage the sinuses or lungs when the spores are inhaled, the Indian Council of Medical Research said in a health advisory issued Sunday.


Patients who have been on medication for some time or had prolonged stays in the ICU are particularly susceptible, the ICMR said. The rare but deadly infection can kill and maim patients, with some COVID sufferers losing their upper jaws and eyes after contracting it, according to local media reports.

With India reporting more than 300,000 new virus infections for the past 19 days straight, doctors across emergency rooms are seeing a rash of such cases — an unintended consequence of intensive medical intervention that sometimes includes oxygen tubes through the nose. The fungus can attack through the respiratory tract, and was present in India before the COVID pandemic, according to the New York Times.

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India’s health system has been stretched to breaking point by a second virus wave that is proving more lethal and harder to control than the first.


Warning signs for the fungal infection include pain and redness around the eyes and nose, shortness of breath, bloody vomiting and an altered mental state, the ICMR said. Doctors were advised to monitor the afflicted person’s blood glucose levels and to use clean, sterile water in humidifiers used for oxygen therapy. The ICMR warned against overuse of steroids, indicating they could worsen the infection.

The fungal infection is the latest complication in India’s virus fight, with the country continuing to run short of hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, COVID medicines and vaccine doses as cases rise. Experts have warned that the sheer size of India’s outbreak is bound to generate new virus mutations and after-effects from the virus that may not have been seen elsewhere.
 

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Indian doctors warn against cow dung as COVID cure
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Amit Dave
Publishing date:May 10, 2021 • 21 hours ago • 2 minute read • 6 Comments
People pray after applying cow dung on their bodies during "cow dung therapy," believing it will boost their immunity to defend against COVID-19 at the Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul Vishwavidya Pratishthanam Gaushala or cow shelter on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, May 9, 2021.
People pray after applying cow dung on their bodies during "cow dung therapy," believing it will boost their immunity to defend against COVID-19 at the Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul Vishwavidya Pratishthanam Gaushala or cow shelter on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, May 9, 2021. PHOTO BY AMIT DAVE /REUTERS
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AHMEDABAD — Doctors in India are warning against the practice of using cow dung in the belief it will ward off COVID-19, saying there is no scientific evidence for its effectiveness and that it risks spreading other diseases.

The coronavirus pandemic has wrought devastation on India, with 22.66 million cases and 246,116 deaths reported so far. Experts say actual numbers could be five to 10 times higher, and citizens across the country are struggling to find hospital beds, oxygen, or medicines, leaving many to die for lack of treatment.


In the state of Gujarat in western India, some believers have been going to cow shelters once a week to cover their bodies in cow dung and urine in the hope it will boost their immunity against, or help them recover from, the coronavirus.

In Hinduism, the cow is a sacred symbol of life and the earth, and for centuries Hindus have used cow dung to clean their homes and for prayer rituals, believing it has therapeutic and antiseptic properties.

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A health worker wearing a protective gear walks past COVID-19 patients inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a COVID care centre in New Delhi on May 10, 2021.
Deadly fungus infection found in COVID-19 patients in India
A patient wearing an oxygen mask is wheeled inside a COVID-19 hospital for treatment, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ahmedabad, India, April 26, 2021.
WHO classifies India variant as being of global concern

“We see … even doctors come here. Their belief is that this therapy improves their immunity and they can go and tend to patients with no fear,” said Gautam Manilal Borisa, an associate manager at a pharmaceuticals company, who said the practice helped him recover from COVID-19 last year.

He has since been a regular at the Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul Vishwavidya Pratishthanam, a school run by Hindu monks that lies just across the road from the Indian headquarters of Zydus Cadila, which is developing its own COVID-19 vaccine.

As participants wait for the dung and urine mixture on their bodies to dry, they hug or honour the cows at the shelter, and practice yoga to boost energy levels. The packs are then washed off with milk or buttermilk.

Ashok Oza bathes in cow milk to remove cow dung from his body during “cow dung therapy,” believing it will boost his immunity to defend against COVID-19 at the Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul Vishwavidya Pratishthanam Gaushala or cow shelter on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, May 9, 2021.
Ashok Oza bathes in cow milk to remove cow dung from his body during “cow dung therapy,” believing it will boost his immunity to defend against COVID-19 at the Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul Vishwavidya Pratishthanam Gaushala or cow shelter on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, May 9, 2021. PHOTO BY AMIT DAVE /REUTERS
Doctors and scientists in India and across the world have repeatedly warned against practicing alternative treatments for COVID-19, saying they can lead to a false sense of security and complicate health problems.

“There is no concrete scientific evidence that cow dung or urine work to boost immunity against COVID-19, it is based entirely on belief,” said Dr JA Jayalal, national president at the Indian Medical Association.

“There are also health risks involved in smearing or consuming these products – other diseases can spread from the animal to humans.”


There are also concerns the practice could contribute to the spread of the virus as it involved people gathering in groups. Madhucharan Das, in charge of another cow shelter in Ahmedabad, said they were limiting the number of participants.

 
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WHO classifies India variant as being of global concern
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Publishing date:May 10, 2021 • 1 day ago • 1 minute read • 7 Comments
A patient wearing an oxygen mask is wheeled inside a COVID-19 hospital for treatment, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ahmedabad, India, April 26, 2021.
A patient wearing an oxygen mask is wheeled inside a COVID-19 hospital for treatment, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ahmedabad, India, April 26, 2021. PHOTO BY AMIT DAVE /REUTERS
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GENEVA — The World Health Organization said on Monday that the B.1.617 variant first identified in India last year was being classified as a variant of global concern.

“We classify it as a variant of concern at a global level,” Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID-19, told a briefing. “There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility.”

Indian coronavirus infections and deaths held close to record daily highs on Monday, increasing calls for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lock down the world’s second-most populous country.

The WHO has said the predominant lineage of B.1.617 was first identified in India last December, although an earlier version was spotted in October 2020.


The variant has already spread to other countries, and many nations have moved to cut or restrict movements from India.

Van Kerkhove said more information about the variant and its three lineages would be made available on Tuesday.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the WHO Foundation was launching a “Together for India” appeal to raise funds to purchase oxygen, medicines and protective equipment for health workers.
 

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Bodies float down Ganges as nearly 4,000 more die of COVID in India
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Saurabh Sharma
Publishing date:May 11, 2021 • 15 hours ago • 2 minute read • 16 Comments
A man wearing a face mask walks in a fruit market amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Mumbai, India, May 11, 2021.
A man wearing a face mask walks in a fruit market amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Mumbai, India, May 11, 2021. PHOTO BY NIHARIKA KULKARNI /REUTERS
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LUCKNOW — Scores of bodies are washing up on the banks of the Ganges as Indians fail to keep pace with the deaths and cremations of around 4,000 people a day from the novel coronavirus.

India currently accounts for one in three of the reported deaths from coronavirus around the world, according to a Reuters tally, and its health system is overwhelmed, despite donations of oxygen cylinders and other medical equipment from around the world.


Rural parts of India not only have more rudimentary healthcare, but are now also running short of wood for traditional Hindu cremations.

Authorities said on Tuesday they were investigating the discovery of scores of bodies found floating down the Ganges in two separate states.

“As of now it is very difficult for us to say where these dead bodies have come from,” said M P Singh, the top government official in Ghazipur district, in Uttar Pradesh.

Akhand Pratap, a local resident, said that “people are immersing bodies in the holy Ganges river instead of cremation because of shortage of cremation wood.”

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Even in the capital, New Delhi, many COVID victims are abandoned by their relatives after cremation, leaving volunteers to wash the ashes, pray over them, and then take them to scatter into the river in the holy city of Haridwar, 180 km (110 miles) away.

“Our organization collects these remains from all the crematoriums and performs the last rituals in Haridwar so that they can achieve salvation,” said Ashish Kashyap, a volunteer from the charity Shri Deodhan Sewa Samiti.


QUARTER OF A MILLION DEAD

The seven-day average of daily infections hit a record 390,995 on Tuesday, with 3,876 deaths, according to the health ministry.

Official COVID-19 deaths, which experts say are almost certainly under-reported, stand at just under a quarter of a million.

The World Health Organization said on Monday that it regarded the coronavirus variant first identified in India last year as a variant of global concern, with some preliminary studies showing that it spreads more easily.

Late that day, 11 people died in the government SVR Ruia hospital in the southern city of Tirupati because a tanker carrying oxygen arrived late.

“There were issues with oxygen pressure due to low availability. It all happened within a span of five minutes,” said M Harinarayan, the district’s senior civil servant.

Vaccines are also running short, especially in Maharashtra state around the financial center of Mumbai, and in the capital, Delhi, two of India’s hardest-hit regions.

“We are ready to buy doses, but they are not available right now,” Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope told reporters.

India’s second wave of the pandemic has increased calls for a nationwide lockdown and prompted more and more states to impose tougher restrictions that have hurt businesses and the wider economy.

Production of the Apple iPhone 12 at a Foxconn factory in the southern state of Tamil Nadu has slumped by more than half because workers have been infected with COVID-19, two sources told Reuters.
 

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COVID-19 kills more than 4,000 more Indians amid clamour for vaccines
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Tanvi Mehta and Anuron Kumar Mitra
Publishing date:May 13, 2021 • 21 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
In this photograph taken on May 12, 2021 volunteers rest as they work at a crematorium in New Delhi amid the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
In this photograph taken on May 12, 2021 volunteers rest as they work at a crematorium in New Delhi amid the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. PHOTO BY ARUN SANKAR /AFP via Getty Images
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NEW DELHI — India recorded more than 4,000 COVID-19 deaths for a second straight day on Thursday as infections stayed below 400,000, and extended the interval between doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to up to 16 weeks amid a dire shortage of shots in the country.

Experts remain unsure when numbers will peak and concern is growing about the transmissibility of the variant that is driving infections in India and spreading worldwide.


Bhramar Mukherjee, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, said most models had predicted a peak this week and that the country could be seeing signs of that trend.

Still, the number of new cases each day is large enough to overwhelm hospitals, she said on Twitter. “The key word is cautious optimism.”

The situation is particularly bad in rural areas of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state with a population of over 240 million. Television pictures have shown families weeping over the dead in rural hospitals or camping in wards to tend the sick.

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Bodies have washed up in the Ganges, the river that flows through the state, as crematoriums are overwhelmed and wood for funeral pyres is in short supply.

“Official statistics give you no idea of the devastating pandemic that is raging through rural UP,” wrote well-known activist and opposition politician Yogendra Yadav in The Print.

“Widespread ignorance, lack of nearby or adequate testing facilities, official and unofficial cap on testing and inordinate delays in test reports have meant that in village after village, virtually no one has been tested, while scores of people complain of a ‘strange fever’.”

According to health ministry data, India had 362,727 new COVID-19 infections over the last 24 hours while deaths climbed by 4,120.

The second wave of infections, which erupted in February, has been accompanied by a slowdown in vaccinations, although Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that vaccinations would be open to all adults from May 1.

Although it is the world’s largest vaccine producer, India has run low on stocks in the face of the huge demand. As of Thursday, it had fully vaccinated just over 38.2 million people, or about 2.8% of a population of about 1.35 billion, government data shows.


The health ministry on Thursday accepted a recommendation by a government panel to extend the gap between the first and second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine made at the Serum Institute of India to 12-16 weeks, from 6-8 weeks currently.

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The recommendation, aided in part by evidence from the UK, comes as India faces extreme shortage of vaccines.

There were no changes in the interval for the domestically developed Covaxin, the other shot being used in the country.

The government of most populous Uttar Pradesh said it will spend up to $1.36 billion to buy COVID-19 shots and held early talks this week with companies such as Pfizer and the local distributor of Russia’s Sputnik.

More than 2 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines will likely be available in India between August to December this year, top government advisor V.K.Paul told reporters amid criticism that the government had mishandled the vaccine plan.

Those doses would include 750 million of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, as well as 550 million doses of Covaxin, made by Bharat Biotech.

“We are going through a phase of finite supply. The entire world is going through this. It takes time to come out of this phase,” Paul said. Some consignments of the Sputnik vaccine had also arrived in the country and he was hopeful they would be available from next week, he said.

Two states – Karnataka, which includes tech hub Bengaluru, and Maharashtra, which includes Mumbai – have announced they will temporarily suspend vaccination for people aged 18-44 years as they prioritize those over 45 who need their second dose.

Maharashtra also announced that curbs on movement would be extended until the end of the month in a bid to break the chain of infections. Mostly rural Bihar in the east extended curbs until May 25.

Modi has left it to state governments to impose such curbs.

The head of the Indian Council of Medical Research, the main health agency responding to the pandemic, has told Reuters that areas with high infections had to be locked down for 6-8 weeks.
 

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Bodies of COVID-19 victims among those dumped in India's Ganges: Gov't document
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Krishna N. Das
Publishing date:May 15, 2021 • 1 day ago • 2 minute read • 62 Comments
Men wearing protective suits place a white cloth over the body their relative, who died from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), before his cremation on the banks of the river Ganges at Garhmukteshwar in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India, May 6, 2021.
Men wearing protective suits place a white cloth over the body their relative, who died from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), before his cremation on the banks of the river Ganges at Garhmukteshwar in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India, May 6, 2021. PHOTO BY DANISH SIDDIQUI /REUTERS
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NEW DELHI — Bodies of COVID-19 victims have been found dumped in some Indian rivers, a state government letter seen by Reuters says, in the first official acknowledgement of the alarming practice, which it said may stem from poverty and fear of the disease in remote areas.

Images of corpses drifting down the Ganges river, which is considered holy in Hinduism, have shocked the country, reeling under the world’s worst surge in COVID-19 cases.


Although media reports have linked the increase in the number of bodies found floating in the river and its tributaries in recent days to the pandemic, India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh, home to 240 million people, has until now not publicly revealed the cause of the deaths.

“The administration has information that bodies of those who have succumbed to COVID-19 or any other disease are being thrown into rivers instead of being disposed of as per proper rituals,” a senior state official, Manoj Kumar Singh, said in a letter dated May 14 to district heads that was reviewed by Reuters.

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“As a result, bodies have been recovered from rivers in many places.”

Singh was not immediately reachable for comment.

The acknowledgment comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday called on officials to strengthen healthcare resources in rural areas and step up surveillance as the virus spreads rapidly in those areas after ravaging the cities.

Uttar Pradesh, home to more people than Brazil or Pakistan, has been badly hit by India’s dramatic second surge in COVID-19 cases. Health experts say many cases are now going undetected in the villages of Uttar Pradesh, where most of its people live.

Singh in the memo to district heads said a lack of funds to buy materials like firewood for cremation, religious beliefs in some communities, and families abandoning COVID-19 victims for fear of the disease, were among the likely reasons for the surge in body dumpings.


He asked village-level officials to ensure no corpses are thrown into water and said the state government would pay poor families of the dead 5,000 rupees ($68) each to cremate or bury bodies. The state has also asked police to patrol rivers to stop the practice.

India has been officially reporting around 4,000 deaths each day from the disease for nearly two weeks, but health experts say the toll is likely much higher due to poor testing in rural areas and other factors.

The jump in deaths has in many places led to backlogs at crematoriums and multiplied the cost of last rites.

Uttar Pradesh spokesman Navneet Sehgal on Saturday denied local media reports that as many as 2,000 corpses of potential COVID-19 victims had been recovered from rivers in the state and neighboring Bihar in recent days.

“We keep recovering 10 to 20 bodies every now and then,” Sehgal told Reuters, adding that some riverside villages did not cremate their dead due to Hindu traditions during some periods of religious significance.

Bihar officials did not respond to requests for comment.
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India promises more vaccines as daily COVID-19 deaths stay above 4,000
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Manas Mishra and Aishwarya Nair
Publishing date:May 16, 2021 • 9 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
Volunteers take a break during the cremation of people who died due to COVID-19, at a crematorium ground in Giddenahalli village on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India, May 13, 2021.
Volunteers take a break during the cremation of people who died due to COVID-19, at a crematorium ground in Giddenahalli village on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India, May 13, 2021. PHOTO BY SAMUEL RAJKUMAR /REUTERS
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BENGALURU — Some Indian states said on Sunday they would extend COVID-19 lockdowns to help contain the pandemic, which has killed more than 270,000 people in the country, as the federal government pledged to bolster vaccine supplies.

The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours in India has risen more than 4,000 for the fourth time in a week, with Sunday’s 311,170 new infections representing the lowest single-day rise in more than three weeks.


Federal health officials warned against any complacency over a “plateauing” in the rise of infections, however, and urged states to add intensive care units and strengthen their medical workforces.

The northern states of Delhi and Haryana extended lockdowns, slated to end on Monday, by a week.

Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the rate of positive cases compared with overall tests carried out had come down to 10% from as high as 30% earlier this month.

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“The gains we have made over the past week, we don’t want to lose them. So we are going to extend the lockdown for another week,” Kejriwal told reporters.

The southern state of Kerala, which has previously announced a lockdown extension, also introduced stricter restrictions in some districts on Saturday. It warned that people not wearing masks where required or violating quarantine protocols faced being arrested, with drones used to help identify violators.

The government said it would send an additional 5.1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to states over the next three days.

Even though India is the world’s largest vaccine-producing nation, only 141.6 million people have received at least one vaccine dose, or roughly 10% of its population of 1.35 billion, according to health ministry data.

The country has fully vaccinated just over 40.4 million people, or 2.9% of its population.

CRITICISM OVER VACCINE EXPORTS

India’s supply of vaccine doses should rise to 516 million by July, and more than 2 billion between August to December, boosted by domestic production and imports, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said. The country received 60,000 more doses of the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia on Sunday.

The country’s average vaccination rate over seven days fell to 1.7 million on Sunday, from 1.8 million a week ago, after Maharashtra, the richest state, and Karnataka in the south put the rollout of shots on hold for adults younger than 45.

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Main opposition leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted a poster questioning Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to exporting and donating vaccines abroad earlier this year instead of meeting the country’s requirements.

This was in response to media reports that police in the capital New Delhi had arrested dozens of individuals for putting up similar posters in parts of Delhi.

Gandhi tweeted the poster with the caption “Arrest Me Too,” which became one of the top trending items on Twitter across the country on Sunday following an outcry about the arrests.

Modi opened up vaccinations for all adults from May 1, doubling the number of those eligible to an estimated 800 million, though domestic production will stay largely flat until July, at about 80 million doses a month.

Authorities in Modi’s western home state of Gujarat said they would halt vaccinations on Monday and Tuesday to take protective measures against a cyclone expected to hit next week.

In the neighboring state of Maharashtra, the government has moved COVID-19 patients at makeshift medical centers in Mumbai, on the western coast, to other hospitals as the cyclone advances towards Gujarat, the chief minister’s office said.

Vaccinations were also likely to remain suspended in India’s financial hub Mumbai on Monday, Reuters partner ANI reported, citing the city’s mayor.

SPREAD IN RURAL AREAS

While lockdowns have helped limit cases in parts of the country that had been hit by an initial surge of infections in February and April, such as Maharashtra and Delhi, rural areas and some states are dealing with fresh surges.

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The government issued detailed guidelines on Sunday for monitoring COVID-19 cases that were spreading in India’s vast countryside.

The health ministry asked villages to look out for cases of flu-like illness and get such patients tested for COVID-19.

India’s total infections have risen by more than 2 million this week, and deaths by nearly 28,000. Deaths rose by 4,077 on Sunday.

Bodies of COVID-19 victims were found to have been dumped in some rivers, the government of the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh said in a letter seen by Reuters, in the first official acknowledgement of the alarming practice.

 

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COVID spreads to rural India as deaths again rise above 4,000
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Shilpa Jamkhandikar
Publishing date:May 22, 2021 • 1 day ago • 2 minute read • Join the conversation
Volunteers arrange beds made out of cardboard to be used by COVID positive patients as they convert a hall of a spiritual organization into a coronavirus care centre on the outskirts of Amritsar on May 22, 2021.
Volunteers arrange beds made out of cardboard to be used by COVID positive patients as they convert a hall of a spiritual organization into a coronavirus care centre on the outskirts of Amritsar on May 22, 2021. PHOTO BY NARINDER NANU /AFP via Getty Images
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MUMBAI — India’s COVID-19 outbreak has stabilized in parts of the country, a government official said, but deaths rose by 4,194 on Saturday and infections were spreading in rural areas where public health services are scarce and already overstretched.

India reported more than 400,000 infections a day in early May but the numbers have gradually eased. On Saturday, government data showed 257,299 new cases.


Active cases in the richest state of Maharashtra and Karnataka, home to the tech hub of Bengaluru, and the coastal state of Kerala had fallen in the last two weeks, health ministry official Lav Agarwal told reporters.

Daily numbers in states including West Bengal, which recently concluded state elections, and the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were on the rise, he said.

With hospitals overflowing, the health system overwhelmed in the cities and a shortage of vaccines, experts have warned India could face a third wave of infections in coming months.

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“While it (spread of coronavirus) has stabilized in many parts of the country, and overall the burden has been lessened, we have a long way to go with this wave,” Dr. V. K. Paul, part of a federal government panel on COVID-19 management, told a news conference.

“For the first time, we have seen that rural areas have been affected in this pandemic.”


Total infections in the country stood at 26.3 million, the second highest in the world after the United States, while the country’s total death toll was 295,525.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and state authorities have faced widespread criticism for failing to counter the pandemic as many officials gear up for another surge.

The slow pace of vaccination in the country is another major concern.

New Delhi’s chief minister said city authorities had been forced to halt vaccinations for those aged between 18 and 44 as supplies had run out.

The chief minister of Andhra Pradesh urged Modi to help with supplies as the state had no stocks to vaccinate those aged below 45.

Case numbers also rose in neighbouring Nepal, which on Saturday said it had added 8,591 infections in 24 hours to take its total count above the half-million mark.
 

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Remove any reference to "Indian variant" of COVID; Govt tells social media platforms​

The debate on B.1.617 variant of COVID being referred to as "Indian variant" started after the WHO report classifying it as a variant of global concern was released earlier this month.​

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on Friday asked all social media platforms to immediately remove all references to "Indian variant" of coronavirus. The Centre has clarified that there's no Indian COVID variant and reference to the B.1.617 variant of coronavirus shouldn't be implied otherwise.

"It has come to our knowledge that a false statement is being circulated online which implies that an 'Indian variant' of coronavirus is spreading across the countries. This is completely FALSE. There is no such variant of Covid-19 scientifically cited as such by the World Health Organisation (WHO). WHO has not associated the term "Indian Variant" with the B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus in any of its reports," the ministry of electronics and information technology wrote.
 

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India orders unapproved COVID shots as it reels from devastating second wave
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Neha Arora and Sethuraman N R
Publishing date:Jun 03, 2021 • 12 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
A health worker inoculates a labourer with the first dose of Covishield vaccine against COVID-19 in a passenger bus converted into a mobile vaccination centre at a wholesale market in Kolkata on June 3, 2021.
A health worker inoculates a labourer with the first dose of Covishield vaccine against COVID-19 in a passenger bus converted into a mobile vaccination centre at a wholesale market in Kolkata on June 3, 2021. PHOTO BY DIBYANGSHU SARKAR /AFP via Getty Images
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NEW DELHI — India signed its first order for an unapproved COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, a day after criticism from the Supreme Court over its bungled vaccine rollout that has left millions of people vulnerable after almost 338,000 deaths.

So far, only 4.7% of the 950 million adult population have been given two vaccine doses. The world’s second most populous country is reeling from a widespread second wave of infections that killed around 170,000 people in April and May alone.


The government will buy 300 million vaccine doses from local firm Biological-E and has put down an advance of $205.6 million, the health ministry said, even though the vaccine is still going through Phase III clinical trials.

“The arrangement with Biological-E is part of the wider endeavour of the government of India to encourage indigenous vaccine manufacturers by providing them support in research & development and also financial support,” the ministry said in a statement.

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India has been inoculating its people with AstraZeneca shots produced at the Serum Institute of India, as well as Covaxin made by local firm Bharat Biotech, and is set to commercially launch Russia’s Sputnik V in mid-June.

But supplies are running short after the government opened vaccinations to all adults last month. Some vaccination centres have had to close down, prompting criticism from the Supreme Court about a lack of planning.

While the federal government gave free vaccines to the elderly and frontline workers, it left state governments and private hospitals to administer doses to people in the 18-45 age group at a price.

“The policy of the central government of conducting free vaccination themselves for groups under the first two phases, and replacing it with paid vaccination…is, prima facie, arbitrary and irrational,” the Supreme Court said.

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The government said this week it could have as many as 10 million doses each day in July and August, up from just under three million now.


Pressure is set to mount further on the government to speed up vaccinations, as several states prepare to ease economically damaging lockdowns even amid high numbers of daily infections and deaths.

The western state of Maharashtra, home to financial hub Mumbai, is planning to lift most restrictions across 18 districts this month, based on availability of oxygen beds and infection rates, officials said.

India on Thursday announced 134,154 new infections over the past 24 hours, down more than 65% from a peak of 414,188 reported on May 7. The official recorded caseload since the start of the pandemic now stands at 28.4 million, the second-highest in the world after the United States.

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India added 2,887 deaths overnight, pushing the overall toll to 337,989, the world’s third-highest toll after the United States and Brazil.


On Thursday, a spokesman for India’s foreign ministry said New Delhi was in dialog with Washington to ensure a supply of raw materials for vaccine production.

India also raised the issue during the recent U.S. visit of its foreign minister, the spokesman said, adding: “It is in our mutual interest to combat the global pandemic by expediting vaccination efforts.”

New Delhi’s high court has said that some federal officials should be charged with manslaughter over the halting vaccine rollout.

“Who are they referring to, you think? This effectively concludes the debate on that subject,” Sanjay Jha, a former Congress official and political commentator, said on Twitter. “This government has failed. And failed its people miserably.”
 

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Lioness dies from COVID-19 in Indian zoo
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Publishing date:Jun 04, 2021 • 1 day ago • 1 minute read • Join the conversation
In this Sunday, March 25, 2012 photo, a lioness licks her cub at the Gir Sanctuary in the western Indian state of Gujarat, India.
In this Sunday, March 25, 2012 photo, a lioness licks her cub at the Gir Sanctuary in the western Indian state of Gujarat, India. PHOTO BY RAJANISH KAKADE /AP Photo
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CHENNAI — A nine-year old Asiatic lion has died from the coronavirus in a state-run zoo on the outskirts of the south Indian city of Chennai, the zoo said on Friday.

There have been various coronavirus cases in animals, including two white white tiger cubs thought to have died of COVID-19 in neighbouring Pakistan and lions also testing positive in Spain and two other cities of India.


“A 9-year old lioness Neela succumbed to the disease on the evening of 3rd June,” the Arignar Anna zoological park said of the latest incident.

The outbreak was first observed on Thursday, with most of the lions asymptomatic, it said.

They were quarantined and given antibiotics.

“Samples of tigers and other large mammals are being sent for testing,” the zoo’s statement added.
INDIA-1-scaled-e1622824352766[1].jpg
 

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Deadly fungus infection found in COVID-19 patients in India
Some sufferers lost their upper jaws and eyes after contracting it, according to media reports

Author of the article:Bloomberg News
Bloomberg News
Bhuma Shrivastava
Publishing date:May 10, 2021 • 1 day ago • 1 minute read • 13 Comments
A health worker wearing a protective gear walks past COVID-19 patients inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a COVID care centre in New Delhi on May 10, 2021.
A health worker wearing a protective gear walks past COVID-19 patients inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a COVID care centre in New Delhi on May 10, 2021. PHOTO BY ARUN SANKAR /AFP via Getty Images
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India’s health authorities are warning about a fungal infection seen in some COVID-19 patients which can disfigure facial features and even kill, as the country continues to grapple with the world’s fastest-growing coronavirus outbreak.

Mucormycosis, also called the “black fungus” infection, can damage the sinuses or lungs when the spores are inhaled, the Indian Council of Medical Research said in a health advisory issued Sunday.


Patients who have been on medication for some time or had prolonged stays in the ICU are particularly susceptible, the ICMR said. The rare but deadly infection can kill and maim patients, with some COVID sufferers losing their upper jaws and eyes after contracting it, according to local media reports.

With India reporting more than 300,000 new virus infections for the past 19 days straight, doctors across emergency rooms are seeing a rash of such cases — an unintended consequence of intensive medical intervention that sometimes includes oxygen tubes through the nose. The fungus can attack through the respiratory tract, and was present in India before the COVID pandemic, according to the New York Times.

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India’s health system has been stretched to breaking point by a second virus wave that is proving more lethal and harder to control than the first.


Warning signs for the fungal infection include pain and redness around the eyes and nose, shortness of breath, bloody vomiting and an altered mental state, the ICMR said. Doctors were advised to monitor the afflicted person’s blood glucose levels and to use clean, sterile water in humidifiers used for oxygen therapy. The ICMR warned against overuse of steroids, indicating they could worsen the infection.

The fungal infection is the latest complication in India’s virus fight, with the country continuing to run short of hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, COVID medicines and vaccine doses as cases rise. Experts have warned that the sheer size of India’s outbreak is bound to generate new virus mutations and after-effects from the virus that may not have been seen elsewhere.
Population control??
 

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After COVID-19, 'black fungus' robs some in India of their eyesight
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Francis Mascerenhas and Adnan Abidi
Publishing date:Jul 01, 2021 • 16 hours ago • 1 minute read • Join the conversation
Shivaji Veer, 51, a school bus driver, accompanied by his wife Vimal Veer 46, waits to board a taxi to go home after a follow-up consultation at a hospital after losing his eye due to mucormycosis, also known as black fungus, in Pune, India, July 1, 2021.
Shivaji Veer, 51, a school bus driver, accompanied by his wife Vimal Veer 46, waits to board a taxi to go home after a follow-up consultation at a hospital after losing his eye due to mucormycosis, also known as black fungus, in Pune, India, July 1, 2021. PHOTO BY FRANCIS MASCARENHAS /REUTERS
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Saheb Rao Shinde’s family thought the worst was over when the 65-year-old recovered from COVID-19 last month at his home in western India. But a few weeks later, the revenue-stamp vendor lost sight in one eye.

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After a catastrophic second wave of COVID-19 in India since April which has seen its overall death toll climb to almost 400,000, thousands who contracted the virus also suffered from a rare fungal disease called mucormycosis, or “black fungus.”


The South Asian country — which has more than 30.4 million confirmed COVID-19 infections, second only to the United States — has so far reported more than 40,845 cases of mucormycosis.

Many like Shinde may never be able to regain their sight after the fungal disease which causes blackening or discoloration over the nose, blurred or double vision, chest pain, breathing difficulties and coughing blood.

“Father was fit and healthy, now he doesn’t feel like eating …” said his daughter, who did not want to be named. “His teeth have also been removed, it’s very sad.”

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Shinde, from the arid western Indian region of Marathwada, will resume work after he recovers from this, his daughter told Reuters in Mumbai.


Reuters spoke to several other sufferers of mucormycosis across India.

Adesh Kumar, a 39-year-old farmer in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, lost sight in his left eye. He had to borrow money to pay for medicine, secured against some of his land.

India ordered tighter surveillance of mucormycosis in May as it compounded the challenge for COVID-19 patients, especially those on steroid therapy and with diabetes. Experts say an overuse of certain drugs which suppress the immune system could be causing the surge of the fungal infection.

“We are seeing a lot of mucormycosis cases post COVID infections, since COVID itself is known to decrease the immunity,” said Charuta Mandke of the ophthalmology department at Dr R N Cooper Municipal General Hospital in Mumbai.
 

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Death toll from Iraq COVID hospital fire rises to 92 as anger mounts
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Ahmed Rasheed and Maher Al-Saih
Publishing date:Jul 13, 2021 • 22 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
Mourners react next to the coffins of victims, who were killed in a fire that broke out at al-Hussain coronavirus hospital in Nassiriya, during a funeral in Najaf, Iraq, July 13, 2021.
Mourners react next to the coffins of victims, who were killed in a fire that broke out at al-Hussain coronavirus hospital in Nassiriya, during a funeral in Najaf, Iraq, July 13, 2021. PHOTO BY ALAA AL-MARJANI /REUTERS
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NASSIRIYA — The death toll from a fire that tore through a coronavirus hospital in southern Iraq rose to 92, health officials said on Tuesday, as authorities faced accusations of negligence from grieving relatives and a doctor who works there.

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More than 100 people were injured in the blaze on Monday night in Nassiriya, officials said.


An investigation showed the fire began when sparks from faulty wiring spread to an oxygen tank that then exploded, police and civil defense authorities said.

It was Iraq’s second such tragedy in three months, and the country’s president on Tuesday blamed corruption for both. A statement from the prime minister’s office called for national mourning.

Rescue teams were using a heavy crane to remove the charred and melted remains of the part of the city’s al-Hussain hospital where COVID-19 patients were being treated, as relatives gathered nearby.

A medic at the hospital, who declined to give his name and whose shift ended a few hours before the fire broke out, said the absence of basic safety measures meant it was an accident in the making.

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“The hospital lacks a fire sprinkler system or even a simple fire alarm,” he told Reuters.

“We complained many times over the past three months that a tragedy could happen any moment from a cigarette stub but every time we get the same answer from health officials: ‘we don’t have enough money’.”

While some bodies were collected for burial, with mourners weeping and praying over the coffins, the remains of more than 20 badly charred corpses required DNA tests to identify them.

In April, a similar explosion at a Baghdad COVID-19 hospital killed at least 82 and injured 110.

The head of Iraq’s semi-official Human Rights Commission said Monday’s blast showed how ineffective safety measures still were in a health system crippled by war and sanctions.

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“To have such a tragic incident repeated few months later means that still no (sufficient) measures have been taken to prevent them,” Ali Bayati said.

The fact that the hospital had been built with lightweight panels separating the wards had made the fire spread faster, local civil defense authority head Salah Jabbar said.

Health and civil defense managers in the city and the hospital’s manager had been suspended and arrested on Monday on the orders of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, his office said.

Government investigators arrived in Nassiriya on Tuesday, according to a statement. Their findings would be announced within a week, Kadhimi’s office said.

A Nassiriya court said it had ordered the arrest of 13 local officials in connection with the fire.

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President Barham Salih on Twitter said both fires were “the result of endemic corruption and mismanagement that disregards the lives of Iraqis.”

At the city’s morgue, anger spread among people gathered as they waited to receive their relatives’ bodies.

“No quick response to the fire, not enough firefighters. Sick people burned to death. It’s a disaster,” said Mohammed Fadhil, waiting to receive his bother’s body.

The blaze trapped many patients inside the coronavirus ward who rescue teams struggled to reach, a health worker told Reuters on Monday before entering the burning building.

In Najaf, a holy Shi’ite city around 250 km (155 miles) northwest of Nassiriya, an angry Imad Hashim sobbed after losing his mother, sister-in-law and niece.

“What should I say after losing my family,” the 46-year-old said. “No point demanding anything from a failed government. Three days and this case will be forgotten like others.”
 

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India scrambles to contain outbreak of virus deadlier than COVID
Author of the article:Denette Wilford
Publishing date:Sep 08, 2021 • 12 hours ago • 2 minute read • Join the conversation
Health officials in full protective gear walk inside an isolation ward of Ernakulam Medical College in Kochi in the Indian southwestern state of Kerala on June 6, 2019.
Health officials in full protective gear walk inside an isolation ward of Ernakulam Medical College in Kochi in the Indian southwestern state of Kerala on June 6, 2019. PHOTO BY STR/AFP /Getty Images
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India has stepped up its efforts to contain another virus outbreak that could be far more deadly than the coronavirus that’s behind the current pandemic.

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The Nipah virus has broken out in India’s southern Kerala state, which killed a 12-year-boy over the weekend, reported CBS News.


The unidentified boy was admitted to a hospital a week ago with high fever. His condition worsened and doctors suspected encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).

His blood samples were sent to the National Institute of Virology, and it was confirmed he had a Nipah infection. He died on Sunday.

New infections have been confirmed as authorities work to trace the child’s contacts, but he had visited two other hospitals prior to his death, potentially putting him in contact with 188 people, according to Veena George, the state’s health minister.

Of the nearly 200, 20 were considered “high-risk primary contacts,” comprised of members of his family who are all either under strict quarantine or have already been hospitalized.

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MORE ON THIS TOPIC

A health worker wearing a protective gear walks past COVID-19 patients inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a COVID care centre in New Delhi on May 10, 2021.
Deadly fungus infection found in COVID-19 patients in India
A patient wearing an oxygen mask is wheeled inside a COVID-19 hospital for treatment, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ahmedabad, India, April 26, 2021.
WHO classifies India variant as being of global concern
While India banned international flights last month, Canada is one of 13 nations exempted via an 'air bridge' arrangement between the two governments.
India's variant-fuelled second wave coincided with spike in infected flights landing in Canada

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that the fatality rate of Nipah (or NiV) is between 40 and 75%. Those numbers are scarily and more significantly higher than COVID, which has a mortality rate of about two per cent.

Nipah was first discovered in Malaysia in 1999, then two years later, it surfaced in Bangladesh. While no new outbreaks have been reported in Malaysia since 1999, annual outbreaks have occurred in Bangladesh since 2001, according to WHO.

Signs and symptoms of Nipah in humans range from asymptomatic infection to mild or severe acute respiratory infection, and fatal encephalitis.

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It should be noted that some of the key symptoms – including fever, headaches, muscle pain, vomiting and sore throat — are similar to those of COVID-19, which could complicate its detection.


WHO states that most people who survive acute encephalitis make a full recovery, but 20% of survivors have been left with long-term neurologic conditions such as “seizure disorder and personality changes.”

There is currently no vaccine, and the only treatment is intensive supportive care for those suffering from “severe respiratory and neurologic complications,” according to WHO.

A previous outbreak of Nipah hit Kerala in 2018, killing 17 of the 18 people who caught it, reported CBS.

This time around, concern has intensified as Kerala already has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in India. The state reports about 68% of the country’s approximately 40,000 new cases every day.