Coronavirus: India's active cases drop to lowest in 71 days
India on Thursday reported over 67,000 new COVID-19 cases. Active infections have declined further to 8.26 lakh, the lowest in 71 days. Experts suggest a strict vigil, warning against any complacency as the second wave has only just flattened. Meanwhile, new coronavirus variants indicate a third wave may be imminent. Interestingly, a new study shows the common cold may actually offer protection against COVID-19.
According to the Union Health Ministry, till Thursday morning, India reported a total of 2,97,00,313 COVID-19 cases. The death toll has reached 3,81,903. So far, 2,84,91,670 patients have recovered, while 8,26,740 cases involve active infections. In the past 24 hours alone, India recorded 67,208 new infections, 1,03,570 more discharges, and 2,330 fresh fatalities. 26,55,19,251 vaccine doses have been administered so far.
Maharashtra reported 10,107 new COVID-19 cases along with 10,567 more recoveries. Karnataka, the second worst-hit state after Maharashtra, reported 7,345 new cases and 17,913 discharges. Meanwhile, the third worst-hit Kerala added 13,270 new cases and 15,689 recoveries. Tamil Nadu, the fourth worst-hit state, reported 10,448 new cases and 10,228 recoveries. Andhra Pradesh reported 6,617 new cases and 10,567 recoveries.
Separately, after Reuters reported that the central government raised the gap between two doses of the Covishield vaccine to 12-16 weeks without scientific backing, the government cried foul. The Health Ministry said on Wednesday that there was a scientific reason behind the behavior and shared details of the meetings where raising the dose gap was discussed. India may now review the dose gap again.
NK Arora, the chairperson of the working group of immunization advisory body NTAGI, told PTI that the COVID-19 situation is "very dynamic" and if experts tell them a narrower interval has even a 5-10% benefit, the panel will update the revision of the guidelines.
Further, as per a new study, published this week in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, exposure to the common cold virus may offer protection against infection by SARS-CoV-2. The common cold virus spurs the activity of interferon-stimulated genes, which trigger early-response molecules, the study said. These molecules can stop the reproduction of SARS-CoV-2 within airway tissues infected with the cold, it added.
On another note, India is mulling Rs. 50,000 crore of credit incentives to boost healthcare infrastructure, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Under this program, companies will gain access to funds for ramping up hospital capacity or medical supplies while the government acts as a guarantor. It is likely that COVID-19 related health infrastructure in smaller towns will be prioritized, they said.