Thu, 22 April 2021
Music director Shravan dies of Covid-19
23:54 Plea in SC to shift journalist Kappan to AIIMS Delhi
The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) on Thursday filed a habeas corpus writ petition before the Supreme Court seeking its immediate direction to transfer journalist Sidhique Kappan from a Mathura hospital to AIIMS Delhi due to his health condition.
The petition said that Kappan is presently in KM Medical College, Mathura, but his life is in danger due to medical conditions, and he is in need of immediate shifting to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, for better treatment.
The petition said Kappan is a diabetic with high blood pressure and cholesterol for the last more than 15 years.
"It is reliably believed that more than 50 inmates of Mathura jail are infected with Covid," the petition claimed. "In the jail, there is no hygiene, no clean drinking water, all leading to a major disaster in the making. In short, as of today, the life of Kappan is in danger," the petition claimed.
23:32 Music director Shravan dies of Covid-19
Composer Shravan Rathod, of popular music director duo Nadeem-Shravan, passed away on Thursday due to Covid-19 related complications, his son said. Rathod was 66.
The composer was admitted to SL Raheja hospital in Mumbai in a "critical" condition after testing positive for Covid-19. He breathed his last in the hospital.
"He passed away around 10:15 PM tonight. Please pray for his soul," his son, musician Sanjeev Rathod, told PTI.
The musician had been under observation at the hospital for a few days.
Nadeem-Shravan were among the most popular music composers in the '90s, giving chartbuster soundtracks in films like Aashiqui (1990), Saajan (1991), Shah Rukh Khan starrer Pardes and Raja Hindustani headlined by Aamir Khan.
After their split in mid-2000s, the duo reunited to compose for David Dhawan's Do Knot Disturb in 2009.
Shravan's children, sons Sanjeev and Darshan, followed in his footsteps and turned music composers.
The composer's death came as a shock to the music community in the Hindi film industry with Pritam and Adnan Sami leading tributes.
"Saddened to know that Shravanji of Nadeem Shravan has passed away. Feeling numb. When will this nightmare get over. My deepest condolences to his family," Pritam wrote.
Salim Merchant of Salim-Sulaimaan fame, wrote, "Shravan bhai is no more. My respects and condolences to his family. Nadeem-Shravan have given us some of the biggest hits in the 90s. Covid has taken so many lives. Don't know when will this end...Really saddened by this news."
Singer Adnan Sami also condoled Rathod's demise.
"Extremely saddened by the tragic news of legendary Music Composer Shravan ji's (of Nadeem/Shravan fame) demise... He was not just an incredible composer but also possessed an ever loving soul & a beautiful heart. May he rest in peace," Sami wrote.
23:05 Delhi logs 26,169 new Covid cases, 306 deaths
Delhi logged a record 306 Covid-19 deaths and 26,169 cases with a positivity rate of 36.24 per cent, highest since the pandemic began a year ago, on Thursday even as the city hospitals grappled with depleting oxygen supply for the third consecutive day.
The city has reported over 1,750 deaths due to the deadly virus in the last 10 days.
It had recorded 24,638 cases and 249 deaths on Wednesday, as the positivity rate stood at 31.28 per cent.
On Tuesday, 28,395 cases, the highest single-day tally so far, were recorded with a positivity rate of 32.82 per cent.
The national capital had witnessed 23,686 cases with a positivity rate of 26.12 percent on Monday.
Authorities registered 249 deaths on Wednesday, 277 on Tuesday, 240 on Monday, 161 deaths on Sunday, 167 on Saturday, and 141 on Friday.
With the fresh cases, Delhi's cumulative tally has risen to 9,56,348.
The death toll stands at 13,193, according to the latest health bulletin.
A total of 72,208 tests, including 48,346 RT-PCR tests, were conducted on Wednesday, the bulletin said. So far, over 8.51 lakh patients have recovered in Delhi, it added.
The number of active cases in the city increased to 91,618 from 85,364 on Wednesday, the bulletin stated.
The number of people under home isolation increased to 46,585 from 42,768 on Wednesday, while that of containment zones mounted to 22,000 from 19,624 the day before, it said.
22:39 Xi welcomes US' return to Paris agreement
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday welcomed America's return to the multilateral governance on climate change and said the countries should honour commitments to reduce carbon emissions as he reiterated China's pledge to peak carbon emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.
In his address to the Leaders' Summit on Climate via video link convened by US President Joe Biden, who restored the US' commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change, Xi said, "China welcomes the US' return to the multilateral climate governance process. Not long ago, the Chinese and US sides released a Joint Statement Addressing the Climate Crisis".
"China looks forward to working with the international community including the United States to jointly advance global environmental governance," he said.
Xi began his speech greeting Biden. "I wish to thank President Biden for the kind invitation," he said at the summit being hosted by Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. The two-day virtual climate summit will see participation by over 40 world leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Xi said the countries should honour commitments.
"We need to work on the basis of international law, follow the principle of equity and justice, and focus on effective actions," Xi said, calling on countries to uphold the UN-centered international system.
"In this process, we must join hands, not point fingers at each other; we must maintain continuity, not reverse course easily; and we must honour commitments, not go back on promises," Xi said.
22:14 'Peak of Covid wave likely towards month end'
The Principal Scientific Advisor to Prime Minister, Prof K Vijayraghavan, said on Thursday the peak of the current coronavirus wave is likely to be towards the end of the month.
In an interview, the professor said there are no variants of COVID-19 that are vaccine evasive and there is not one but several reasons behind the huge spread of the virus that is being witnessed at the moment.
India on Thursday recorded 3,14,835 new Covid-19 cases, the highest one day spike seen ever in the pandemic.
The death toll in the last 24 hours stood at 2,104. On this, Prof Vijayraghavan said, We are indeed showing a large number of cases and that is cause of great concern, but keeping in mind peaks and falls together take about a period of 12 weeks and these periods need to be looked at in terms of states and districts. Overall it will take a little longer and we should start seeing falls towards the end of this month, early next month. Meanwhile, given the new variants here we need to take measures to address every aspect of healthcare now in terms of distancing, analysis of strains and largescale vaccination. Hence, focus should be on what we can do right now than what will happen."
22:03 Over 13.5 Cr COVID vaccine doses administered in India: Govt
The total number of vaccinations against COVID-19 has crossed 13.5 crore in the country with more than 30 lakh vaccine doses administered on Thursday till 8 pm, the health ministry said.
The total number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the country stood at 13,53,46,729, according to a provisional report compiled at 8 pm.
The beneficiaries include 92,41,384 healthcare workers who have taken the first dose, 59,03,368 HCWs who have taken the second dose, 1,17,27,708 frontline workers who have received the first dose and 60,73,622 FLWs who have taken the second dose.
Besides, 4,55,10,426 and 18,91,160 beneficiaries in the 45-60 age group have taken the first and the second dose respectively, while 4,85,01,906 and 64,97,155 people aged above 60 have been administered the first and the second dose.
A total of 30,16,085 vaccine doses were given on Thursday (till 8 pm), the 97th day of the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive.
The beneficiaries included 18,33,828 who were vaccinated for the first dose and 11,82,257 who received the second dose, the ministry said, adding that the final report for the day would be compiled by late night.
21:40 Mamata cancels poll meetings citing EC order
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today canceled all her remaining poll meetings citing Election Commission order issued earlier in the day.
She will now on "reach out to people" virtually, the Trinamool founder said.
Earlier, the Election Commission banned road shows and vehicle rallies in the state with immediate effect and said no public meeting having more than 500 people would be allowed.
21:29 Karnataka to purchase 1 crore doses of Covishield vaccine at Rs 400 crore
The Karnataka government on Thursday decided to purchase 1 crore doses of Covishield vaccine at a cost of Rs 400 crore.
"The chief minister has approved the purchase of 1 crore doses of Covishield vaccine at a cost of Rs 400 crores, in the first phase.This will be used for vaccination of persons between 18 to 44 years," his office said in a statement.
Pune-based Serum Institute of India is the manufacturer of Covishield vaccine.
The central government had recently announced that vaccination for those above 18 years will begin across the country from May 1 as part of the third phase of the inoculation drive.
Yediyurappa, on getting discharged from hospital earlier today, where he was undergoing treatment for Covid-19 for the last six days, said the pandemic situation had become "uncontrollable".
21:03 1,500 Delhi cops test positive in second wave
The Delhi Police on Thursday said that around 1,500 of its personnel have tested positive in the fresh wave of the coronavirus disease that is wreaking havoc in the national capital.
The police force has been involved in frontline duty during the pandemic, which increases the risk of contracting the virus.
The number has grown five times since last week, when ANI reported that 300 police personnel tested positive for Covid-19.
The Delhi Police has intensified patrolling across the city due to the stringent curbs announced by the Aam Aadmi Party government in view of spiralling Covid-19 cases. The national capital recorded 24,638 new Covid-19 cases and 249 related deaths on Wednesday.
21:00 ICMR gets nod to study drones for delivering Covid vaccine
The civil aviation ministry on Thursday permitted the Indian Council of Medical Research to conduct a feasibility study on using drones to deliver COVID-19 vaccine, according to an official statement.
The ICMR will conduct this study in collaboration with Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, the ministry's press release said.
The ministry said it has granted "conditional exemption" from the "Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2021" so that it can conduct a feasibility study on using drones to deliver COVID-19 vaccine.
This exemption will be valid for a period of one year or until further orders, it noted.
20:12 Mumbai's Covid caseload up by 7,410
The tally of COVID-19 cases in Mumbai increased by 7,410 cases, said the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.
The city also recorded 75 deaths, highest in a day.
Mumbai's caseload rose to 6,09,000 and death toll increased to 12,576, the civic body said.
On April 4, Mumbai had reported its highest 11,163 COVID-19 cases, but since April 16, the daily spike is below 9,000.
The number of recovered patients in the last 24 hours was 8,090.
The city's rate of recovery is 84 per cent, while the overall growth rate of COVID-19 cases is 1.35 per cent and average growth rate is 50 days
19:42 Centre advises all its staff to get themselves vaccinated
The Centre has asked all its employees to get themselves vaccinated so as to effectively contain the spread of COVID-19, a Personnel Ministry order issued on Thursday said.
It said the government has been monitoring the situation very closely, and it has been decided to vaccinate all the citizens who have attained the age of 18 years and above.
Accordingly, all central government employees are advised to get themselves vaccinated so as to effectively contain the spread of COVID- 19. Further, they may continue to follow COVID protocols, even after vaccination, said the order issued to all the central government departments.
There are estimated 48.34 lakh central government employees, according to an official data.
The Personnel Ministry had earlier this month asked all central government employees of the age of 45 years and above to get themselves vaccinated.
They were further advised to continue to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour, even after vaccination, particularly, frequent washing of hands/ sanitisation, maintenance of social distancing and masking etc.
All citizens of 18 years and above will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine from May 1. At present, those above 45 years and above are eligible for the inoculation.
19:28 China offers help to India to combat Covid surge
China on Thursday offered to provide the necessary support and assistance to India to deal with the sharp increase in the Covid-19 cases in the country.
Asked about the spike in the coronavirus cases in India by the official Chinese media, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing in Beijing that the Covid-19 "pandemic is a common enemy of all mankind that necessitates international solidarity and mutual assistance".
"China takes note of the recent grave situation in India with a temporary shortage of anti-epidemic medical supplies," he said. "We stand ready to provide India with necessary support and assistance to get the epidemic under control."
China reported the first Covid-19 case in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 and since then the deadly disease has snowballed into a pandemic, affecting more than 143,915,000 people and over 3,060,500 deaths worldwide.
According to Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker, the US alone has reported 31,862,987 cases and 569,404 deaths from the deadly virus.
The US has alleged that the COVID-19 may have emanated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) which is a P-4 bio lab, a charge strongly denied by China.
A team of WHO experts, which probed the origin of the coronavirus, concluded last month that all hypotheses included the allegation that Covid-19 could have emanated from a bio lab "remained open".
World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, while receiving the report of the international experts' team which visited Wuhan, said on March 30 that "as far as the WHO is concerned, all hypotheses remain on the table".
18:57 Emirates won't fly Indians to UAE From April 25
Emirates will not carry passengers from India to UAE from April 25 till May 3.
Indians or passengers who have transited through India in the past 14 days also not allowed from any other international destinations.
The airline will continue to fly passengers to India and operate cargo flights.
18:46 Centre's new COVID vaccine strategy biased towards market, anti-people: Mamata to PM
Terming the Centre's new 'liberalised and accelerated COVID-19 vaccination' strategy is biased in favour of the market and against the interest of people, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make it free for all.
In her second letter to Modi in a week on the Centre's inoculation policy, Banerjee also said that manufacturers should not do business with vaccines at this hour of crisis.
The Modi government on Monday announced that everyone above 18 years of age would be eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine from May 1.
"I wish to invite your kind personal attention to the recently announced GoI policy on liberalised and accelerated COVID-19 vaccination with Phase 3 from May 1. I am afraid this is highly discriminatory and anti-people.
"Moreover, it appears that there is a bias in favour of (the) market against common people's interest," Banerjee's letter read.
Every Indian should get the vaccine free of cost, she said in her communication to the prime minister.
"There is no place for making business by the vaccine manufacturers and instead efforts should be directed towards good of people without discrimination. And also fixing the rate for private hospitals at Rs 600 per dose is not only discriminatory but also unhealthy as it is likely to trigger unscrupulous mechanisms in the market," she added.
18:23 PM cancels Bengal visit, to attend COVID meet
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not be visiting West Bengal on Friday to address poll meetings as he will be chairing high-level meetings here to review the prevailing COVID-19 situation.
"Tomorrow, will be chairing high-level meetings to review the prevailing COVID-19 situation. Due to that, I would not be going to West Bengal," Modi tweeted.
After this, no further political meetings of the prime minister are scheduled in West Bengal, thus effectively ending his campaign in the state as of now.
After the BJP decided to call off all big political meetings and rallies in view of rising COVID-19 cases and restrict its campaign to a maximum of 500 people in the state, Modi's proposed meetings for Saturday were clubbed with his Friday campaign.
Opposition leaders have been critical of the BJP for the big rallies of its leaders at the time of surging COVID-19 cases.
18:12 Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury tests positive for COVID-19
Senior Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury tested positive for coronavirus infection on Thursday.
Talking to Twitter, the Congress leader said she is experiencing mild symptoms of the disease. "With mild symptoms, I've just tested positive for Covid. Please follow all safety protocols and stay safe. Stay Home, Stay safe," she tweeted.
Chowdhury joined a long list of Congress leaders who have been recently infected with the viral disease including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, senior party leader Anand Sharma, former party president Rahul Gandhi, party leaders Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Shashi Tharoor.
17:49 Rahul slams Centre's anti-people policies
The crisis in the country is not just due to coronavirus but also because of "anti-people" policies of the central government," Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Thursday, and called for a solution instead of hollow speeches. He also attacked the government, alleging it has brought destruction and has turned the middle-class poor. The Congress has been targeting the government over its management of the COVID-19 situation in the country.
"I am quarantined at home and sad news is constantly coming in. The crisis in India is not just due to Corona, but due to the anti-people policies of the central government. Don't give false celebrations and hollow speeches, give the country a solution," Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.
In another tweet, he said, "The poor are not just a number, they are living people and hundreds of helpless families. Crushing the middle-class and turning them poor, the BJP government has shown how destruction can be done."
Gandhi also cited a media report claiming that India has been added to the list of countries having collective poverty after a span of 45 years.
The Congress leader tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week. He reported mild symptoms and has been quarantined at home. Gandhi also took to Instagram, saying he has hope and faith that the people of the country will defeat the virus by working together.
"One day we will hug again. I have hope and faith in the human spirit, in the Indian spirit. We will heal. We will defeat this virus and we will do it by working together," he said. "I want to thank all our healthcare workers & front line workers for their sacrifice & continued dedication, and the hundreds and thousands of Indian citizens going above and beyond to help their fellow countrymen. Each one of you gives us hope," Gandhi added.
India registered over 3.14 lakh new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the highest-ever single-day count recorded in any country, taking its infection tally to 1,59,30,965. PTI
The 6th phase of the WB polls was held today
17:34 Reconsider policy of not vaccinating at home: HC
The Bombay High Court on Thursday asked the Union Government to reconsider its stand that door- to-door COVID-19 vaccination was not feasible, saying it must consider the plight of old people and the disabled.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni said the government cannot just "leave old people to die".
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had on Wednesday informed the court that door-to-door vaccination was not possible due to various reasons including the possibility of contamination and wastage of vaccine.
The Centre's reply came in response to a public interest litigation filed by lawyers Dhruti Kapadia and Kunal Tiwari. The PIL sought door-to-door vaccination programme for senior citizens above the age of 75, the specially abled persons and those who are bed-ridden or wheelchair-bound. The high court said there are many elderly people and others who cannot move out of house due to illness.
"Don't close the chapter saying it is not possible. This ought not to be the policy. The Union Government will have to give a relook to its policy and do something for the elderly people. "The policy needs a relook by experts. You cannot leave old people to die," Chief Justice Datta said. The judges also noted that in Indian culture children and elderly people are given priority.
17:20 Delhi likely to airlift oxygen from Odisha
The Delhi government is making efforts to airlift its enhanced quota of oxygen supply from Odisha, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Thursday, as several city hospitals reported shortage of oxygen amid rising cases of coronavirus.
Kejriwal thanked the Centre and the high court for their efforts towards raising Delhi's oxygen quota for treating COVID 19 patients, and said supplies have started reaching the national capital.
He also urged the Central government and Haryana government to facilitate "smooth passage" to vehicles carrying medical oxygen to Delhi. A major chunk of the freshly allotted quota of oxygen to Delhi comes from Odisha, which is hundreds of kilometres away, and the Delhi government is planning to airlift it to save time at this critical juncture in the fight against coronavirus, Kejriwal said in an online media briefing.
Later, the chief minister received a call from his Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik, assuring complete support to Delhi government in lifting oxygen. "Recd a call from Sh Naveen Patnaik ji. He has assured complete support to Delhi in facilitating lifting of Delhi's quota of oxygen from Orissa. He has put a spl officer on the job. Thank u sooo much Sir. Delhi is indeed grateful," Kejriwal tweeted.
Kejriwal also spoke to Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and sought his help in facilitating transport of oxygen trucks from the neighbouring state to Delhi, and claimed he assured "full support". He said Delhi had a daily quota of 378 MT of medical oxygen that has been increased to 480 MT, and thanked the Central government for it. But, he said, more supplies are needed as according to estimates Delhi needs 700 MT of oxygen daily.
17:09 Sensex snaps 2-day losing run
Equity benchmarks darted up on Thursday after two sessions of losses as investors piled into banking and finance stocks even as the deteriorating COVID-19 situation remained a concern.
The benchmarks were propped up by bargain-hunting in select frontline counters as well as supportive global cues, traders said.
After skidding 501 points in the opening session, the 30-share BSE Sensex pared all losses to end 374.87 points or 0.79 per cent higher at 48,080.67. Similarly, the broader NSE Nifty jumped 109.75 points or 0.77 per cent to finish at 14,406.15.
ICICI Bank was the top gainer in the Sensex pack, spurting 3.60 per cent, followed by HDFC, Bajaj Auto, HDFC Bank, SBI, Kotak Bank, Bajaj Finance and Axis Bank. On the other hand, Titan, HUL, Asian Paints, Nestle India, UltraTech Cement and Tech Mahindra were among the laggards, shedding up to 2.75 per cent.
16:43 Apollo Hospital MD seeks ambulance status for oxygen trucks
Amid hospitals crammed with patients crying out for oxygen supplies, India's largest hospital chain on Thursday asked the government to tag oxygen tanks as ambulances and enable quick green corridor movement across states.
As India recorded the world's highest daily tally of 3,14,835 new COVID-19 infections, hospitals in the national capital and other major cities complained of "dangerously low" levels of oxygen that is needed for critically ill patients. The situation has been made worse by states that house oxygen manufacturing units restricting inter-state supplies.
Apollo Hospitals Group Joint Managing Director Sangita Reddy, which has hospitals in the national capital as well as adjoining Noida, tweeted on Thursday morning about an oxygen tanker being stopped by Haryana police from entering a refilling plant at Panipat.
Her tweet, which tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top ministers as well as the health ministry, seemed to have worked and the tanker was allowed inside.
"As I tweet, an oxygen tanker is outside the gate of Air Liquide Panipat plant at IOCL and he is not being allowed inside Haryana Police are stopping it and not letting the oxygen out of Haryana. Need urgent intervention," she tweeted, tagging Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Railway and Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, Haryana Chief Minister and Union Health Ministry. Minutes later, she updated saying the tanker has been allowed inside.
"Update: The driver has just been allowed inside and hopefully the oxygen will be sent out soon," she tweeted this time tagging just Modi, Goyal and Singh. She went on to demand a quick corridor for movement of oxygen trucks. "Further to my earlier tweet an appeal once again to the government to please tag oxygen tanks as ambulances and enable quick green corridor movement," she tweeted.
India uses only Covishield and Covaxin vaccines
16:24 Pfizer offers 'not for profit' price for vaccine
Global pharma major Pfizer on Thursday said it has offered a not-for-profit price for its vaccine for the government immunisation programme in India and it remains committed to continuing engagement with the government to make the vaccine available in the country.
The company also said during the pandemic phase it will supply the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine only through government contracts. "Pfizer remains committed to continuing our engagement with the Government towards making the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine available for use in the government's immunization programme in the country", a Pfizer spokesperson said in an email response to PTI.
As stated earlier, during this pandemic phase, Pfizer will prioritise supporting governments in their immunisation programmes and supply the COVID-19 vaccine only through government contracts based on agreements with respective government authorities and following regulatory authorisation or approvals, the statement added.
The company, however, did not reveal the 'not-for-profit' price that it has suggested to the government. The company is committed to work for equitable and affordable access for its vaccine across the world, the Pfizer spokesperson said. "... in all our agreements Pfizer has adopted a distinct pricing structure for high, middle, and low/lower-middle-income countries consistent with our commitment to work towards equitable and affordable access for our COVID-19 vaccine for people around the world," the statement said.
"For India, Pfizer has offered a not-for-profit price for its vaccine for the government immunization program", it added without revealing the price.
16:07 PM holds high-level meet on oxygen supply
PM Narendra Modi holds high-level meeting on oxygen supply and availability across India. Officials briefed him on efforts undertaken in last few weeks to improve oxygen supply. It was noted that in last few days, availability of Liquid Medical Oxygen has increased by 3,300 MT/day with contributions from private and public steel plants, industries, oxygen manufacturers as well as through prohibition of O2 supply for non-essential industries.
Officers informed PM that they're working together with states to operationalize sanctioned PSA oxygen plants as soon as possible. PM directed officials to ensure that O2 supply to states happens in a smooth, unhindered manner.
15:56 Arjun Rampal tests -ve for Covid
Actor Arjun Rampal on Thursday said he has tested negative for COVID-19, less than a week after he contracted the virus.
Rampal, 48, had opened up about his diagnosis on April 17 and said he was "asymptomatic" and was under home quarantine. The actor took to Instagram and said he recovered from the virus quickly thanks to the COVID-19 vaccine.
"My prayers for all those suffering and families for their losses. Feel truly blessed to have two tests both Negative. God has been kind (sic). "One of the main reasons I am told by doctors I recovered so fast, was because I had taken my first dose of the vaccine, thus making the viral load very low, with no symptoms," Rampal wrote. The actor appealed to people to get themselves vaccinated and continue to follow strict safety protocols amid the pandemic.
15:53 Watch Dr Shriram Nene explain how best to wear the mask
How many times have we seen people wearing their wrong on their chin or below the nose? Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Shriram Nene offers a quick lesson on how to best wear a mask, on Instagram, here.
'Right now, we need to do everything right to break the chain: masks are critical and most effective if worn properly. For more, check out my YouTube page for all your mask related questions. Stay safe!' he writes.
Beds being prepared at a facility for Covid patients
15:47 Delhi Police averts crisis, manages to restore oxygen at hospital
The Delhi Police averted a major crisis after it managed to restore oxygen supply to a hospital here where over 350 COVID patients are undergoing treatment, officials said on Thursday.
On Wednesday night, chief engineer of Batra hospital, R K Baniwal, informed the police that the oxygen at their facility will only last for two hours and they were not sure when their supply will be restored, police said.
The police immediately formed several teams and assigned different tasks to each of them, officials said.
"After enquiring from the hospital and its nodal officer, it was found that one tanker was supposed to come to the hospital from Panipat and the other from Modi Nagar.
However, the authorities were not able to get any update on their location," said Atul Kumar Thakur, Deputy Commissioner of Police (South). The police somehow managed to contact the drivers of the tankers through the nodal officers and owners of the suppliers, the official said.
Meanwhile, a team headed by SHO K M Pur was sent to Mohan Co-operative area in Badarpur with 60 empty oxygen cylinders so that they could be filled while others teams led by SHO Madan Garhi, SHO Neb Sarai and SHO Greater Kailash were sent to escort the tankers bringing oxygen after obtaining their live locations, said the officer.
The team managed to restore oxygen supply within three hours, said the police. On Thursday, shortage of oxygen was also reported at Max hospital, Saket, police said. The police found out that the oxygen tanker, which was to deliver the gas at the hospital, was on its way to the facility from UP's Kashipur.
15:35 No restrictions on inter-state O2 supply: MHA
The Home Ministry says that no restriction shall be imposed on the movement of medical oxygen between the states and transport authorities shall be instructed to accordingly allow free inter-state movement of oxygen-carrying vehicles.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta apprises the Delhi High Court that the Centre has passed an order directing that anyone obstructing oxygen supply may face action; no restriction on oxygen supplier and oxygen-carrying vehicle, there should be free movement of oxygen carrying vehicles.
The Delhi HC has resumed hearing on the petitions related to oxygen shortage.
Advocate Rahul Mehra representing Delhi informs the court that Saroj Hospital and Shanti Mukund Hospital will run out of oxygen soon.
MHA official who has joined the hearing informs the court that the Ministry is continuously in touch with nodal officer of Delhi for smooth supply of oxygen for hospitals.
14:54 UP-Haryana jungle raj hampering O2 supply: Delhi
Delhi Dy CM Manish Sisodia on the oxygen crisis: "Many hospitals in Delhi are facing a Oxygen crisis right now. Oxygen is completely exhausted in some, I've been receiving messages and emails from hospitals since morning. We're somehow providing them cylinders by rearranging from other hospitals that have slightly more stock.
"When Central govt increased the allocation of Delhi and fixed the same for other states too yesterday, then why are governments of Haryana and UP behaving as if they have some dispute with Delhi? It's not the time to fight with each other but to be united.
"Major reason behind Delhi's Oxygen crisis is 'jungle raj' for Oxygen by Haryana-UP. Their govts, officers and Police aren't letting supply from their Oxygen plants come to Delhi. Our officers spoke to theirs, I tried to speak to GoI but things aren't changing on ground."
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal tweeted to say he had spoken to CM of Haryana Manohar Lal Khattar and sought his support in facilitating the transport of oxygen trucks from Haryana to Delhi. He has assured full support.
14:47 Oxygen for only two hours, says desperate hospital
Sunil Saggar, CEO, Shanti Mukand Hospital, Delhi breaks down as he speaks about Oxygen crisis at hospital. He says, "...We're hardly left with any oxygen. We've requested doctors to discharge patients, whoever can be discharged...It (Oxygen) may last for 2 hours or something."
14:34 300 passengers flee airport to avoid covid test
Over 300 passengers, who landed at the Silchar airport on Wednesday, created disorder and fled the facility to escape mandatory COVID-19 testing, officials said on Thursday, and asserted criminal action will be initiated against them.
Cachar district Additional Deputy Commissioner Sumit Sattawan said a total of 690 passengers arrived at the airport from various parts of the country aboard six aircraft. He said they were supposed to undergo swab tests at the airport and the nearby Tikol Model Hospital.
"Around 300 people created chaos at both places, mainly over payment of Rs 500 for the tests," he said.
The Assam government has made it mandatory for all air passengers arriving in the state to undergo free Rapid Antigen Test followed by an RT-PCR test for Rs 500 even if the report of the RAT comes negative.
Asserting that the passengers had violated the rules, the officer said,"We have their database and we will track them. We will initiate criminal action under Section 188 of the IPC (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and other relevant provisions."
Of the 690 passengers, 189 were tested and six were found infected with the virus.
Many were exempted from testing as they were transit passengers on way to neighbouring states like Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura, Sattawan said. The Assam government had on Wednesday night announced that all people coming from outside will have to undergo seven days of compulsory home quarantine, as the state's COVID-19 tally shot up to 2,29,138 with 1,150 fatalities. PTI
14:29 Pune civic body orders oxygen audit
And while on oxygen, the Pune Municipal Corporation has ordered all private hospitals under its jurisdiction to conduct an audit of the oxygen supply system, oxygen storage, and other related things. The corporation has asked the hospitals to submit a report on it immediately.
Saroj Hospital in Delhi's Rohini
14:23 Delhi hospital moves HC for oxygen supply
Saroj Hospital moves Delhi HC seeking immediate supply of oxygen to treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients, hearing at 3 pm.
As the country grapples with the current wave of COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court Thursday told the Centre that it wants a national plan on issues including supply of oxygen and essential drugs for treatment of patients infected with the virus.
Taking suo motu cognisance of the prevailing grim situation across the country, a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said it would also consider the matter pertaining to the method and manner of COVID-19 vaccination in the country.
The bench, also comprising Justices L N Rao and S R Bhat, said it would examine the aspect relating to judicial power of the high courts to declare lockdown amid the pandemic. It further said that at least six high courts are hearing COVID-19 related matters, leading to "confusion and diversion of resources" based on different priorities.
The apex court appointed senior advocate Harish Salve as an amicus curiae to assist it in the suo motu proceedings. The bench issued notice to the Centre and said it would hear the matter on Friday. "We, as a bench and as a court, wish to take suo motu cognisance of certain issues," the bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
The top court said at least six high courts -- Delhi, Bombay, Sikkim, Madhya Pradesh, Calcutta and Allahabad -- are dealing with issues pertaining to the prevailing situation.
14:20 West Bengal Polls Phase VI: 57.33% voter turnout till 1:30 pm
West Bengal recorded a voter turnout of 57.30 per cent till 1:30 pm across 43 constituencies in four districts during the sixth phase of the state assembly polls, according to the Election Commission.
Voting for the sixth phase of West Bengal assembly polls began at 7 am on Thursday amid tight security and will conclude at 6 pm.
As many as 306 candidates, including 27 women, are in the fray in this phase of the assembly elections.
Over 1.03 crore voters, including 50.65 lakh women and 256 of the third gender, will be deciding the fate of these candidates across 14,480 polling stations in the sixth phase.
Polling for the seventh and eighth phases will be held on April 26 and 29 respectively while the counting of votes will take place on May 2.
14:05 Those above 18 can register for vaccine from Sat
All above 18, now eligible for vaccination from May 1, can register for their shot from Saturday on the CoWin platform.
Registrations for the latest round of inoculations will open in the next 48 hours on the CoWin platform.
As India faces the world's worst Covid surge, its daily cases surpassing the US today, the government has opened vaccinations to all adults for the first time.
According to the new vaccine rules, states and private entities can buy vaccines directly for inoculations.
The centre will continue to vaccinate those declared eligible so far - frontline workers, health workers and those above 45.
Apart from Serum Institute of India's Covishield and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin, Russia's Sputnik will soon be used, the government says.
Pointsman Mayur Shelke
13:47 Hero pointsman to donate half of reward to boy
A pointsman in Mumbai Division of Central Railway, Mayur Shelke, who saved the life of a child who lost his balance while walking on a platform of Vangani railway station and fell on railway tracks, has been rewarded by the Ministry of Railways.
The railways has announced a cash reward of Rs 50,000 for pointsman Mayur Shelkhe.
Shelke grabbed the child on the track and put him and himself out of harms way within seconds of a train approaching.
Shelke however said he will give half of the amount to the family of the boy he rescued.
"I will give half the amount for that child's welfare and education. I came to know that his family isn't financially strong. So I decided this," Shelke said.
13:26 Maharashtra leads in Covid deaths in India
Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and Gujarat are among 10 states that account for over 75 per cent of the 3,14,835 new COVID-19 cases registered in a day, the Union Health Ministry said on Thursday.
The number of coronavirus cases in India hit a record daily high with over 3.14 lakh new infections being reported in a span of 24 hours pushing India's total tally of COVID-19 cases to1,59,30,965, according to the ministry data updated in the morning.
The other states in the list of 10 are Karnataka, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Rajasthan. Maharashtra has reported the highest daily new cases at 67,468. It is followed by Uttar Pradesh with 33,106 while Delhi reported 24,638 new cases. India's total active caseload has reached 22,91,428 and now comprises 14.38 per cent of the country's total infections.
A net increase of 1,33,890 cases recorded in the total active caseload in a span of 24 hours. Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala cumulatively account for 59.99 per cent of India's total active cases. India's cumulative recoveries have surged to1,34,54,880 with1,78,841 recoveries being registered in a day.
The National Mortality Rate has been falling and currently stands at 1.16 per cent. 2,104 deaths were reported in a span of 24 hours. Ten states account for 81.08 per cent of the new deaths, the ministry said. Maharashtra saw the maximum casualties (568). Delhi follows with 249 daily deaths. On the vaccination front, the cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the country has crossed13.23 crore.
13:16 Vaccine policy discriminatory: Sonia to PM
Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the new COVID-19 vaccine policy, terming it as arbitrary and discriminatory and urged him to intervene immediately to reverse it.
In a letter to to the prime minister, the Congress chief alleged that the new vaccine policy implies that the central government has abdicated its responsibility of providing free vaccine to all Indians between 18 and 45 years of age.
"It is surprising that despite the harsh lessons of last year and the pain inflicted on our citizens, the Government continues to follow an arbitrary and discriminatory policy, which promises to exacerbate existing challenges," she said in her letter.
"The policy implies that the Government of India has abdicated its responsibility to provide free vaccination for citizens between the age group of 18 and 45 years. This is complete abandonment of the Government's responsibility towards our youth," she said. Noting that any reasonable person will agree on the benefit of a uniform price for vaccination, she urged prime minister Modi to intervene immediately and "reverse this ill-considered decision".
The Centre on Monday announced a liberalised vaccine policy, making all adults above 18 years of age eligible for getting vaccination from May 1. The Serum Institute of India on Wednesday announced a price of Rs 400 per dose for its COVID-19 vaccine 'Covishield' for state governments and Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals. -- PTI
13:14 Maha allocated 50 pc of daily Remdesivir requirement: Tope
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Thursday said the state is being allocated 26,000 Remdesivir injections per day by the Centre as against the requirement of 50,000 vials of the anti-COVID-19 drug.
Talking to reporters, Tope said he will write to the Centre to increase the allocation of Remdesivir to Maharashtra, the worst COVID-19-hit state in the country.
"The state government's daily requirement is 50,000 Remdesivir injections, but the Centre's allocation is 26,000 injections per day. This is for the next 10 days, which is very serious as timely use of the injections to treat co- morbid and serious COVID-19 patients can save lives," he said.
Remdesivir is listed for use in serious COVID-19 patients. In view of a sudden spike in demand of the drug due to the surge in COVID-19 cases, the Centre last week banned its export till the situation improves.
"I will send a letter to the Union Health Ministry on Thursday to increase the allocation of the key anti-viral drug to Maharashtra," the minister said. Tope and state Food and Drug Administration minister Rajendra Shingane few days ago had assured that the supply of Remdesivir will increase from April 21.
On Wednesday, the state reported 67,468 fresh coronavirus cases, taking its tally beyond the 40-lakh mark, while 568 more patients succumbed to the infection, as per the health department.
The Bombay High Court on Wednesday came down heavily on the Maharashtra government for its "extremely callous" behaviour towards the issue of procuring and allocating Remdesivir injections for COVID-19 patients, and said the authorities are shirking their responsibilities. PTI
Two patients to a bed as India's healthcare systems fail
12:54 SC to hear case on India's oxygen shortage
When the government fails its people, courts step in.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta today mentioned before the Supreme Court that the country is in dire need of oxygen. Supreme Court takes suo motu cognisance on supply of oxygen and essential drugs issue. CJI SA Bobde says that the court will hear the matter tomorrow.
A three-judge bench of Supreme Court, headed by CJI SA Bobde, asked the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to submit or inform it by providing a national plan, after taking into record the fact that at least 6 different High Courts have been hearing the matter.
"Vedanta wants to make its plant operational, but let them make it operational only to manufacture oxygen for health purposes," he also submitted before SC.
Hospital beds being prepared at a Covid facility
12:22 2500+ ambulance calls from Covid patients in Delhi
ver 2,500 distress calls from COVID-19 patients were dispatched to ambulances in the national capital daily for the last one week, numbers compiled by the city government show, highlighting the severity of the ongoing wave of the pandemic. The cumulative figure of 17,924 calls in the past one week don't include the ones made by patients to private ambulances.
According to data, at least 2,560 calls from coronavirus patients were being dispatched to ambulances in the city every day for the past week as the number of cases continue to show an upward trend in Delhi.
As many as 1,347 people succumbed to the virus during the period. Delhi recorded 24,638 fresh COVID-19 cases and 249 deaths due to the viral disease on Wednesday while the positivity rate stood at 31.28 per cent, meaning almost every third sample tested positive, amid a growing clamour for oxygen and hospital beds in the city. PTI
11:57 Maha situation not improving despite curbs: Sena
The Shiv Sena on Thursday questioned the basis on which Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested states to look at lockdown as the last resort, and said despite the existing restrictions the COVID-19 cases are not coming down.
A day after Modi addressed the nation, the Maharashtra government on Wednesday imposed several new lockdown-like restrictions, including a ban on inter-city and inter-district travel, and allowed only those working in the essential services to travel in local trains in Mumbai. Referring to Modi's suggestion made on Tuesday that lockdowns should be the "last resort", an editorial in Sena mouthpiece 'Saamana' said focus should be on action rather than delivering speeches.
"Several ministers in Maharashtra have suggested that the state be put under complete lockdown for at least 15 days. CM Uddhav Thackeray will take a decision on this. But, on what basis did the PM advice to avoid a lockdown?" it asked.
The editorial said the Maharashtra board's Class 10 exams have been cancelled and the central government has also scrapped the CBSE Class 10 exams.
The situation in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka "has gone out of control", it claimed, adding that the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has recommended a two-week lockdown in Gujarat.
"The situation is not improving despite strict curbs in Maharashtra," the Marathi daily said. It was felt that the prime minister will advice citizens on how to face such a situation, the editorial said. The economy is devastated and those who survive the pandemic will "die of suffocation under the crumbling economy", it claimed.
It said the PM admitted that the COVID-19 situation has worsened in the country, but stopped short of saying what should be done to end the crisis. He says the COVID-19 crisis needs to be tackled unitedly, but his concept of "unity" doesn't involve the opposition parties, the Marathi daily said.
"If the prime minister had stopped his West Bengal poll rallies on time, the spread of COVID-19 could have been checked," the Marathi publication said. "Lakhs of people from different parts of the country who were in West Bengal have spread the virus in their respective states. The country has got only coronavirus from the Kumbh mela and political melas," the editorial claimed.
Political leaders need to exercise self-restraint and only then they get the moral right to preach the people, it said.
Maharashtra on Wednesday reported 67,468 fresh coronavirus cases, taking its tally beyond the 40-lakh mark, while 568 more patients succumbed to the infection, as per the state health department. PTI
11:40 K'taka needs 1,500 tons of O2, 1L Remdesivir vials
Karnataka has asked the Centre to supply 1,500 metric tonnes of oxygen and one lakh vials of Remdesivir in view of the growing COVID cases in the state.
"We have estimated that in the next one month, we may require 1,500 metric tonnes of oxygen. In this regard, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa has written to Union Minister for Railways, Commerce and Industries Piyush Goyal," state Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar told reporters here on Thursday.
He said he too has written to the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan for supply of oxygen. Sudhakar said the state government had a meeting with the major oxygen generators in the state. Of them JSW Steel is the largest one.
"We had a meeting with Sajjan Jindal and he has assured us to supply as much oxygen required in the state," Sudhakar said. The Minister said after the meeting JSW steel supplied 40 metric tonnes in the last two days required for Bengaluru. Besides this, the State has demanded additional supply of Remdesivir injections, which is crucial for COVID treatment.
According to him, the state has ordered 70,000 vials of Remdesivir injection, of which 20,000 had arrived while the remaining would be supplied in the coming days.
"We have already ordered 70,000 vials of Remdesivir. This besides we have put forth the demand for one lakh Remdesivir vials for which we have written to the Centre," he added. To a question as to why the state did not stock enough oxygen beforehand, the Minister said when the cases had reduced, there was no such demand and hence there was no point in storing it. -- PTI
A Covid body is consigned to flames
11:31 Hard to stay sane...
Columnist Vir Sanghvi on the Covid nightmare India is facing. "Each day I wake up determined not to be so angry about how we have screwed up the fight against Covid and let our people die. And each day I read about more avoidable deaths and more infections. It's hard to stay sane in this environment."
11:01 1,710 doses of Covid vaccine stolen from hospital
An oxygen tanker was waylaid in Haryana yesterday and today vaccines have been stolen. Another step towards anarchy.
As many as 1,710 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were stolen from the PPC centre at Civil Hospital in Haryana's Jind district, officials said on Thursday.
"1270 of Covishield and 440 of Covaxin have been stolen from PPC centre. Some important files have also been stolen," said an official from the centre.
Centre's incharge said, "I'll also check our main store that keeps supply for the entire district. I'll also inform officials.
"He further said that police inquiry has been initiated and proper inquiry will be done. -- ANI
10:55 UK airport refuses to allow extra flights from India
Britain's Heathrow Airport has refused to allow extra flights from India before it is added on Friday to the United Kingdom's COVID-19 travel "red list", which imposes a ban on entry to the country for all except British or Irish residents.
The request for extra flights from airlines was turned down because of concerns about queues at passport control, the BBC reported on Thursday.
Four carriers had requested to operate an additional eight flights from India as travellers seek to fly before the new rule comes into effect. Currently, 30 flights a week are operating between the UK and India.
The airport said that it did not want to exacerbate existing pressures at the border by allowing more passengers to fly in, the report said.
The red list status, which is effective from 4 am local time on Friday, came amid a spike in coronavirus infections in India and also resulted in British Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelling his planned visit to New Delhi on April 26.
British and Irish passport holders, and people with UK residence rights, will be allowed in but must quarantine in hotels for 10 days.
Last week, a director at the airport said the situation at the border - which is operated by the Home Office - had become "untenable" because of delays in processing arriving passengers.
The Civil Aviation Authority confirmed that it also received applications for charter flight permits from India to the UK - but these had been declined or withdrawn as they did not meet the qualifying criteria.
A government spokesperson said: "We are in a global health pandemic - people should not be travelling unless absolutely necessary."
"Every essential check helps avoid the risk of importing dangerous variants of coronavirus which could put our vaccine rollout at risk," the spokesperson said.
India's addition to the travel "red list" was announced in the House of Commons on Monday amid 103 cases recorded in the UK of a new variant of coronavirus first detected in India.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs that the decision had been made after studying the data and on a precautionary basis.
Since then, online travel agent Skyscanner said searches for flights returning to the UK from India had increased by more than 250 per cent.
The ban means that those with valid residency rights returning to the UK after the deadline on Friday face the additional financial burden of compulsory hotel quarantine and tests costs, estimated at around 2,000 pounds per person.
A briefing document drawn up by officials at Public Health England shows that between March 25 and April 7, a total of 3,345 arrivals from India were registered in UK border travel data.
Of those 161 - or 4.8 per cent - tested positive for COVID-19 after a PCR test. -- PTI
10:54 FIR registered in Nashik hospital tragedy
Police registered an FIR against unidentified persons on Thursday in connection with the death of 22 COVID-19 patients at a hospital in Nashik following the disruption of oxygen supply, an official said.
The incident occurred on Wednesday afternoon when the oxygen supply to patients stopped suddenly because of a malfunction in the main storage at Dr Zakir Hussain Hospital, run by the Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC).
An FIR was registered in the early hours of Thursday at the Bhadrakali police station in Maharashtra's Nashik city against unidentified persons under Indian Penal Code Section 304-A (causing death by negligence), the official said.
A total of 157 patients were undergoing treatment in the 150-bed COVID-19 hospital when the incident occurred, the NMC had said. The deceased, including 10 women, were in the age group of 33 to 74 years, it said. The disruption of medical oxygen supply was caused by leakage from a storage plant, officials earlier said.
10:33 Delhi witnesses surge in demand for oximeters, oxygen concentrators
Whether the expensive oxygen concentrator or the humble steam inhaler, people in Delhi are going all out shopping for both "prevention and cure" in view of the surge in COVID-19 cases, leading to demands for these medical devices hitting the roof.
With reports of hospitals gasping for oxygen and patients waiting for beds, people are seen making a beeline to chemist shops and returning home with bags full of "medical essentials", including oximeters, thermometers, oxygen cans etc. "These are not normal times. Everyone is fearful of catching the virus and will buy everything possible to keep the family members protected or if, god forbid, they test positive (for COVID-19), help in the cure.
"Last year, we were buying masks, hand sanitiser and infrared thermometers. This year, thanks to the ferocious second wave, we are buying oximeters, oxygen sprays and are even considering buying the super-expensive oxygen concentrator for the family," said city-based businessman Dinesh Thappa (45).
The fear is reflecting on the market also as many chemists are running out of their stocks of oximeters and oxygen concentrators and witnessing an "unprecedented hike" in the demand for steam inhalers and infrared thermometers.
"Oximeters and thermometers are selling at a rate of knots. Right now, I do not have oximeters in my shop. There is a good 60-70 per cent shortage, which was not the case even last year," Gaurav Arora of the Kiran Medicos in Ramesh Nagar said.
He said he has placed an order for oximeters, but it will take time for the supply to arrive. Delhi recorded 24,638 fresh COVID-19 cases and 249 deaths due to the viral disease on Wednesday while the positivity rate stood at 31.28 per cent, meaning almost every third sample tested positive, amid a growing clamour for oxygen and hospital beds in the city. Only 18 ICU beds for COVID-19 patients were available in hospitals across Delhi as of 11 pm Wednesday, according to government data.
10:19 5 dead as train rams into vehicles at open level crossing in UP
Five people were killed and one person was injured after a train rammed into some vehicles at a manned level crossing here whose gates were allegedly not closed at the time of the incident, police said.
Additional Superintendent of Police (Rural) Sanjeev Bajpai said the locomotive of Lucknow-Chandigarh Superfast (5012-down) got derailed after hitting the vehicles, disrupting rail traffic in both directions.
The incident took place after the train crossed Meeranpur Katra Railway Station this morning and hit two trucks, a car and a motorcycle at the open crossing, he told PTI.
At least five people, three of them from one family, have died in the incident while one person has been sent to a hospital with injuries, he said, adding the death toll could go up.
He said it is being investigated as to how the gates remained open when a train came hurtling down.
Relief and rescue work is underway, and police and administrative officers are present there at the site.
"A team of railway engineers has reached the spot and the work is underway to repair the damaged track. Traffic will be normalised in the next three-four hours," District Magistrate Indra Vikram Singh said.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath expressed his condolences to the bereaved families, and announced Rs 2-lakh assistance for each of them, an official spokesman said in Lucknow. -- PTI
09:59 Ex-Delhi minister AK Walia succumbs to COVID-19
Senior Congress leader and former Delhi government minister AK Walia died of COVID-19 in the early hours of Thursday, party leaders said.
He was 72.
Delhi Congress president Anil Kumar condoled the death of former MLA, saying he breathed his last at the city's Apollo Hospital.
Party leaders said Walia, who represented the Laxmi Nagar constituency in the assembly for four terms, was admitted to the hospital a few days ago after testing positive for coronavirus.
He passed away around 1.30 AM Thursday, they said.
AAP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia also condoled Walia's death, saying he promoted positive politics in Delhi. -- PTI
Covid patients' kin wait to fill their cylinders with oxygen
09:58 India records over 3 lakh Covid cases for 1st time
India reports 3,14,835 new COVID-19 cases, 2,104 deaths in the last 24 hours, as per Union Health Ministry data.
Total cases: 1,59,30,965
Total recoveries: 1,34,54,880
Death toll: 1,84,657
Active cases: 22,91,428
Total vaccination: 13,23,30,644
08:57 CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury's son, 34, dies of Covid
Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Sitaram Yechury on Thursday said his elder son Ashish died of COVID-19 in the morning.
Ashish, who would have turned 35 on June 9, was recovering well at Gurgaon's Medanta Hospital, people close to the family added, describing his sudden death at 5.30 am after a two-week battle with the disease as a shock.
"It is with great sadness that I have to inform that I lost my elder son, Ashish Yechury to COVID-19 this morning. I want to thank all those who gave us hope and who treated him - doctors, nurses, frontline health workers, sanitation workers and innumerable others who stood by us," Yechury said on Twitter. -- PTI
08:08 Polling underway for 6th phase of Bengal elections
Polling began at 7 am on Thursday for 43 seats in the sixth phase of the assembly election in West Bengal amid a surge in COVID-19 cases with the state reporting record infections.
Long queues were seen outside most of the polling boths even before the voting began.
In this phase, elections are being held in 17 seats in the North 24 Parganas district and nine seats in Nadia -- most of which has a significant presence of the Matuas, who arecrucial to the electoral success of any party in the state.
Besides, elections are also being held in the nine seats in Uttar Dinajpur district and eight in Purba Bardhaman.
Over 1.03 crore voters will decide the political fate of 306 candidates in this phase.
Of them, 53.21 lakh are men and 50.65 lakh women, while 256 are third gender.
A staggering 1,071 companies of central forces have been deployed in this phase to ensure free and fair voting, officials said.
Each company of central force has around 100 personnel and officers.
The voting is being held in 14,480 polling stations in the 43 assembly segments in the four districts.
Polling will continue till 6.30 pm, officials said.
Elections to the 294-member West Bengal assembly are being held in eight phases, starting on March 27. Votes will be counted on May 2 with the last phase scheduled to be held on April 29.
West Bengal has been reporting a record number of COVID-19 cases over the past few days, breaching the 10,000-mark of daily infections on Wednesday.
The state registered its highest single-day spike of 10,784 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, while 58 more people lost their lives. -- PTI
00:19 Centre should give Maha one week's vaccine: Tope
The Maharashtra government needs to have one week's stock of Covid-19 vaccines at one go so that it can vaccinate up to eight lakh people on a daily basis, state Health Minister Rajesh Tope said.
Speaking to reporters, he said, "The Maharashtra government has several times urged the Centre to provide one week's stock (of vaccines) at a time to the state which would enable us to inoculate up to eight lakh people daily."
It is a huge state geographically and it takes at least two days for us to carry the vaccine stock from one corner to another, he said.
"Several letters have been sent to the Centre over it, but our demand has never been listened to. The central government's supply of vaccines is much less than our requirement, hence our pace (of vaccination) is slow," said the minister.
Tope also complained that the Centre allowed only 60 metric tonnes of liquid medical oxygen from the Bhilai plant to Maharashtra.
"Earlier, the proposal of liquid medical oxygen was of 110 metric tonnes (MT), but it was changed to 60 MT. But it would not be sufficient for the state for meeting the demand of oxygen in Vidarbha region," he said.
The state is expected to receive 200 MT each from Jamnagar refinery plant in Gujarat and a plant in Telangana.
"Now we have moved our request to Jamnagar refinery to allot additional 50 MT of oxygen," he said.
00:15 Despite Covid surge no lockdown in Kerala: Pinarayi
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday said that lockdown will not be implemented for now in the state, which witnessed the highest single day surge of Covid-19 cases, but there would be strict restrictions, especially in districts where the Test Positivity Rate (TPR) is high.
He said the LDF government has increased and improved the 'surge capacity' (to handle excess cases) of the health system and spelt out a series of measures to check spread of the virus, including setting up a Covid First Line Treatment Centre in each taluk.
"All taluks will have at least one CFLTC. In areas with more that 35 per cent TPR, interventions on a war footing will be made," he said.
The CM said 50 per cent of government employees would work on a rotation basis and the others, from home.
"Private sector employers should also provide work from home facilities to their employees. April 24 will be a holiday for all offices in the state, as also banks and Public Sector Undertakings, but the ongoing higher secondary exams would go on as per schedule," he said.
On April 24 and 25, only emergency services will function in the state, Vijayan said.
He said functions which had been decided earlier like marriages and house warming sessions can be held on the days fixed, but with the stipulated number of 75 attendees.
"All educational institutions, including tuition centres, will remain closed but online classes can be held. Beaches, parks, bus stations, airports and markets should function only as per strict health protocol," he said.
Kerala reported the highest single day surge of Covid-19 cases on Wednesday with 22,414 infections, including 105 health workers, while the toll touched 5,000 with 22 deaths.
The previous high was on April 20 with 19,577 cases.