Omicron Spreading Very Fast Worldwide, – Latest news headlines

Omicron: The B.1.1.529 strain was first identified in South Africa last week (File)


  • The Health Ministry today said the Omicron variant is “spreading rapidly”
  • 19 districts in India are at “high risk” of a surge in Covid cases
  • Maharashtra, at 32, has the highest Omicron cases of any state in India

New Delhi:

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus is “spreading rapidly” – there are now 101 cases in 11 states in India – the Health Ministry said Friday, warning that 19 districts were at high risk of a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Faced with the threat of a third wave of infections, the ministry underlined the need to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour, including the use of face masks and maintaining social distance. The ministry also urged people to avoid non-essential travel and stay away from large crowds and gatherings.

The ministry then issued a dire threat – that based on the progression of the strain in the UK (which already has over 11,000 Omicron cases), India could see a devastating 14 lakh cases daily.

Renewed warnings of the dangers posed by Omicron come as 10 new cases were reported from Delhi earlier in the day. The city has now 22 confirmed Omicron cases.

The 10 new cases were reported after a worrying spike in overall Covid cases in the city over the previous 24 hours – 85 were detected – up from 57 on Thursday and 45 on Wednesday.

Maharashtra – worst hit by earlier waves of infections – has so far recorded the most Omicron cases – 32. Rajasthan is next with 17, and Karnataka and Telangana have reported eight each. Gujarat, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh have also reported cases of the new variant.

A point of worry is that at least two of the Omicron cases reported from Maharashtra were young children – a three-year-old boy and an 18-month-old girl.

The government has already urged states to step up surveillance measures and focus on sequencing positive samples in an effort to identify cases and potential hotspots.

New travel rules were enforced starting December 1, requiring foreign arrivals from countries deemed ‘at risk’ to submit to RT-PCR tests and, in some cases, mandatory quarantine.

“Most cases of Omicron have a travel history, or have contacts with travel histories. But there have been some cases in which we have not been able to establish any such history. In that the process is on to identify travel or contact histories…” Dr VK Paul, India’s Covid task force chief, said.

Omicron was first reported from South Africa last month.

Since then, it has been reported from 77 countries, including the US, Israel, Hong Kong and Japan, and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the variant is “probably” in most countries.

The first cases in India were reported by Karnataka on December 2.

Earlier today the G7 (Group of Seven) called Omicron the “biggest current threat to global public health” and said it was now “more important than ever” for countries to “closely cooperate”.

A sliver of good news is that only one death has been linked to the Omicron strain so far – in the UK.

Initial studies indicate Omicron is significantly more infectious than the Delta variant that wrought havoc in India and the world, but it does lead to less severe symptoms.

The jury is still out on the variant’s vaccine-evasion ability, but medical experts have urged people to ensure they are double-vaccinated and called on governments to offer booster doses.

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India’s First 2 Omicron Cases Detected – Latest news headlines


Two COVID-19 cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in India, the Health Ministry said on Thursday, in the first confirmation of the coronavirus strain within the country’s borders that has triggered global alarm.

Both the cases have been reported in Karnataka with the patients being two foreigners aged 66 and 46, the Health Ministry’s Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal told a news briefing, adding that their identities will not be disclosed for now to protect their privacy.

All people who came in contact with the two men have been traced and are being tested, he said, adding that both the cases are mild and there are no severe symptoms so far.

“There is no need to panic about the Omicron detection but awareness is absolutely essential. Follow Coivd-appropriate behaviour, avoid gatherings,” Mr Agarwal said.

Early indications have suggested the heavily-mutated Omicron may be markedly more contagious than previous variants, however, there has been no evidence of the strain any deadlier.

“There will be no drastic curbs any time soon. The situation is well under control,” Dr VK Paul, chief of the centre’s COVID-19 task force, said.

India was set to restart scheduled commercial international flights on Dec 15, but on Wednesday scrapped that plan and said a resumption date would be announced in due course.

The government has advised states to ramp up testing, a week after the health ministry said a recent fall in testing could undermine India’s efforts to contain the pandemic.

After battling a record jump in infections and deaths in April and May, coronavirus cases have come down substantially in India, where the Delta variant is the dominant strain.

The country reported 9,765 new cases on Thursday, taking its total to 34.61 million. Only the United States has reported more.

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Latest News Today – India Coronavirus Cases: India’s ‘R-Value’ Inching Up,

India has logged over 3.16 crore cases since the start of the pandemic.

New Delhi:

India’s ‘R-Value’ is inching up, and it’s a cause of concern, AIIMS Chief Dr Randeep Guleria told NDTV on Saturday, stressing on the need of aggressive containment strategies in the parts of the country that are witnessing a surge in fresh Covid infections. His remarks come amid concern over a third wave. 

“Starting from .96, and going all the way up to 1, the rise in R-Value is a cause of concern. Simply put, this means that the chances of infection spreading from a person, who has Covid, to others have gone up. The areas which are witnessing this surge should bring in restrictions and employ “test, track, and treat” strategy to break the chain of transmission,” Dr Guleria explained. The R-Factor or number shows the effective reproductive number of a virus.

India on Friday recorded 44,230 fresh infections, the highest single-day surge in three weeks. The fresh spike in cases has been worrying in Kerala and some northeastern states. Forty-six districts in the country have a positivity rate of more than 10 per cent, the government said on Saturday. 

This week, reports quoting the US health authority –  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – said that Delta variant of the coronavirus may cause more severe illness than all other known versions of the virus and spread as easily as chickenpox.

Explaining this in Indian context, Dr Guleria said: “Measles or chicken pox used to have R factor of 8 or more, which means one person could infect eight others. That sort of suggests that this virus is highly infectious. We saw that in our second wave, because whole families were getting infected. This happens with chicken pox also. In a similar manner, when one person has Delta variant, the whole family is vulnerable.”

With nearly 50 per cent of fresh Covid cases coming from Kerala, there’s a need to evaluate the surge in infections, Dr Guleria further stressed. “In the beginning, Kerala had set a precedent for others by managing the pandemic well. They also had an aggressive vaccination drive. Yet despite that, are witnessing a spike in a way that’s different from other parts of the country. This needs to be evaluated. Also, is there a variant behind the surge? Are containment strategies being aggressively followed – all this needs to be evaluated,” the AIIMS chief explained.

Neighbouring states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu also need to adopt aggressive testing strategy to break the chain of transmission, he added.

In Tamil Nadu, 66 per cent of people have developed anti-bodies, a recent sero survey showed. Yet the state has been witnessing a spike. The sero surveys, however, are not an indicator of herd immunity, Dr Guleria explained. “In Brazil, similar survey from a city showed 70 per cent of population had herd immunity. Yet we had a huge outbreak. We really don’t what’s the cut off in such cases, and also the antibodies gradually decrease over a period of time. It, however, shows that the chances of serious infections are lesser. For instance in Kerala, and UK, people are getting the infection, they may be spreading but they are not getting serious infection,” he said. 

India has logged over 3.16 crore cases so far, and 4.23 lakh people have died due to Covid. 

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Latest News Today – Coronavirus: Children In India Can Start Getting

New Delhi:

India is likely to start vaccinating children by September, AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria told NDTV this morning as he underlined that it will be an important move to break the chain of transmission.

“I think Zydus has already done the trials and they’re waiting for the emergency authorisation. Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin trials should be over by August or September, and by that time we should get an approval.  Pfizer vaccine has been already approved by the FDA (US regulator – Food and Drug Administration). Hopefully, by September, we should start vaccinating children, and that would be a big boost as far as breaking the chain of transmission is concerned,” Dr Guleria said.

India has given over 42 crore doses of vaccines so far, and the government aims to vaccinate all adults by the end of this year. However, the country is yet to clear a vaccine for children amid concern over a third wave.

A study published earlier this week by The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest medical journals, underlined that “living with 11-17 year olds increases the risk of infection by 18-30 per cent.”

Talking about it, Dr Guleria this morning said: “It’s an important issue. Vulnerable people – the elderly or those having illnesses – are at an increased risk of getting the infection (in such cases). That’s one of the reasons why people are worried about children about going to schools… they may get a mild infection but they may pass it to their grandparents. We need more data but this is something that has been shown even with influenza.” 

On vaccination, the AIIMS chief further stressed: “I think it’s important both to protect children as well as to break the chain of transmission.

On Friday, the European medicines watchdog approved the use of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine for children aged 12 to 17. In May, the United States had authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 12 to 15 years old.

Earlier this month, Dr NK Arora, who heads the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration, had told NDTV that vaccination for children will start by September with the Zydus vaccine for 12 to 18-year-olds. “Covaxin phase 3 trials have started and by the end of September, I think we should be there (begin vaccination). I think sometime in the third quarter or by early January-February we should be able to give it to 2 to 18-year-olds,” he had said.

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Latest News Today – In the Heights Out July 29 in India on Apple TV,

In the Heights — the critically-acclaimed adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes’ Tony Award-winning musical — has become the second Warner Bros. movie to skip cinemas and debut directly on video-on-demand in India during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. No, Justice League Snyder Cut wasn’t the first as it was never planned for theatres. That honour went to Angelina Jolie-led neo-Western action thriller Those Who Wish Me Dead. In the Heights’ at-home premiere is more surprising though, as the film was an IMAX release for Warner Bros. That seemed like why it was holding onto it in the first place, alongside The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, but this further muddies the waters as to what audiences can expect to see at home versus what they have to wait for in cinemas.

Maybe Warner Bros.’ reasoning works along the revenue lines. After all, both In the Heights and Those Who Wish Me Dead would have made little at the box office in India even in pre-COVID times. If that is the studio’s thinking, it could go further. In addition to The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, Warner Bros. is now also holding onto the LeBron James-led family comedy Space Jam: A New Legacy (that released last Friday, July 16 in cinemas worldwide and on HBO Max in the US). While the new Space Jam movie had a strong opening weekend in the US, it’s unlikely to do so in India. Instead of competing with every other movie once cinemas fully reopen, Warner Bros. could have cashed in on the families with kids in India who are stuck at home right now.

Additionally, it’s unclear what Warner Bros. achieves by delaying at-home premieres for those it did deem to send directly to video-on-demand. In the Heights released June 10 in theatres and on HBO Max, and it will be available Thursday, July 29 in India on Apple TV, BookMyShow Stream, Google Play Movies, and YouTube Movies. That’s a gap of seven weeks. Why the delay? The theatrical situation in India hasn’t changed much between early June and late July. Moreover, In the Heights’ HBO Max release meant high-quality pirated copies have been available on torrent sites since day one. Those that really wanted to watch In the Heights have likely already done so, further limiting the earnings potential for a movie that has already lost box office money.

Still, Warner Bros. is doing better here than other Hollywood studios. Paramount Pictures/ Viacom18 Studios continue to hold onto Emily Blunt-starrer A Quiet Place Part II, that is now even available to stream on Paramount+ in the US. It might as well write off India box office at this point. Disney is facing a similar situation with the Emma Stone-led Cruella and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow (the latter is “coming soon” to Disney+ Hotstar). Universal Pictures is being the bravest, rolling Fast & Furious 9 into Indian cinemas in two weeks’ time on August 5, which feels extremely foolhardy. It might be an attempt to stave off piracy though. Lionsgate did go a step further than Warner Bros. in debuting Jason Statham-led Wrath of Man this Friday on Lionsgate Play, but it came three months late.

There is an opportunity here for studios to show that they truly care about Indian viewers, as I’ve argued previously, but it doesn’t look like they are interested in moving any quicker.

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Latest News Today – Coronavirus India Cases: No Oxygen Deaths? Opposition

The shortage of medical oxygen had grappled hospitals in April and May.

New Delhi:
No data was provided by states on deaths due to oxygen shortage – this statement by the Centre has led to a huge political backlash. At the peak of second Covid wave, the struggle among India’s hospitals and patients had captured global attention.

Here is your ten-point cheat sheet on this big story:

  1. Oxygen shortage led to many deaths in India, including in the national capital, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said today, slamming the centre. “It’s completely false to say no one died due to oxygen crisis. Why were hospitals making desperate appeals everyday at the High Court? The centre may soon say there was no pandemic,” he said.

  2. “We constituted an Oxygen Audit Committee to assess deaths and provide compensation. But the Central government, through Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, dismissed it to hide the truth,” Mr Jain said. The centre is trying to hide its fault, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said, calling the government policies “a disaster”.

  3. In a written reply to Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, Junior Health Minister Bharati Praveen Pawar stated that health is a state subject and states and Union Territories regularly report the number of cases and deaths to the centre. “However, no deaths due to lack of oxygen have been specifically reported,” she said. 

  4. Blaming the states, the country’s new Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told parliament: “Prime Minister repeatedly told the states…deaths have to be registered, there’s no reason to hide. It’s the responsibility of the states. We keep a record of data provided by the states. That’s all the central government has to do.”

  5. Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut today attacked the ruling BJP over the statements: “I am speechless. For families who’ve lost their loved ones due to the shortage of medical oxygen, how would they’ve felt listening to this. These families should file a case against the government,” he told reporters.

  6. In a counter-attack, Union Minister Meenakshi Lekhi tweeted: “Mr Sanjay Raut, I am aghast at the doublespeak of double defaulters, Shiv Sena and Congress. Please provide the number of deaths in the state of Maharashtra due to oxygen shortage to the Central government and also to the press. Same logic applies to Delhi, which was the epicentre.”

  7. In Delhi, 25 people had died in April at the Jaipur Golden Hospital. Gaurav Gera, 23, and his sister Bharti lost both their parents in the tragedy. “We were pained to hear the government’s statements in the parliament. My father was fine. When we got a call about his death, doctor told us about oxygen shortage,” Mr Gera recalled. “We’ve lost our parents but the politics is still on,” he said.

  8.  In UP, Shankar Dayal, 61, who worked at one of Lucknow’s biggest hospitals till 2020, died gasping at his home. “We went to many hospitals, but we were denied admission. There were no beds, no oxygen. We had to bring our father back home. He died because we could not arrange a fresh oxygen cylinder. We went through an endless struggle,” Prince Kumar, one of Mr Dayal’s sons, told NDTV.

  9. India saw a massive shortage of medical oxygen and hospital beds at the peak of the second wave and many nations came forward to help amid desperate appeals on social media. In Goa, over 80 people died at a state-run medical facility over five days in May. In Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, 11 Covid patients admitted to a hospital ICU died.

  10. Across the country, courts saw marathon hearings over the issue as patients and their families faced shortage and black market sales of oxygen cylinders. India is now witnessing a drop in daily Covid cases amid concerns of an impending third wave.

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Latest News Today – On Rahul Gandhi’s Oxygen Tweet, Giriraj Singh’s Jibe

New Delhi:

The Centre’s statement on the lack of data on deaths due to oxygen shortage turned into a flashpoint between the BJP and the Congress today. While several Congress leaders were harsh in their criticism of the government, Rahul Gandhi’s tweet on the issue drew a sharp retort from Union Minister Giriraj Singh.

Shortage of oxygen became a huge issue during the second wave. As hospitals struggled to cope , deaths of patients were reported from parts of the country and the matter ended up in several courts. In Rajya Sabha today, the Centre said in answer to a question that it has received no data from the states regarding any death due to oxygen shortage.  

Later in the evening, Mr Gandhi tweeted in Hindi, tagging the news about the government’s response. “It wasn’t just the lack of oxygen. There was severe lack of sensitivity and truth — then and now,” his tweet read.

Mr Singh chose to retaliate in Italian. “I would say about this prince: He lacked the brain then, he misses it now and he will miss it forever. These lists are compiled by the states. You can tell the states governed by your party to submit modified lists. Until then stop lying,” he posted in a reference to the party’s pejoratives against Mr Gandhi.

Congress’s KC Venugopal, who also asked the question on oxygen deaths in the Upper House, said he would move a privilege motion against junior health minister Bharati Praveen Pawar “for giving false information”.

“This is a blind and unconcerned government. People have seen how many of their near and dear ones have died because of lack of oxygen,” said KC Venugopal.

In Goa, more than 80 people died at a state-run medical facility over five days in May. In Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh,  11 Covid patients who were at the ICU of a hospital died after the supply of medical oxygen was disrupted.  At a hospital in Hyderabad, seven patients died at a government hospital during a two-hour cut in oxygen supply.

In most places the authorities have denied that the deaths took place due to oxygen shortage.

Last month the Centre had vetoed an investigation ordered by the Delhi government into the deaths caused by a lack of oxygen supply. At one hospital in Delhi, 21 patients died due to oxygen shortage and the matter is pending in the High Court.

Amid allegations about thousands of deaths in the second wave of the virus going unreported – triggered by the mass graves on the sandbanks of Ganga and the bodies floating down the river — the government has contended that states are in charge of registering and providing death figures.  

New health minister Mansukh Mandavia defended the government on the issue in the Lok Sabha,

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Latest News Today – Chennai Boy, Who Contracted Covid In 2nd Wave, Scores

Reuben Stephen John has earned a provisional admission at a private engineering college


In Tamil Nadu, eight lakh students who had enrolled for the state board examinations have been promoted after a year-long nightmare amid the devastating pandemic.

Reuben Stephen John a student of Class 12 had contracted the virus in May and managed to score 96% in his assessment.

Mr John, who has earned a provisional admission at a private engineering college, said, “I thank my teachers for helping me so much. My next plan is to join a good engineering college. I want to study artificial intelligence.”

Reuben had put in a lot of hard work, his mother said, adding, “He never took it easy even though it was an online exam. I am proud of him.”

The family has already paid a token amount to block his seat at a private engineering college whose entrance test he has cracked.

“We don’t know if these marks are enough. It’s important we secure him a seat though we will try our best to get him a seat through government counselling,” his father said.

In another part of Chennai, Zahabiya Kutubuddin, a student of Commerce and Communicative English is a bit disappointed. She has secured 84%, less than what she expected. She plans to pursue Electronic Media at a Chennai college.

“We had five revision exams and I had scored a full 100 in Accounts. I lost marks as they added the Class 10 marks. They shouldn’t have done it this way. It hurts who had worked very hard,” she said.

Schools went completely online for the entire academic year due to the pandemic.

The school education department had taken into account 50% marks students earned in Class 10, 20% in Class 11 and 30% earned as internal marks in Class 12. Even as no student has managed to score a centum this year, the government said there have been no compromises.

School Education Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi told NDTV, “The students have earned it. It’s a reflection of their consistent performance over a span of three years. There was no compromise. Our chief minister wanted a just model for all – both urban and rural students. He picked this model from more than ten options.”

With most rejoicing a good score, for many, this is the beginning of a phase of anxiety over admissions to colleges.

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Latest News Today – “People Will Continue To Die By Burning”: Supreme Court

New Delhi:

The Gujarat government was pulled up by the Supreme Court today for bringing a notification to reverse its order on fire safety norms in Covid hospitals, even after the deaths of a number of patients in multiple fire incidents. Accusing the state of a breach of order, the judges said the notification only gives more time to hospitals that do not have a fire safety system and till they take action, patients will continue to die. “The notification gives the impression that the state is protecting illegality,” the court said.

“Once there is an order by us, it cannot be overridden by an executive notification like this. You (Gujarat) now give carte blanche and say hospitals do not have to adhere (to the order) till 2022 and people will continue to die by burning,” said Justice DY Chandrachud.

“At Nashik (Maharashtra) one person recovered and was to be released next day. Two nurses went to washroom. All were burnt alive,” Justice Chandrachud said. “These are human tragedies unfolded before our eyes. Hospitals have become large real estate industry and they survive on human stress. Hospitals in small four rooms must be closed,” he added.

Demanding that the state explain the notification through an affidavit, the judges asked the state government to also submit an action taken report regarding the fire safety audit conducted under the court’s order of December 2020.

Gujarat wanted time to file its reply, but the top court asked about the notification today. “We read in newspapers that Gujarat had brought out a notification giving time till March 2022 for hospitals to comply with our orders,” said Justice MR Shah, who was part of the bench.

In late November, six people had died at Rajkot’s Uday Shivanand Hospital, where Covid patients were treated. The police said the fire started in the Intensive Care Unit, and investigation revealed negligence on part of the hospital authorities, PTI reported.

Terming the incident “shocking”, the Supreme Court had said the state was suppressing facts. “According to you (Gujarat) everything is good, but your stand is contrary to your own Chief Electrical Engineer’s report about wiring,” the court had said.

In May this year, 18 people died at a hospital in Bharuch after yet another fire. The Gujarat High Court, furious, had declared that “somebody has to be made accountable”.

Pointing out that the state government failed to take action on its previous orders on preventing fire incidents, the High Court said, “It amounts to the contempt of courts, of all the orders passed by the courts in the past. Ultimately, it amounts to the contemptuous action on the part of the state for not being vigilant so that such incidents are not repeated again and again”.

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Latest News Today – “UP’s Handling Of 2nd Covid Wave Unparalleled”, Says PM

New Delhi:

Uttar Pradesh’s handling of the second wave of COVID-19 cases was “unparalleled”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared Thursday morning during a visit to his constituency of Varanasi.

The Prime Minister also said UP – which recorded over 30,000 new cases daily at the peak of the second wave, up from a record single-day high of 7,016 cases in the first – had “stood up and battled the virus efficiently”, and that its management of the pandemic was “worthy of praise”.

“UP stood up and battled the virus efficiently… is India’s most populous state but the manner in which Uttar Pradesh handled and controlled the pandemic is worthy of praise. UP’s handling of the second wave of COVID-19 has been unparalleled,” the Prime Minister said.

Expressing his admiration for healthcare and frontline workers of the state, the Prime Minister also hailed UP for “the maximum number of vaccinations in the country”.

Data from the centre’s CoWIN platform says UP had administered 3.89 crore doses so far.

“I am immensely thankful and grateful for all the ‘corona warriors’ and all those who have come and helped in these trying times. Today, UP has done the maximum vaccinations in the country. A vaccine for all… a free vaccine… is the aim of the government and it is being done,” the PM said.

The praise for Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his administration comes a day after the Supreme Court issued a notice over its decision to allow the Kanwar Yatra, despite warnings from medical experts about large gatherings allowing the coronavirus to spread further and faster.

The top court said Indian citizens were left “perplexed” by the state’s decision, particularly as it came after the Prime Minister’s call to avoid large gatherings and follow Covid-appropriate behaviour to ensure a third wave of infections does not strike.

On Tuesday, the UP government said the yatra could take place from July 25 with a “minimum number of people”, and with “strict implementation of COVID-19 protocol”. Negative RT-PCR tests could be made compulsory, if required, a state official was quoted by news agency PTI.

The Prime Minister’s praise aside, the UP government has actually faced widespread criticism over its handling of the pandemic, including when bodies of suspected Covid patients were found floating on the Ganga in May and June.

More such bodies were discovered in shallow graves along the banks of the holy river.

The UP government refuted reports that the deaths were linked to the pandemic, and claimed that burial by the river is a long-standing tradition.

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