From Our Bureau

09th April 2020

The Corona Virus (CPVID-19) pandemic situation continued to be critical globally, with the confirmed cases across the world jumping to 14,36,198 and the death toll hitting 85,522 in the 212 affected countries and territories, according to the latest update from the World Health Organization (WHO).

In India, the number of confirmed cases touched 5,734 and the death toll reached 166 on 9th April. In all, 473 persons have been cured/discharged from the hospitals after recovery.

In Telangana State, the total number of confirmed cases increased to 471, with 12 deaths and 45 cases discharged.  

Globally, European region continued to be the worst-hit, with 7,59,661 confirmed cases and 61,516 deaths. American region came next with 4,54,710 confirmed cases and 14,775 deaths. Western Pacific region’s tally stood at 1,15,852 confirmed cases and 3,944 deaths. Eastern Mediterranean region reported 85,350 confirmed cases and 4,459 deaths. South-East Asia region recorded 11,576 confirmed cases and 468 deaths and African region witnessed 8,337 confirmed cases and 349 deaths. WHO Risk Assessment at global level remained very high.

No new country/territory/area reported cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours. The daily situation report will now report the COVID-19 transmission scenario for each country using the definitions published in the updated global surveillance guidance published on 20th March. Transmission scenarios are self-reported by Member States to WHO. The determination of transmission scenario is still pending for some Member States. The transmission scenarios are: no confirmed cases, sporadic cases, clusters of cases, and community transmission.

As millions of Christians, Jews and Muslims celebrate Easter, Passover and Ramadan, WHO has released guidance for religious leaders and faith-based communities in the context of COVID-19.

Today marks 100 days since WHO was notified of the first cases of “pneumonia with unknown cause” in China. In the media briefing, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros recalled the work that WHO and its partners have been doing over this period and the continuing efforts to stop the pandemic in five key areas.

“This is a special time of year for Christians, Jews and Muslims around the world. Today WHO has published practical considerations and recommendations for faith-based communities. We know that COVID-19 means billions of believers are not able to celebrate in the way they usually would. But we wish everyone a safe and joyful Easter, Passover and Ramadan,” the WHO Director-General observed.

Having faith during COVID-19

A sad reality of the COVID-19 pandemic is that many people have been infected in settings where they turn to for comfort at these difficult times. There have been outbreaks of COVID-19 among religious communities due to certain religious practices. To help stop transmission in communities while allowing people options to worship, WHO’s Information Network for Epidemics (EPI-WIN) brings together members of diverse faith-based communities in virtual meetings and discussions.

The EPI-WIN team and faith experts discuss the critical role of religious leaders and faith-based communities in saving lives and reducing illness during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Faith-based communities play a substantial role in supporting local health systems; advocating for the rights of vulnerable populations; providing support and comfort to communities; and being a trusted source of information. They are often integrated into broader communities through the services they provide, and in doing so they reach the most vulnerable groups with assistance and health information.

The EPI-WIN team and the faith community have co-developed practical guidance and recommendations to support the special role of religious leaders, faith-based organizations, and faith-based communities in COVID-19 education, preparedness, and response. This includes:

Sharing evidence-based information about COVID-19, preparedness, and response;

Avoiding large group gatherings and conducting rituals and faith-related activities remotely/virtually, as required and whenever possible;

Ensuring that any decision to convene group gatherings for worship, education, or social meetings is based on a sound risk assessment and in line with guidance from national and local authorities;

Ensuring safe faith-based gatherings, ceremonies, and rituals when they do occur;

Strengthening mental and spiritual health, well-being and resilience, through individual contact (while observing appropriate physical distancing) and through social and other communications media;

Ensuring a human-rights-based approach to advocacy, messaging and service delivery;

Addressing stigma, violence, and the incitement of hate;

Promoting ecumenical and interfaith collaboration, and peaceful coexistence during the COVID-19 pandemic;

Ensuring that accurate information is shared with communities; and misinformation in addressed.

EPI-WIN have also developed a mass gatherings risk assessment tool and a decision tree.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, in its Update on COVID-19, on April 9th, said the Government of India is taking several steps along with the States/Union Territories for the prevention, containment and management of COVID-19 in the country. These are being regularly reviewed and monitored at the highest level.

A high level meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM) on COVID-19 was held at Nirman Bhawan under the chairpersonship of Dr. Harsh Vardhan. The Group of Ministers (GoM) had detailed deliberation on containment and management of COVID-19. GoM also deliberated on the adequacy on PPEs, N-95 masks and ventilators.

GoM was apprised that 30 indigenous manufacturers for PPEs have been developed, 1.7 Crore order for PPEs have been placed and the supply has already started, and 49,000 orders for ventilators have been placed. GoM also reviewed the testing strategy and availability of testing kits across the country along with the strategy for hotspots and cluster management.

GoM also directed that Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) should be utilised as per prescription and is not advised for patients with cardiac irregularities or those suffering from cardiac disease which can be harmful. GoM was also informed that sufficient stock of Hydroxychloroquine is being maintained in the country.

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has deputed high level multi-disciplinary Central teams to assist the States and State Health Department in activities pertaining to cluster containment plan and hospital preparedness (ICU & Ventilator management for COVID-19 patients). The teams have been deputed to Bihar, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana & Uttar Pradesh.

Additionally, the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR labs) and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB labs), Hyderabad and Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), New Delhi have started working together on the whole genome sequencing of Novel Coronavirus to understand the evolution of virus.

Several districts are adopting various innovative measures for management of COVID-19. Some of these best practices are as follows:

Karnal District:

Adopt a Family program: People of Karnal with  families, industry, and those living abroad, have contributed generously to adopt needy families in Karnal contributing donations approx. Rs 64 lakhs which will take care of 13,000 poorest families throughout the district. Efforts are also being made to distribute 90,000 meals per day to vulnerable groups. Technology such as dedicated ‘Karnal Live Tracker’ to track the home quarantines & also an online local delivery app- Need on Wheels (NOW) have been facilitated by the local District Administration to procure vegetable/fruit wholesalers & dairies.

Lucknow district: Efforts have been made to use hotels to serve as the quarantine centres.

The Director of Public Health and Family Welfare, Government of Telangana, in a media bulletin on April 9th, said that in view of COVID-19 global pandemic, the state of Telangana has strengthened surveillance, contact tracing and containment measures against the possible spread of disease. In all, 26 districts out of 33 in the State have reported positive cases so far. However, till date there is no evidence of community transmission in Telangana.

Diagnostic labs (6) are functional 24/7 to meet the Diagnostic demand. The travelers and the contacts of Markaz, Delhi are being tracked, tested and treated for COVID-19. Containment activity has been taken up in all the districts where the positive cases are reported. The State is taking all the measures to contain the spread of the virus to protect and safeguard the public. (eom)

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