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A health worker talks to a woman in a quarantine centre for COVID-19 patients, in New Delhi, India, Monday, April 19, 2021. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: India said Monday it will open its COVID-19 vaccination drive to all adults from May 1, even as a few states imposed lockdowns to fight the massive spike in coronavirus infections.

“In a meeting chaired by (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi, an important decision of allowing vaccination to everyone above the age of 18 from 1st May has been taken,” the health ministry said in a statement.

India on Monday registered a record 273,810 new daily infections and 1,619 deaths. Its total number of cases now stands at more than 15 million, second only to the United States.

India, which currently limits shots to over-45s, kicked off its inoculation drive in mid-January and has administered more than 123 million shots so far.

India last week authorised the emergency use of Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine - the third to be given approval after Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield and Covaxin, which was developed by Indian firm Bharat Biotech.

The government said it would also fast-track approval of vaccines not made in India.

In the last seven days, India has recorded more than 1.4 million cases - an increase of 64 percent on the previous week, an AFP report said. Ten states - Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh - account for 78.58 per cent of the new COVID-19 cases reported in a day.

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People wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus line up to get tested for COVID-19 at a government hospital in Jammu, India, Monday, April 19, 2021. Image Credit: AP

Experts blame complacency about the virus, with the spike coming after daily cases fell below 9,000 in February.

There is also growing concern that virus variants, including a “double mutant”, are fuelling infections.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelled a planned trip to India next week due to the coronavirus, his office said.

Britain adds India to COVID-19 travel red-list

Britain is adding India to its travel “red-list” after detecting 103 cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in the country, health minister Matt Hancock said on Monday.

“We’ve made the difficult but vital decision to add India to the Red List. This means anyone who is not a UK or Irish resident or a British citizen cannot enter the UK if they’ve been in India in the previous 10 days,” Hancock told parliament.

“UK and Irish residents and British citizens who’ve been in India in the past 10 days before their arrival will need to complete hotel quarantine for 10 days from the time of arrival.” The rules come into force at 4am local time (0300 GMT) on Friday, Hancock said

Lockdown in Delhi

Delhi ordered a six-day lockdown on Monday. “Delhi’s health system is unable to take more patients in big numbers,” Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal told a virtual press briefing on Monday.

“If a lockdown isn’t implemented now the situation will go beyond control.” Fewer than 100 critical care beds were available in the city of New Delhi, with a population of more than 20 million people, Kejriwal had said on Sunday, as social media was flooded with complaints. Delhi reported 25,500 fresh cases on Sunday, with almost one-third of those tested returning positive coronavirus results.

It joins around 13 other states across the country that have decided to impose restrictions, curfews or lockdowns in their cities, including India’s richest state of Maharashtra and Gujarat, where the industrial city of Ahmedabad is also grappling with a shortage of beds.

Delhi traffic jam
Traffic jam at Anand Vihar after the announcement of a one-week lockdown imposed by the Delhi government amid the rise in COVID-19 cases, in New Delhi on Monday, April 19, 2021. Image Credit: ANI

The second wave of coronavirus in Delhi is likely to peak within a week after possibly hitting a positivity rate of 50 per cent before the numbers start to go down, senior medical experts said on Monday.

Dr Jugal Kishore, the head of community medicine at Safdarjung Hospital, said: “The virus spreads from person to person in close proximity. Over the last few months, people have been meeting each other at a greater pace without following COVID-19-appropriate behaviour. The results are before us.”

Schools have decided to pre-pone their summer break, a Delhi government spokesperson said on Monday. The summer vacations have been rescheduled and will now be from April 20 to June 9, reported ANI news agency. All government, government-aided and unaided recognised schools will be closed from tomorrow.

Night curfew in Kerala

Kerala will impose night curfew from Tuesday in an effort to fight the spread of the coronavirus. The curfew will be in place from 9pm to 5am for two weeks.

The decision was taken by the state government at a meeting of the COVID-19 core committee in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday. Public transport will not be affected and work from home will be implemented in all possible sectors.

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Restrictions in Punjab

In Punjab, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday ordered stricter restrictions beginning Tuesday, including extension of night curfew timings from 8pm to 5am, closure of all bars, cinema halls, gyms, spas, coaching centres with restaurants and hotels to be open only for takeaway and home delivery.

Rates for RT-PCR and rapid antigen testing (RAT) by private labs have been reduced to Rs 450 and Rs 300, respectively, with additional charges for home collection of the samples, in a bid to promote increased testing.

Gatherings of more than 20 people, including for weddings and cremations, have also been banned across the state, with approval of the district administration needed for all gatherings of more than 10 persons, except for cremations.

The new restrictions, which also include closure of all malls, shops and markets on Sunday, coupled with the ones imposed earlier, will remain in effect till April 30, announced the Chief Minister, directing the Police Department to strictly enforce the restrictions, taking support of civil society organisations where needed.

All weekly markets have also ordered to be shut down.

Lockdown in Rajasthan

The Rajasthan government has announced a 15-day lockdown starting from Monday that will continue till May 3. The home department, late on Sunday night, issued new guidelines, and the lockdown period has been named as ‘Public Discipline Fortnight’. All offices except those connected with essential services will remain closed.

Shops connected to grocery, fruit and dairy products will remain open till 5pm. Vegetable vendors have been allowed to sell their produce till 7 pm. Petrol pumps will remain open till 8 pm as per the new guidelines.

Public transport will remain open in the state and factories and manufacturing units will also remain operational.

Schools to close in West Bengal

The West Bengal government has announced that all state-run schools will remain closed from Tuesday till further notice.

“The summer vacations in the schools will commence from Tuesday and all schools will remain closed until further orders. The decision has been taken considering the current COVID-19 situation which is showing an upward trend. I have held talks with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the state Chief Secretary as well as the Education secretary in this regard,” state Education Minister Partha Chatterjee said.

When asked about the board examinations of Classes 10 and 12 that was earlier announced to be held in June this year instead of March, the state education minister said: “There is still reasonable time left before June. Decisions will be taken at the right time.”