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COVID-19

WHO says COVID likely passed from bats to humans through another animal

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(Last Updated On: March 29, 2021)

A joint study between the World Health Organization (WHO) and China on the origins of COVID-19 says that transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario and that a lab leak is “extremely unlikely”.

According to a draft copy of the report obtained by The Associated Press the findings were largely as expected and left many questions unanswered. The team proposed further research in every area except the lab leak hypothesis.

The report’s release has been repeatedly delayed, raising questions about whether the Chinese side was trying to skew the conclusions to prevent blame for the pandemic falling on China, AP reported. 

But a WHO official said late last week that he expected it would be ready for release “in the next few days.”

According to AP, the report it received appeared to be the near-final version of it but that it was not clear whether the report might still be changed prior to its release. 

AP stated researchers listed different scenarios in order of likelihood of the origins of the virus. 

They concluded that transmission through a second animal was likely to very likely. They also evaluated direct spread from bats to humans as likely, and said that spread through “cold-chain” food products was possible but not likely.

The closest relative of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been found in bats, which are known to carry coronaviruses, AP reported. 

The report also stated that highly similar viruses have been found in pangolins, but also noted that mink and cats are susceptible to the COVID virus, which suggests they could be carriers.

The report is based largely on a visit by a WHO team of international experts to Wuhan, the Chinese city where COVID-19 was first detected, from mid-January to mid-February, AP reported.

 

COVID-19

COVID tragedy unfolding in India as Ganges festival continues

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(Last Updated On: April 14, 2021)

India’s new coronavirus infections hit a record high on Wednesday, as crowds of pilgrims gathered for a religious festival despite oxygen shortages and strict curbs in other areas.

The country reported 184,372 new cases in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed, taking total infections to 13.9 million. Deaths rose by 1,027, to a total of 172,085.

Despite the spike in infections, hundreds of thousands of devout Hindus gathered to bathe in the Ganges river on Wednesday, the third key day of the weeks-long Kumbh Mela – or pitcher festival.

Reuters quoted Sanjay Gunjyal, the inspector general of police at the festival, as having said around 650,000 people had bathed on Wednesday morning.

“People are being fined for not following social distancing in non-crowded ghats (bathing areas), but it is very hard to fine people in the main ghats, which are very crowded,” he said.

There was little evidence of social distancing or mask-wearing, according to a Reuters witness.

More than one thousand cases have been reported in Haridwar district in the last two days, according to government data.

From reporting less than 10,000 cases per day earlier this year, India has been the world’s worst-hit country since April 2 by new daily cases, with the government blaming a widespread failure to heed curbs on movement and social interaction.

Reuters reported that India’s richest state Maharashtra, the epicentre of the nation’s second wave, which accounts for about a quarter of the country’s cases, is due to impose stringent restrictions from Wednesday to try to contain the spread.

Elsewhere, overstretched private hospitals are turning patients away, placing an increasing burden on government facilities.

In the western state of Gujurat, local media showed a long queue of ambulances waiting outside Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, with some patients being treated there while they waited.

A hospital source, who declined to be named as he is not authorised to speak publicly, said this was because a lot of private hospitals were short of oxygen and were sending their patients to the public hospital, Reuters reported.

This comes after cases have risen exponentially over the past week.

According to Gulf News, patients are also being given oxygen in waiting rooms, lobby areas in hospitals were being converted into COVID wards, doctors in the country’s top hospital were sick en masse and the gas furnace grills at crematoriums were melting with bodies piling up at cremation centres.

Gulf News also reported that this comes amid relentless outrage and questioning – from citizens and the Congress – for the government to fast track approvals for foreign made vaccines.

According to Gulf News, unlike last year, there is real fear among Indians today who claim the country is in complete meltdown.

The complacency that ‘it doesn’t happen to us’ has finally been pricked – although not at the Ganges festival.

Reports indicate that Bollywood has virtually shut down, judges have the virus, the variants are more critical than what the country realises and the people are staring at lockdowns amid frantic pleas for help.

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Vaccine campaign now open for everyone over 18

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(Last Updated On: April 12, 2021)

The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) announced Monday all people above the age of 18 can now receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Ministry said that people can visit ten vaccination centers in Kabul – Indira Gandhi Hospital; Jamhuriat Hospital; Istiqlal Hospital; 102-bed Hospital in Khairkhana; 100-bed Hospital in Dasht-e-Barchi; Ahmad Shah Baba Hospital; Tani Kut and Sar-e-Kotal Hospitals; Kabul central polyclinic hospitals, and Kabul regional clinic, Hutkhel.

MoPH officials said that pregnant women and people under the age of 18 will not be vaccinated.

Afghanistan started the rollout of its vaccine drive in early February after India donated 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

The MoPH stated that 15,781 people have received a dose of vaccine in the last 24 hours.

According to the Ministry’s tally, so far, 145,291 people – including 27,516 teachers and 77,919 health workers – have been vaccinated since the beginning of the vaccine campaign.

Meanwhile, the MoPH has recorded 122 new positive cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.

The MoPH’s tally shows that 57,364 people in Afghanistan have been infected with the virus since the first case detected in Herat last year.

So far, 2,529 have died of the virus, and 52,005 others have recovered.

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COVID-19

Iran reports 258 coronavirus deaths, highest daily toll since Dec

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(Last Updated On: April 11, 2021)

Iran reported 258 deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Sunday, the highest daily toll since early December.

That brings the total number of fatalities from the coronavirus to 64,490 in Iran, the worst-hit country in the Middle East.

Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV that 21,063 new cases were identified in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of identified cases since the pandemic began to 2,070,141.

“Unfortunately, in the past 24 hours 258 people have died from the virus,” Lari said. State TV said it was the country’s highest daily death toll since Dec. 10.

Iran’s Health Minister Saeed Namaki, in a televised news conference, warned about more fatalities in the coming week if Iranians fail to adhere to health protocols.

On Saturday, Tehran imposed a 10-day lockdown across most of the country to curb the spread of a fourth wave of the coronavirus. The lockdown affects 23 of the country’s 31 provinces.

Businesses, schools, theatres and sports facilities have been forced to shut and gatherings are banned during the holy fasting month of Ramadan that begins on Wednesday in Iran.

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