India is officially in the throes of the third wave of Covid-19. In an interview with national news channel, NDTV, India's vaccine task force head Dr NK Arora confirmed that the third wave has officially begun. According to Arora, metro cities like Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai together contain a combined 75 per cent of Omicron cases.
According to Arora, 12 per cent of the variants identified overall across the country were Omicron in the first week of December. The percentage increased to 28 per cent later.
"Around the major metro cities, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and particularly Delhi, it (Omicron) is over 75 per cent of all the isolates now," said Dr Arora, who is Chairman of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, told NDTV.
The NTAGI's confirmation comes after experts told Outlook that India was already in the early stages of the third wave.
While there is no clear benchmark for what constitutes as a wave, the rapidly growing number of Covid-19 cases across the country as well as the high R-values and test positivity rates across major cities in India including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru, indicate the onset of the third wave.
READ: Covid-19 Surge: India Already In Early Stages Of Third Wave, Say Experts. Here's What To Expect
Speaking to Outlook earlier, Dr Anurag Agrawal of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), jointly initiated by the Union Health Ministry of Health and other entities, had said that a third wave was "inevitable". Noted virologist Shaahid Jameel had also confirmed that the county was indeed in the early phase of the third wave.
At present, India has logged 1,700 cases of Omicron. States and union territories across the country have reported a spike in Covid-19 cases.
Maharashtra's active caseload crosses 50k Mark
Maharashtra reported 12,160 fresh coronavirus cases on Monday, 283 more than the previous day, and 11 new deaths, while the active tally crossed the 50,000-mark. With these additions, the state's Covid-19 tally rose to 67,12,028, while the death toll increased to 1,41,553. The state recorded 68 fresh cases of the new coronavirus variant Omicron in the last 24 hours, taking the tally of such infections to 578.
On a day when the nation kickstarted vaccination for children in the age group 12 to 15 years, the MVA government in Maharashtra decided to shut down schools for grades I to IX and XI till January 31. These will be applicable in the urban and rural areas of the state. However, the online classes will continue. There has been an unbridled rise in Covid-19 cases in the state with children getting infected in this ongoing third wave of the pandemic. There has been a significant increase of over 26 per cent in infections in the past few days.
Maharashtra chief secretary Sitaram Kunte held an emergency meeting with all the district collectors across the state and discussed with them ways to bring in more restrictions. Presently, night curfew has been imposed in many districts since December 25 last year.
Vaccination for children started out today at the nine jumbo Covid centres in Mumbai. Each centre has the capacity to vaccinate 1500 children every day. Maharashtra Health minister Rajesh Tope said that the vaccination for children had begun in every part of the state to an overwhelming response.
According to the city's civic body chief, Mumbai might see a lockdown if daily Covid-19 cases breach the 20,000-mark.
81% Covid-19 cases Omicron in Delhi
Delhi added 4,099 new COVID-19 cases with positivity rate jumping to 6.46 per cent in the past 24 hours. Health Minister Satyendar Jain saying the Omicron variant of coronavirus is behind the surge in infections in the city and more restrictions will be implemented if bed occupancy rate goes up.
The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) is expected to consider more restrictions in its meeting scheduled on Tuesday. Currently, Delhi is under Yellow Alert. However, as per Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), Delhi has reached the stage of Level 4 (red alert) restrictions that stipulates the closure of most activities and total curfew. The ‘red alert’, as per GRAP, comes into force after the positivity rate stays above 5 per cent for two consecutive days.
West Bengal imposes restrictions
West Bengal on Monday registered 6,078 new Covid-19 cases, 75 less than the previous day's figure, pushing the tally to 16,55,228, according to data by the state's health department.
Over hundred doctors and health workers at Kolkata’s different government hospitals have gone into isolation or been hospitalised over the past three days after testing positive for Covid-19. This happened at a time Kolkata recorded 9,752 cases in just one week and the hospitals were required to prepare for a surge in hospitalisation in another week.
In wake of the surge, West Bengal has imposed restrictions on gatherings and movement of people. The State Election Commission on Monday while sticking to its schedule for elections to four municipal corporations on January 22, said it would not allow large political rallies or road shows and would allow small teams of up to 5 political workers including the candidate for door-to-door campaigns.
Apart from that, a night curfew is in place from 11 pm to 5 am across the state. Local train services have been restricted till 10 pm at night with 50 per cent seating. Curbs have also been put in place in public places.
Children's vaccinations bring hope in J&K
The Covid-19 vaccination drive for children from 15-17 years age group was rolled out today across all the districts of Kashmir by the respective district heads, bringing hope to students about the reopening of schools in the valley that have been closed for three years.
In Srinagar, the vaccination started from Kothibagh Girls Higher Secondary Girls School. "We have not been able to go to school for the past three years after the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019 and subsequent Covid pandemic. We are hopeful that we will be able to join schools in March this year,” said a student.
The eligible teenagers are being given a Covaxin dose by the health workers.
“Vaccination is a critical tool to help stop the Covid pandemic. My humble request to the young friends to get vaccinated,” Lt Governor Sinha said.
“Don't be complacent after getting vaccinated. It’s crucial to continue following Covid-19 protocols and guidelines,” he added.
Meanwhile, cases of Covid-19 have been on the rise in Jammu and Kashmir as well. The area recorded 176 fresh cases of coronavirus on Monday, taking the infection tally to 3,41,802 while no new death due to the virus was reported from the Union Territory in the past 24 hours.
READ: Children, Health Workers Brave Snow, Harsh Terrain To Get Jabbed In Himachal
Rajasthan gears to vaccinate Nearly 53 Lakh Teens
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot launched the vaccination drive for children in the age group of 15-18 years at Rajkiya Adarsh Balika Uchch Madhyamik Vidyalaya in Jaipur on Monday. The state recorded 355 Covid-19 cases out of which 224 are from Jaipur. Also, 52 fresh Omicron cases were recorded out of which 38 are from Jaipur alone. In wake of the increase in the Covid-19 cases, the Rajasthan government has come up with a fresh set of guidelines directing the closure of schools in Jaipur city, putting a cap on the number of people attending political rallies, dharnas, fairs/festivals.
(Compiled with Inputs from Outlook reporters Haima Deshpande, Naseer Ganai, Snigdhendu Bhattacharya, Tabeenah Anjum, Rakhi Bose and PTI)