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Led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has started working on a COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan to ensure it can "administer the vaccine at the first available opportunity" to its healthcare workers and elderly people amid reports of some vaccines showing promising results.
Vaccine maker Serum Institute of India's CEO Adar Poonawalla has said the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine should be available for the country's vulnerable population by February 2021 and by April for the general public, and will be priced at a maximum of Rs1,000 for two necessary doses for the public.
Worldwide, more than 13 lakh people have died because of COVID-19 and 5.5 crore have been infected since the novel coronavirus first surfaced in China late last year.
According to the World Health Organisation, Europe remains the hardest hit region, accounting for 46 per cent of new global cases and 49 per cent deaths in mid-November. In Switzerland, among the worst-hit in Europe, the society of intensive care medicine, SSMI, has warned that ICU "are practically all full".
India's capital city Delhi is also facing a similar pressure on its hospitals. Authorities on Friday said they had added 205 ICU and 116 oxygenated beds amid rising coronavirus cases attributed to the festive season, non-compliance of the COVID-19 safety behaviour and rising pollution in the city.
Delhi continued to record the highest number of daily Covid cases in India at 6,608, followed by Kerala with almost 6,000 new cases, Maharashtra (5,640), West Bengal (3,626) and Haryana (3,104). These states also logged the highest Covid-linked deaths in the past 24 hours.
In the US - the worst hit in terms of absolute numbers with more than 2.5 lakh deaths - schools have been closed and some states, including California and Ohio, have imposed a curfew on social gatherings and other non-essential activities. Other restrictions include closure of indoor dining, and limit on gatherings.
Localised restrictions are also being imposed in many states in India, which broke its 47-day spell of more recoveries than new Covid cases on Thursday. In parts of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, no one except those engaged in providing essential and emergency services will be allowed to come out during these hours starting today.
Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana, Manipur, which intended to reopen schools after Diwali, have either delayed resumption of physical classes, or allowed districts to take that call as per the local spread. High-level teams have also been sent to Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Manipur to monitor the fight against coronavirus.
Air India flights from Delhi to Hong Kong have been banned till December 3 after a few passengers tested positive for the novel coronavirus post-arrival earlier this week, an official said on Friday. This is the fifth time Air India's flights from India have been banned by the Hong Kong government for bringing passengers who tested positive for COVID-19 after arrival.