Amid virus curbs, India reports six-month high of coronavirus daily infections

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New Delhi

With 81,466 new coronavirus infections, India on Friday reported the highest daily number in six months.

Health ministry data showed the total number of cases surged to 12.3 million, making India the third-most hit country from the virus after the United States and Brazil.
The number of those dead rose by 469 to 163,396.

Vaccination drives have been intensified amid the recent surge of cases, and many states are considering imposing fresh curbs on the movement of people.

Maharashtra, the western state that has been worst-hit from COVID-19 so far, reported as many as 43,183 new cases on Friday – it’s highest since the pandemic spread to India in March 2020.

Officials in the state-imposed a night curfew over the weekend but are considering stricter control measures, including shutting down religious places and restricting train travel.

India imposed one of the world’s harshest lockdowns to control the coronavirus early last year, but it was eased to salvage the economy, and cases gradually fell later in the year.

The new surge this year presents a challenge to the government, which already struggled to implement last year’s lockdown.

Infection numbers were also up on Friday in the states of Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Punjab, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh.

On the other hand Citing updated trial data that included participants inoculated for up to six months, Pfizer and BioNTech said Thursday their COVID-19 vaccine is around 91% effective at preventing the disease.

The shot was also 100% effective in preventing illness among trial participants in South Africa, where a new variant called B1351 is dominant, although that rate was derived from a relatively small number of nine infections observed there, which were all in the placebo group, Pfizer said.

While the new overall efficacy rate of 91.3% is lower than the 95% originally reported in November for its 44,000-person trial, a number of variants have become more prevalent around the world since then.

Pfizer’s Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said the updated result, which includes data on more than 12,000 people fully inoculated for at least six months, positions the drugmakers to submit for full US regulatory approval.

The vaccine is currently authorized on an emergency basis by the US Food and Drug Administration.

The trial data “provide the first clinical results that a vaccine can effectively protect against currently circulating variants, a critical factor to reach herd immunity and end this pandemic for the global population,” Ugur Sahin, chief executive officer at BioNTech, said in a statement.

Experts fear new variants of COVID-19 from South Africa and Brazil may be resistant to existing vaccines and treatment.

More than 300 cases of the South African variant have been detected in more than 25 US states and jurisdictions, according to federal data.

Lab tests have previously indicated that BioNTech’s vaccine was less potent but still offered a robust defense against the B1351 variant that first emerged in South Africa.—Reuters