Health

India imposes stricter rules to prevent COVID-19 spread during festive season

Night curfews have been imposed in all major cities and
restaurants ordered to limit customers, officials said.

However, state authorities were finding it difficult to
limit crowding in markets, religious sites and holiday destinations as they
were allowed to remain open, the officials said.

The country reported 13,154 new COVID-19 cases and 268
deaths in the last 24 hours, the federal health ministry said, with urban
centres reporting a big jump. It was the highest number of daily infections
since October.

Cases of infection by the omicron variant rose to 961 across
India.

Police in the financial capital Mumbai prohibited public
gatherings of five or more residents until January 7 as it recorded a sharp
jump in cases with 2,510 infections, the highest daily increase since May,
local authorities said.

“It is being seen that social gatherings are going on
in an unrestricted manner with people flouting all social distancing norms…we
are trying our best to control the spread of the virus,” said Rajesh Tope,
the health minister of the western state of Maharashtra of which Mumbai is the
capital.

Tope said the next 48 hours were critical for authorities to
prevent an escalation of fresh COVID-19 cases.

Earlier this week, India accelerated vaccine distribution by
approving Merck’s COVID-19 pill and two more vaccines for emergency use.

Asia’s third-largest economy has already said it will allow
COVID-19 booster shots for some of its population.

The emergency approvals come at a time measures are being
taken to ramp up oxygen supplies and hospital beds.

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But an ongoing strike by thousands of junior doctors against
the government has added pressure on the fragile health infrastructure.

Around 13,000 junior doctors across the country are
continuing with the strike to protest against delayed postgraduate admissions,
said Dr Manish, President of the Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association
India.

“We are continuing with the agitation,” said
Manish, who only uses one name. “If (COVID-19) cases are rising, then how
is the government planning to deal with the situation without these doctors in
the hospitals?”

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