As Gujarat reports 3,350 new cases, 5 officials, a minister, an MLA tested Covid positive
Surat, Anand, and Kheda, Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Vadodara, accounted for 86 percent of the state's new infections on Wednesday
Principal secretary of urban development and urban housing department Mukesh Kumar was given the extra charge of additional chief secretary (ACS) of health department on Wednesday after five IAS officers, including ACS health Manoj Aggarwal and health commissioner Jai Prakash Shivahare, minister of state Jitubhai Chaudhary and Navsari BJP
Piyush Desai, a member of the Legislative Assembly, tested positive for Covid-19.
The officials contracted the virus just before the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit (VGGS), which begins on January 10.
Even as the state reported 3,350 new Covid cases, one death in Amreli, and 50 Omicron cases — the highest single-day surge so far, bringing the tally of the variant to 204 — Ahmedabad city, where the weekly test positivity rate (TPR) has crossed 9% — the highest in the state — has introduced several curbs.
According to a news release from the state government, Chief Secretary Pankaj Kumar led a virtual conference with top officials from municipal corporations and districts to review the Covid situation and provide advise, which was also attended by Mukesh Kumar.
JP Gupta, principal secretary in the finance department, Rajkumar Beniwal, commissioner of municipalities, and Hareet Shukla, chief executive officer of Dholera SIR and tourism secretary, are among the IAS officers afflicted with Covid.
More officials have been compelled to take Covid testing by the state administration, which has also restricted access to the chief minister's office (CMO) in Gandhinagar to individuals who have Covid immunisation certificates. All government employees and officials have already received their second round of vaccine.
On Wednesday, Jitubhai Chaudhary, Minister of State for Water Resources and Water Supply, tested positive at a Rapid Antigen Tests initiative in Gandhinagar.
Chaudhary told, "On Tuesday night, I had throat infection, cough and cold, and I am in home isolation. My RT-PCR report will come Thursday morning. I did not visit office today and will be at my official address for a few more days."
Piyush Desai, a Navsari MLA, tested positive after experiencing symptoms and is now in home isolation. On Wednesday, the Navsari district recorded 41 cases, 16 of which are children. A RT-PCR test was also performed on a BJP MLA from Kaprada in Valsad, and the results are pending.
Due to an increase in Covid cases in Ahmedabad, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) announced on Wednesday that AMTS and BRTS buses will only be allowed to operate at 50% capacity starting January 6. The AMC will deploy teams as well as vigilance teams at various locations throughout the city to verify that the guidelines are followed.
Only fully vaccinated adults over the age of 18 will be permitted access into Science City in Ahmedabad, while those aged 15 to 18 will be permitted entry only if they have received the first dosage of the vaccine.
The AMC further stated that residential societies, apartments, and complexes must appoint a Covid-19 coordinator who will be in charge of ensuring that inhabitants are vaccinated, cooperating with AMC teams for testing and tracking exercises, and adhering to micro-containment zone regulations. AMC has created 23 new micro-containment zones, bringing the total number of such zones in the city to 86.
While the AMC has decided to hold its Flower Show 2022 at the Sabarmati Riverfront from January 8 to 23, Rajshri Kesari, a Congress councillor from Chandkheda at the AMC, filed a public interest lawsuit in the Gujarat High Court on Wednesday, asking the court to overturn the Standing Committee's resolution allowing the event. According to Kesari, the festival would only add to the spike of Covid-19 cases in the city because 400 people are allowed access every hour and the display is open for 11 hours a day.
Doctors have warned of a big spike due to existing political and cultural events, as well as the approaching Vibrant Gujarat summit. In a press release, Dr. Maharshi Desai, a critical care specialist at Apollo Hospitals in Ahmedabad and a member of the Gujarat State Covid Taskforce, said it would not be surprising if the daily increase in cases exceeds the numbers seen during the second wave of the pandemic, which was caused by the Delta variant.
"We are expecting a major hike in cases in the next 15 days. I would not be surprised if the daily count of new Covid cases during the third wave surpasses the figures registered during the peak of the second wave," Dr Desai said. He added that the infectivity of the Omicron variant is significantly more than the Delta variant, which itself was highly infectious.
Adding that Omicron is not less virulent than Delta, Desai said, "What has happened is that the community developed some immunity against the coronavirus due to prior exposure and large scale immunisation. However, people who are yet to take vaccines, as well as those with comorbidities, are at risk."
He believes that because of India's large population, widespread infection caused by the Omicron type could turn into a serious problem.
Apart from Ahmedabad, Rajkot city witnessed a near five-fold increase in cases — from 36 on January 4 to 141 on January 5 — while the district, which includes both city and rural borders, saw a three-fold increase in cases (159) from the previous day (57).
In Vadodara, the number of new infections doubled in a day, going from 94 on January 4 to 181 on January 5.
Surat, Anand, Kheda, Ahmedabad, Rajkot, and Vadodara districts, along with Ahmedabad, Rajkot, and Vadodara, accounted for 86% of the state's new illnesses on Wednesday, with 72,918 tests conducted across the state.