263 Indian students, stranded in Italy, flown back to Delhi; confirmed cases in India climb to 324
The special Air India flight carrying 263 Indian students that took off from Rome landed at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport today at 9.15 am. They will be taken to the quarantine facility in Chhawla. Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases in India has climbed to 324.
From 22 to 31 March, general public will not be allowed to travel in Mumbai local trains. Meanwhile, Delhi Metro closed operations today in view of the janta curfew.
The four-year-old child, who was suspected of COVID-19 and has been tested in Jorhat Medical College and Regional Medical Research Center, has been found negative. Passengers were seen stranded outside New Delhi railway station and Mumbai’s Lokmanya Tilak Terminus as all passenger and intercity trains have been cancelled till 10 pm on 22 March.
The total number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in India rose to 315 Saturday after more than 60 fresh cases were reported in various parts of the country, the Union Health Ministry said.
“Total number of confirmed cases so far in the country as on 21 March including foreign nationals is 315,” the Health Ministry said late Saturday.
The spurt in the new cases, the highest so far in a single day, came as several states went into battle mode to contain the pandemic, announcing partial shutdowns and imposing restrictions on people’s movement and gatherings among a slew of precautionary measures.
While the Rajasthan govt ordered lockdown across the state, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani ordered the closure of shops and malls selling non-essential items in four cities — Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, and Rajkot, till Wednesday.
In Maharashtra, where restrictions were already in place since Friday, the police took actions against those who violated the lockdown arresting over a thousand in Nagpur alone.
The country is also set to observe a “janata curfew” from 7 am to 9 pm on Sunday after Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday pitched for social distancing, asking people, barring those in essential services, not to get out of their homes.
The Congress, while announcing its support to the move, urged the Central Government to create an economic relief package, especially targetting the farmers, daily wage earners and small and medium scale businesses that are likely to be affected the most by the lockdown due to the virus.
Globally, Italy’s tally of coronavirus cases and deaths continued to soar, with officials on Saturday announcing new day-to-day highs: 793 dead and 6,557 cases.
The country, at the heart of western Europe’s rampaging outbreak, now counts 53,578 known cases.
Across the Atlantic, New York state officials considered establishing temporary hospitals on college campuses and in New York City’s main convention centre in preparation for a possible onslaught of coronavirus patients.
In Germany’s southern state of Bavaria, town squares were empty. Pigeons outnumbered people in London’s usually bustling Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square a day after the British government ordered the closure of all bars, restaurants, movie theaters and other places where people congregate.
But shoppers still flocked to street markets in both countries, in a sign that restrictions were being interpreted in a patchwork fashion.
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 recorded in Africa rose above 1,000 Saturday, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 40 of Africa’s 54 countries now have cases.
Almost 287,000 cases have been confirmed globally, including more than 11,900 deaths, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 89,000 people have recovered.
Kerala record 12 new cases, Maharashtra leads with 63 overall
The figure of 315 includes 39 foreign nationals, including 17 from Italy, three from the Philippines, two from the UK, one each from Canada, Indonesia and Singapore. It also includes four deaths — reported from Delhi, Karnataka, Punjab and Maharashtra.
The data includes 63 cases in Maharashtra (three foreigners), followed by Kerala at 40, including seven foreign nationals.
However, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan placed the total cases in the state at 49 with the state recording 12 more fresh cases of coronavirus on Saturday.
Delhi has reported 27 positive cases, which include one foreigner, while Uttar Pradesh has recorded 24 cases, including one foreigner.
In Gujarat, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said the state has 13 coronavirus positive patients, with six new cases reported. Telangana has reported 21 cases, including 11 foreigners. Rajasthan has reported 17 cases, including two foreigners.
In Haryana, there are 17 cases, which include 14 foreigners. Karnataka has 15 coronavirus patients. Punjab and Ladakh have 13 cases each while Jammu and Kashmir has four.
Tamil Nadu Health Minister C Vijaya Baskar said three foreign nationals under observation have tested positive and the total number of cases has risen to six. Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal have reported three cases each. Odisha has two cases. Puducherry, Chhattisgarh and Chandigarh have reported one case each.
More states join lockdown
A number of states and union territories Saturday announced measures aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot ordered a lockdown in the state from 22 to 31 March 31 except for essential and medical services.
Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani announced the closure of shops selling non-essential items in the state’s four largest cities — Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, and Rajkot — till 25 March. he also said that government offices will operate at half strength on a rotational basis till 29 March.
The Chhattisgarh government ordered the closure of all its offices, except those providing essential and emergency services, till March 31.
In Odisha, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced a “near-total” shutdown in five districts and eight other prominent towns for a week from Sunday morning.
These districts and towns were identified as over 3,000 residents have returned to these places from abroad in the past few days.
The Goa government imposed section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) across the state to prohibit large gatherings.
Health Minister Vishwajit Rane said the state government has also issued an order banning inter-state transport, except for the supply of essential commodities, from Saturday night onwards.
Goa shares borders with Maharashtra and Karnataka, where several people have tested positive for coronavirus infection.
Private events, including weddings, have also been banned in Goa till further orders.
The Bihar government ordered shutting down of bus services, restaurants and banquet halls across the state till March 31 while the State Election Commission of Arunachal Pradesh announced that municipal and panchayat elections slated to be held in April-May have been temporarily put on hold.
The Nashik administration in Maharashtra banned the sale of liquor from Saturday till further orders in the district invoking the Epidemic Diseases Act and Disaster Management Act.
Konkan Divisional Commissioner Shivaji Daund issued orders restricting travel on suburban local trains in Mumbai only for those engaged in essential services or those requiring medical aid.
“All the people who are not related to emergency services should avoid unnecessary travel from railway. They will not be given the entry on the railway stations. The officials and staff involved in the emergency services will be verified based in their government identity card or appointment orders,” states the order issued by Daund.
“Those needing medical attention will be exempted. There are 135 suburban stations. Railways have reduced services by 35 to 40 per cent but we would like it come down further,” said Daund.
The order to close bars, including those located in five-star hotels and resorts and liquor shops was issued by Collector Suraj Mandhare.
The Akola district administration ordered a shutdown between March 22 and 24 during which all establishments except those selling essential items will remain closed.
The move is similar to the sectoral shutdown put in place in Maharashtra’s major cities like Mumbai, Pune, Thane and Nagpur.
In West Bengal, the Mamata Banerjee government ordered all restaurants, bars, pubs, nightclubs, amusement parks, museums and zoos to remain shut till 31 March.
The order, which aims to prevent all non-essential social gatherings, comes into effect on Sunday morning. The directive also applies to massage parlours and hookah bars, an official said, adding that strict action would be taken in case of any violation.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration said all its employees with foreign travel history along with their relatives would have to go for quarantine before resuming their duties.
Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that there’s no lockdown in the National Capital, but it may choose to do so if the situation doesn’t improve.
Suspicion of community transmission lingers
Late in the night, the state of Assam reported its first case with a four-and-a-half-year-old girl in Jorhat district with no travel history abroad testing positive.
Jorhat Deputy Commissioner Roshni Aparanji Korati said the initial results from Jorhat Medical College and Hospital (JMCH) were positive and the samples have been sent to ICMR-RMRC laboratory at Lahowal in Dibrugarh district for a recheck.
In a health ministry breifing, reporters questioned the health ministry officials on three cases in India who have no reported history of foreign travel and only had a history of domestic travel from Mumbai, Pune and Chennai, respectively.
The ministry officials, however, refused to call it a case of community spread and said efforts were on to trace their contact history.
Govt caps price of santisers, masks; Cost of COVID-19 test to not exceed R 4,500
The government also capped the price for COVID-19 tests at Rs 4,500 in private accredited labs.
Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary in the Union health ministry, asserted that the government is working to ramp up production of masks and sanitisers with states asked to allow deodorant manufacturers to produce sanitisers, adding there is no shortage of these items and people should not indulge in panic-buying.
The government also capped the maximum retail price of hand sanitisers at Rs 100 per 200ml bottle till 30 June this year amid a sharp rise in the prices of this product amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Similarly, the price of a 2 ply (surgical) mask has been capped at Rs 8 and that of a 3-ply (surgical) mask at Rs 10 till 30 June, Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said in a statement.
On 19 March, the government had placed price limits on alcohols used in making hand sanitizer.
At a press conference, the health ministry said it carried out training for critical care management at 1,000 places through video conference and will conduct nationwide mock drills on Sunday for emergency response to handle coronavirus cases.
Health ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said guidelines for coronavirus tests have been revised, directing that asymptomatic direct, high-risk contacts of confirmed cases should be tested once between day 5 and day 14 of coming in contact with an infected person.
Non-conformity to lockdown continues
A day before, India is set to observe “janata curfew”, residents continued to violate existing restrictions across the country.
Amid increasing cases of people affected by a coronavirus, a couple was deboarded from a Delhi-bound Rajdhani train after co-passengers noticed a home quarantine seal on the husband’s hand.
The Railways urged people to avoid non-essential travel for the safety of fellow citizens.
According to reports, Saturday also saw migrants leaving for their homes from big cities, where several cases of coronavirus have been reported, forcing the prime minister to appeal to migrants on Twitter to stay put wherever they are and not undertake train and bus journeys to their home due to the fear of coronavirus.
Modi cautioned people against any kind of travel, saying they are playing with their health and also putting their families at risk.
He said travelling in a crowded space increase the risk of its spread. The risk will also increase for the people who live where you will be headed, he added.
“It is my plea to you to stay put for a few days in the city where you are. We can all stop this disease from spreading by doing so. By crowding railway stations and bus stands, we are playing with our health. Please be concerned about your health and that of your families. Don’t step out of the home if not necessary,” the prime minister said.
Meanwhile, in some good news, Uttar Pradesh Health Minister Jai Pratap Singh, who had attended a party with Bollywood singer Kanika Kapoor days before she tested positive for coronavirus, tested negative for COVID-19 on Saturday.
The 66-year-old minister had gone into self-isolation after undergoing the testing here on Friday. Samples of 28 people who came in contact with him have also tested negative, King George Medical University spokesperson Dr Sudhir Singh said.
The Uttar Pradesh Police have Kapoor for negligence and committing acts that are likely to spread disease dangerous to life. She had attended at least three gatherings in Lucknow, including a party where political leaders were present.
Following Kapoor’s announcement, a number of people who came in contact with her directly or indirectly went into self-quarantine. They included BJP leader Vasundhara Raje, her MP son Dushyant Singh and parliamentarians Derek O’Brien and Anupriya Patel.
Former BSP MP Akbar Ahmad Dumpy, whose high profile party in Lucknow was attended by Kapoor, has decided to stay in isolation as a precautionary measure for 14 days at his farmhouse in Utttarakhand, an official said.
With inputs from agencies