Coronavirus India updates: The total number of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in India increased to 11,933 till 5 pm on Wednesday as 1,118 new cases and 39 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said. While the count of active cases stands at 10,197, the death toll neared the 400-mark with 392 fatalities.
In its daily press briefing, the Health Ministry also said as of Tuesday, 170 districts were identified as COVID-19 hotspots while 207 were identified as non-hotspots. The ministry, however, denied any community transmission in India but added that there have been some local outbreaks.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has issued fresh guidelines where select additional activities will be allowed “in order to mitigate hardship to the public”. The government has exempted all agricultural and horticultural activities. The exemptions have been extended to even the fisheries and poultry sectors. MNREGA work will also be allowed by following social distancing and use of protective gear.
Maharashtra and Delhi have the maximum number of cases of the novel coronavirus, accounting for over a third of the total cases in the country, followed by Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan.
The government has released a set of revised guidelines allowing activities like agriculture, IT, e-commerce and inter state transport in order to “mitigate hardships to public”. Exemptions have been extended to fisheries and poultry sectors. MNREGA work has also been allowed with social distancing and the use of protective gear. Under MNREGA, priority will be given to water conservation and irrigation.
All health services such as chemists, pharmacies, veterinary hospitals will remain open, and manufacturing units of medical equipment and drugs will be allowed. In the farming sector, operations including procurement of agricultural products, agriculture marketing through notified mandis, manufacture, distribution and retail of fertilizers, pesticides, construction of roads, operation of tea, coffee and rubber plantations have been allowed. In the financial sector, RBI, banks, ATMs, capital and debt market services as notified by SEBI, insurance companies have been allowed to function. Transportation of goods will be permitted without any distinction of essential or non-essential.
However, travel by air, rail and road, educational and training institutions, cinema halls, shopping complexes are not allowed during this time period.
Hundreds attack health workers, police in Moradabad, CM Adityanath directs action under NSA
A team of health workers and police officials were allegedly attacked with stones in a Moradabad locality in Uttar Pradesh, where they had gone to put family members of a COVID-19 patient under quarantine. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath Wednesday condemned the attack and directed that action will be taken against the accused under the National Security Act (NSA) and cost of property damage will also be recovered from them.
According to an official, the incident occurred in Nawabpura area, where people in huge number attacked the medical personnel and policemen. “The doctors were attacked and we had to run for our lives. We did not have adequate protection and there were only four policemen. There were hundreds of people involved in the attack,” said a medical support staff caught in the attack. A police vehicle was also damaged, an official said.
The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has declared 38 wards across six zones in Bengaluru as hotspots after at least one positive COVID-19 case was reported from each of the wards in the past 28 days.
According to the data analysis made by the BBMP’s COVID-19 war room, 38 of 198 wards in the BBMP limits have been identified as hotspots. As of Wednesday morning, Bengaluru has reported 80 coronavirus cases where 31 people have been recovered and two have died in the city. “If one ward has one positive case, we are declaring it as a hotspot for coronavirus,” said a senior BBMP official. The BBMP data shows that 11 wards have one or more cases and the remaining 27 wards had only one case each in the past 28 days.
The BBMP South Zone has the highest hotspots with 12 wards followed by East Zone (9 wards); West Zone has seven wards and Mahadevapura has six wards. Both Bommanahalli and Yelahanka have two wards each.
An 11-day-old infant and two others tested positive in Rajkot taking the districts tally to 21 while the state’s tally reached 719, with 66 new cases Wednesday. The toll touched 30 with a 45-year-old woman from Surat, which reported six new cases today, succumbing to the disease.
In Botad, an 80-year-old man tested positive, marking the first case in the district. He has since been admitted to a private medical facility in the city where his condition is stable, Botad district collector Vishal Gupta told The Indian Express.The number of cases in Ahmedabad reached 404 following 31 new cases. An ambulance driver residing in the city was among those who tested positive. The man is a native of Dana village in Kheda district but has not visited the area since March 22. Kheda district officials confirmed they will in any case be contact tracing members of his family.
As many as 121 of the 1142 samples sent to Delhi from Indore have tested positive for COVID 19. The reports were received late Tuesday night. Coupled with the 99 results received from local labs, Indore registered more than 200 positive cases on Tuesday, the highest single day spike.
Forced with a backlog of nearly 1,500 samples, the Indore administration was forced to seek the state government’s help in sending a special plane to Delhi with samples. Indore labs can test little more than 200 samples per day. The number of positive patients from Indore has reached 544, including the sample reports received from Delhi. Authorities said some samples belong to people from nearby districts but admitted that the number is still very high. They said most of the samples tested in Delhi belong to people who are already in quarantine.
Meghalaya on Wednesday reported its first Covid-19 death, of a 69-year-old doctor in Shillong, who tested positive two days ago, authorities said, adding that six persons in close contact with him have tested positive. Of the total 40 positive cases reported from the northeast, this is the second death. Earlier, a 65-year-old patient from Assam’s Hailakandi district died.
“Of the 68 tested so far, 6 have come out positive who are all family members & helpers of the first Covid-19 positive case. 6 other cases are being retested. All the rest of the cases are negative,” tweeted Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma.
The growth of India’s wholesale inflation eased to 1 per cent in March, according to the data released by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry. The wholesale inflation which is measured in terms of wholesale price index (WPI) grew 2.26 per cent during the month of February and it rose to 3.10 per cent in March last year, the data showed.
The build-up inflation during the financial year 2019-20 rate was at 1.00 per cent, against 3.10 per cent in the corresponding period a year ago, as per the data.
Apart from the headline figure, the WPI Food Index, which consists of ‘Food Articles’ and ‘Food Product’ eased to 5.49 per cent in March against 7.31 per cent a month ago, the commerce ministry data revealed.
The Mumbai police on Wednesday registered three FIRs in connection with the gathering of a crowd near Bandra station on the day the nationwide lockdown was extended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While the first FIR was registered against a crowd that had gathered near Bandra station, the second was against one Vinay Dubey who had put up a video on social media saying migrants should take to the streets. Dubey has been formally arrested.
The third FIR by the police was against ABP Correspondent Rahul Kulkarni for his news report railways will be running trains for migrants.
On Monday, Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar was included in a list of 16 districts to share best practices in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, with representatives of 700 districts of the country.
The key factors that distinguish Srinagar in dealing with the pandemic, include early response, aggressive contact tracing and use of information technology alongside enhanced testing and surveillance. Nearly 15,000 policemen and 1000 surveillance teams scan the city every day to enforce stringent lockdown.
The district has, so far, recorded 53 positive coronavirus cases against a population of over 17 lakh, since the first case was reported on March 18. Nineteen others from Delhi and Kerala are also quarantined by the administration on their arrival in the district on March 26 after the administration’s ‘control room intelligence team’ tracked them.
In a relief to six lakh firms and over five crore subscribers, the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) on Wednesday deferred payment of March contributions till May 15 in view of the nationwide coronavirus lockdown, which entered its 22nd day.
“Considering the unprecedented situation created by COVID-19 and lockdown announced by the Central Government from March 24, 2020 midnight onwards to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the due date for filing of Electronic Challan Cum Return (ECR) for wage month March, 2020 is extended up to May 15, 2020 for employers who have paid wages to their employees for March, 2020,” a Labour Ministry statement said.
At the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, where 1,200 beds have been set aside for COVID-19 patients, suspected cases and those infected with the disease have been segregated into wards depending on their faith. As per hospitalisation protocol, a suspected COVID-19 case is kept in a separate ward from those confirmed, as long as the test results are pending. As many as 150 of the 186 people admitted in the hospital for coronavirus are positive. According to sources in the hospital, at least 40 of the 150 are Muslims.
While Medical Superintendent Dr Gunvant H Rathod said a ward for Hindu patients and another for Muslim patients had been created as per a state government decision, Deputy Chief Minister and Health Minister Nitin Patel denied any knowledge of it. Deputy CM Patel told The Indian Express, “I am not aware of such a decision (on wards as per faith). Generally, there are separate wards for males and females. I will enquire about it.” Ahmedabad Collector K K Nirala also denied any knowledge of the matter. “There has been no such instruction from our side and we are not aware of any such government decision,” Nirala added.
The Gujarat government Wednesday informed that Chief Minister Vijay Rupani was examined by two leading doctors who found him “completely healthy” with all his parameters normal. The state government, however, said that no visitor will be allowed to enter the CM’s official residence here for the next one week.
CM Rupani’s health has come under scanner after he met three Congress MLAs at his official residence in person Tuesday and one of the MLAs – Imran Khedawala – tested positive later in the evening.
Rupee slides to all-time low of 76.44 as dollar strengthens
Paring its early gains, the rupee declined by 17 paise to close at its all-time low of 76.44 against the US dollar on Wednesday, tracking weak domestic equities and strengthening of the American currency overseas. Forex traders said a firm US dollar index weighed on the local unit. Besides, investor sentiment remain fragile amid concerns over the impact of coronavirus outbreak on the domestic as well as global economy.
At the interbank foreign exchange, the rupee opened strong at 76.07, but soon lost ground and finally settled at 76.44, registering a fall of 17 paise over its previous close. During the session, the rupee witnessed high volatility and touched a high of 75.99 and a low of 76.48 against the US dollar.
India has now reached out to China to meet its requirement of of 15 million personal protection equipment (PPE) kits, which includes gowns, masks, gloves and goggles. Nearly 1.5 million rapid test kits will also be procured from China, some of which have already been delivered. India is depending on China for the PPE overalls as Indian doctors have complained of shortage of PPEs in the hospitals. This comes at a time when China is facing complaints of exporting low quality items from European countries. However, after facing criticism, China stepped up quality checks on exports of 11 categories of medical products, including masks, protective suits, goggles and ventilators.
The Madhya Pradesh government Wednesday removed Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC), from the list of hospitals designated as COVID-19 facilities in the wake of allegations that survivors of the 1984 gas tragedy, for whom the super specialty hospital was set up, were left to fend for themselves.
After the government declared BMHRC as a dedicated COVID-19 hospital on March 23, Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) had moved Madhya Pradesh High Court to challenge the decision. The organisation alleged that since the facility was closed for gas survivors in the current scenario, the condition of some of them worsened because they were denied treatment elsewhere. Rachna Dhingra of BGIA also said that a few gas survivors had died in the last few days.
An analysis of the first 50 COVID-19 deaths in Mumbai that account for 62.9 per cent deaths (112) in the state, shows that just over half of them died within hours or a day of hospitalisation. In almost half of these cases that led to deaths, the patients tested COVID-19 positive after or just before their death.
The state government is holding an experts’ meeting to conduct a death audit in each case to understand why these patients died so soon after admission and address possible gaps — delay in admission, testing and their experience of being turned away by hospitals. A nine-member task force has also been set up in Mumbai to formulate a treatment protocol for critical patients. Six hospitals have been designated to treat critical patients in Mumbai on Monday.
Of the first 50 deaths analysed by The Indian Express, based on data from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and Maharashtra government:
* 14 patients died within hours of hospital admission.
* 26 deaths happened within a day of admission.
* In 11 cases the test result came positive after death, in 14 cases it came positive barely hours before death.
* 39 were men and 11 women.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has said that he has been informed by the experts that the COVID-19 curve would not flatten in India before the month of September, adding that it was not possible to keep people in lockdown for so long. Speaking to media persons through a video-conference, Amarinder said, “The curve will not be flattened on May 3. Experts tell me it will be flattened in September. We cannot keep people in lockdown till then. But even after the lockdown ends, we will take precautions that the virus does not spread exponentially.”
Singh, however, said he was “satisfied with the way things were moving, the way patients were being handled, the way lockdown was able to keep the cases in control and the way frontline workers were engaged in ensuring essential supplies”. On his earlier claim that 87 per cent people could get infected by the virus in Punjab, Amarinder, while showing a copy of the report, said it was a protection made by a PGIMER expert. “It meant that if we were not able to keep things in check, so many people could have been infected. But now, this lockdown has helped. In Punjab, we may have no new case when we are out of this lockdown.”
Over 60 per cent of the COVID-19 deaths in India have been reported from just four cities, while Maharashtra accounts for nearly half of all deaths. Mumbai, Pune, Indore, and Delhi together accounted for over 60 per cent of all deaths, a total of 232 out of the 382 deaths. Ahmedabad, with 13 deaths, and Hyderabad, with 12, together accounted for another 25. These six cities together have seen two thirds of all deaths. Delhi had 30 deaths until Tuesday evening, while Indore had seen 37 of the 53 deaths in Madhya Pradesh.
Indore and Pune also had a very high ratio of deaths compared to the number of people who had tested positive. Till Tuesday, 374 people had tested positive in Pune, and 38 of them had died, which means one death for every 10 positive cases. In Indore, 411 people had tested positive till now, and 37 had died, meaning one in every 11 positive case had succumbed to the disease. A majority of the positive cases as well as deaths in Indore were of people linked to last month’s Tablighi Jamaat event in New Delhi.
With the extension of the nationwide lockdown till May 3, airlines have started planning or gradual resumption of operations from May 4. These plans, however, remain contingent to the government clearing the way for economic activity to resume. India’s largest airline IndiGo said Tuesday that it will resume flight operations May 4 onward, initially with a curtailed capacity. The airline said it will increase the operating capacity going ahead over the subsequent months, also re-opening some international flights.
Aviation is pegged to be one of the main sectors to have severely felt the heat of the COVID-19 outbreak, with questions being raised over the very survival of certain airlines. “Airline business is a very high fixed cost business with major expenses including fuel costs (~30-35% of total costs), lease charges (~30-35% of total costs) and O&M (operations and maintenance) costs (~15-20% of total costs) constituting more than 85-90% of the total costs,” CARE Ratings noted in a research report published.
As Covid-19 drowns temple festival season, Kerala’s elephant owners feel the blues
For owners of captive elephants in Kerala, the summer months of March, April and May are generally a hectic period. This is the time when a large number of temples in the state observe their annual festivals which are considered ritualistically incomplete without caparisoned elephants swaying to traditional percussion beats. However, the ongoing nationwide coronavirus lockdown, which just got extended to May 3, has left elephant owners staring at dark days ahead as all temples have suspended elaborate festivals and shut its doors to the public.
The transgender community in Karnataka has been hit hard by the coronavirus-induced lockdown, with the closure of public spaces and cancellation of weddings resulting in a loss of earning. Social ostracisation has forced the community to largely depend on seeking alms, sex work, and doing other odd jobs for survival. Several transpersons who are also HIV positive couldn’t access Anti Retroviral Treatment (ART) amid the lockdown.
In a relief to the community, on April 9, the Karnataka High Court directed the state government to immediately provide pension and extend relief under the ‘Mythri Scheme’ for transgenders. In its observations, the bench noted that members of the transgender community should be paid two months’ worth of pension amounting to Rs 1,200 in advance due to the lockdown in effect in the state.
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