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Coronavirus India update March 19: Death toll rises to four, total cases now at 173

Coronavirus (COVID-19) India news updates: As India intensifies measures to stem its outbreak, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the nation at 8 pm to talk about steps being taken against the virus.

Written by Abantika Ghosh , Kanchan Vasdev , Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi |
Updated: March 19, 2020 8:36:55 pm
Workers making face mask in a small factory in Mumbai Byculla area on Thursday. Masks are in great demand in the wake of corona pandemic. (Express Photo by Amit Chakravarty)

The death toll due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has risen to four in India after a 70-year-old man, who returned from Germany via Italy a fortnight ago, died at a hospital in Punjab’s Nawanshahr district. The septuagenarian, who had diabetes and hypertension, tested positive after he died at the Banga community health centre on Wednesday. The Ministry of Health, in its latest update, also confirmed that the number of positive COVID-19 cases has jumped to 173 in India on Thursday, including 19 who have recovered and four deaths.

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As India tightens measures to stem its outbreak, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the nation at 8 pm to talk about steps being taken against the virus.

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No int’l flights from March 22, no evidence of community transmission

In a press briefing, the Health Ministry announced that no scheduled international commercial passenger aircraft shall be allowed to land in India from March 22 for one week. It added that no evidence of community transmission has been found in India as of yet. The Ministry also stated that Air India will be mounting a 787-Dreamliner to Rome on March 21 to evacuate stranded students and other travellers.

The government also requested states to enforce work from home for private sector employees except those working in emergency/essential services. It also said that in order to reduce crowding, all Group B and C central government employees will be asked to attend offices on alternate week and staggered timings for all employees.

A study by scientists at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai has found that the relatively slow increase in the number of novel coronavirus patients in India, as of now, could be the fact that every infected person has been passing on the virus only to another 1.7 people on an average. If the same rate persists, India is likely to have around 200 positive cases in the next five days, says the study.

According to Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO’s representative in India, the country’s response has been comprehensive and robust. In an interview with The Indian Express, he said, “India does need to step up testing, and it is on that path. What is important is that since mid-February, India has included testing for patients having severe acute respiratory illness from the surveillance system — these are people who have no travel or contact history. Some results have already come out negative, other results will be out by end of the week.”

Delhi govt shuts restaurants; gathering over 20 people not allowed

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced that his government has decided to close restaurants in the national capital till March 31. “Eating at restaurants will be prohibited but take away of foods or delivery of food will continue,” he added.

The Chief Minister also said that a gathering of 20 or more people will not be allowed at any place for social, cultural, religious, academics, seminars, conferences purposes. Earlier, 50 or more people were not allowed to gather.

The chief minister also asked those directed to undergo quarantine to follow rules or strict action may be taken against them.

Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh report first positive coronavirus cases

The Chandigarh health department confirmed the city’s first positive case of coronavirus on Wednesday night. The patient, a 23-year-old woman, had returned from England on Sunday. After developing symptoms, including fever and cold, she was admitted to the isolation ward at the Government Medical College and Hospital in Sector 32.

A 24-year-old woman from Chhattisgarh also tested postive, the first from the state and is currently undergoing treatment in an isolated ward in AIIMS, Raipur. The woman had apparently traveled from London to Indore and then to Raipur on March 15. She had not been screened at the airport but had reported to AIIMS to get a routine check-up when her sample was collected, sources said.

Coronavirus India updates Passengers await the arrival of trains at railway stations as several rail services in Mumbai have been suspended or cancelled amid coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo)

Mumbai also reported two fresh cases this morning, taking the total number of patients in Maharashtra to 47. Karnataka also reported a positive case in Coorg and now has 15 patients. Delhi has, so far, reported 12 positive, 17 in Uttar Pradesh, 27 in Kerala, six in Telangana, four in Rajasthan and 17 in Haryana. The number of cases in Ladakh rose to eight and Jammu and Kashmir four. Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Pondicherry, Chandigarh and Punjab have reported one case each.

Tamil Nadu has two cases so far but the Health Minister C Vijayabaskar said the latest 20-year-old was a “domestic case”.

PM Modi to address nation on COVID-19

In his address at 8 pm, PM Modi will touch upon issues relating to COVID-19 and the efforts to combat it. The move was announced after a high-level review meeting chaired by him on Wednesday. In the meeting, PM Modi emphasised on engaging with the citizens to chalk out a mechanism to fight the virus.

He also lauded the doctors and medical staff working at the forefront of combating the virus. This will be his second address on Coronavirus.

Punjab bans public transport, postpones school exams

In view of the coronavirus outbreak, the Punjab government has decided to halt all public transport, including state-run and private buses and autorickshaws from Saturday. The state has also decided to shut down hotels and restaurants till further orders and the leave of SSPs and DCs has been cancelled. They have been asked to stay put in their place of posting. In addition, the government has decided to postpone school examinations on the lines of CBSE. The new schedule would be notified later. Punjab has already shut down schools, coaching centres, gyms, taverns and banned the congregation of more than 50.

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Railways cancels 84 more trains; 155 cancelled till Mar 31

The Indian Railways has cancelled 84 more trains between March 20 to March 31, officials said. This takes the number of trains cancelled to 155. These include IRCTC operated two Tejas Express trains and one Humsafar Express train.

“All passengers having tickets in these 155 trains are being informed about it individually. No cancellation fee will be taken for these trains. Passengers will get 100 per cent refund,” an official was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.

Tourist specials like Maharaja, Buddhist, Bharat Darshan, and state specials have already been cancelled. The decision to cancel the Tejas service between Mumbai-Ahmedabad and New Delhi-Lucknow and the recently launched Humsafar service between Indore-Varanasi was taken on Wednesday night, officials said.

The Indian Railways also decided to suspend all concessional tickets except for patients, students and those in the Divyangjan category from the midnight of March 20 till further notice to discourage unnecessary travel in view of the coronavirus outbreak. This means that all other train concessions, like senior citizens, farmers, war widows, VIPs, delegates, etc stand suspended for now.

On Tuesday, the Railways had issued a set of guidelines to zonal railways for its catering staff stating no employee having fever, cough, runny nose or difficulty in breathing “should be deployed in the business of food handling on the Indian Railways”. As a precautionary measure, most railway zones also increased the prices of their platform tickets to discourage large crowds.

On the other hand, Mumbai’s dabbawalas (tiffin carriers) decided to suspend delivery services till March 31 in order to limit the risk of the spread of coronavirus. Some five thousand dabbawalas deliver around two lakh lunch boxes to offices in Mumbai every day. The state government has already announced the closure of all schools and colleges in urban areas till March 31. Shopping malls across the state will also remain shut till month-end. Grocery stores, which sell commodities of daily need at the mall, will remain open.

Mumbai’s Haji Ali, Mahim Dargahs closed for devotees

No entry will be allowed to devotees at the landmark Haji Ali Dargah (shrine) as well as the popular Mahim Dargah in Mumbai in view of the coronavirus epidemic, it was announced on Thursday. The decision to stop entry at the two shrines till further notice was taken following the Maharashtra government’s advice to avoid crowding in public places, said Suhail Khandwani, Managing Trustee of Mahim Dargah and a Trustee of the Haji Ali Dargah. Both these shrines attract lakhs of devotees, Muslim as well as non-Muslim, every year.

Earlier, the famous Siddhivinayak temple in the city had taken a similar decision.

All board exams cancelled

The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) has postponed the ICSE (class 10), ISC (class 12) examinations scheduled to end on March 31. The ICSE examination was scheduled to conclude on March 30, while ISC, Class 12 examination on March 31, 2020.

coronavirus, coronavirus outbreak, coronavirus spread, coronavirus in india, positive cases in india, lucknow news, coronavirus news, indian express Prayagraj: Students wear masks in the wake of deadly coronavirus after appearing in their board examination, at an examination centre, in Prayagraj, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (PTI Photo)

The council will notify the revise dates after re-assessment of the situation, the council release stated. Meanwhile, following the Union HRD ministry direction, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has postponed all examinations scheduled from March 19 to 31. This includes re-examination for students in Northeast Delhi affected by the recent riots.

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