On the second day of lockdown Thursday, the Finance Ministry in a relief to the unorganised sector, especially the daily wage workers, announced a package worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore towards them and an insurance cover for health workers. While the Health Ministry confirmed 694 coronavirus cases across the country and 16 deaths, it also said that the rate at which the number of cases are increasing seem to be stabilisng. “However, this is the inital trend,” Joint Secretary of the Health Ministry Lav Aggarwal said, reiterating to maintain social distancing to prevent ‘community transmission’ of the COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has urged the Centre to consider announcing sector-wise relief package, including tax breaks, interest subvention, deferment of liability. In a letter to the Prime Minister, Gandhi said she supports the 21-day lockdown and sought direct cash transfers of Rs 7,500 be made to bank accounts of Jan Dhan, PM Kisan Yojana, MGNREGA beneficiaries, among others.
Here are the latest updates on coronavirus from across the country today:
PM Modi noted alarming economic cost of coronavirus: MEA
In his remarks at the G20 Virtual Summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi noted the alarming social and economic cost of the coronavirus pandemic. He added that 90% of the COVID-19 cases and 88% of deaths were in G20 countries, even as they share 80% of world GDP and 60% of world population, the Ministry of External Affairs said.
G20 leaders agreed to take all necessary measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and protect people, the MEA said. They also supported the strengthening of WHO’s mandate in the fight against pandemics, including delivery of medical supplies, diagnostic tools, treatments, medicines & vaccines.
Committing to to use all available policy tools to minimise economic and social cost of the COVID-19, the G20 leader committed to restore global growth, market stability & strengthening resilience. G20 countries also committed to injecting over USD 5 trillion into the global economy.
Lockdown has Panipat’s migrant workers in a tangle
The lockdown is proving to be more fatal than the coronavirus itself for the daily wage earners and migrant workers in the textile hub of Panipat. With some of them having landed in the city in search of work just this Friday, the workers are stuck without accommodation or food.
“Some people arrived here around Friday. Before they could get work, the lockdown was put in place. There are a lot of people who do not have any money. Shop owners are also refusing to provide ration on loan, instead, they have increased the prices of grains and other essential items,” said handloom worker Altaf Hussain who lives in a rented room with his family of three.
“Nobody needs to move anywhere to register for the portal, we will go from door to door to take registrations and provide assistance directly to these workers,” said Hema Sharma, Deputy Commissioner, Panipat.
Karnataka records second COVID-19 linked death, woman traveled to Mecca
The Karnataka state health department announced the death of a second person due to COVID-19. According to health department officials, the 70-year-old patient had travelled from Mecca, Saudi Arabia along with her son (Patient 19) to Gauribidanur, Chikkaballapura district on March 14. She was tested positive for COVID-19.
“I regret to inform that the COVID-19 test result has come out as positive for Mallika Bai, who had succumbed to death yesterday. The govt stands committed to curb the spread of Corona Virus in the state. Please stay home, stay safe,” Medical Education Minister K Sudhakar confirmed in a tweet.
What is contact tracing, how much can it help control disease outbreaks?
The idea behind contact tracing is to stop the outbreak by breaking the transmission chains. Contact tracing is not a novel concept and has been used as a method to track cases of the Ebola virus in Africa. It is one of the methods of detecting an outbreak and the number of infected people. Research published in the journal Lancet in February on the feasibility of controlling the COVID-19 outbreak by using isolation of cases and contacts said that in order to control 90 per cent of the outbreaks, 80 per cent of contacts needed to be traced and isolated.
According to the health department media bulletin, four new Coronavirus cases were confirmed in the state till Thursday morning taking the toll to 55. Bengaluru has the highest number of cases in the state with a total of 35 cases.
Army chief says planning and preparing to fight COVID-19
Meanwhile, Army Chief General MM Naravane, in an exclusive interview with The Indian Express, spoke on the effect of spread of COVID-19 on the Army, its preparation and contingency planning. General Naravane said various measures had been promulgated with respect to restricting the movement of personnel, cancellation of conferences/ seminars, postings etc in view of spread of COVID-19.
“These measures are a must to prevent any further spread of COVID-19 and in sync with various directions and advisory issued by GoI,” he said.
“There are contingency plans in place and spread of COVID-19 will not affect the core efficiency of the IA. The temporary phase of postponing our routine activities will soon be overcome by rescheduling them as and when the situation stabilizes. As of now, our focus will be to combat COVID-19 aggressively by taking precautions, following lockdown and curfew measures effectively and preparing own resources for future scenario,” he said.
Assam morphs stadium into quarantine centre
States across India are prepping up to beat the novel coronavirus and are converting stadiums into massive quarantine centres and accelerating medical hires. In Assam — one of the few states in India without a positive case — the massive Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium also known as Sarusajai Stadium, is being converted into a quarantine centre, with a capacity to house approximately 1,000 people.
State Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma explained that if in a family any positive case emerges, then the other members of the family will be brought to the Sarusajai quarantine centre. Moreover, Sarma said that the government has prepared a module to train final year MBBS and nursing students in the state who would be an addition to the current number of healthcare providers involved in Covid-19 care.
All commercial flights suspended till April 14: DGCA
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has said all international commercial passenger flights will remain suspended till April 14, in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus. Earlier, on March 19, the DGCA had announced that no international commercial passenger flight operations will take place in India from 1.30 am on March 23 to 5.30 am on March 29.
“In continuation of circular-II dated 19.3.2020 issued on the subject cited-above, it has been decided that all scheduled international commercial passenger services shall remain closed till 1830 hrs GMT (0000 hrs of Indian Standard Time) of April 14, 2020,” the aviation regulator said.
“However, this restriction will not apply to international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by the DGCA,” it said.
Bid to ease passage of interstate vegetable trucks underway, says Govt
As retailers strive to commence delivery operations across cities, the Agriculture Ministry has assured around 1,600 fruit, vegetable wholesale markets are running smoothly pan-India, adding that another 300 will begin functioning from tomorrow.
An official from the ministry said control room at mandis will be set up to coordinate with the police for smooth movement of trucks. “Centre in touch with state governments to resolve challenges faced in inter-state movement of vegetable trucks,” the official said, reassuring social distancing and safety measures are being followed at markets.
Health Ministry directs 17 states to set up COVID-19 dedicated hospitals
The Health Ministry during its evening briefing said work has started in around 17 states for COVID-19 dedicated hospitals. Joint Secretary of the Health Ministry Lav Aggarwal Thursday said, “While the numbers of COVID-19 cases are increasing, the rate at which they are increasing in the country appears to be stabilsing,” adding this is only the initial trend.
The Ministry cautioned that community transmission phase of the virus will start if people and the government do not work collectively. “But it would never happen in India if we follow social distancing and treatment properly,” Aggarwal said.
FM Sitharaman announced relief package worth Rs 1.7 crore
Just a while ago, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a economic relief package worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore for those affected directly including migrant workers, urban and rural poor and announced insurance cover for health workers. Addressing a press conference, Sitharaman said, “We are looking both at cash transfers as well as food security measures for those affected directly.
“Under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, poor people will be provided 5 kg of rice or wheat per person for the next three months will be given for free. This is an addition to the already existing 5 kg of wheat and rice being provided. Besides, 1 kg of pulses will also be provided,” she said.
Delhi govt to test all health workers treating COVID-19 cases
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Thursday announced that all healthcare workers involved in the treatment of coronavirus positive patients will be tested. Delhi has reported 42 cases so far. In a joint press briefing with Lt Governor Anil Baijal, Kejriwal said that the Delhi Police ACPs and sub-divisional magistrates have been ordered to “personally ensure” functioning of essential services without any hindrance in their respective areas. The government has also decided to allow establishments providing essential services, including grocery shops, to operate round the clock.
Kashmir reports first COVID-19 death
A 65-year-old man who was tested positive for coronavirus infection died in a Srinagar hospital on Thursday morning. J-K government spokesperson Rohit Kansal announced it as the first death and said, “four of his contacts also tested positive yesterday”. The patients’ travel history has caused anxiety among the health officials, prompting a massive contact tracing. Director Health Services, Kashmir Dr. Samir Matoo had told The Indian Express that the person has attended religious gatherings in New Delhi, Deoband in Uttar Pradesh, Jammu region and also in Sopore in North Kashmir.
The number of cases also rose to 11 today, intensifying the restrictions on the movement and assembly of people. The security forces sealed off many roads and erected barriers to check the movement of people across the valley.
Special flight to take Iran-returned Indians to Jodhpur quarantine facility
SpiceJet said Thursday that it will fly a special flight Sunday to take 142 Iran-returned Indians from Delhi to Jodhpur so that they can be taken to a government quarantine facility there. “The special flight will be operated as per Government of India’s request and the airline will deploy its Boeing 737 aircraft for the assignment,” the low-cost carrier said in its press release.
The airline’s entire commercial passenger aircraft fleet of 82 Boeing 737, two Airbus A320 and 32 Bombardier Q-400s is currently grounded as the government has suspended domestic and international flight operations to curb the spread of coronavirus.
ICMR invites quotations from manufacturers for COVID-19 test kits
In an urgent move towards expanding the coronavirus diagnostics in India, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has invited quotations from manufacturers for supply of kits for the testing of COVID-19. The move comes in the wake of the number of coronavirus cases crossing the 600 mark in the country with 13 deaths recorded so far. According to the apex health research body, it will procure seven lakh US FDA-EUA/CE-IVD/ICMR-NIV Pune-approved RNA extraction kits. Any manufacturer with an Indian-based supplier can submit quotations by Thursday 2.30 pm, the ICMR said. The ICMR has asked the kit manufacturers to quote the prices of the kits, along with the number of tests that can be performed with one kit.
It has also sought to know the timeline for the supply of the seven lakh kits. “The ICMR has estimated a tentative requirement of 7,00,000 test kits for which quotations are invited. The requirement is to ensure supply as soon as possible. Hence, please quote your maximum supply capability in the first week, along with a firm commitment for subsequent weeks,” it said. It added that it might opt for parallel contracts to more than one vendor to ensure a timely supply.
Here’s a quick Coronavirus guide from Express Explained to keep you updated: Are smokers at high risk form coronavirus? | Can Vitamin-C prevent or cure coronavirus infection? | What exactly is community spread of coronavirus? | How long can the Covid-19 virus survive on a surface? | Amid the lockdown, what is allowed, what is prohibited?
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