As India reported its fourth novel coronavirus (COVID-19) death and the total number of cases climbed to 173, the government Thursday tightened the lockdown further, banning the landing of all international commercial passenger flights for a week from March 22.
In Punjab, a 70-year-old man, who had returned from Germany via Italy on March 7 and died at a hospital in Nawanshahr district on Wednesday, tested positive. Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said the man had a history of diabetes and heart disease.
The Ministry of External Affairs also confirmed the death of an Indian patient in Iran. The government said on Wednesday that 255 Indians in Iran were infected.
With senior citizens, with co-morbidites like diabetes, hypertension and asthma, accounting for all the four deaths in the country so far, the Health Ministry issued a fresh advisory, asking those above 65 years and children below 10 years to stay at home.
While 22 fresh cases were confirmed on Thursday, 20 of the total COVID-19 positive patients have recovered so far.
In Agra, Dr Mukesh Vats, CMO, said seven of eight patients who had tested positive earlier had recovered. “In the initial cluster, five people had tested positive. Then a factory owner and his wife tested positive. These initial seven cases have been cured and are being discharged. The last patient who tested positive a few days ago is also recovering, with almost negligible symptoms,” he said.
Extending the travel ban after barring the entry of passengers from the European Union, Turkey, UK, Afghanistan, Philippines and Malaysia earlier this week, the government on Thursday banned all commercial passenger flights from March 22 till March 29 midnight.
Most of the states and Union territories also imposed fresh restrictions on public transport and gatherings. In Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced the closure of restaurants till March 31, but takeaway outlets will remain open. He said gatherings of more than 20 people will not be permitted. He also said hands of people to be quarantined at home will be stamped.
States have been asked to reduce the frequency of buses and Metro trains to prevent crowding, and “to enforce work from home for private sector employees except those working in emergency/ essential services”.
The Railways has cancelled 155 pairs of trains so far, keeping in view low occupancy and coronavirus pandemic.
Government offices have been asked to stagger timings and allow 50% of Group C and D staff to work from home.
Agarwal, however, said this was not a lockdown. “Lockdown is a very inappropriate word. The government’s effort has been to prepare for an evolving global scenario. Our measures started from January 17. To err on the side of caution will help us,” he said.
Citing data from the ICMR’s random sampling exercise, he said there has been no instance of community transmission of the virus in India.
He refused to discuss the case of a man from Uttar Pradesh who took a train to Tamil Nadu and was found to be positive — a situation that has raised fears of community transmission.
Earlier, a 64-year-old man in Mumbai with travel history to Dubai, a 76-year-old man from Kalaburagi in Karnataka who had returned from Saudi Arabia, and a 68-year-old woman in Delhi died.
Meanwhile, on March 21, Air India will fly a dreamliner with a capacity to seat 236 passengers to Rome to evacuate Indians stranded there.
(with inputs from Amil Bhatnagar)
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