Migrants going back to their home town from the Shramik Special train brought to the railway station through buses in Ludhiana. (Express photo by Gurmeet Singh)
Union minister Nitin Gadkari Wednesday said the public transport services may resume operations soon and the government is formulating guidelines for safe usage adhering to social distancing norms to check the spread of coronavirus. His statement comes even as the Covid death toll in the country rose to 1,694 with 111 deaths reported since Tuesday evening, while the total number of cases increased to 49,391 including the 14,182 people who have been treated and discharged so far.
The Centre Wednesday came down heavily on the West Bengal government for not allowing movement of essential goods through the Indo-Bangladesh border, saying such acts would have international implications. The Union Home Ministry also told the state government that it had not implemented repeated directions from the Centre for free movement of cargo, in violation of the Disaster Management Act.
Meanwhile, states are gearing up to receive stranded Indians from abroad, who will be brought back by the government through its Vande Bharat Mission. New Delhi, for instance, put out guidelines Wednesday for screening and handling of travellers.
Globally, 257,277 people have died and 3,663,824 have been infected by the coronavirus. The United States has over 70,000 fatalities, followed by the United Kingdom (29,501), Italy (29,315), Spain (25,613) and France (25,537). As many as 1,199,254 people have recovered globally. With scientists worldwide working on a vaccine, an Italian medical firm has claimed to have developed a vaccinethat neutralises the novel coronavirus in human cells.
Coronavirus (Covid-19) Tracker India Updates: Death toll rises to 1,694, infections cross 49,000-mark; Mumbai withdraws relaxations; Centre tells West Bengal to allow trucks to cross Indo-Bangla border. Read live updates in Tamil, Banglaand Malayalam
Coronavirus India LIVE updates: Vendors donning PPE kits selling essential items from the other side of the barricades to residents of containment zone at Bapu Dham in Chandigarh.
Coronavirus India LIVE News Updates:
At least 85 personnel of the Border Security Force (BSF) tested positive for Covid on Wednesday, taking the number of infections within the force to 152. A Delhi Police constable died due to the disease; his colleagues are in self-quarantine.
The government Tuesday announced a Rs 13 a litre hike in excise duty on diesel and a Rs 10 a litre hike in excise duty on petrol in an attempt to shore up revenues as demand remains subdued due to the lockdown. Finance Ministry officials said the hike in excise duty, which comes into effect Wednesday, will not result in an increase in retail prices for the consumers.
This is the second hike in excise duty on fuel in two months by the Centre and comes after a hike in value added tax by several states over the last few days. A government notification said the special excise duty on petrol was hiked by Rs 2 a litre to Rs 12 a litre and by Rs 5 a litre to Rs 9 a litre for diesel. Road cess on both petrol and diesel has also been increased by Rs 8 a litre to Rs 18 a litre.
A man waiting outside to open grocery shop in Kolkata (Express Photo Shashi Ghosh)
The government had on March 14 hiked the excise duty, and road and infrastructure cess by Rs 3 a litre each for both petrol and diesel. Government sources said the revenue generated from these duties would be used for infrastructure and other developmental expenditure.
The government has also suspended all visas granted to foreign nationals, barring a few categories, till flight operations remain shut owing to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
All existing visas granted to foreigners — except those belonging to diplomatic, official, UN international organisations, employment and project categories — shall remain suspended till prohibition on international air travel of passengers from and to India is lifted by the government, an order by the Ministry of Home Affairs read.
With the eased lockdown in Mumbai leading to huge crowds and compromised social distancing,Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) commissioner Praveen Pardeshi issued an order Tuesday, withdrawing relaxations for Mumbai and disallowing sale of liquor in the city. The order allowed only shops selling essential goods to operate.
"A one-size-fits-all approach to the coronavirus pandemic is likely to increase inequalities in the long term."
“… It has been observed that the number of positive cases in the city of Mumbai have been rising and the downward trend is yet to set in and gathering of crowds in large numbers without following social distancing will be detrimental to the control of spread of virus and the advantage of the lockdown will be lost due to gathering of people in large numbers,” the order said.
Meanwhile, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School said in the Lancet that a one-size-fits-all approach to the coronavirus pandemic is likely to increase inequalities in the long term, so countries with less resources must let people get on with their lives — to work, earn money and put food on the table.