With more than 1,000 people testing positive for the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) since yesterday, India’s tally inched close to 25,000 on Saturday with confirmed cases at 24,942, as per the latest update from the Union Health Ministry. While the death toll increased to 779, as many as 5,210 persons have been cured or discharged or migrated. Maharashtra continued to be the worst-affected state with the most number of cases (7,628) and 323 deaths and is followed by Gujarat (3,071 cases and 133 deaths) and Delhi (2,514 cases and 53 deaths).
In an attempt to ease the nationwide lockdown imposed to arrest the spread of the virus, the central government Friday eased curbs on select shops outside municipality areas with 50 per cent workers and mandatory precautions like wearing of masks and social distancing norms.
‘Revive, strengthen MSMEs’: Sonia Gandhi writes to PM Modi
Congress President Sonia Gandhi in a letter on Saturday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to strengthen medium, small and micro enterprises. “Govt has acknowledged MSMEs to be the backbone of our economy. It is time it takes measures to ensure revival and strengthening of that backbone. This is a case where timely and decisive action can make all the difference,”Gandhi wrote.
Among the demands put forward by Gandhi were:
- Announcement of Rs 1 lakh crore ‘MSME Wage Protection’ package
- Establishment and deployment of credit guarantee fund of Rs 1 lakh crore
- Actions taken by RBI must reflect in actions of commercial banks so that the MSMEs get hassle-free, timely credit
- Expansion and extension of RBI’s moratorium on payment of loans
- Issues like high collateral security, high limits on ‘margin money’ leading to lack of access to available credit must be addressed
Lockdown rules will not change in Maharashtra till May 3: Rajesh Tope
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Saturday said the lockdown rules will not be relaxed in the state till May 3. Talking to PTI, Tope said there was no clarity in the Centre’s latest order regarding reopening of shops. “We will get more clarity after a video conference with the Prime Minister on Monday,” PTI quoted Tobe as saying. “We haven’t taken any decision on the order of the Ministry of Home Affairs as yet. But there will be no further relaxation in lockdown rules till May 3,” the minister added.
The issue of sending migrant labourers back to their native places will also be discussed in the meeting with the prime minister, Tope said.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra recorded a staggering count of 818 Covid-19 positive cases on Saturday, the state’s highest-single day jump so far. This takes the total number of cases to 7,628 in the state, including 323 deaths.
Central team suggests stricter lockdown implementation in North Bengal
After assessing the coronavirus situation in West Bengal, the central team has written to West Bengal government suggesting stricter implementation of the lockdown in north Bengal, news agency PTI reported. On Friday too, Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) had sent a letter to Chief Secretary Rajiv Sinha with a strong observation about the treatment system for Covid-19 patients and sought details of the death audit committee constituted by the state to announce the death toll.
The Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government and the Centre have been engaged in a war of words over the arrival of two inter-ministerial central teams in the state to assess the preparedness in tackling the coronavirus outbreak.
UP govt starts bringing back workers
Uttar Pradesh government has started bringing back stranded labourers with 2,224 returning from Haryana in the first phase of the initiative, PTI quoted a senior official as saying on Saturday. Briefing reporters, Additional Chief Secretary (Home and Information) Awanish Awasthi said the first batch of workers was brought back in 82 buses from Haryana on Saturday, and 11,000 workers will return by Sunday. All the workers will be kept in a 14-day quarantine.
Orders have been issued to prepare shelter homes in the state in a major way so that the returnees can be quarantined there. “Instructions have been issued to install public address system at the shelter homes, and make arrangements for food and toilets,” Awasthi said.
With the lockdown officially delaying the 2020-21 academic year, a government-appointed committee has recommended that the traditional mid-July start for higher education should be pushed to September. Besides this, the panel has also recommended that the year-end or semester-end examinations that could not be held on schedule should be held in July.
The seven-member committee, which was set up by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to deliberate on issues related to examination and the academic calendar in the wake of the classroom shutdown, submitted its report Friday. The UGC will frame guidelines on university examinations, and the academic calendar based on the committee’s report. “The guidelines will not be binding on higher education institutions, but they will lay down the outer time limit by which the government expects them to start their new academic year,” said a source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Universities and schools across the country have remained shut since March 16 when the Union government announced a countrywide classroom shutdown as one of the measures to contain the outbreak.
Social distancing went for a toss in Chennai’s wholesale markets after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami permitted grocery and other necessary items shops to be remain open till 3 pm on Saturday in Chennai, Coimbatore Madurai, Salem and Tiruppur corporations as well as in districts like Thiruvallur, Kancheepuram and Chengalpet ahead of the complete lockdown from April 26.
In a statement on Friday, CM Palaniswami said Chennai, Madurai and Coimbatore municipal corporations will be under a total lockdown from 6 am on April 26 to 9 pm on April 29; Salem and Tiruppur municipal corporations will follow lockdown from 6 am on April 26 to 9 pm on April 28. Existing restrictions would continue to be in place.
Formulate a national plan for handling Covid crisis: Congress to govt
The Congress urged the government to formulate a national plan for handling the coronavirus crisis under the Disaster Management Act. Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said at a press conference via video-conferencing that it is time the government should rethink on lockdown measures as the country cannot have the “lockdown of people and lockout of the economy”.
He also called upon the judiciary to evolve a policy to ensure that the justice delivery system is considered an essential service during such crisis. Sibal alleged that bureaucrats, who do not have any idea about ground realities, were formulating policy for the government during the lockdown.
The Gujarat government has ordered all shops in all districts of the state to reopen only 50℅ of staff from Sunday. Precautionary measures such as wearing of masks and social distancing should also be observed, the order said. However, shops in containment areas, malls and shopping complexes would continue to remain shut.
According to the latest updates by the Ministry of Health and Family Affairs, Gujarat, with 3,071 cases and 133 deaths, is trailing only behind Maharashtra, which has recorded 7,628 cases and 323 fatalities so far.
Central teams assess COVID-19 situation in Ahmedabad, Surat
Separate central teams visited Ahmedabad and Surat in Gujarat on Saturday to take stock of the Covid-19 situation, officials said. “The central teams held discussions with senior officials of the local administrations in the two hotspot
cities on issues like rising cases of coronavirus and implementation of lockdown measures,” official sources told PTI.
The visit comes a day after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that the coronavirus situation in Ahmedabad, Surat, Thane (Maharashtra), Hyderabad (Telangana) and Chennai (Tamil Nadu) is “especially serious”. Till Friday evening, Ahmedabad alone had 1,821 positive cases, while the number of coronavirus patients in Surat district was 462. As many as 83 patients have died in Ahmedabad, while toll in Surat is 14.
18 members of UP family, another person test positive for coronavirus
A total of 19 people — 18 of whom belong to an extended family — have tested positive for coronavirus in Santkabirnagar district and have been admitted to hospital, a senior administrative officer said on Saturday. A student of the Darul Uloom Deoband seminary who had come to the district last month had tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week. His family members and close relatives were subsequently kept in quarantine and their samples were sent for testing, of which 18 have been found to be positive, District Magistrate Ravish Kumar Gupta said. Another person from Tilathi village in Bakhira police station area has also tested positive for the virus, Gupta said.
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