A 76-year-old man from Kalburgi, who died on Tuesday, is India’s first casualty due to coronavirus, announced Karnataka state government Thursday. This is reportedly India’s first fatality due to COVID-19. As the total number of confirmed cases in India rise to 74, the health ministry Thursday asked people not to panic, saying the focus is on preventive approach and there are adequate facilities available for testing. In a press briefing in the national capital today, the health ministry said, “India’s efforts to deal with coronavirus are in consonance with WHO and the focus is on preventive approach. Over 1,500 people are under observation for coming in contact with 74 positive cases of coronavirus.”
It also said there is no instance of any community transmission, adding there have been only local transmission. As of Thursday, the ministry on its website said that the total number of passengers screened at airports was 10,57,506.
The ministry gave a state-wise breakup for the cases: Delhi reported six positive cases and Uttar Pradesh 10. Karnataka has four cases, Maharashtra 11 and Ladakh three. Besides, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir, and Punjab have reported one case each. Kerala has recorded 17 cases, including three patients who were discharged last month after they recovered from the infection declared a global pandemic.
On Wednesday, in a big announcement, the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus as a pandemic. Before this, questions had been raised about why, despite the massive spread of COVID19, the WHO had continued to call it an ‘outbreak’, and not a pandemic.
‘Vaccines will take 1.5 to 2 years to develop’
In a media briefing, the Union Health Ministry’s joint secretary Luv Aggarwal debunked several myths, while allaying fears and relayed precautionary measures to be undertaken while asserting that there was no instance of any community transmission. “We have managed to isolate the coronavirus, we have 11 such isolates. Vaccines will take a minimum of 1.5 to 2 years,” PTI quoted the Health Ministry as saying.
GoM constituted on directions of PMO to monitor, evaluate preparedness
In a media briefing today, the health ministry also said that the government of India has evacuated 900 citizens along with 48 belonging to other nationalities like Maldives, Myanmar, Bangladesh, China, US, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Africa, and Peru. In addition, 83 evacuees from Italy who arrived yesterday have been housed at Manesar facility for quarantine, the ministry added.
“On the directions of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), a GoM was constituted to continuously monitor the situation and evaluate preparedness and formulate measures regarding the management of coronavirus in the country. The GoM has met 6 times so far, guiding, reviewing and monitoring the situation,” said Luv Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, Health Ministry.
Mask not always necessary, if a person maintains effective social distance
Reassuring that there’s no need to panic, the health ministry said mask is not always necessary if a person maintains effective social distance. The ministry also said that they have around 1 lakh testing kits available, additional testing kits have already been ordered and they are also in procurement. “Right now, luckily for India we do not have any community transmission. We have only a few cases that have come from outside & they have primarily affected their close family members. 52 testing facilities are located across the country. There are a total of 56 sample collection centers,” said Aggarwal.
Meanwhile, Rubina Ali from the Civil Aviation Ministry said they “expect 130-150 passengers from Iran to take an Iran Air flight and land day after tomorrow”.
What does this mean?
According to the WHO, a pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a pandemic as “an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people.” The same body defines an epidemic as “an increase, often sudden, in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected in that population in that area.
No evidence to believe that heat kills coronavirus
Busting a rumour that has been doing the rounds among the public at large, Dr R R Gangakhetkar from the Indian Council of Medical Research said, “Intuitive thinking tells you flu is not common in summer season; but we have no evidence that heat kills COVID2019, so we should be cautious.”
Close to 2500 tests can be undertaken at NIV every day; so far we have done only about 6000 tests across the country
Delhi govt declares COVID-19 an epidemic, orders shutdown of schools, cinema halls
Delhi government today declared coronavirus an epidemic and ordered the shutdown of schools, colleges, and cinema halls. “Disinfecting all public places, including govt, pvt offices and shopping malls, has been made compulsory, said Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. “Vacant flats owned by Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board to be used for quarantine,” he added.
“We all should work towards getting the virus out of our city,” said Kejriwal. The decision was taken after a meeting was held with the LG and senior Delhi government officials.
Meanwhile, another person has been tested positive for coronavirus in the national capital, taking the total number of confirmed cases to six.
No Central govt minister will travel abroad in upcoming days: PM Modi
In the wake of mounting cases in the country, and as a preventive measure, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday said no Central government minister will travel abroad in the upcoming days. Taking to Twitter, the Prime Minister said, “Say No to Panic, Say Yes to Precautions. No Minister of the Central Government will travel abroad in the upcoming days. I urge our countrymen to also avoid non-essential travel. We can break the chain of spread and ensure safety of all by avoiding large gatherings.”
<p “width=420″ lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Say No to Panic, Say Yes to Precautions.
No Minister of the Central Government will travel abroad in the upcoming days. I urge our countrymen to also avoid non-essential travel.
We can break the chain of spread and ensure safety of all by avoiding large gatherings.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 12, 2020
<p “width=420″ lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>The Government is fully vigilant about the situation due to COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus .
Across ministries & states, multiple steps have been proactively taken to ensure safety of all.
These steps are wide-ranging, from suspension of Visas to augmenting healthcare capacities.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 12, 2020
Karnataka confirms fifth case
Karnataka state has confirmed its fifth positive case of COVID-19. The latest addition is a 26-year-old male patient who came from Greece. “Patient is admitted and isolated at hospital and is stable. All primary contacts traced, asymptomatic,” the Department of Health and Family Welfare media bulletin read.
The man had landed in Mumbai from Greece on March 6 after which he travelled to Bengaluru on March 8, Karnataka health department clarifies.
The Karnataka government declared summer vacation for Bengaluru urban and rural schools. All schools in Bengaluru urban and rural will be closed from March 13, said Minister for Primary and Secondary Education S. Suresh Kumar on Thursday.
As per the latest bulletin, 1,220 people have been identified for observation, of them 292 persons have completed 28 days of observation and 906 persons are continuing under home quarantine. These include persons who have travelled to COVID-19 affected countries and contacts of COVID-19 positive cases. As of Thursday afternoon 18 people are admitted in selected isolation Hospitals in Karnataka. Till date 579 samples of symptomatic persons are sent for testing and 460 samples are reported as negative.
Thermal screening, checking at Bengaluru and Mangaluru airports have been stepped up. To date, 1,01,942 passengers have been screened in Karnataka. The Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru has screened 69,998 passengers and Mangalore International airport has screened 26,557 passengers. Also, 5,387 passengers have been screened at Mangalore and Karwar seaports.
Meanwhile, Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation postponed the start of new Fly Bus services to April 1, 2020 “due to COVIDー19 effect and slack traffic.” Earlier, it was announced that services from Bangalore airport to Anantpur in Andhra Pradesh will begin on March 13.
Three more coronavirus case in Maharashtra, number rises to 14 in state
Three more persons, one in Pune, one in Mumbai and another one in Thane, were tested positive for COVID-19, raising the number of cases in Maharashtra to 14. In Pune, District collector Naval Kishore Ram said a person who had travel history to the United States has tested positive. Here’s the breakup in the state: Mumbai 3, Thane 1, Pune 9, Nagpur 1.
How a Kerala district brought nearly 900 people within surveillance net
GPS tracking of quarantine locations, putting together spatio-temporal flow maps of route movements, assessing CCTV footage, call records and employing dedicated neighbourhood watch staff are some of the many ways in which a district administration and Kerala’s health department tracked down over 900 primary and secondary contacts of a family who returned from Italy carrying the Covid-19 infection.
Defence ministry sets up 7 more quarantine facilities for coronavirus patients
The Ministry of Defence has set up seven more quarantine facilities for COVID-19 patients, especially for Indian citizens being brought to back from coronavirus-hit countries, an official said on Thursday. The facilities have been set up at Jaisalmer, Suratgadh, Jhansi, Jodhpur, Deolali, Kolkata and Chennai. “We are expecting more civilians to be brought back to India. We are ready with our facilities,” Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand said. The Army is already operating a quarantine facility in Manesar while the one in Hindon, near Ghaziabad, is being operated by the air force.
What treatment is given to the patients of COVID-19?
There is no specific treatment. Patients are mostly given medicines for symptomatic relief — for example, paracetamol to bring down fever, sometimes medicines for relief from pain. Care is also taken to ensure they stay hydrated. The mortality of the virus is a little over 3%, and for most patients the body’s own immune system succeeds in fighting the virus
Rashtrapati Bhavan closes all public tour visits from Friday
The Rashtrapati Bhavan has closed all public tour visits from Friday as a precautionary measure against the spread of coronavirus, official spokesman said on Thursday. A brief statement released by the spokesman said the presidential house will remain closed for exploratory tour visit from Friday till further orders. “Moreover, the Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum Complex (RBMC) and the Change of Guard ceremony will not be open to public till further notice,” the spokesman said.
<p “width=420″ lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>The Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum Complex (RBMC) and the Change of Guard ceremony will not be open to public till further notice.— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) March 12, 2020
Bloodbath on D-Street
The benchmark equity indices on the BSE and National Stock Exchange (NSE) witnessed their single-day fall in absolute terms after they settled over 8 per cent lower on Thursday, tracking a fall in the global markets.
The S&P BSE Sensex fell 2,919.26 points (8.18 per cent), its biggest one-day fall in absolute terms, to settle at 32,778.14. During the intraday trade, the 30-share benchmark slipped as much as 3,204.30 points (8.98 per cent) to 32,493.10. From hitting a high of 42,273 on January 20, the Sensex is now down by over 23 per cent, in the bear phase.
Haryana declares Covid-19 “an epidemic”
Haryana has declared Coronavirus “an epidemic” today and also empowered Deputy Commissioners and other senior officers of the district administration and state government to enforce stringent measures including “sealing of the geographical areas” and “banning entry-exit of the population from the containment area” where the Covid-19 cases shall be found across the state.
The official notification issued by Haryana Governor Satyadev Narayan Arya has also detailed several regulations that shall remain in force for a period of one month (till March 11, 2021).
State’s health minister Anil Vij also announced it on his official twitter handle saying, “Covid-19 (Corona Virus Disease) declared epidemic in Haryana”. “Every country is initiating steps to combat the impact of corona virus. Similarly, India is also taking adequate measures. That’s why Haryana has declared Corona virus an epidemic. Haryana is the first state in the country to have declared this fatal disease an epidemic. Several regulations have been issued and officers have been given legal rights to act under the notification issued. Certain cases have come to light where people coming from corona affected areas or countries have refused hospitalisation and isolation. But, it shall no longer be accepted as the officials have now legal powers to forcefully hospitalise/ isolate the suspects,” Anil Vij said.
As per the notification issued by the Haryana Governor Satyadev Narayan Arya declaring Covid-19 an epidemic, all hospitals (government and private) across the state have been directed to have “flu corners for screening of suspected cases of Covid-19”.
We advise Indians to stay put wherever they are: MEA
In a media briefing, soon after the health ministry update, the Ministry of External Affairs has said the govt’s immediate concern is to contain and control coronavirus, so there is no need to panic. MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar also advised against conducting IPL. “We advise against conducting IPL, final decision lies with organisers,” he said.
“We advise Indians to stay put wherever they are and only travel under compelling reasons,” he added.
When asked whether India has received any requests from foreign countries for protective gear, MEA said, “We have received requests (for protective gear) from Bhutan, Maldives, Iran, and Italy. In China, it has already been dispatched.”
Steps taken by govt to contain outbreak
1. In an unprecedented move, India decided to suspend all visas, barring select categories, till April 15, effectively closing its borders for a month. It means that no foreign tourists can enter India for over a month now, affecting an already stressed economy. Several sporting events, including the IPL and the India Open badminton tournament were also scheduled to start this month.
“All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/ international organisations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till 15th April 2020. This will come into effect from 1200 GMT on 13th March 2020 at the port of departure.
Visa-free travel facility granted to OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) cardholders is kept in abeyance till April 15th, 2020. This will come into effect from 1200 GMT on 13th March 2020 at the port of departure. Any foreign national who intends to travel to India for compelling reason may contact the nearest Indian Mission,” the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said in a statement.
2. ‘Invoke provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897’
The Centre also advised all states and Union territories to invoke provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, which will enable them to enforce advisories as and when needed. The Act is routinely enforced across the country for dealing with outbreaks of diseases such as swine flu, dengue, and cholera.
Section 2 of the Act states: “When at any time the (state government) is satisfied that (the state) or any part thereof is visited by, or threatened with, an outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease, the (state government), if (it) thinks that the ordinary provisions of the law for the time being in force are insufficient for the purpose, may take, or require or empower any person to take, such measures and, by public notice, prescribe such temporary regulations to be observed by, the public or by any person or class of persons as (it) shall deem necessary to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof, and may determine in what manner and by whom any expenses incurred (including compensation if any) shall be defrayed.”
3. Travellers from selected countries to be quarantined
It also decided that all incoming travellers, including Indian nationals from COVID-19 nations – China Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany — after February 15, shall be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days. This will come into effect from 1200 GMT on 13th March 2020 at the port of departure. The health ministry has said employers should facilitate work-from-home for such employees during this period.
Can masks contain the coronavirus infection?
Masks are effective in containing the spread of infection. Any person with a history of travel to affected areas or of contact with infected persons, and showing symptoms of the disease, should use a mask. It is also important for medical staff to use masks. For the general population, it is not essential to use masks at the current moment. In fact, masks come with their own hazards. For a person with an existing medical condition, wearing a mask may inadvertently complicate the situation. Many experts have noted that people may wear a mask incorrectly, and they can increase the risk of infection by touching their face more often.
4. Restrictions on land borders
Advising Indian nationals to avoid non-essential travel, the ministry said: “International traffic through land borders will be restricted to designated check posts with robust screening facilities”.
Tripura also announced that it would close down Border Haats with Bangladesh as a precautionary measure. Earlier, Manipur had shut down border points with Myanmar to prevent the possible spread of the disease. In Tripura, a Bangladeshi national with high fever was sent back from the Akhaura International Check-Post (ICP) and denied entry into India.
Arunachal Pradesh also suspended the Protected Area Permits (PAPs) to foreigners to limit those entering the state. Sikkim had also announced similar curbs on the visit of foreigners.
5. Indians can return from COVID-hit countries only after corona-negative certificate
On March 10, the Director-General of Civil Aviation issued a circular that a certificate that those persons wanting to travel from Italy and Korea to India should get a certificate from those nations that they had tested negative for Covid-19. As several Indians, including those from Kerala, have been held up in Rome for want of this certificate, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has written to PM Narendra Modi seeking his intervention to get this direction withdrawn.
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