COVID-19 death toll reaches 7 as 75 districts go into lockdown in India while cases surge in Europe and North America
A surge in cases and deaths, powered mainly by Western Europe and the US, has brought the tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases close to 339,000 globally. Just under 14,700 people have lost their lives to it.
For many Indians, the reality of the pandemic dawned this Sunday when the nation stayed indoors for the Janta (people’s) curfew. Following the federal move, 75 districts have imposed strict lockdown orders until the 31st of March. Public transport services, restaurants, clubs and non-essential businesses will remain closed and everyone will be asked to stay indoors. Interstate and local trains have also been stopped - upwards of 23 million people rely on these services daily.
Developments in India
India has now reported 415 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus along with 7 deaths. Officials at ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) maintain that there is no community transmission yet - most cases have still been linked to those coming from the affected countries. However, there have been at least three cases with no apparent link to imported cases, so the possibility of community transmission is at the doorstep.
The country has been criticised for not testing enough people; over the weekend, health authorities widened the scope of testing from only travellers with symptoms to all those showing signs of acute respiratory distress.
Private diagnostic companies have been given permission to carry out testing as well. Only those firms that have a National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories certification will be allowed to collect samples, and only after a certified doctor has recommended a test. Samples will be collected at home and the price has been capped at Rs 4,500. However, earlier today, the diagnostic companies said that it will be at least a week before they will be able to conduct tests since their reagents are still waiting to get approval for sale.
The situation around the globe
The contagion maintained a death grip on northern Italy - 651 deaths were reported on Sunday alone, taking the tally up to 5,476 cases. This represents a 13.5% increase in deaths in a day. Spain now has close to 29,000 cases and over 1,770 deaths. What is of even more concern is that over 10% of those cases are linked to healthcare workers. Germany has close to 25,000 cases but fewer deaths at around 95. The country’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has been placed in isolation after her doctor tested positive for the virus.
In the US, there are now over 34,700 confirmed cases and over a third of those are in the densely packed New York City. The mayor, Bill de Blasio, has said that this is the greatest challenge the city has faced since the Great Depression.
The situation in China continues to be cautiously better - on Sunday there were 46 new cases, all but one of which were imported cases. The country now faces a different challenge - clamping down on cases coming from overseas and stimulating an economy that was forced to stop dead in its tracks.
In other major news, the Tokyo Olympic Games organizers signalled for the first time that they may be compelled to postpone the games in light of prevailing conditions. So far they had insisted that the games would go on as planned, in July.
Canada released a statement saying it would not send its athletes to the games due to health risks, and Australia issued a statement suggesting a postponement as well.
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Updated Date: Mar 23, 2020 13:47:37 IST
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