Coronavirus Outbreak: 22 states shutdown as total cases in India rise to 468; domestic airlines halt operations starting today till 31 March
The number of deaths in India due to the novel coronavirus rose to nine on Monday with 468 testing positive as the Centre announced a lockdown in 22 states and Union Territories
The number of deaths in India due to the novel coronavirus rose to nine on Monday with 468 testing positive as the Centre announced a lockdown in 22 states and Union Territories across the country and the Indian Council of Medical research recommended the use of an anti-malarial drug in cases of high risk.
The health ministry, in its daily press briefing on Monday, said Chandigarh, Delhi, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Ladakh, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Tripura, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh are under complete lockdown.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced a lockdown — sealing the state's borders, shutting down markets and directing private firms to give compulsory paid leave to all employees, including contractual — until the end of March. Beyond the 80 districts, states, including Maharashtra, which is leading in the number of coronavirus cases, Rajasthan and Punjab are now under effective statewide lockdowns after they imposed Section 144 that bars gatherings of more than four people.
ICMR recommends hydroxychloroquine in high-risk cases
The National Task Force for the novel coronavirus constituted by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recommended the use of hydroxychloroquine for high-risk patients.
However, ICMR Director-General Balram Bhargava said on Monday in a press conference, "Hydroxychloroquine is recommended only for a healthcare worker who is treating a COVID-19 patient. Secondly, it's recommended only for persons staying with and caring for a household patient who has been tested positive. They can take that only for prophylaxis, only for prevention.
Modi talks to captains of industry
Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked captains of industry to ensure that production of essential items is not impacted in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and there is no hoarding and black marketing. "The impact on the economy will be felt for some time to come," said Modi as he exhorted India Inc to adopt a humanitarian approach and not to cut down on workforce in spite of the COVID-19 negative impact on their businesses.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that companies' expenditure to fight the coronavirus pandemic will be considered valid under corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. The coronavirus outbreak will be treated as a disaster, the Finance Minister said on Twitter.
"Keeping in view of the spread of novel coronavirus, its declaration as pandemic by the World Health Organisaton (WHO), and decision of the government to treat this as a notified disaster. It is hereby clarified that spending of CSR funds for COVID-19 is eligible CSR activity," Ministry of Corporate Affairs said in an official notification.
"Funds may be spent for various activities related to COVID-19 relating to promotion of healthcare, including preventive health care and sanitation and disaster management," ministry's notification added.
Domestic airlines to halt operations
The operations of domestic commercial airlines will cease with effect from midnight on 24 March to 31 March as part of the government's measure to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country. Reports added that the restrictions will not apply to cargo flights. Airlines have to plan operations so as to land at their destination before 11.59 pm hours on 24 March, the reports added.
Ride-sharing services suspended in National Capital
Services of Ola and Uber will not be available in Delhi till 31 March amid the lockdown announced by the state government to contain the spread of coronavirus infection. The Delhi government on Sunday said the city will be in lockdown from 23 to 31 March, under which no public transport, including private buses, taxis and autorickshaws will be allowed.
"Uber is complying with all Central and State Government directives related to its services for containing the spread of Coronavirus," an Uber spokesperson said in response to a query. An Ola spokesperson said the company "will enable a minimal network of vehicles to support essential services in cities, wherever applicable, as part of this national effort to reduce the contagion of Covid-19".
The two companies -- which account for a major share of the taxis running in the national capital -- had already suspended temporarily their shared rides on their respective platforms. Speaking about its pool services, an Uber Spokesperson said, "We are determined to help reduce the spread of coronavirus in the cities we serve. With that in mind, we are suspending the Uber Pool service across India. In line with the Government advisory, we urge people to stay safe and discourage non-essential travel."
'Compelled to announce curfew': Uddhav Thackeray
Maharashtra, which saw a statewide curfew being imposed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, witnessed its number of coronavirus cases rise to 97. The state earlier reported that 15 people testing positive over the past 24 hours.
Uddhav said that he was "compelled" to announce a statewide curfew because "people were not listening" to quarantine guidelines. "All district borders sealed, no inter-district transportation allowed as Maharashtra government announces a statewide curfew. All essential services to function and their transportation also allowed but with restrictions," Uddhav said.
He added, "Yesterday we sealed the state borders and today we are sealing district borders. We will not allow it to spread to the districts which are unaffected as of now." Of these cases, 11 are from Mumbai, three from Thane, Vasai- Virar and Navi Mumbai, all part of the commercial capital's metropolitan region, and one from Pune, according to an official statement.
"Out of 14 positive patients in Mumbai (metropolitan) region, nine got the infection from their family member or friends who have earlier tested positive for the pandemic disease, while the remaining five have a travel history from Dubai, Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Australia and England," it said.
"One more relative of the COVID-19 woman patient admitted in Pune's Bharti Hospital tested positive today. She does not have any travel history, leaving authorities worried about where she got the infection from," an official said. The official also claimed the Philippines citizen, a Covid-9 patient, who died also had pre-existing complexities such as diabetes and asthma.
The report had stated that there are now 35 positive patients in Mumbai, followed by 16 in Pune, 12 in Pimpri Chinchwad and five in Navi Mumbai. Kalyan, Nagpur and Yavatmal have reported four cases each while Ahmednagar and Thane have two patients each.
Panvel, Ulhasnagar, Aurangabad, Ratnagiri and Vasai Virar have reported one positive patient each, taking the total number to 89, the report said. The state has seen two Covid-19 deaths so far. A total of 255 people are currently under quarantine in the state and these include both confirmed and suspected coronavirus cases. Quarantine facilities have admitted 2,144 people of which 1,889 have tested negative.
Delhi wears empty look
The Delhi Police directed people who are on the move for essential services to get curfew passes from the district office to ensure the adherence to Section 144. There were few vehicles and people on the roads in Delhi on Monday as many stayed indoors on the first day of the lockdown in the National Capital to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"Delhi has 30 cases. Twenty-three are those who have returned from abroad, seven are their family members who have been infected," Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted. "Currently, the situation is under control. Lessons from other countries state that if strictness is not adhered to, things can go out control. This is why there is a lockdown so that the situation does not go out of hand," Kejriwal said.
Kerala sees highest-single day rise
Kerala decided to go in for a total lockdown from midnight till 31 March with 28 new positive COVID-19 cases, the highest on a single day, being reported on Monday, taking the total number of people under treatment to 91 and more than 64,000 under surveillance.
With positive cases continuing to rise, the government decided to go in for the lockdown from midnight tonight till month end, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who held a series of high-level meetings with various departments and stakeholders, said. At least 64,320 are under surveillance in the state and 383 are in isolation wards of various hospitals.
Of the 28 new cases, 19 are from the worst-affected northern district of Kasaragod, five are from Kannur, one from Pathnamthitta, two from Ernakulam and one from Thrissur, Vijayan told reporters after a COVID-19 review meeting. This is the highest number of positive cases detected in the state on a single day.
With several instances of people in home quarantine defying medical advice to remain indoors, Vijayan said those in quarantine must strictly follow the health department's directions.
First COVID-19 death in West Bengal
ANI reported that a 57-year-old patient admitted to the AMRI hospital has died of a cardiac arrest and was detected as having contracted the novel coronavirus on Monday. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that the patient had travel history with Italy.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country. According to reports, Banerjee asked the Centre to stop all flights coming to the state and said that flights are causing a breach in the shutdown and quarantine protocol.
Gujarat CM warns violators
Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani promised strict action against people violating lockdown rules. The state has declared partial lockdown in Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Surat, Vadodara, Kutch, Devbhoomi Dwarka and Rajkot districts.
"I have instructed police to take action against those who are flouting lockdown norms. Before flouting rules of lockdown, one has to understand the situation in Europe. Developed countries like Germany, Italy, Spain have over 20,000 cases each. New York had five thousand cases in a day," Rupani said.
"The lockdown is to stop the spread of the disease. It is for general well being of the society. One should not think that we do not face any threat after we observed Janta curfew on Sunday. This has to be observed till 31 March if we have to win the fight against coronavirus," he said.
He assured people there was no shortage of essential items such as milk, vegetables and food. In several areas, police have started punishing people flouting lockdown norms by making them do sit-ups.
Gujarat DGP Shivanand Jha said that from 12 am on Monday, the entire state will be under lockdown till 31 March. "State borders have been sealed. Action will be taken against the people who will violate the lockdown," he said.
Rush to stock up in UP
People rushed to buy essential commodities and police stepped up their presence as a lockdown in 17 Uttar Pradesh districts began on Monday to fight the spread of coronavirus. On Sunday, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had announced in Gorakhpur that 15 districts in the state will be under lockdown in the first phase, from Monday to Wednesday.
A few hours later, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Awasthi said Pilibhit has been added to the list of districts. On Monday evening, Jaunpur become the 17th district under lockdown. Thirty-three people have tested positive for coronavirus so far in the state.
After the Janta curfew on Sunday, people in some areas were seen coming out to stock up on groceries on Monday morning. Some complained that traders had hiked the prices of vegetables. Lucknow Police Commissioner Sujit Pandey said members of his force were out in large numbers, making people aware of the lockdown and ensuring that essential commodities remained available. "Police are on the job," he said.
Pandey said 190 police vehicles and public address systems at road crossings in the state capital were put to use, asking people to remain indoors. Officials said those employed in essential services like banks and the health sector were being allowed to move about after showing their identity cards. "Efforts are on to see that people do not venture out unnecessarily, a senior official said.
The official said sanitisation work at major crossings and markets was also on. The lockdown is now in force in the districts of Lucknow, Agra, Gautam Budh Nagar, Ghaziabad, Varanasi, Allahabad, Kanpur, Aligarh, Moradabad, Lakhimpur Kheri, Bareilly, Azamgarh, Meerut, Gorakhpur, Saharanpur, Pilibhit and Jaunpur.
In a tweet on Monday, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath appealed to people to take the lockdown seriously and stay indoors to help check the spread of the virus.
आप लोग घरों के बाहर न निकलें बल्कि अपनी जरूरतों के बारे में अवगत कराएं। हम लोग पूरी तत्परता के साथ आपका सहयोग करने के लिए तैयार हैं। इसके अलावा, जहां भी आवश्यकता होगी, हम उस आवश्यकता की पूर्ति के लिए प्रतिबद्ध हैं।
— Yogi Adityanath (@myogiadityanath) March 23, 2020
Barring essential services, all government offices, educational institutes, autonomous bodies, business establishments, private offices, malls, shops, factories, godowns and public transport will remain shut in these districts, the state government said.
The government will periodically evaluate the situation and redefine essential services, Principal Secretary (Medical, Health and Family Welfare) Amit Mohan Prasad said.
The services declared essential include medical, health and family welfare, medical education, home, intelligence/prison administration, police, armed forces and paramilitary forces, personnel department, district administration, energy, urban development, food and civil supplies, disaster relief, fire services, civil defence, information, emergency services, telephone, internet, network services and IT-enabled services.
Postal services, banks, ATMs, insurance companies, e-commerce, media, petrol pumps, LPG and oil agencies, medicine shops, medical equipment shops and medicine producing units, agriculture production and animal fodder too have been classified as essential services.
Save Punjab, urges CM
Hours after announcing a curfew in Punjab to combat coronavirus, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday said he was forced to take the extreme measure in the "larger interest" of the state.
Appealing to the people to voluntarily adhere to the curfew imposed to tackle the prevailing "war-like situation", Singh also warned of strict action against the violators.
The Punjab government on Monday clamped a curfew to fight coronavirus, making it the first state to take the drastic measure after finding that many people were ignoring the state-wide lockdown ordered by it.
In a video message addressing the people of Punjab, the chief minister said he was forced to take the stringent step "in the larger interest of the state, and in the interest of all of you", as he had received reports that people were moving around normally in towns, mohallas and cities defying the lockdown that took into effect on Monday morning.
He appealed to the people for their cooperation and said the violation of the lockdown by them was "unacceptable" and it was the responsibility of his government, and his duty as its head, to "save Punjab".
"We must save our state, our people; we have children, families," the chief minister said, adding that as a small state, it was all the more reason for Punjab to take all possible steps "to preserve our population and ensure that everyone lives happily for years to come." Punjab reported 21 positive coronavirus cases till Monday morning.
Tamil Nadu closes borders
Tamil Nadu became the 15th state to declare a lockdown with Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Monday enforced Section 144 across the state, effective from 6 pm on 24 March (Tuesday) till 31 March. District borders will be shut and only essential services will be available.
The Tamil Nadu government earlier Monday announced a series of intensified measures to tackle coronavirus such as pasting stickers on the houses of overseas returnees advised self-quarantine and setting apart over 9,000 beds and 560 ventilators in government hospitals.
Outlining the initiatives taken by the government for thwarting the spread of the contagion and managing the infected, Palaniswami told the state Assembly that Rs 500 crore has been allocated from the state disaster relief fund for anti-virus initiatives, up from the initial sum of Rs 60 crore.
In a bid to ensure those under home quarantine on return from foreign countries do not come into contact with outsiders, he directed officials to "paste home quarantine information" on the doors of houses of such people. Data on home quarantined people should be shared with police, local bodies and field health officials so that people getting in contact with those isolated will be avoided, he said.
Odisha extends lockdown to 21 districts
The Odisha government on Monday extended the statewide lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus. The lockdown was also extended to 21 districts and the railways and busstands areas.
"Lockdown extended to full districts of Puri, Nayagarh, Jagatsinghpur. Jajpur, Bhadrak, Balasore, Dhenkanal, Sambalpur, Jharsuguda districts from tomorrow morning. So now the total number of districts under lockdown is 14.
"In addition to this two more major changes are railway station and bus stands are removed form the exempted category for internal transport and eateries located in them. Now railways and bus transport is completely blocked in the entire state," the advisory said.
Karnataka govt orders shutdown till 1 April
In wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the entire state of Karnataka will be locked down from midnight on 23 March to 1 April, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa said on Monday. "People are requested to strictly follow it," he added.
The Karnataka government on Monday said, "All public and private passenger transport services including Ola, Uber, taxi and autorickshaws shall be stopped from tomorrow in Bangalore Urban, Bangalore Rural, Kalaburagi, Chikkaballapur, Mysuru, Madikeri, Dharwad, Mangaluru and Belagavi where restrictions are in place."
With inputs from PTI
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