India records first coronavirus death after 76-year-old man passes away in Karnataka, Delhi govt shuts theatres, schools as cases rise to 74

India recorded its first coronavirus-related death late on Thursday after a 76-year-old man from Kalaburgi in Karnataka passed away and was confirmed positive for the COVID-19 disease, the state government said, adding that contact tracing, isolation and other measures are being taken.

FP Staff March 12, 2020 23:20:32 IST
India records first coronavirus death after 76-year-old man passes away in Karnataka, Delhi govt shuts theatres, schools as cases rise to 74
  • The Karnataka health department said that Telangana govt had been informed because the patient who died of COVID-19 had gone to a hospital there

  • Cases of the novel coronavirus in India rose to 74 on Thursday after 14 fresh cases were reported from several states

  • The Delhi government also made it compulsory to disinfect all public places, including government and private offices and shopping malls, daily

India recorded its first coronavirus -related death late on Thursday after a 76-year-old man from Kalaburgi in Karnataka passed away and was confirmed positive for the COVID-19 disease, the state government said, adding that contact tracing, isolation and other measures are being taken.

The state health department also said that the Telangana government had been informed because the patient had gone to a hospital there.

Cases of the novel coronavirus in India rose to 74 on Thursday after 14 fresh cases were reported from several states, including nine from Maharahtra.

The Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi declared COVID-19 as an ‘epidemic’ and announced shutting down of schools, colleges, and cinema halls till 31 March. The Delhi government also made it compulsory to disinfect all public places, including government and private offices and shopping malls, daily. The decision was taken at a high-level meeting attended by Kejriwal, Delhi lieutenant general Anil Baijal, and top government officials.

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Representational image. PTI

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Kejriwal said that his government was making arrangements for quarantine facilities at vacant flats owned by Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) and under-construction hospitals.

"All cinema halls will remain shut till 31 March. Also, all schools and colleges, except those where exams are being held, will remain shut till 31 March due to coronavirus . The government has declared coronavirus an epidemic," he said.

Kejriwal said that his government is fully prepared to deal with COVID-19 , asserting that more than 500 beds in hospitals are ready to admit coronavirus patients if needed.

The MEA also advised against conducting the IPL 2020 tournament, scheduled to begin on 29 March, in wake of the spread of coronavirus .

MEA Additional Secretary Dammu Ravi, who has been appointed as the nodal officer to coordinate efforts to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, said, "I think it is for the organisers to decide whether to go ahead with it or not. Our advice would be to not do it at this time but if they want to go ahead, it is their decision."

The Centre also said that three planes will be sent in the next three days to bring back Indians stranded in Iran, one of the worst coronavirus -hit countries, a day after the government suspended all visas.

Narendra Modi says Centre is 'fully vigilant'

As the Centre and the states ramped up their efforts to tackle the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed at least 4,600 lives globally and affected nearly 1,25,293, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the countrymen not to panic and asserted that the government was "fully vigilant".

Apart from directing Union ministers not to travel abroad in the upcoming days, Modi also urged people to avoid non-essential travel, saying, "We can break the chain and ensure safety of all by avoiding large gatherings."

Health ministry says vaccine will take about 2 years to develop

Asking people not to panic, the Union health ministry said no community transmission of the virus has been observed and there has only been cases of local transmission so far.

With the novel coronavirus being declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, Raman R Gangakhedkar, the head of the Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases-I, a division of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said even though the virus is difficult to isolate, scientists at the National Institute of Virology in Pune have been successful in finding about 11 isolates, but developing a vaccine will take at least one-and-a-half to two years.

The total number of 74 patients in India includes 16 Italians and one Canadian. The figure is inclusive of three patients from Kerala who were discharged last month following recovery.

Giving a state-wise breakup, the ministry said Delhi reported six positive cases and Uttar Pradesh reported ten. Karnataka has four cases, Maharashtra has 11 and Ladakh has three.

Rajasthan, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, and Punjab have reported one case each. Kerala has recorded 17 cases, including three patients who were discharged last month.

Lav Aggarwal, the Joint Secretary in the ministry, said 1,500 people who came in contact with these 74 infected people were under rigorous observation while over 30,000 people across the country were under community surveillance.

Defence ministry sets up 7 quarantine facilities

On its part, defence ministry has set up seven more quarantine facilities, especially for Indian citizens being brought to back from the coronavirus -hit countries, an official said. The facilities have been set up at Jaisalmer, Suratgadh, Jhansi, Jodhpur, Deolali, Kolkata and Chennai.

The Army is already operating a quarantine facility in Manesar while the one in Hindon, near Ghaziabad, is being operated by the Indian Air Force.

Asserting that the focus is on preventive approach, and adequate testing facilities have been made available, Aggarwal said India presently has around 1 lakh testing kits and more testing kits have been ordered.

About evacuation measures undertaken so far, Aggarwal said till now, India has evacuated 948 people from the coronavirus -affected countries.

Of these, 900 were Indians and 48 belonged to different nationalities including from the Maldives, Myanmar, Bangladesh, China, the USA, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Africa and Peru, he said.

Aggarwal said the government has made 52 laboratories functional for testing samples while 57 labs have been designated for helping in sample collection to enhance diagnosis and detection capacity of the disease.

The health officials also said that India's efforts to deal with coronavirus are in consonance with WHO and the focus is on preventive approach.

The government has stepped up vigil and following a strong contact tracing system to ensure anyone who has come in touch with the infected are not missed out, they said, adding till now, 11,14,025 people have been screened at 30 designated airports in India.

Asked whether high temperature kills the coronavirus , officials said there was no study or evidence till now to suggest that.

States, UTs should invoke Epidemic Disease Act: Health ministry

As the contagious disease with flu-like symptoms spread across the globe, the cabinet secretary on Wednesday said states and Union Territories should invoke provisions of section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, so that all advisories issued by the Union health ministry and state governments are enforceable.

India has suspended all visas, except for a few categories such as diplomatic and employment, till 15 April in a bid to contain the spread of respiratory virus, according to a revised travel advisory. Visa-free travel facility granted to Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card holders is also kept in abeyance till 15 April, according to the advisory issued on Wednesday.

It said, any foreign national who intends to travel to India for compelling reason may contact the nearest Indian Mission and that all incoming travellers, including Indian nationals, arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after 15 February will be quarantined for a minimum 14 days.

Donald Trump suspends travel from Europe, Tom Hanks tests positive

In an unprecedented move, President Donald Trump announced the US will suspend all passenger travel from Europe, except the UK, on Friday for the next 30 days to stop the spread of coronavirus pandemic that has claimed over 4,500 lives, including 37 in America, and sent global markets into a tailspin.

In a televised address to the nation from his Oval Office in the White House on Wednesday, President Trump said the new restrictions will come into effect from Friday midnight and there will be exemptions for Americans returning to the US after undergoing multiple screenings.

"To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe. The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight," he said. Trump said the European Union had "failed to take the same precautions" as his administration had implemented to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

The president said he was monitoring the situation in China and South Korea, and asked citizens to suspend all non-essential travels. He urged them to adopt best hygiene, wash their hands and stay away from large gatherings to reduce the chance of infection. "This is not a financial crisis. This is just a temporary moment in time that we will overcome as a nation and a world," Trump said.

Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks and his wife, actress Rita Wilson, both tested positive for coronavirus in Australia, the actor said on Twitter. The actor, 63, said that he and Wilson, also 63, were tested in Australia, where he is working on a film, after they felt tired with slight fevers.

"To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the coronavirus and were found to be positive," Hanks said in the tweet.

Iran's Health Ministry on Thursday said the new coronavirus has killed 75 more people, raising the death toll to 429 amid over 10,000 cases as the Islamic Republic revealed it had asked for a multibillion-dollar loan from the International Monetary fund to fight the virus. Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour announced the latest virus figures in a televised news conference.

Iran has asked for an emergency $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to combat the outbreak there, which has killed more than 360 people and infected some 9,000 people in the Islamic Republic.

With inputs from agencies

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