India records second coronavirus death as confirmed cases rise to 82; WHO says Europe now epicentre of COVID-19
India recorded the second death due to the novel coronavirus pandemic on Friday night after a 69-year-old woman passed away in Delhi's Ram Manohar Lohia hospital. This is the first death due to COVID-19 in the National Capital, which reported six cases of the flu-like disease that has claimed more than 5,000 lives worldwide and infected more than one lakh people in 116 countries.
The tally of 81, seven more since Thursday night, includes a 76-year-old man from Karnataka who became the country's first coronavirus fatality and 17 foreign nationals
The Centre also declared that masks, including the N-95 variety, and hand sanitisers as 'essential commodities' in the wake of the coronavirus scare leading to shortages and black marketing of these items
On Friday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that Europe was now the 'epicentre' of the disease
India recorded the second death due to the novel coronavirus pandemic on Friday night after a 68-year-old woman passed away in Delhi's Ram Manohar Lohia hospital. This is the first death due to COVID-19 in the National Capital, which reported six cases of the flu-like disease that has claimed more than 5,000 lives worldwide and infected more than one lakh people in 116 countries.
"Death of a 68-year-old woman from West Delhi (mother of a confirmed case of COVID-19), is confirmed to be caused due to co-morbidity (diabetes and hypertension). She also tested positive for COVID-19," ANI reported.
On Friday, several states across India went into battle mode to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, announcing closure of schools, colleges, and theatres, and many public events, including the Indian Premier League (IPL), were also postponed as the Union Health Ministry on Friday put the number of confirmed cases at 82.
The tally of 82, eight more since Thursday night, includes a 76-year-old man from Karnataka who became the country's first coronavirus fatality (on Thursday) and 17 foreign nationals. Cases of the infection have been reported from at least 11 states and Union territories, including Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Kerala, where three patients were discharged last month after they recovered.
The Centre also declared masks (two-ply and three-ply as well as the N-95 variety) and hand sanitisers as 'essential commodities' in the wake of the coronavirus scare leading to shortages and black marketing of these items.
These items will remain under the essential commodities segment till the end of June, reports said, which is a move aimed at ensuring availability at reasonable prices and cracking down on hoarders/black marketeers.
On Friday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that Europe was now the 'epicentre' of the disease. "Europe has now become epicenter of COVID-19 pandemic, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China. More cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic.
"Our message to countries continues to be: You must take a comprehensive approach. Not testing alone. Not contact tracing alone. Not quarantine alone. Not social distancing alone. Do it all."
Union health ministry outlines measures to tackle COVID-19
On Friday, health ministry officials said that the coronavirus pandemic, of which casualties crossed the 5000-mark on Friday and that has infected 1,31,500 people in 116 countries, is not a health emergency and there is no need to panic. They said India has evacuated 1,031 people, including foreigners, from various affected areas.
Addressing reporters, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health Lav Aggarwal said besides three patients from Kerala who were discharged last month following recovery, seven more coronavirus infected patients have been cured and they will be discharged soon.
The Centre also decided to allow international traffic only through 19 border checkposts out of 37 and continue the suspension of India-Bangladesh cross border passenger trains and buses till 15 April, or earlier, if so decided. Officials disclosed that 42,000 people across the country are under community surveillance.
With the World Health Organisation declaring the novel coronavirus a pandemic, Aggarwal said that 4,000 people who had come in contact with the 81 positive cases have been identified through contract tracing and were being tracked while 42,000 people across the country are under community surveillance.
Home Ministry Additional Secretary Anil Malik said that the decision on closing the Kartarpur corridor is under consideration.
Officials said that a total 11,71,061 passengers from 10,876 flights have been screened at 30 designated airports. Also 6,700 samples have been tested for COVID-19 across 52 centres in the country and the health ministry intends to increase it to 65 centres soon.
"Without ramping up, at current capacity we can conduct up to 10,000 tests in a day. If the outbreak gets bigger and we have to ramp up, we will be able to increase it to 20,000 tests in a day," Dr Raman R Gangakhedkar from the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) said.
ICMR also said that the development of a vaccine to treat the flu-like disease will take time. "Vaccine is far away," he was quoted by News18 as saying.
ICMR director general Dr Balram Bhargava said, "The mortality rate is 1.5 to 2 percent across the world. It is higher in the older age group. The Union Cabinet secretary has been meeting us at his office. This is like a war room. The Ministry of Health is leading this. We have issued guidelines for testing people for the infection."
Second batch of Indian evacuees arrive from Iran
The second batch of 44 Indian pilgrims arrived from Iran on Friday, External Affairs minister S Jaishankar said. An Iran Air flight carrying Indian pilgrims stranded in coronavirus-hit Iran landed at the airport in Mumbai on Friday afternoon.
They were later taken to a quarantine facility in Ghatkopar, a suburb in northeast Mumbai, a Navy official said. Earlier, the plan was to take them to an Army quarantine facility in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.
Iran is one of the worst-affected countries by coronavirus outbreak and the government has been working on plans to bring back the Indians stranded there. Reports have said at over 6,000 Indians are stranded in the West Asian country.
The first batch of 58 Indian pilgrims were brought back from Iran on Tuesday.
Another Mahan Air flight is expected to land on Saturday in Delhi, Ministry of Civil Aviation Joint Secretary Rubina Ali said. "As per the need, more such special flights will be operated to bring back Indians who have tested negative. India is also coordinating treatment of positive people in Iran as per protocol," the official said.
The government has also sent a team of four doctors from the Ministry of Health to Rome. They have just reached Rome with sufficient material and reagents to collect samples of Indians there for onward testing in India.
Air India will also send another flight to Milan on Saturday to bring back stranded Indians. This flight is scheduled to take off around 12 or 1 in the afternoon on Saturday and it will land on Sunday morning at 7.45 am Delhi airport, Ali said. So far 83 Indians from Italy have already arrived in the country.
Taking stock of the situation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed a video conference of SAARC leaders to chalk out a joint strategy and set an example for the world. "Our planet is battling the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus. At various levels, governments and people are trying their best to combat it," Modi said on Twitter.
South Asia, which is home to a significant number of the global population, should leave no stone unturned to ensure that the people are healthy, he said.
Amid speculation over the ongoing Budget Session being shortened, Union parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi told PTI, "There is no question of curtailing the session."
The Supreme Court, Delhi and Bombay high courts also issued directions with the aim to curb the spread of the disease on its premises. While the apex court decided that from 16 March it will take up for hearing only urgent matters and no one except lawyers concerned will be allowed inside its courtrooms, Delhi high court directed district courts to use video-conferencing facility for hearings.
BCCI suspends IPL 2020
The under-pressure BCCI suspended the start of this year's IPL cricket tournament from 29 March to 15 April. "The Board of Control for Cricket in India has decided to suspend IPL 2020 till 15th April 2020, as a precautionary measure against the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation," BCCI secretary Jay Shah said in a statement.
The statement made it clear that it's a "suspension" and "not postponement", which means there is no clarity on whether the event will start on 15 April. Even if it starts on 15 April, it is expected to happen behind closed doors without the fans.
The decision came hours after the Delhi government, which on Thursday announced that schools, colleges and cinema halls would be closed till 31 March, sad it was also stopping all sports gatherings, including IPL 2020. Sisodia said district magistrates have been asked to ensure that all directives pertaining to coronavirus are implemented.
The two remaining India-South Africa ODIs in Lucknow and Kolkata were also called off on Friday called owing to the COVID-19 threat as the country's sports calendar continued to go haywire because of the global pandemic.
Karnataka locks down malls, theatres; Maharashtra declares COVID-19 as epidemic
A day after the country's first coronavirus death was reported from Kalaburagi in Karnataka, the stat government announced a lockdown of malls, cinema theatres, pubs and night clubs for a week. Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa also issued instructions to stop all kinds of exhibitions, summer camps, conferences, marriage events and birthday parties.
"We will close all universities for a week in the entire state," he told reporters.
Manwhile, tech giant Google confirmed that an employee of its Bengaluru office, who had returned from Greece, was diagnosed with COVID-19.
In Kalaburagi town, 46 people who were in direct contact with the 76-year old man who died on Thursday night were placed under quarantine, district officials said, adding that 31 were categorised as "high risk" and 13 as "low risk".
Four family members of the man have displayed flu symptoms and their swab samples have been sent for testing, officials said.
In Maharashtra, with 17 confirmed coronavirus patients, the state government on Friday ordered closure of cinema theatres, gymnasiums, swimming pools and public parks in cities of Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, and Pimpri-Chinchwad till 30 March.
The closure order will come into effect from Friday midnight, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said, announcing that the government has invoked the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 to tackle the virus outbreak. As provided under the Act, schools and colleges in Pune and neighbouring twin industrial towns of Pimpri and Chinchwad will remain closed till further orders, he told reporters.
Wherever possible, private sector companies should allow employees to work from home, Thackeray said. People should also avoid visiting malls and other crowded places, he added.
In Odisha, the Naveen Patnaik government announced that educational institutions would be closed till 31 March but provided an exception for holding exams. He said the government has earmarked Rs 200 crore to combat the coronavirus threat and declared COVID-19 a "disaster".
Non-essential official gatherings such as seminars, workshops and conferences are to be cancelled, Patnaik said. Social gatherings and assemblies like religious functions, marriage receptions and parties will be regulated by local authorities. Cinema halls, swimming pools and gyms in the state will be closed as well.
IN Delhi, the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi University and Jamia Millia Islamia suspended classes. Other universities such as Jindal University in Sonepat in Haryana announced the university would be open but there would be no classes till 29 March.
As concern mounted, people scrambled to change their travel plans. At an Air India office in Delhi, for instance, there were crowds of people waiting to change their tickets. Aviation watchdog DGCA has asked international airlines to consider waiving ticket cancellation and reschedule charges or look at providing any other incentives.
States which had not reported any case were also on alert. Schools, colleges, coaching institutes, zoos and parks in Bihar will be shut till 31 March.
Vishwajit Rane, health minister in the tourism hub of Goa, said the government will issue a circular asking hotels and industries to take preventive measures in the wake of the coronavirus scare.
Trump likely to declare national emergency, Justin Trudeau's wife tests positive
Italy, the epicentre of the virus outbreak in Europe, recorded more than 2,500 cases in the last 24 hours while virus-related deaths in the country made the largest single-day jump of 250 on Friday. The toll in Italy stands at 1,266
US president Donald Trump is likely to declare the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in America as a 'national emergency', The New York Times reported. To do so, he would be invoking the Stafford Act to facilitate more federal aid for states and municipalities.
"Trump is under increasing pressure to act as governors and mayors nationwide step up actions to mitigate the spread, closing schools and canceling public events. The president said he will hold a news conference at 3 pm (local time) in Washington," the report said.
Meanwhile, Canada prime minister Justin Trudeau's wife has tested positive for coronavirus, reports quoted an official statement as saying, which added that Trudeau himself is in "good health". Canada's leader and his 44-year-old wife had announced on Thursday that they were self-isolating while she was tested for coronavirus after a public event.
"Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau was tested for COVID-19 today. The test came back positive," Trudeau's office said in a statement late Thursday, adding she would remain in isolation and her symptoms were mild.
On the other hand, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro said that he had tested negative for the COVID-19, after a scare over a trip on which at least one infected member of his staff rubbed shoulders with Trump.
"The Armed Forces Hospital and (diagnostic laboratory) Sabin have returned a negative test result for COVID-19 for the President of the Republic Jair Bolsonaro," said a post on the far-right leader's Facebook page.
Just like the IPL in India, globally too, several sporting events were cancelled. The list includes the English football Premier League, the Bahrain and Vietnam Grand Prix races which were postponed while the third and fourth races of the Formula One season have been called off.
With inputs from agencies
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