COVID-19: India reports 2 more coronavirus deaths; Total cases climb to 468

New Delhi: India reported two COVID-19 deaths on Monday, taking the death toll to nine, and the number of cases climbed to 468 after 95 people tested positive for coronavirus, the highest jump in one day, as Maharashtra and Punjab were put under statewide curfews, the rest of the country in lockdown and all domestic flights set to be grounded.

The Union health ministry said West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh reported a casualty each on Monday, taking the total number of deaths to nine in the country due to COVID-19. Seven deaths were earlier reported from Gujarat, Bihar and Maharashtra (2), Karnataka, Delhi, and Punjab.

The ministry also said the total number of cases rose to 468, including 424 active cases. There were 329 active cases on Sunday evening.

The extreme measures by the central and state governments were taken in light of the continued upward trajectory of the virus, amid warning of legal action against those violating the restrictions imposed during the lockdown.

Punjab on Monday became the first in the country to impose curfew in the entire state with no relaxations, and only exempted essential services to prevent the infection, while Maharshtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said curfew will be imposed in the entire state from Monday midnight as the fight against coronavirus has reached a “turning point”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also asked state governments to ensure that rules and regulations of the coronavirus lockdown are enforced as he noted that many people are not taking the measure seriously.

“Many people are still not taking the lockdown seriously. Please save yourself, save your family, follow the instructions seriously. I request state governments to ensure rules and laws are followed,” he said in a tweet in Hindi.

Stepping up its efforts to tackle the unprecedented situation arising out of the coronavirus breakout, the aviation ministry announced that no domestic commercial passenger flight would be allowed to operate in the country from March 25 onward. India has already banned international flights for a week from Sunday.

Delhi, Jharkhand, and Nagaland declared a state-wide lockdown while similar curbs were announced in a number of districts in Bihar, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Several states, including Kerala, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand, had earlier imposed a partial or complete lockdown. The UT administration in Chandigarh also announced imposition of curfew from the midnight.

Those living in 80 districts across the country, including in the national capital Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai have been placed under travel and movement restrictions with authorities suspending all passenger train and inter-state bus services till March 31.

The Centre has issued directions to state governments, asking them to take legal action against those who are found violating the lockdown orders.

“States have been asked to strictly enforce the lockdown in the areas where it has been announced. Legal action will be taken against violators,” tweeted the Press Information Bureau, government’s communication wing.

Country’s premier medical institute in the national capital, AIIMS, decided to shut down its OPD, including speciality services, all new and follow up patients’ registration, from March 24 till further order as it redirects its resources to control the Covid-19 outbreak.

Last week, the AIIMS had issued a circular postponing all nonessential elective procedures and surgeries and directed for only emergency life-saving surgeries with effect from March 21.

The virus, which originated from China’s Wuhan nearly three months ago, has claimed over 15,000 lives globally and infected nearly 3.5 lakh people so far.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said 18,383 samples have been tested till 10 am on Monday.

Apart from nine deaths, the totally tally of 468 also included 35 people who have been cured/discharged/migrated, and 40 foreign nationals, according to the ministry data.

Maharashtra has reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases at 74, including three foreigners, followed by Kerala at 67, including seven foreign nationals, according to the ministry data.

Karnataka has 33 cases of coronavirus patients after seven more persons tested positive for the deadly virus. The number of cases in Telangana have risen to 32, including 10 foreigners.

Uttar Pradesh now has 31 positive cases, including a foreign national. Delhi and Gujarat have reported 29 cases each, while Rajasthan has registered 28 positive cases, including two foreign nationals.

In Haryana, there are 26 cases, including 14 foreigners, while Punjab has 21 cases.

Ladakh has 13 cases, while Tamil Nadu has nine cases, including two foreigners. West Bengal reported seven cases, while Madhya Pradesh has six cases so far.

Chandigarh has six cases, while Andhra Pradesh reported seven cases. Jammu and Kashmir has four cases.

Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh have reported three cases each, while there are two case each in Bihar and Odisha. Puducherry and Chhattisgarh have reported a case each.

Amid rising cases, the national task force for COVID-19 constituted by Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended hydroxy-chloroquine as a preventive medication for high-risk population.

According to the ICMR advisory, it should be given to high risk population — asymptomatic healthcare workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 and asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory confirmed cases.

The protocol recommended by the National Task Force has been approved by the Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) for restricted use in emergency situations.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court directed all states and UTs to set up high-level committees to determine class of prisoners who could be released on parole, in a bid to decongest prisons to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

It also said prisoners convicted of or charged with offences having jail term up to 7 years can be given parole. The court also ordered that a high-level committee should work in consultation with State Legal Service Authority for release of prisoners.

Dubbing coronavirus as a “lifetime challenge”, the prime minister while speaking to representatives of television news channels through a video-conference said it needed to be tackled through new and innovative solutions.

“The tireless efforts of the reporters, camerapersons and technicians are a great service to the nation. The media should counter pessimism and panic through positive communication. COVID-19 is a lifetime challenge and it needs to be tackled through new and innovative solutions,” Modi said.

According to an official release, he also thanked the media for understanding the gravity of the pandemic threat and appreciated the role played by the news channels in spreading awareness.

“A long battle lies ahead of us, whereby awareness on social distancing has to be spread and information about latest developments and key decisions needs to be communicated swiftly and professionally by the channels through an easy-to-grasp language,” the prime minister said.

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