Ajmer on March 21. Photo: PTI
The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases across the world surged past 3,00,000 over weekend. In India, the health ministry’s official figures of cases stood at 341 on Sunday, March 22.
Today, in response to a call given by the prime minister in his public address to the country on Thursday, a “janata curfew” is in place, leading to a wide shutdown of services across the country.
From 7 am on Sunday morning, India has gone into complete lockdown and will remain so until 9 pm, with movement outside home kept to the minimum, transportation services halted and markets closed down.
The Centre has ordered state governments to declare lockdowns in 75 districts where COVID-19 cases have been reported.
Maharashtra announces curfew
Section 144 will be imposed in Maharashtra’s urban areas from Monday, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has announced. The curfew will come into effect immediately as the “janata curfew” ends. This order will continue until the situation improves, reports said. Bengaluru too will continue with the curfew till midnight. So will Chennai, till 5 pm.
The order appreciates that “grave danger to human life, health or safety” under the circumstances.
All non-essential services, including places of worship to be shut down. Only buses will continue to ply but they too will be used strictly to ferry those engaged in professions related to essential services, reports have said.
Air India crew ‘ostracised’
Air India stated on Sunday that vigilante resident welfare associations (RWAs) and neighbours were ostracising and calling police on its crew members, who went abroad as a part of their duty.
“It is alarming to note that in many localities, vigilante Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) and neighbours have started ostracising the crew, obstructing them from performing their duty or even calling in the police, simply because the crew travelled abroad in the course of their duty,” the airline said in a press release.
These “vigilantes” had “conveniently” forgotten that many a spouse, parent, sibling, child and near and dear ones were brought home safely from coronavirus-hit countries by the Air India crew, it added.
Uttar Pradesh announces lockdown in 15 districts
Chief minister Yogi Adityanath has announced that 15 districts in Uttar Pradesh would be under lockdown in the first phase till Wednesday.
The announcement came soon after the Centre and state governments decided to put under lockdown 75 districts across the country where cases of novel coronavirus pandemic have been reported.
“Fifteen districts in the state will be locked down in the first phase from Monday,” Adityanath told reporters in Gorakhpur.
The districts where the lockdown has been enforced in the first phase are Lucknow, Agra, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Ghaziabad, Varanasi, Allahabad, Kanpur, Aligarh, Moradabad, Lakhimpur Kheiri, Bareilly, Azamgarh, Meerut, Gorakhpur and Saharanpur.
The lockdown will continue till Wednesday, he said. “I appeal to all the citizens that they should stay indoors and not venture out of their homes.”
Delhi to go under lockdown, Section 144
Delhi will be under lockdown from March 23, 6 am to March 31, 12 pm. Borders of the city will be sealed, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced.
The Delhi government has announced the imposition of Section 144, making it unlawful for ongoing protests to continue under the circumstances, among other things.
Section 144 imposed in entire Delhi. No assembly, protests (Shaheen Bagh included) gatherings, weekly markets, guided tours by private operators to be allowed. Those defying Section 144 will be punished under Section 188 of IPC pic.twitter.com/9JkTOhgjkL
— Bharti Jain (@bhartijainTOI) March 22, 2020
Kejriwal announces free ration for 72 lakh
In addition to announcing markers for homes under quarantine, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has said that meals will be provided for free at night shelters. He has also promised 72 lakh people free ration and doubled pensions.
“In addition to this, I urge all employers to provide paid leave, including to domestic helps. Not only is this a compassionate gesture, it is essential for our economy to survive,” he tweeted.
Anyone can walk into these places and have meals. We don’t want anyone to suffer due to hunger https://t.co/1OmV1eeWe7
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) March 22, 2020
Mary Kom’s breakfast with President creates buzz
Reports have found that Rajya Sabha MP and boxer Mary Kom ‘broke’ the advised two-week quarantine period (made mandatory only after March 15) after returning from Jordan. She attended a breakfast meet hosted by President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, on March 18, within five days of her return on March 13.
Mary Kom and the Indian boxing team had been training in Italy’s Assisi in late February, which necessitated the period of quarantine upon their return to India, even though by then the 14-day period of danger had been over.
The same breakfast also had BJP MP Dushyant Singh, who had attended a party with singer Kanika Kapoor, who was found positive of coronavirus.
Seventh death reported from Gujarat
Indian Express has reported that a 69-year-old man from Gujarat has died at a hospital in Surat. Another woman in Vadodara, a 65-year-old is also suspected to have passed away from the disease, although her test results are awaited.
Bihar reports first death
Bihar reported its first death due to COVID-19 on Sunday, as a man with a travel history to Qatar died at the AIIMS here, hospital superintendent CM Singh said.
The 38-year-old man, a resident of Munger district, was admitted to the hospital on Friday with a kidney ailment, he added.
Doctors noticed that he was also suffering from respiratory problems, following which his swab samples were sent to the Rajendra Memorial Research Institute (RMRI) here.
The man, who was on dialysis, died on Saturday night, but his COVID-19 test results from RMRI came only on Sunday morning, Singh said.
Six more patients at the AIIMS, suspected to have contracted the disease, were awaiting their test results from RMRI, he added.
Patient dies in Maharashtra
India recorded what is officially the country’s fifth coronavirus death late on March 21. The 63-year-old man who passed away had chronic diabetes, high blood pressure and an ischemic heart1.
He passed away at around 11:03 pm on March 21, Saturday.
The total number of coronavirus positive patients in Maharashtra has risen to 74 with 10 more positive cases reported in the last 24 hours, officials said.
Maruti Suzuki suspends production at Gurgaon, Manesar plants
The country’s largest car maker Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) on Sunday said it will suspend production at its manufacturing facilities in Haryana due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“The company will shut production and office operations at its facilities in Gurugram and Manesar (Haryana) with immediate effect till further notice,” MSI said in a regulatory filing.
The company’s research and development centre at Rohtak will also remain closed, it added.
The duration of this shutdown will depend upon government policy, MSI said.
263 Indians evacuated from Italy
A batch of 263 Indians evacuated from Italy in view of the COVID-19 outbreak there were brought back to the country on Sunday and sent to a ITBP quarantine facility, officials said.
“The special flight had 263 passengers. It landed at around 10 am at Delhi airport from Rome,” an Air India official said.
The Air India flight had taken off from the Delhi airport on Saturday.
“All the 263 people are being taken to our quarantine centre in Chhawla area of south-west Delhi after thermal screening and immigration at the tarmac,” an ITBP spokesperson said.
The Indo-Tibetan Border Police quarantine already has 215 Indians housed since March 15 after they were similarly evacuated by a special Air India flight from Rome.
Railways stop passenger trains, inter-state buses suspended
Only goods trains will run from March 22 midnight till March 31 midnight, the Railways have announced. This includes Mumbai locals and the metro railway services at Delhi and Kolkata.
Inter-state bus services across country suspended till March 31 in view of coronavirus outbreak, the home ministry has announced.
Private labs to run coronavirus tests, govt caps price at Rs 4,500
The government has announced that private laboratories which had thus far not been allowed to conduct tests for the coronavirus, will now be able to do so by adhering to guidelines it has issued. The maximum cost for testing samples has been capped at Rs 4,500.
Besides, the government has called for “appropriate biosafety and biosecurity precautions to be ensured” while collecting respiratory samples, which it has advised be preferably done at home.
Commercial kits for real-time PCR based diagnosis of COVID-19 have to be US FDA approved, the government has advised.
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) issues guidelines for #COVID19 testing by private laboratories. Maximum cost for testing samples capped at Rs 4,500 (Rs 1,500 for screening test for likely cases & additional Rs 3,000 for confirmation test). pic.twitter.com/bWT2mte6jq
— ANI (@ANI) March 21, 2020
Anand Mahindra promises ventilators, funds, care facilities
With pressure mounting on Indian industrialists after high profile global movers like Bill Gates and Jack Ma announced philanthropic measures in view of the coronavirus pandemic, Mahindra Group chairman Anand Mahindra said on Twitter on Sunday that with India heading towards stage 3 of the pandemic, “the Mahindra Group will immediately begin work on how our manufacturing facilities can make ventilators.”
He also promised that Mahindra Holidays resorts would be offered as temporary care facilities.
—To help in the response to this unprecedented threat, we at the Mahindra Group will immediately begin work on how our manufacturing facilities can make ventilators.
—At Mahindra Holidays, we stand ready to offer our resorts as temporary care facilities. (3/5)
— anand mahindra (@anandmahindra) March 22, 2020
Community transmission threat in Bengal
West Bengal on Saturday reported two more coronavirus positive cases, one of whom is not linked to foreign travel, raising concerns of community-level transmission.
The state’s health officials, however, said, they are trying to ascertain if the patient had come in contact with anybody who tested positive or has recently returned from abroad.
As the number of confirmed cases in the state rose to four, the state government ordered a shutdown of a host of public places including restaurants, bars, nightclubs, amusement parks, massage parlours, museums and zoos, till March 31.
A 57-year-old man from Dumdum in North 24 Parganas district became the fourth person in the state to test positive for novel coronavirus on Saturday, a health department official said.
Asked about his travel history, he said that family members have categorically said the man has not made any recent trip abroad. “But they didn’t divulge whether he had a history of recent inter-state travel.”
Nagpur Bamcef leader and doctor criticises ‘thankfulness’ exercise
India allows testing in all major BSL-3 labs
In a major boost to the national capacity for coronavirus detection and mitigation, the Empowered Committee for COVID-19 response in India has permitted DBT2, DST3, CSIR4, DRDO5 and DAE6 labs to test for COVID-19 in nasal samples based on self-assessment.
An important announcement by the @PrinSciAdvGoI @NITIAayog requesting all federally funded labs to set up #COVIDー19 diagnostics to deal with the potential #CoronavirusPandemic. It’s time to be togather and work for the nation. #CoronaUpdatesInIndia #CoronavirusOutbreakindia pic.twitter.com/yVoOfzvWOy
— Indian Society of Developmental Biologists (@InSDB_79) March 21, 2020
These labs will also be permitted to access samples of COVID-19 for research purposes from government-approved testing sites and hospitals as long as they have BSL-3 level safeguards or higher.
A BSL-3 is a rung below a BSL-4 facility which is defined as the safest possible laboratory to handle dangerous viruses, and comes with features like an airlock with a shower, a double-door entry and a high-efficiency particulate filter for exhaust air.
Migrant workers stage mass exodus from big cities
— Ananth Rupanagudi (@rananth) March 21, 2020
Assam 4-year-old tests negative
Shortly after it was reported that Assam had its first case of novel coronavirus with the initial test of a four-and-a-half-year-old-girl in Jorhat district turning out to be positive, minister Himanta Biswa Sarma announced that her test results had come back negative.
The 4 year old child who was suspected of #covid19 and tested in Jorhat Medical College and RMRC, Dibrugarh has been found NEGATIVE. There is no Covid19 positive case in Assam so far. pic.twitter.com/u2pqoJnwTe
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) March 22, 2020
Biplab says 68,000 screened in Tripura
Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb on Saturday said 68,304 persons have been screened and 143 persons are in quarantine facilities but not a single positive case of coronavirus infection has been reported in the state so far.
Deb reviewed the preparedness to deal with coronavirus outbreak in a video conference with district magistrates, chief medical officers and superintendents of police.
He said quarantined persons will be able to buy food from designated restaurants through selected caterers.