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New Delhi, April 9: From making masks mandatory to restricting movement of people in areas identified as COVID-19 hotspots, authorities across several states on Thursday beefed up surveillance and enforcement measures to contain the deadly virus outbreak as the nationwide tally of confirmed cases crossed 6,600 with at least 227 dead.
The Centre also announced a Rs 15,000 crore “India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package”, while Odisha became the first state to extend the lockdown further till April 30 and also announced closure of schools till June 17.
Several other states including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh said they will take a final decision in the coming days on whether to extend or not the 21-day nationwide lockdown, which entered its 16th day.
Fresh cases were reported from Gujarat, Bihar, Odisha, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan and West Bengal, among other places, while Maharashtra saw its tally of confirmed infections crossing 1,300 with at least 97 deaths.
A PTI tally of numbers reported by various states and union territories at 10 PM showed as many as 6,640 people having contracted the virus and at least 227 losing their lives so far. Nearly 600 have so far been cured and discharged.
However, the Union Home Ministry’s evening update said 169 people have died across the country with 5,865 total cases so far. The ministry said 591 new cases and 20 deaths have been reported in the last 24 hours.
According to ICMR, nearly 1.3 lakh samples have been tested for coronavirus so far in the country and the rate of those confirming positive has ranged between 3-5 per cent in the last one and half months without showing any substantial increase.
Of the 20 deaths reported in the last 24 hours, in the Health Ministry tally, eight were from Maharashtra, three each from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, two from Jammu and Kashmir and one each from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, as per the Ministry.
Maharashtra has reported the highest number of COVID-19 deaths at 97, followed by 30 in Madhya Pradesh. Gujarat, Delhi and Telangana have so far reported their death tolls in low double digits, while Jharkhand reported its first COVID-19 death on Thursday.
The Union Health Ministry also stressed on the rational use of personal protective equipments (PPEs) by healthcare workers treating coronavirus patients amid concerns over their dwindling numbers in the country.
Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said there is no need to panic as India has sufficient stocks of PPEs and the government is making all efforts to augment their supply further.
At his daily briefing on the COVID-19 situation, he said orders for 1.7 crore PPEs have already been placed with domestic manufacturers and supply has already begun. He also said PPEs should be used rationally on the basis of risk profile. Orders for 49,000 ventilators have been placed too, Agarwal said.
Speaking about various initiatives taken by the government, Agarwal said the Health Ministry has formed 10 high-level multi-disciplinary central teams and they have been sent to nine states to support them with the containment plans, hospital management and ventilator management. These are Bihar, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telengana and Uttar Pradesh.
According to ICMR, India is also in the final stages of finalising protocol for conducting clinical trial on convalescent plasma therapy — a process in which blood plasma from a patient who has recovered from COVID-19 is infused into a critically ill patient so that the specific antibodies present in the blood of the recovered person can help fight the infection.
Amid rising numbers across states, authorities announced strict measures to enforce the lockdown and further restrictions including complete sealing of areas identified as hotspots of the virus spread.
After extending the lockdown for two more weeks, Odisha government also promulgated an ordinance with provision of imprisonment up to two years for those who violate the epidemic regulations.
Rajasthan made it mandatory for people to wear masks in urban areas and mandis, while the same was made compulsory for everyone stepping out in Madhya Pradesh as also for people in various cities of Mahrashtra besides Mumbai. Delhi and Uttar Pradesh had announced similar measures on Wednesday. Chandigarh administration said anyone found without a mask in public places can be arrested.
Also, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh expanded the list of containment zones that would be sealed off completely, after similar steps taken by Delhi and Uttar Pradesh a day before.
The ICMR also suggested containment measures on a priority basis in 36 districts after about 40 per cent of COVID-19 cases with severe acute respiratory infection in those areas spread across 15 states were found to have no history of contact with a positive patient or international travel.
The Maharashtra government is also mulling complete shutdown in certain areas, including of markets. The state saw the total number of people having tested positive reach 1,364 — the highest in the country. Tamil Nadu came a distant second at 834, followed by 720 in Delhi as on Thursday evening. Telangana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have reported over 400 cases each, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh among other states.
In Karnataka, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said all his cabinet colleagues are of unanimous opinion to extend the lockdown for about 15 days after April 14, and a final decision in this regard will be taken after consulting the Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to interact with all chief ministers on Saturday to discuss the way forward in the COVID-19 fight, including the lockdown.
A committee of health experts tasked with devising an exit strategy for coronavirus lockdown in Karnataka have recommended its continuation in “hotspots” along with some relaxations. It has advocated restrictions on public transport to continue for some more time, an odd-even formula for private vehicles and factories being allowed to function with 50 per cent staff, among other measures.
In Jharkhand, Chief Minister Hemant Soren said lifting the lockdown is a “big challenge” and must be given a considered thought. In an interview to PTI, he said the spread of the coronavirus has been kept in check in his state, but things could change if a large number of people return to the state from other parts of the country.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami said a decision on extending the lockdown will be taken after getting expert advice and taking into account the increase in the number of coronavirus positive cases.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said he would take a decision only after consulting the state cabinet on April 12.
In Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal warned of strict action against those misbehaving with healthcare personnel in the city in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The came a day after two women resident doctors of Safdarjung Hospital were assaulted following rumours that they are “spreading COVID-19” in the Gautam Nagar area.
The pandemic has also seen a sharp rise in hate crimes.
A Maharashtra cyber police official said they have noted an increase in fake news, hate and communal content over coronavirus on social media in the last few days. The state cyber police have registered 132 cases till Wednesday in connection with fake news, rumours and hate speeches on social media since the lockdown.
As the pandemic and the ongoing lockdown continued to weigh heavily on economic activities, the Reserve Bank expressed hope that recent monetary and fiscal measures will mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on domestic demand and spur growth once the normalcy is restored.
In its Monetary Policy Report, the RBI said the lockdown following the outbreak of COVID-19 and expected contraction in global outlook would weigh heavily on the growth outlook.
Bank of America Securities said in a report that the Centre may soon announce another fiscal package which should be almost similar to the Rs 1.75 lakh crore stimulus announced last month.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected that the year 2020 could see the worst global economic fallout since the Great Depression in the 1930s with over 170 countries expected to experience negative per capita income growth due to the raging coronavirus pandemic.
More than 15 lakh have tested positive worldwide since the deadly virus first emerged in China last December, while more than 90,000 have lost lives. (PTI)