New Delhi: Coronavirus cases in the country crossed 500 and one more death from the infection reported on Tuesday taking the toll to ten, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it is imperative to keep the “fighting spirit” of the people up while tackling the spread of the virus.
As 32 states and union territories imposed complete lockdown till March 31, the Centre asked them to clamp curfew wherever necessary in the wake of people defying lockdown orders . With the lockdown hitting the Indian industry hard and causing job losses, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said an economic package to help tide over the crisis will be announced very soon.
Sitharaman told reporters an announcement on the package would be made sooner than later. Prime Minister Modi while interacting with senior journalists from the print media via video links said citizens need to be assured that the government is committed to countering the impact of COVID-19.
According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Modi said it is critical to improve social cohesion to safeguard national security. During the interaction, Modi emphasised the need to tackle the spread of pessimism, negativity and rumour-mongering.
“He underlined the importance of social distancing, asking media to generate awareness about its importance, inform people about the lockdown decision by states, and also highlight the impact of spread of the virus through inclusion of international data and case studies about other countries in the papers,” said a statement issued by the PMO.
According to the statement, Modi underlined that “it is imperative to keep the fighting spirit of the people up”. Two states – Punjab and Maharashtra – and a UT – Puducherry – have already declared curfew in their respective areas.
States like Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday decided to expand the lockdown to cover all the districts in the state. In Maharashtra, a 65-year-old coronavirus patient died in Mumbai, taking the death toll due to COVID-19 to three in the metropolis. The western state has accounted for 101 of the total 492 cases followed by Kerala (91).
The man recently returned from the United Arab Emirates(UAE) to Ahmedabad. He later complained of fever, cough and difficulty in breathing, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said in a statement.
The patient was brought to the Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai on March 20 for treatment, but his health condition deteriorated further. The man also had pre-existing ailments, including high blood pressure and severe diabetes, the statement said, adding he died late Monday evening. According to the data updated on Tuesday morning, the total number of COVID-19 cases rose to 492, including 446 active cases.
The figure includes 41 foreign nationals. Cases of a few more persons having tested positive for the infection were reported from different states during the day. The earlier nine deaths were recorded in Maharashtra (2), Bihar, Karnataka, Delhi, Gujarat, Punjab, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh.
Thirty-seven people have been cured/discharged/migrated, according to the official data. As cases of the viral infection surged, authorities have put almost the entire country under lockdown, banning gathering of people and suspending road, rail and air traffic in unprecedented steps till March 31.
Authorities have also taken a serious view of several people continuing to venture out despite the lockdown considering that the coming days and weeks are going to be extremely critical to contain the spread of the disease. A top functionary of the central government called up some of the chief ministers and apprised them of the necessity of imposing the curfew if people continue to venture out of their homes.
The state governments and the union territory administrations have been advised to impose curfew wherever necessary as many people continue to go out of their homes despite the lockdown ordered to check the spread of the virus, a government official told PTI.
The state governments have been told that public gatherings could lead to escalation of the prevailing situation. “Now, it is up to the state governments to take action as per the local situation and give necessary instructions to the district magistrates who have the powers to impose curfew,” the official said.
In Kerala, the latest state to order a lockdown, buses went off the roads and shops, barring those selling essentials, remained shut but violations were galore, prompting police to book culprits. Autorickshaws and private vehicles, including two-wheelers, were seen plying at several places disregarding instructions that people should not venture out without any valid reason.
At some places in Haryana, police had a tough time to persuade people who were out for non-essential work and sent them back to their homes. In Bhiwani, at a check barrier, police had to deal with number of two-wheeler riders many of them who were out on roads for non-essential work.
“We are persuading them and sending them back to their homes,” said a police personnel on duty at a check barrier. Police in Telangana had to resort to mild caning at some places after many people hit the streets disregarding the advice to remain indoors.
News channels showed footage of violators of lockdown being made to do sit ups as punishment in the presence of a woman police official near Hyderabad. Cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba asked state governments to immediately identify and earmark hospitals to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
In a letter to chief secretaries of all the states, Gauba also said it is absolutely essential that surveillance and contact tracing of all positive cases is taken up and no suspected or high risk person is left out.
“All states should immediately identify and earmark hospitals dedicated for management of COVID-19 cases and ensure that they are in a state of full readiness to deal with the situation in the event of a further spike in the number of confirmed cases,” he said.
In Delhi, Union Health minister Harsh Vardhan reviewed the status of containment and management of COVID-19 in the country and emphasised on the quality and sturdiness of the community surveillance and contact tracing.
As on date, cumulatively 1,87,904 persons are under surveillance, and around 35,073 have completed 28 days observation period as on day, an official statement said. Vardhan visited the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Control Room and the Testing Laboratories, and reviewed the current status there with the senior officials.
He also interacted with the National Health Mission(NHM) MDs and senior surveillance officers of the states/UTs through a video conference.
“You all form our frontline warriors, who through supporting people with correct, timely and vital information, are rendering yeoman service to the nation.” “I salute the scientists who work with the testing procedures, and put themselves at risk in their line of duty.”