India reported its fourth coronavirus death on Thursday while the total COVID-19 cases rose to 173, as the government banned landing of all international commercial passenger flights from March 22 for a week, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to stay indoors and called for ‘Janata Curfew’ on Sunday.
Giving the details of the fourth coronavirus fatality in the country, the Union health ministry said the person, who died in Punjab, was elderly and had co-morbid conditions like diabetes, cardiac ailments. There were more than 20 fresh cases in the last 24 hours with Chhattisgarh and Chandigarh reporting their first COVID-19 patients on early Thursday.
In his address to the nation on coronavirus, Modi said it was not right to think that all is well and requested people to adhere to advisories issued by the Union as well as state governments to contain the spread of coronavirus, which has affected more countries than the World War I and II.
Making a fervent appeal to all Indians to stay indoors and only go out of homes if it was extremely, he asked them to observe ‘Janata curfew’ on March 22 from 7 am-9 pm and also express gratitude for those working in hospitals, airports and other places without worrying about themselves.
“On March 22, at 5 pm on our doors, balconies or wherever, for 5 minutes, express our gratitude for these workers. By clapping, by ringing a bell. I request local admin to blow a siren to inform everyone about this,” Modi said during his nearly 30-minute address. He asserted that the experience and success of Janta Curfew’ will also prepare the nation to face challenges in the future.
As the virus continued to spread its tentacles across India, several parts, including Kashmir Valley headed towards a virtual lockdown with the administration restricting the movement of people in several parts and banning all public transport in Srinagar city.
Punjab and the national capital also inched towards a virtual shutdown. While the Punjab government announced the suspension of public transport services from Friday midnight and restricting public gatherings to less than 20 besides deciding to close down marriage palaces, hotels, restaurants, banquets and dining places, except home delivery services and takeaways in the entire state.
The Kejriwal government in Delhi also announced shutting down of restaurants but said that takeaway and home delivery services will continue. “Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal has asked all government departments, autonomous bodies and PSUs to segregate activities and suspend non-essential services,” Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said at a press conference.
Non-essential government services will be discontinued from Friday, he added. Social, cultural and political gatherings with more than 20 people are not allowed across the national capital to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus disease, he said.
As part of its efforts to detect and prevent the spread of coronavirus, which has claimed over 8,000 lives globally and infected more than two lakh, the government banned all international commercial passenger aircraft from landing in the country from March 22 to March 29.
Moreover, the Central government has requested states to enforce work for home for private-sector employees, except for those working in emergency and essential services.
“State governments shall issue appropriate directions so that all citizens above 65 (other than for medical assistance) except for public representatives or government servants or medical professionals are advised to remain at home,” the government statement noted.
“No scheduled international commercial passenger aircraft shall be allowed to land in India from March 22, 2020, for one week,” the government statement said. “Similarly, all children below 10 should be advised to stay at home and not to venture out,” it added.
“States are being requested to enforce work for home for private-sector employees except those working in emergency/essential services,” the statement added.
While the Indian Railways decided to suspend all concessional tickets except for patients, students and those in the Divyangjan category from the midnight of March 20 till further notice to discourage unnecessary travel, IndiGo announced pay cuts for senior employees, including of its CEO who would take the highest cut of 25 per cent amid the novel coronavirus pandemic that has hit the aviation industry hard.
The total tally of 173 includes 25 foreign nationals — 17 from Italy, 3 from the Philippines, two from the UK, one each belonging to Canada, Indonesia and Singapore. There are four deaths reported from Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Punjab so far.
Delhi has reported 12 positive cases which include one foreigner, while Uttar Pradesh has recorded 17 cases, including one foreigner.
Maharashtra has 45 cases, including three foreigners, while Kerala has recorded 27 cases which include two foreign nationals.
Karnataka has 14 coronavirus patients. The number of cases in Ladakh rose to eight and Jammu and Kashmir four. Telangana has reported six cases which include two foreigners.
Rajasthan has also reported seven cases including that of two foreigners. Tamil Nadu has two cases so far. Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Pondicherry, Chandigarh and Punjab have reported one case each. In Haryana, there are 17 cases, which include 14 foreigners.
In the last minute-decision, the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) postponed class 10 and 12 examinations, which were to start from Thursday. With the class 12 sociology exam scheduled to be held at 2 pm, the announcement was made at 10 am.
The HRD Ministry had on Wednesday ordered the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to postpone their exams till March 31, saying the safety of students and staff were as important as following the exam calendar. Briefing reporters on progress made on suggestions made by Prime Minister Modi during a SAARC nations’ video-conference on coronavirus, the Ministry of External Affairs said: “Very fast” movement was being made on his proposals.
On the emergency fund, it is already up and running. We have received many requests from other SAARC countries for assistance in the form of masks, shoe covers, gloves, disinfectants and other items,” MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
“The quantum of assistance, which has been requested (from India) so far, has crossed $1 million. Supplies to Bhutan and the Maldives have been dispatched. Requests from other SAARC countries are under various stages of the process,” he added.
Meanwhile, Mumbai’s famed tiffin suppliers, the dabbawalas, said they are suspending their services from Friday till March 31 because of the coronavirus situation.
In the national capital, the upscale Sunder Nagar market in South Delhi has been closed till March 31 because of the coronavirus outbreak, the traders’ body said. It is the first market to shut down in the capital.
(With inputs from cnbctv18)