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Coronavirus marches on

55 more cases in 1 day take total to 249; campaign in full swing

India as on Friday reported 55 more positive cases of COVID-19, highest so far in a day, taking the total tally to 249 belying hopes that the onset of summer will curb the spread of deadly coronavirus. Among those found positive for the novel coronavirus are 32 foreign nationals, including 17 from Italy, three from the Philippines, two from the UK, one each belonging to Canada, Indonesia and Singapore. The figure also included four deaths reported from Delhi, Karnataka, Punjab and Maharashtra so far.

Presently, 6,700 people who came in contact with the patients are under rigorous surveillance.

A spike in numbers prompted the States and UTs to reinforce its efforts to contain the spread. While the Maharashtra Chief Minister said all workplaces in major cities, including in country’s commercial hub Mumbai and Pune, will remain closed till March 31, the Delhi Chief Minister announced shutting down of all malls in the national Capital, but exempted grocery stores and pharmacies.

The Centre extended till April 15 the regular visa and e-visa of those foreigners stranded in India due to the coronavirus pandemic. India has reported four deaths so far due to the virus that has taken toll on 5,168 people across the continent, mostly in Italy which is now the hardest hit country in the world with 3,405 fatalities.

As coronavirus continued its upward trajectory across the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday held a meeting via video link  and deliberated ways to check its spread with Chief Ministers of various States. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and top Health Ministry officials were present in the meeting.

On the other hand, several Indo-Pacific nations on Friday held a teleconference to exchange their assessments about the coronavirus pandemic and discuss ways to work in synergy to combat the global menace. Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla took part in a US-initiated teleconference during which he briefed the participants on the proactive steps taken by India to counter the pandemic.

On the issue of Indian stranded in Europe in transit due to the travel restrictions imposed by India in the wake of coronavirus scare, the Government said it is working out the logistics with various airlines to bring them back.

“The MEA is working out the logistics with airline companies to bring back stranded Indians from EU countries,” the MEA said.

The airlines did not let them fly on board for the fear of penalty, Additional Secretary in MEA, Dammu Ravi, told reporters here.

He also clarified that no Indian diplomats and embassy officials or staff have been infected with COVID-19 as per the Government’s knowledge even in the worst affected cities like Wuhan and Italy.

“The total number of active COVID-19 cases across India stands at 196 so far,” Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Union Health Ministry said here at a Press conference, adding that 23 others have been cured/discharged/migrated while four have died. Delhi has, so far, reported 17 positive cases, which includes one foreigner, while Uttar Pradesh has recorded 23 cases, including one foreigner. Meanwhile, a 69-year-old Italian tourist who had “recovered” from the novel coronavirus died at a private hospital in Jaipur after suffering a massive cardiac arrest late on Thursday night, SMS Medical College principal Sudhir Bhandari said.

States continue to report the cases. Maharashtra has 52 cases, including three foreigners, while Kerala has recorded 28 cases which include two foreign nationals while Karnataka has 15 coronavirus patients. The number of cases in Ladakh rose to 10 and Jammu & Kashmir four. Telangana has reported 17 cases, which include nine foreigners.

Rajasthan has also reported 17 cases, including that of two foreigners. Tamil Nadu has three cases so far while Andhra Pradesh has three. In Haryana, there are 17 cases, which include 14 foreigners. Odisha has two cases while Uttarakhand has three cases so far. West Bengal and Punjab each reported two cases while Puducherry, Chandigarh and Punjab reported one case each.

“A total of 14,376 samples from 13,486 individuals have been tested for SARS-CoV2 as on March 20,” Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) officials said. The sources said that the ICMR is likely to soon issue instructions to the accredited private labs who have been given nod to conduct tests for the virus to cap the price of each test between Rs 4,500 and Rs 5,000. The Union Health Ministry has also asked hospitals and medical education institutes to procure sufficient number of ventilators and high flow oxygen masks and advised them to decrease gatherings on their respective premises.

Without naming singer Kanika Kapoor who evaded test by escaping from the airport, and has been  found positive for the virus on Friday, Lav Agarwal said that States are empowered to take legal action against those hiding their travel status or medical treatment. “States are empowered to take legal action against those evading or hiding their status.

There have been cases where people have been found running away from the test,” he said. However, while the UP Government is yet to initiate any action in Kanika Kapoor’s case, a resident of Lucknow, a Punjab woman, who had tested positive for the coronavirus, and fled from the hospital has been subsequently booked for doing so. Union Minister G Kishan Reddy has urged family members to not resist the Government move to test and quarantine people returning from countries battling coronavirus.

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