May 2020
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National News
Coronavirus: 227 new positive cases nationwide with 11 more deaths; Govt says no community transmission yet
New Delhi: The COVID-19 crisis appeared escalating on Monday with at least 11 new deaths including of six from Telangana who had attended a religious congregation in the national capital''s Nizamuddin area earlier this month, while the government reported 227 fresh cases of infection nationwide -- the highest for a day. While the Union Health Ministry maintained the deadly virus was still in the local transmission stage in India and yet to move to the community transmission phase, the Supreme Court cautioned that fear and panic are becoming a bigger problem than the coronavirus.

The government also said there was no immediate plan to extend the 21-day lockdown period, which entered its sixth day on Monday, while the Indian Army dismissed as "fake" social media posts about a possible emergency declaration next month. In its latest update, the Union Home Ministry said the dealth toll due to COVID-19 has risen to 32 and the number of total positive cases to 1,251 as on Monday 9.30 PM, up from 1,024 positive cases and 27 deaths as on Sunday evening. While there are more than 1,100 active cases, nearly 100 have been cured. While this nationwide update included only one death from Telangana, the state government later in the night said in a statement that six people from the state who attended a congregation in Delhi''s Nizamuddin have died due to coronavirus.

Officials said over 2,000 delegates, including from Indonesia and Malaysia, had attended the Tabligh-e-Jamaat congregation in Nizamuddin West from March 1-15. More than 200 people have been admitted to hospitals after showing symptoms of the disease and test results for many of them are expected on Tuesday. The Delhi Police cordoned off the area after several people showed symptoms of coronavirus after taking part in a religious gathering a few days ago. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal later ordered FIR against the person who led the congregation. While the nationwide tally of confirmed cases of infection rose on Monday by 227 -- the largest one-day increase -- to 1,251, at least 25 fresh cases were reported from Delhi alone, taking the national capital''s tally to 97, as per the Delhi Health Department.

Fresh coronavirus cases were reported from several states including Rajasthan, Haryana, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, including in Noida in the national capital region. The Delhi government converted its 11 schools into night shelters in a bid to help migrant workers stay in the city during the lockdown period, which would be in addition to the existing 238 night shelters in the city. Interacting with organisations involved in social work via video conferencing, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked them to counter misinformation and superstition on coronavirus as he observed that people have been flouting social distancing norms in the name of belief.

Modi also held a video-conference with 130 Indian missions abroad on COVID-19 and said extraordinary times require extraordinary solutions and referred to "unprecedented" and early steps taken by India since mid-January to reduce the risk of importing the coronavirus infection and prevent a large outbreak. However, the Union Health Ministry in its daily briefing said the COVID-19 is still in local transmission stage in India and it took 12 days for cases of infection to rise from 100 to 1,000 at a rate of increase slower than some of the developed countries. Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health Lav Agarwal asserted there has been no community transmission as yet. Earlier on Sunday, an SOP (standard operating procedure) issued by the Health Ministry had referred to the current phase of COVID-19 pandemic in India as "local transmission and limited community transmission".

Agarwal urged all to maintain social distancing, saying even one person''s carelessness may lead to spread of coronavirus pandemic. He attributed the slow pace of rise in cases in India to people''s participation in strictly following the social distancing guidelines and the collective preemptive actions taken by the Centre in tandem with state governments. The worldwide tally of deaths crossed 35,900, with more than 26,000 people dying in Europe. Globally, more than 7,40,000 people have been detected positive so far, out of which nearly 1,42,300 have recovered, as per various reports. In UK, Prince Charles appeared recovering and moved out of self-isolation, but Israeli Prime Minister entered quarantine after an aide tested positive for the deadly virus.

Raman R Gangakhedkar, Head of Epidemiology and Communicable diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said 38,442 tests have been conducted till now in India, out of which 3,501 were done on Sunday. He said 47 private laboratories have been given approval for conducting COVID-19 tests and in the last three days, 1,334 tests have been done in private labs. However, the government had to clarify that there was no immediate plan to extend the 21-day lockdown amid fears that shutdown of businesses across the country to counter the spread of the virus may trigger severe economic and social distress. The Indian Army also clarified that no effort is being initiated to rope in services of retired personnel, the National Cadet Corps and the volunteers enrolled under the National Service Scheme in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

The Supreme Court also stepped in amid a crisis created by thousands of migrant workers trying to return to their natives places after being rendered jobless and homeless due to the lockdown. The apex court observed that the panic and fear are becoming a "bigger problem than coronavirus", and sought a status report from the Centre by Tuesday on the measures taken to prevent the exodus. Hearing two separate petitions through video conferencing, the court said it would not create more confusion by issuing directions on measures which the government is already taking, before looking at the status report from the Centre. Separately, the government told all its departments to pay high priority to public grievances related to coronavirus. The Railway Board told its zonal units to be ready to convert up to 20,000 train coaches into isolation wards for treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Steps have also been initiated for releasing thousands of prisoners in overcrowded jails across the country on interim bail or parole in an unprecedented step to prevent the spread of coronavirus and also to avoid any clashes. Among new cases, 16 new coronavirus positive cases were reported in Uttar Pradesh, taking the total tally in the state to 88. Of this, 14 have fully recovered and discharged, while the national capital''s adjoining Gautam Buddh Nagar district alone has reported 36 cases, officials said. Top administration officials across the country, including in the national capital, were warned of strict action for any laxity during the lockdown period. In West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee warned that any one ostracizing healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients will be arrested.

In Uttar Pradesh, a some officials were seen forcefully sanitising a group of migrants with ''chemicals", which prompted the apex child rights body NCPCR to demand disciplinary and penal action against officials responsible for this. The Congress and other opposition parties also demanded action on such behaviour. The main opposition party also demanded that the central government bring in a law or rule to ensure there is no retrenchment of workers in the private sector for six months till August in the wake of lockdown due to coronavirus. Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram termed "miserly and inadequate" the government''s economic package for the poor in the wake of coronavirus outbreak and urged it to announce a "bold" financial package. He said a confidence-boosting financial assistance plan should have been announced prior to the imposition of the lockdown.

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