Category Archives: News Flash

News Flash – 21 March 2020

National News



All Private Offices, Non-Essential Services Shut in City & Pune


Mumbai: On a day the number of Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra crossed the 50 mark, CM Uddhav Thackeray ordered the shutting down of all private offices and shops and establishments that provide non-essential services in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Nagpur till March 31. The shutdown came into effect from Friday midnight. While public transport like buses and trains will still remain operational, the state has appealed to people to reduce crowds on these services. All government offices will also work with 25% attendance, down from the 50% that was being implemented from Thursday. Restaurants can stay open if they operate with 50% customer capacity and have a three-feet separation between patrons. Thackeray, in a live video address on Friday, said these measures were being taken to reduce crowds in the cities and in the public transport systems. “I am aware many people may not like this decision, but the number of positive coronavirus cases in these cities is going up. Despite repeated appeals, crowds in trains and buses have not reduced,” he said. Thackeray said the government was reviewing crowds, and if they didn’t reduce, a decision to stop trains and buses would be taken. Those exempted from the lockdown are establishments providing essential services like drinking water, sewerage services, banking services, telephone and internet services, railway and transportation services, food, vegetables and groceries, hospitals, medical centres and medical stores, newspapers and the media, electricity providers, ports, oil refineries, petroleum and the IT sector providing for any of these essential services.



Production and manufacturing units required for functioning of these essential services will continue to work at 50% staff strength. Also exempted are key infrastructure projects, foreign consulates, and production, transportation, supply chain, ecommerce of all essential goods and warehousing of essential food, grocery, grains. The state has also left out stock exchanges, clearing corporations, stock brokers, depositories and SEBI registered participants operating through these institutions. The state has empowered civic chiefs to decide in case of doubts if an establishment is essential. If anyone violates the order, action can be taken under Section 188 of IPC which provides for six months’ jail term or a fine of Rs 1,000 or both. “We are not closing down trains and buses as emergency service personnel use them to get to work. It is very easy for us to shut these,” the CM said. Uddhav, like PM Modi, asked employers not to cut wages of staff. Taxis and autorickshaws on Mumbai’s roads may come down drastically during the shutdown though public transport has been allowed. A union leader said, “Having over a lakh auto makes no sense as there will hardly be business. Most autos will switch to share routes; others may gradually go off roads.” Kaali Peelis will be fewer, around 10,000; there are 20,000 on normal days. Ola and Uber cabs will function, but a lot will depend on driver partner availability. BEST buses will operate, as will MSRTC.



Dharavi Man May Face Arrest for Defying Home Quarantine

Passengers arrive at city airport on Friday. The Centre has banned all international flights to India from March 22-28.



Mumbai: The Mumbai police is likely to initiate legal action against a Dharavi resident who stepped out of home quarantine and moved around in public on Friday. The 43-year-old man had travelled to Dubai in search of a job, and on his return four days ago was stamped at the city airport and asked to remain home quarantined for 14 days. He has now been sent to Seven-Hills Hospital in Andheri where he will be quarantined. A BMC official said: “He had erased the ‘Home Quarantine’ stamp with some chemical. We conduct random checking and found out that one of them was not at home. We have taken serious cognizance of it and immediately took him to the police station”. Police commissioner Parambir Singh told TOI, “We caught the person and sent him to Seven Hills Hospital as he did not follow the home quarantine directives. Legal action will follow later, but this should be a lesson for those who are running away from quarantine centres. This is the first case in our jurisdiction and we are enhancing security on all home quarantine arrangements in the city”.



Assistant municipal commissioner of G-North ward Kiran Dighavkar, which covers areas like Dharavi, said every day the ward has been receiving a list from Mumbai airport about the number of travellers entering the city and placed on home quarantine. “The police, along with BMC teams, are keeping a vigil as to whether the persons are adhering to the direction given to them. In many cases, we personally visit the homes,” he said. This is the fourth instance in the past two days where people who were to remain quarantined were found in public places. Seventeen people were deboarded from trains in three separate instances on Thursday. On Wednesday, four passengers en route to Surat were deboarded at Palghar station. On Thursday, state home minister Anil Deshmukh had said that stern action would be taken against those escaping quarantine centres by booking them under the Epidemic Diseases Act. The offence carries a punishment of six months in jail or Rs 1,000 fine or both.



2 Covid-19 Cases in City, 4 Others Take State Tally to 54


Mumbai: Six persons tested positive for Covid-19 in the state on Friday, taking Maharashtra’s tally to 54, still the highest count among states by a fair distance. Two of the new cases were in Mumbai, two in Pune and one each in Kalyan, and Pimpri-Chinchwad. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) now has 21 cases, one less than Pune and contiguous Pimpri-Chinchwad. After Pimpri (12), Mumbai now has the second highest number of cases (11), followed by Pune (10). Health minister Rajesh Tope said at least five patients have responded to treatment and have tested negative for the virus. “They will continue the quarantine and if they still test negative, they will be discharged,” said Tope. State officials added 41 are asymptomatic and 8 have mild symptoms. In Mumbai, two patients continue to be serious. On Friday, BMC opened three more screening centres for Covid-19 at K B Bhabha, Bhabha Kurla and Rajawadi in Ghatkopar to decongest Kasturba that has been screening nearly 600 people daily. Among those who tested positive from Mumbai was a 62-year-old man from D ward (Tardeo, Girgaum, Malabar Hill) with travel history to the UK, while the second individual is a 38-year-old man from F north ward (Matunga, Sion, Dharavi), who has visited Turkey.



Civic authorities said the person found positive in Kalyan, a 53-year-old man, had a travel history to Dubai. Incidentally, he developed symptoms almost after two weeks of returning to the country. A 20-year-old man who had returned from Scotland tested positive in Pune. Divisional commissioner Deepak Mhaisekar confirmed that a 41-yearold woman, undergoing intensive treatment at Bharati Hospital in Pune, had also tested positive. Her throat swab when sent by the hospital authorities to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) to rule out swine flu turned out to be positive for Covid-19. In Pimpri-Chinchwad, the new patient is the 24-year-old brother of the 22-year-old man who had tested positive after a trip to Philippines and Singapore. BMC’s Dr Daksha Shah said the 62-year-old from south Mumbai had returned to the city on March 14. He had underlying conditions, including diabetes, and had undergone chemotherapy for cancer. His condition is said to be stable. The 38-year-old also returned on March 14. After developing symptoms on the fourth day, he was admitted to Kasturba on Wednesday. The hospital now has 127 patients admitted.



Pune Woman with No Foreign Travel Contact Tests +Ve

Health workers spray disinfectant on roads in Chennai on Friday.



Pune: Doctors at the Bharati hospital here were flummoxed when the throat swab sample of a critically-ill woman admitted under their care turned out to be positive for the novel coronavirus on Friday morning though they had sent it to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) to rule out swine flu (H1N1). The doctors had not suspected Covid-19 as the 41-year-old woman, resident of Sinhagad road, had not given any history of foreign travel or any known contact with foreign travellers or with anyone found infected with the infection. Besides, none of the positive coronavirus cases in the country so far have been due to community transmission. When contacted, Pune divisional commissioner Deepak Mhaisekar said, “The directorate health services of the state have reported this case to the government of India. Officials are gathering information about all people the woman may have come in contact with. We will officially be able to say anything on the community spread of the virus thereafter.” Health authorities, however, ruled out the case as being one of community spread of coronavirus in India, saying it was likely that the woman may have unknowingly come in contact with someone with a recent history of international travel or any close contact of such travellers.



Incidentally, the woman attended a marriage in Vashi, Navi Mumbai, on March 3 where around 1,500 guests were present. Four of her family members her mother, her two children and a niece are also showing flu-like symptoms including fever, sore throat and cough. Sinhagad road in the city, where the woman resides with her family, is one of the five identified clusters of the coronavirus infection in Maharashtra. Five of the nine positive cases of coronavirus within the municipal limits of Pune are from the Sinhagad road area. Bharati hospital, where the woman has been on ventilator support since March 16, is one of the 11private hospitals in Pune designated for the isolation and treatment of patients with Covid-19. “We sent her throat swab to NIV for confirmation of swine flu on Wednesday. We received an email from the NIV on Friday stating that she has tested positive for Covid-19 and negative for swine flu,” Paediatrician Sanjay Lalwani, medical director of Bharati hospital.



Delhi Malls, Markets Shut for Three Days



New Delhi: The Delhi government on Friday announced closure of all shopping malls, Dilli Haat and discontinued tourist bus facility in an effort to contain spread of the coronavirus. However, pharmacy, grocery, vegetable and fruit stores will remain open, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal said in a statement on Friday. The Confederation of All India Traders, which has over 4,000 market associations as members in Delhi, also announced a three-day closure of all shops from Saturday. UP also directed malls in Noida, Lucknow and Kanpur to be shut till further notice. Educations institutions will be closed till April 2. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, for the first time in 18 years of its operation, decided to suspend its operations on March 22 in support of ‘Janata Curfew’. Most cabs and all autorickshaws too will remain off the roads. The government decided to suspend non-essential services till March 31 and asked heads of departments to allow employees to work from home.



60,000 Quarantine Beds Set Aside as Corona Cases Rise

Contestants take precautions before a beauty contest in Jabalpur on Friday.



New Delhi: Health ministry officials said the government was taking focused steps to ramp up preparedness in terms of capacity building and procurement of essential items for hospitals so that they can treat Covid-19 patients. So far, 19,111isolation beds have been reserved in public and private hospitals, up from around 17,000 till the first week of March. Similarly, ventilators have been increased by 2.5 times since January and around 60,000 quarantine beds earmarked across the country. “The medical infrastructure in the country needs to be prepared for any possible influx of patients on account of Covid19,” an advisory issued late on Friday said. The measures have been proposed up to March 31 and will be reviewed. It was also said that all hospitals will carry out a preparedness drill on March 22 the day of the “Janata curfew” called by PM Narendra Modi and the health ministry has issued detailed guidelines. The advisory is intended to address concerns that the health infrastructure may struggle to tackle the burden if more severe cases are diagnosed and to maintain the edge gained by a series of proactive steps that have been taken to substantially shut down the borders for a large section of travellers. The health ministry reported 223 confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Friday, recording a significant jump of 50 cases since Thursday. The 223 cases include 191 Indian nationals and 32 foreigners. The cases are among more than 14,000 tests conducted to check on people suspected for the disease.



So far, 173 Covid-19 cases have been hospitalised. While 23 of them were cured, four deaths were reported. The advisory also asked hospitals to discharge stable patients at the earliest and restrict further admissions. “Some beds should be set apart and prepared for creating isolation facilities in every public and private hospital. All hospitals should mobilize additional resources including masks, gloves and personal protection equipment. Healthcare personnel should be trained for dealing with any foreseeable emergencies,” the advisory said. All hospitals must ensure that they have adequate trained manpower and resource pools for ventilator and ICU care, it added. The advisory included various other preparedness measures for indoor facilities, out-patient departments, administrative as well as for communication and awareness activities. Besides banning export of personal protective equipment like masks, the government has also identified manufacturers and placed orders for additional procurement. The government maintained that as the burden was rising progressively, it was important to break the chain of transmission by strictly following social distancing protocols.



Next 2 Weeks Crucial to Contain Spread of Virus Across the State, LOCKDOWN DAY 7 Health Department Officials Fear Social Interaction by those in Home Quarantine Could Tip Balance

TOUGH TIMES: Staff of Karnataka chapter of Indian Red Cross Society hold placards on Mysuru Road, requesting people to donate blood. Donations have fallen due to the Covid-19 scare. (Right) Amaresh, a software engineer working in Canada married Sneha at a simple function in Davanagere on Friday.

Only a few relatives and friends attended the function which was monitored by taluk officials to ensure the families stuck to directions pertaining to large gatherings. The bride and groom were cordoned off by tape and guests greeted the couple from afar to ensure social distancing norms were followed.



Bengaluru: The weekend and the next couple of weeks will likely decide which way the Covid-19 situation would head in Karnataka, experts and officials say. Social distancing is the key to break the spread of the virus and the statewide lockdown will be put to the test during these days, experts say. Health department officials fear social interactions by those who should remain in home isolation could undermine efforts of the government. A top bureaucrat said though the upcoming weekend closure is required, the tempo needs to be sustained. “But our concern is after the Sunday shutdown, people should not take to the streets in large numbers the next day,” he added. Dr V Ravi, professor and head, department of Neurovirology, Nimhans, said Karnataka’s preparations kicked in much earlier than during previous viral outbreaks. “This is the first time we prepared early,” Ravi said. “How effective the measures will be being everybody’s responsibility and not the government’s alone. Unless people own responsibility, we cannot be assured that the state would overcome the situation. People must avoid crowding and not go out when not required”.



Health and family welfare department officials are holding confabulations on the way ahead to contain the spread of the virus. “So far, there have not been cases of community spread,” an official said. “But we need to make sure we overcome problems at the earliest. All those who have come from abroad and primary and secondary contacts of persons who test positive must stay put and behave responsibly”. A senior official with the department said stamping on hands of those returning from abroad should have been started earlier for better impact. “Since we have not done it, we should ideally be going in search of all those 42,000 people who returned to Karnataka in the last 14 days, and stamp their hands. That’s to make sure they remain in home isolation and do not step out. But this is a mammoth task. It’s virtually impossible to do,” he said. Health experts reiterate the need of the hour is to remain at home and not to venture out. “However tempting it may be to travel around, it is more important to help oneself and everyone around by staying at home this weekend. Cook, read, tele chat with friends and tele-consult your doctor if needed, but stay home. We must all do our bit to support the government’s efforts at containment,” Dr Sunita Maheshwari, vision group member, health and medical education, Karnataka, said.



3 More Positive Cases Take Telangana Tally to 19

Passengers queue up at Secunderabad Railway Station for thermal screening before boarding trains.



Hyderabad: In the wake of coronavirus scare, the Telangana high court on Friday directed the state government to postpone SSC examinations scheduled to be held from March 23 to 30. The HC, however, allowed Saturday’s (March 21) exam to be held as per schedule. The HC said it was not advisable to compel students to travel to exam centres and congregate for three hours amid the looming threat of the virus. As exams are scheduled to be held till April 6, government should assess the situation and re-notify the schedule, it said. Education special chief secretary, Chitra Ramachandran, said the rescheduled exam dates will be intimated later. A bench of Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice A Abhishek Reddy gave this direction while hearing a public interest petition filed by M Balakrishna of Secunderabad, who challenged the decision of the SSC Board to go ahead with the exams, spread over three weeks from March 19 to April 6. The case will be heard again on March 30. Petitioner’s counsel Kowturu Pavan Kumar urged the HC to direct authorities to review their decision in this regard.



The bench, while directing the authorities to postpone SSC exams between March 23 and 30, asked the government to re-assess the matter on March 29. A high-level committee should review coronavirus-related situation and decide the next course on re-notifying the exams, the bench said. Advocate general B S Prasad tried to convince the bench, saying that preventive measures, including disinfecting the exam halls, had been taken. The bench, citing a circular issued by the HRD ministry, said while it was important to maintain the academic calendar and schedules, it was equally important to look after the safety of students, teachers and parents. “We have taken note of precautionary measures being taken by government. However, in view of the prevailing situation world over, we feel that exams should be postponed,” the bench said, considering the likelihood of further deterioration of health situation in coming days. “Think of rescheduling exams slated to be held from March 31to April 6 also,” the bench said. Reminding authorities about the great danger being posed by the virus, HC hoped they would be alive to the ground realities.



City Registers Second +Ve Corona Patient, also from UK

Ambulances wait outside the south Kolkata residential complex to take the family members of the city’s second Covid-19 patient for quarantine.

Everyone living in the complex has been advised not to venture out and help as well as drivers have been barred from coming in.



Kolkata: A 22-year-old management graduate from London, who had landed in Kolkata on March 13 via Delhi, has tested positive for Covid-19, taking the number of cases in the city to two. The youth son of a prominent sanitary hardware store owner in south Kolkata had no symptoms when he arrived, but was advised strict home isolation. He got in touch with the Beliaghata ID Hospital and sought admission on Wednesday after he developed a sore throat and came to know that two of his friends who had accompanied him on the flight from London had tested positive in their home cities of Chhattisgarh and Punjab. A swab test confirmed the presence of the virus early on Friday, and the youth has been kept in isolation at the hospital’s IB2 ward, where the other Covid-19 patient the 18-yearold who had also contracted the virus in London is under treatment. Eleven members of the youth’s family, including his parents and grandparents, have also been shifted to an isolation centre in New Town. The youth’s family owns four flats at the apartment complex in which they stay. Soon after his arrival, his father had called the Beliaghata ID Hospital and sought advice, said sources. He was asked to monitor his son’s temperature and check whether he suffered from breathlessness. None of these symptoms showed up till Monday morning, when the youth felt a slight soreness in his throat. Alarmed, he called the hospital again and was advised home isolation. On Wednesday, he came to know about his two friends, and drove down to the hospital, accompanied by his father. The youth was immediately tested and placed in an isolated unit.



His father said that though the family was wary about neighbours’ reactions, due to the stigma attached with Covid-19, and worried about his son’s health, they were trying their best to remain calm. “Although no one in the family has so far shown any symptom, we are wary. We are trying to avoid panic, though. There shouldn’t be any stigma attached to the disease. My son will recover and bounce back,” he said. The family has been kept in isolation at the Chittaranjan National Cancer Research Centre in New Town. Even though it appears the family did everything right, and the youth kept himself confined at home since arrival, a section of neighbours said they were “worried” because members of the family had been “moving about”. “Till their test reports arrive, we are not sure. So, we are adopting extreme precautions,” said a neighbour. There were also rumours that the youth had been seen in the neighbourhood. His father, however, strongly denied that, saying his son didn’t leave home. A group of residents of Ishwar Ganguly Street and SP Mukherjee Road alleged that the family members had visited their shop several times in the last few days. They lodged a general diary at the Kalighat police station and demanded that the shop be locked. Two stores owned by the family were sealed later on Friday and will be fumigated, said cops. Soon after he tested positive early on Friday, the youth was shifted from an isolation bed to a cabin at the IB2 ward, which had been created for Ebola virus patients. The other Covid-19 patient is in the same unit. A hospital source said that the 22-year-old has shown no severe symptoms till now, and was stable. “Since he is young and his health parameters fine, we are sticking to conservative treatment,” said the source. The city’s first Covid-19 positive had arrived from London last Sunday. He tested positive on Tuesday.



South Kolkata Condo ‘Locked Down’ after Youth Tests Covid-19 +Ve

Everyone at the south Kolkata complex being told to wash their hands before entering the towers.



Kolkata: The condominium in south Kolkata, where the city’s second confirmed Covid-19 patient lives, woke up to a “lockdown” on Friday and the chilling realization that the virus had reached the doorsteps. “Our councillor has confirmed that one boy from Tower 2 has tested positive for Covid-19. The entire family as well as their driver should be quarantined immediately. The health department has asked all residents of the complex to stay in home isolation and not to move out of their respective flats unless there’s an emergency. No outsiders, including drivers, domestic help and guests, will be allowed inside the complex. In case of any fever or illness of any member in the complex, they can contact the doctors available in the complex immediately,” the president of the apartment association messaged to residents on a social media group on Friday morning. Though the association had begun taking guard against the virus, which has wreaked havoc worldwide, more than a week earlier, the functionary said they were shocked when a positive case was identified from the address. “I have instructed everyone to go into home isolation. The residents have agreed and are cooperating with us. We understand, people are not used to such an atmosphere of a lockdown, but that is the only solution to the current problem,” the president said. She added she had also requested the families not to deduct salary of the domestic help and drivers, who have been barred entry into the complex to minimise the chance of the spread of the novel coronavirus. On Friday, after ambulances took away all the 11 family members of the youth, health department and KMC workers arrived to sanitize the common areas of the building, including the lobby, lifts, stairs and corridors on 25 floors of two towers. The family owns two flats in each of the two towers.



According to information shared by the family with the state health department, the youth returned from London on March 13 but did not show any Covid-19 symptom when he was screened at the airport. He was advised home isolation. The apartment owners’ association president said the youth did abide by the home isolation advisory and never stepped out of his flat. A person living in the youth’s building said, “Our complex usually hums with activity since 8am with cars being washed, domestic help chatting while walking into flats, people leaving for work and children, who have no school, playing in the corridors and the garden below. But it fell eerily silent on Friday morning”. But the residents aren’t quite certain if the quarantine protocol was strictly followed within the extended family, who also lives in the same complex. Moreover, on learning about the youth testing positive, some residents of S P Mukherjee Road and Ishwar Ganguly Street submitted a petition to the Kalighat police station on Friday, alleging he, along with his father, had visited a bath fittings shop, owned by the family, this week. The residents requested the cops to shut the shop and disinfect the surroundings. The association last week issued an advisory, urging those who had travelled abroad in the past seven days or returned from any of the notified countries to stay in home isolation for at least 14 days. Gym and banquet facilities were shut and entry of delivery personnel was restricted. “The complex had been following safety measures, like people being told to wash hands while entering and exiting and disinfecting of lifts, lobby and common toilets. From Friday, the exercise has been heightened and everyone has been told to maintain self-hygiene,” said Debasis Kumar, MMiC (parks and gardens) who owns a flat at the condominium.



Gated Communities Step Up Fight Against Coronavirus


Kolkata: Alerted by back-to-back confirmed Covid-19 cases in the city and the fact that both the patients are residents of two premium housing societies, residential complexes in Kolkata have started enforcing a set of rules to fight the spread of virus. At Urbana, the residents’ association have formed a Covid-vigilance core committee comprising residents, advisors and doctors and a second level of committee Covid vigilance team comprising two representatives from each of the towers. They have been tasked to ensure any resident coming from abroad is reported to the state government and stays in home quarantine. The committees are meeting daily at 8pm to discuss the developments. “We have a large influx of people who frequently travel abroad. If anyone comes from abroad and is without any symptom of infection, we are asking them to stay in home quarantine. Most of them are co-operating. We are reporting to the chief minister’s office if anyone is not co-operating,” said Sanjiv Ganeriwal, president of Urbana Welfare Association. The complex has stopped all sorts of interior decoration and renovation works to limit entry of outsiders. The association has also made videos on dos and don’ts and on personal hygiene advisory and is sharing them on WhatsApp groups. At Silver Spring off EM Bypass, the resident association isn’t allowing any delivery personnel inside the complex and has been asking residents to either come to the reception and pick the order by himself or to collect it later from the security personnel. The complex has also barred entry of outsiders if they have high temperature.



For residents, anyone tested with temperature above 98.5°F is being asked to stay in home quarantine. “As a precautionary measure, we have covered all the lift buttons with plastic sheets and have been cleaning them in regular intervals. We are changing the plastics every day. We have also engaged five housekeeping staff dedicated for timely cleaning of all common areas,” said Ashok Baid, a senior member of the association. At South City, the apartment owners’ association has put up photos and videos citing out corona advisory in the common area and the security help desk, covered lift buttons with plastic sheets and have closed down children parks, clubs and swimming pools. “We live in a mini township with about 5,000 residents and about 2,000 support staff walking in and out throughout the day. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, we have taken some measures that include mandatory hand-washing, using sanitizers to mop frequently touched areas, like door handles and lift buttons, and maintain self-isolation as much as possible,” said Sunil Agarwal, a senior member of the association. Apart from ensuring all basic safety and hygiene measures that most complexes are following, residents of Power Towers in New Town have also been strongly advised to not to forward any WhatsApp content on coronavirus before checking its authenticity. “We have seen a number of fake messages in the form of audio clips, video, photos and write ups circulating in our apartment owners’ WhatsApp groups. It will only intensify the panic. Hence, we have asked all owners to refrain from sending such messages and maintain personal and community hygiene as much as possible,” said Sovan Dutta, a senior member of the association.



Kolkata Malls to Remain Shut on Sunday, for Sanitization

Quest Mall that was shut on Friday will remain closed till Sunday.



Kolkata: The Quest Mall in Park Circus has shut down for three days from Friday for sanitization. The other malls — Acropolis, South City, Forum and City Centre I & II, too, will stay shut on Sunday for the same reason. Sushil Mohta, the chairman of Merlin Group and director of South City, said Sunday is the best day for sanitization and given the situation, it’s also good for taking precaution. Incidentally, Prime Minister Modi has also called for a “Janata Curfew” on Sunday, which may also lead to lesser footfall. However, a grocery Hypermart in Quest and South City Mall, will remain open. The Quest Mall will start functioning again on March 23, a circular sent to the retailers said. This is being done to sanitize the mall and encourage social distancing, authorities said. “This is being done to ensure the safety of our retailers and customers. We will, however, allow the hypermarket to operate because it serves day-to-day needs of our customers,” said Sanjeev Mehra, spokesperson for Quest. On Friday, the Hypermart opened at 2 pm.



South City, Forum, Acropolis, and City Centre I & II, have decided to stay shut on Sunday and completely sanitize the premises. South City Mall will allow a Hypermart to operate on Sunday but Acropolis said it will keep everything, including the Hypermart, closed. “The idea is to encourage social distancing. If we keep the Hypermart open, the purpose will be defeated,” said K Vijayan, mall head of Acropolis. South City mall has changed its timings from Saturday till further notice. The mall will now open at noon and shut at 8:30pm, instead of its usual 10am-to-10pm schedule. “We are doing this to bring down the peak-hour crowd. We are also allowing seating at alternate tables in our food court to maintain social distancing,” said Dip Biswas, DGM authorities to cope the Covid-19. All touch points are being sanitized on an hourly basis. Some malls have even introduced wash basins for handwashing. The City Centre malls are using toothpicks to touch elevator call buttons both inside and outside. Disposable cups with toothpicks have been provided outside elevators. Touch points, include hand rails of elevators, door knobs, flush handles and taps at basins. These are being sanitized on an hourly basis. Touch points include hand rails of elevators, door knobs, flush handles and taps at basins. These are being sanitised on an hourly basis.



Gang in ‘Corona Masks’ Loots Jewellery Shop



Kolkata: A group of five robbers in ‘corona masks’ posed as customers and robbed a jewellery showroom on Madhyamgram Station Road on Friday evening. They also beat up the owner and employees and looted most of the ornaments and cash worth rupees several lakhs kept in the showcase and locker at the gun point. The showroom owner and employees said that they initially didn’t suspect the masked men as they thought they were customers wearing masks for safety reasons to protect themselves from nCoV. Police are looking for the culprits. According to a local, it was around 5.40pm when the gang entered the near empty showroom close to Madhyamgram flyover. A team led by Abhijit Banerjee, SP, Barasat also visited the spot to investigate the case.



8 Killed, 9 Injured in Blast at Fireworks Unit Near Sattur

Eight others were injured in the blast at the unit at Sippiparai in Virudhunagar district.



Virudhunagar: Seven women and a man were killed in a blast at a fireworks unit at Sippiparai near Sattur here on Friday afternoon. Nine others who sustained severe injuries have been admitted to government hospitals in Tuticorin, Tirunelveli and Kovilpatti. As many as 30 employees were working at the licensed unit. While Rani, 42, Jayabarathi, 45, Badrakali, 33, Veerathai, 34, Thamaraiselvi, 32, and Thangammal, 39, died on the spot, Murugaiah, 55, died at hospital. Later, an unidentified woman worker was also found dead at the blast site. Though manufacturing of fancy firecrackers is not permitted in a DRO-licensed unit, the employees were understood to have been making such crackers illegally. They were handling chemicals for this purpose in a working shed when the blast happened. The fire from the shed engulfed and brought down nearly 12 other working sheds inside the unit. Fire and rescue services personnel put out the fire after nearly two hours. Virudhunagar superintendent of police P Perumal visited the spot and conducted an inquiry. The Elayirampannai police registered a case and are conducting investigation. Virudhunagar collector R Kannan visited the employees undergoing treatment at the Kovilpatti Government Hospital.



International News



627 Die in 24 Hours: No Respite for ITALY

DANCE OF HOPE: A ballet dancer in a gas mask performs at Times Square in New York City.



Italy: The hardest-hit country in Europe, reported 627 new deaths on Friday its biggest day-to-day rise since the outbreak began and said new cases also shot up. Italy now has seen over 4,000 deaths and 47,000 infections. The soaring numbers came despite a nationwide lockdown. With the contagion showing little signs of abating, PM Giuseppe Conte’s government is set to reinforce the near-total lockdown in the country. The plan is to extend the current ban on non-essential activities until at least early May, according to officials who asked not to be named. Conte is expected to announce new measures before the current restrictions expire on March 25. The government may also call in the army to help enforce the restrictions. Soldiers have already been deployed in the southern regions of Sicily and Calabria. Meanwhile, Spain became the second European nation to register more than 1,000 deaths, and officials warned that the country’s health care system could soon be overwhelmed even as doctors were already being forced to choose which patients to save.



“Admitting someone may mean denying the entry to someone else who may benefit more,” a Spanish organisation that represents intensive care providers wrote in a report. It recommended prioritising patients with more than two years of life expectancy, and taking “social value” into account. Spain reported 1,043 deaths and 20,410 infections. The global toll surpassed 10,000, with the virus still multiplying and gaining footholds in new corners of the world. The number of infections rose to 2,65,495 worldwide. The WHO noted the epidemic’s dramatic speed. “It took over three months to reach the first 10,000 confirmed cases and only 12 days to reach the next 1,00,000,” it said. PM Boris Johnson told cafes, bars and pubs to close from Friday night as he stepped up restrictions aimed at reining in Britain’s snowballing coronavirus outbreak. “We are going to defeat this disease with a huge national effort to reduce the spread by reducing unnecessary social contact.” The enforcement also applies to nightclubs, theatres, cinemas and gyms. Some of the only good news came from Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak began. For the second day in a row, no new infections were reported and only 39 cases were recorded nationwide all brought from the outside. China’s death count was steady at 3,253. Iran’s official toll of more than 1,400 dead was rising quickly as well amid fears it is underreporting its cases.

News Flash – 20 March 2020

National News



Virus Effect: Many city Markets & Shops in Lockdown Mode


Mumbai: Markets in parts of Dadar and Ghatkopar will remain shut at least till Sunday in a bid to prevent overcrowding in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Traders and shop associations from these localities voluntarily came forward to pull down shutters on Thursday, even as the BMC directed shops along arterial roads such as Linking Road, Bhulabhai Desai Road and Walkeshwar to remain shut on alternate days and to all on Sundays. Shops in Thane, Navi Mumbai, Vasai-Virar, Ulhasnagar and Kalyan-Dombivli will also remain shut. CM Uddhav Thackeray also appointed additional chief secretary Rajeev Jalota and principal secretary Bhushan Gagrani to lead a special control room in Mantralaya. Meanwhile, BMC and police searched offices and said they did not find any flouting of the 50% workforce diktat.



Briton Dies, UK Author Critical After Blaze in Bandstand Apartment

Sidra Jafri (R) was renting the 3BHK flat at Sea Springs.



Mumbai: A 20-year-old British national died and an awakening course facilitator, Sidra Jafri (38), suffered 90% burns after a fire broke out in their rented seaside apartment in Sea Springs building at Bandra Bandstand on Thursday morning. Jafri, who has authored ‘The Awakening: 9 Principles for Finding the Courage to Change Your Life’ is in a critical condition. The police said the deceased, Evana Morrece, an orphan, was assisting Jafri—a Pakistan-born British national in providing online awakening course training and canvas painting from the apartment in Sea Springs, which is near actor’s Shah Rukh Khan’s bungalow Mannat. Another British national living with the victims was in a flat nearby when the fire broke out on the top floor of the ground plus-six-storey building around 7.30am. Firemen suspect that the fire started in the living room and spread to other rooms of the 3-BHK apartment owing to the canvas paint, which is inflammable, and though the electric wiring. The security guards noticed the fire and alerted other residents and fire brigade. All residents came out safely. Firemen broke the main door and found an unconscious Jafri near the door and Evana in the hall near the painting area. The duo was taken to a nearby BMC hospital where Evana was declared dead. Firemen brought the flames under control after two hours. Bandra police registered an accidental death report and ruled out the possibility of any foul play. “We have the victims’ passport details and are sending their information to the British embassy to get more details about them. We are told that the deceased was an orphan,” said senior police inspector Vijayalaxmi Hiremath. Three bungalows share the boundary with Sea Springs building with separate entrance. The Sea Springs series of old bungalows is home to actors Rekha, Honey Irani and Farhan Akhtar.



17 with Stamps Forced Off Trains Starting from City


Mumbai: For the second consecutive day, as many as 17 persons with ‘home quarantine’ stamps on their hands were forced off three long-distance trains from the city, prompting home minister Anil Deshmukh to warn of action under the epidemic law invoked in the state. The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, empowers the state to take extraordinary steps to arrest an outbreak and it can be invoked against those violating the home quarantine instructions. Under the Act, violation of official orders can result in six months in jail and a fine of Rs 1,000 or both. “There have been complaints of people who are under mandatory quarantine period but violating the norms and going out in public. I have asked the police to initiate action against them under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897,” Deshmukh said on Thursday. Amid panic and a desperate attempt to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus Covid-19, the railways has asked its staff to be vigilant and ensure ‘home quarantined’ individuals, stamped on their hands, don’t take trains. A woman with a stamp was spotted and not allowed to board the Avantika Express from Mumbai Central. A ticket collector onboard Saurashtra Express spotted six more ‘stamped’ persons travelling on Thursday and alerted the Borivli station master. “They boarded from Mumbai Central for Vadodara and were travelling in two different AC coaches,” said the WR spokesperson. The six had returned from Singapore and were stamped for compulsory home quarantine at the airport. At Borivli, the station master and a doctor asked them not to travel further, and handed them over to the district medical officer. Later, they took a cab and went on to Vadodara.



A government resolution on Thursday clarified that if a group of passengers who need to self-isolate is travelling together, the local authorities should arrange for private vehicles like cabs or minibus and keep the details of the vehicle and driver. Once the trip is completed, the vehicle should be sanitised and the driver checked. “They (quarantine-advised individuals) are not supposed to use mass transport like a train. They can either hire a private car or if they cannot afford that, they can stay at our quarantine facility at Seven Hills,” said municipal commissioner Praveen Pardeshi. In the second incident on Thursday, six more passengers with home quarantine stamps were de-boarded from the Rajdhani at Surat after passengers alerted railway officials onboard. Three were students who had returned from France and were going to Himachal Pradesh, while two women and a senior citizen belonged to a family that had returned from Dubai. Official sources said they were taken to a quarantine facility set up by the civic body at Samras hostel of Veer Narmad South Gujarat University. In the final incident, five ‘stamped’ passengers who had returned from Thailand were taken off Kutch Express at Palghar. They took a taxi to Vapi in Gujarat, where they will make alternative arrangements to Bhuj. These incidents came a day after four Germany-returned passengers with ‘home quarantine’ stamps on their hands were forced to de-board from Garib Rath Express at Palghar station after co-passengers raised an alarm. According to protocol, arriving flyers are screened for symptoms of coronavirus and those without any signs are asked to stay at home for 14 days. The system seems to be faltering as many from nearby or neighbouring cities have been found using mass transport like railways increasing the risk of spreading the contagion.



Mind the Gap: CISF Personnel at IGI Sensitised on Frisking Norms

DISTANCE MATTERS: CISF personnel have been sensitised to use minimum touch while wearing masks and gloves during screening.



New Delhi: With the novel coronavirus posing a big risk to the country and to those given the task of curbing the spread, Rajesh Ranjan, director-general of the Central Industrial Security Force, visited Indira Gandhi International Airport on Thursday to see how his men were coping with the situation. Mindful of the threats posed to them, Ranjan directed the CISF personnel to maintain the recommended gap when frisking passengers without compromising security procedures and to regularly sanitise all equipment used in the process. CISF has been equipped with infrared thermometers to check passengers as well as its own staff. Full-body protective suits have also been provided, which the CISF personnel will mandatorily use if they have to manage infected people. An adequate number of officers and personnel have been posted in the arrival section and at the specially created “Triage Area”, where Airport Health Organisation (APHO) medical teams check passengers arriving from coronavirus-affected countries. This deployment is beyond the mandated duty of CISF to extend help to the arriving passengers and officials for the smooth implementation of compulsory medical tests. CISF personnel are also assisting in helping ease the tension of those flying in from Covid-19-affected countries.



The CISF personnel deployed at 63 Indian airports have been sensitised to use minimum touch while wearing masks and surgical gloves during the preembarkation screening. They have also been advised to maintain minimum proximity to passenger while ensuring security procedures are not neglected. Personnel of the CISF Intelligence wing posted at the airports for behaviour detection have also been instructed to look out for potentially infected/sick passengers and alert the security personnel and health officials. Apart from this, the scheduled International arrival section at Terminal 3 also requires special handling for streamlined triage and quarantine determination. This is being handled from the isolation bay created in a makeshift, but operationally comprehensive, manner. The airport sector of CISF has procured infrared thermometers and they are being used at the airports for two purposes: to check CISF personnel for fever when they report for shift duty and to use at the security hold area for checking the body temperature of any departing passenger showing symptoms of fever, cough, etc., and directing him to the APHO authorities at the airport for further necessary action. These arrangements have been made not only in Delhi but also at the international airports in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kochi, Lucknow and other places. Detail instructions have been issued through circulars & guidelines on standard operating procedures to assist CISF personnel deal with the crisis situation.



Romanian Held for ATM Card Cloning



New Delhi: A Romanian has been arrested for allegedly duping people by installing skimming devices and cameras at unguarded ATMs in south Delhi areas. His act was exposed after an advocate from Greater Kailash-I informed police about the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 40,000 from his debit card. The accused has been identified as Claudiu Cosmin (29). According to police, Cosmin and his associate Danial came to India in February 2019. They would install skimming devices and cameras to steal the card and PIN details at several unguarded ATM kiosks in south Delhi areas. They stole data of at least 50 people. “The accused managed to withdraw about Rs 15 lakh from the cards which were cloned from Greater Kailash, Malviya Nagar, CR Park, Vasant Kunj and other areas,” said Atul Kumar Thakur, deputy commissioner of police, South. Eight cloned cards, a laptop, a mobile phone, masks and other devices were recovered. Danial is yet to be arrested.



Kodagu Records 1st +Ve Case, Village Cordoned Off

SHUT OUT: Police blocked roads connecting Kondangeri village after a man was confirmed Covid-19 positive.



Madikeri: Deputy commissioner C Annies Kanmani Joy imposed Section 144 (prohibit the assembly of four or more people and restricting movement) across Kodagu district after a 35-year-old man tested positive for Covid-19, the first from the district. The area in the vicinity of the affected person’s home in Kondangeri village, about 21km from Madikeri, was declared a 500m containment zone. There are 75 families about 300 people living in the vicinity. The district administration also asked all commercial establishments, except those dealing with essential goods and services, to close. Authorities say the 35-yearold man arrived at Kempegowda International Airport from Dubai on March 15 at 4.30pm. In Bengaluru, he boarded a KSRTC bus to Murnad via Madikeri which departed at 11.33pm. From Murnad bus stand, he took an auto to his home in Kuthimotte village. He stayed in the village on March 16 and was in isolation from March 17. He tested positive on Thursday. “He is stable and under treatment,” said Joy. “He was checked at Bengaluru airport, but showed no symptoms. He was advised home quarantine. We are tracing his movements over the past few days”. As soon as it was confirmed the man was infected with Covid-19, the administration swung into action. Senior officials of the health department rushed to the village and the 75 families in were kept under surveillance. The administration has ramped up the number of beds in the isolation ward, to possibly accommodate more suspected cases.



The auto driver who ferried the patient from Murnad to his residence has also been quarantined after he complained of cold, cough and fever. His samples have been sent to Mysuru for testing. Police and health department authorities have blocked all access to Kondangeri area from both Madikeri and Virajpet taluks as a prevention measure. The curbs will be in place for 14 days. Food and other essential items will be supplied to the families as shops will stay closed. Authorities said 180 people are currently in home quarantine, including five foreigners in resorts. Following the positive test, people in the area were scared and decided to stay indoors. KG Lokesh, local gram panchayat member, said many from the village work in the Middle East and travel frequently. He said the patient met several people from the village prior to being admitted in hospital. Contact tracing, Meanwhile, Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) on Thursday issued a plea asking all those who travelled on the Rajahamsa bus (KA19F3170) along with the patient to report to the nearest hospital. The bus left Mysuru Road satellite bus terminus at 11:35pm. “A total 38 passengers including 33 unreserved passengers travelled on the bus. All five reserved passengers in that bus were informed over phone to report immediately to the hospital for further checkup. We also communicated through various social media sites” said a KSRTC release. “The crew members and their families were taken for immediate medical checkup at district hospital,” it said.



Sudden Rainfall Brings Down Temperature in City


Hyderabad: The city witnessed its first summer rain on Wednesday with many areas recording up to 45mm of rainfall in just two hours. Timulgherry received the highest rainfall of 44.8mm followed by 34.8mm in West Marredpally, 28.3mm in Nacharam and Kapra, among others. Hailstorm also occurred at many places such as Uppal, Tarnaka, Karkhana, Bowenpally, Dilsukhnagar, Diamond point in Secunderabad, among other areas. The Indian Meteorological Department, Hyderabad, attributed the unseasonal thunderstorm activity to a confluence zone over Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and its neighbouring areas. An anticyclone is persisting over the west-central Bay of Bengal that is feeding moisture over the region. The sudden showers also led to a drop in mercury levels as the temperature dropped below 30°Celsius in the evening. Meteorologists predict that the thunderstorm activity will continue even during the weekend, after which a dry spell will follow throughout the week clearing way for the onset of summer by April first week. Sudden rains also led to water logging near Lake View guest house in Somajiguda. Heavy wind led to fallen trees at Road No. 2 in Film Nagar, near Shyamlal nala in Begumpet, among other places. A massive hoarding installed atop a building on SP Road towards Begumpet also collapsed.



ATM Cash Theft Case: Culprit Arrested, Rs.90 Lakhs Recovered

The Task Force team displays the seized cash to the media on Thursday.



Hyderabad: Meticulous planning and a bit of luck helped a culprit flee with Rs.92 lakh cash and a vehicle of an ATM cash replenishment firm. However, his luck ran out with police’s equally meticulous job scanning footage of 500 CCTVs in 36 hours and arresting him from his house at Nagole on Tuesday. Task Force police arrested D Prakash, the driver of the vehicle, and recovered Rs.90 lakh stolen cash from his possession. Prakash joined as a driver with Five Star Facility Solutions (India) Pvt Ltd in Kavadiguda in August 2019. On behalf of Five Star Facility Solutions, he worked for SIPL Company located at Diamond Point, Bowenpally, and, through them, he also worked as van driver for CMS Info Systems Limited. “Prakash planned to steal cash transported from the bank while working as a driver. He waited for an opportunity and on March 16, he went to CMS Company’s vehicle parking place at Kavadiguda wearing a cap and covering his face with a handkerchief. Introducing himself as Rakesh, an employee of Five Star Security Service, the accused took the keys of a Bolero vehicle from the security guard. He then went to CMS office at Lower Tank Bund and contacted coordinator Anil Kumar Yadav.



The coordinator assigned gunman Ravi Kumar along with two custodians T Ravi and V Jagannath Rao to transport cash from SBI’s Koti branch to SBI ATMs. The crew picked up Rs.1.6 crore cash from SBI Koti and stopped at Shiva Tea point in Chilkalguda to load Rs.68 lakh cash in an ATM. “Gunman and two custodians got out of the vehicle and went to load the cash. During this time, Prakash fled with the vehicle containing Rs.92 lakh cash after informing them that he would take a U-turn,” city police commissioner Anjani Kumar said. The CMS staff alerted their colleagues and they tracked the abandoned Bolero to Lalaguda flyover. Based on the complaint lodged by a CMS representative, Chilkalguda police registered a cheating case and 28 members of Task Force team scanned nearly 500 CCTVs in 36 hours. They saw the accused boarding an auto near Lalaguda flyover and conducted house-to-house check at Sai Nagar Colony in Nagole, where the accused disembarked with two bags. The city police chief presented mementos to auto driver Sk Hameed and seven residents of Sai Nagar Colony in Nagole, including two persons working for police for helping Task Force team in cracking the case.



345 Flyers from Gulf Sent into Quarantine, 145 in Home Isolation

Passengers wait to board a bus to the quarantine facility.



Kolkata: Three hundred and forty-five passengers who flew into the city on Thursday from various countries in West Asia, Europe and America via the Gulf were whisked away to a quarantine centre in New Town, leaving family members battling conflicting emotions of relief and distress. While they were glad to see their loved ones back, they were also anxious about when the ordeal would finally be over, and they would actually reach home. Not everyone, though, faced the compulsory quarantine that came into force on passengers who arrived in flights from Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi. Some 145 passengers were released from the airport after thermal tests, since their originating flight was prior to the 12GMT deadline, after which the compulsory quarantine rule came into force. From Friday, all passengers that arrive in flights originating from UAE and Qatar will be quarantined. Between 2am and 7.40am, four flights touched down from the Gulf, carrying between them a total of 490 passengers. Not in any particular order, they were an Air India flight (AI-918) from Abu Dhabi; a Qatar Airways flight (QR-8630) from Doha; an Emirates flight (EK-570) from Dubai; and an Etihad flight (EY-256) from Abu Dhabi. After the flyers underwent thermal scan, cleared immigration and reclaimed their baggage, they were escorted to buses waiting outside terminal gate 5A and 5B, with guard rails on either side to ensure no one could slip away. The passengers appeared to be resigned to their fate when informed about the compulsory quarantine, and went about the motions. Some accepted it with stoic silence, while a few grumbled about why they were being forced into a healthcare facility when they didn’t display any symptoms.



Every Shop & Market will Stay Open, No Need for Panic Buying, says Mamata Banerjee


Kolkata: With panic buying reported from across Kolkata, chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday assured citizens that there was no dearth of commodities in the market even though the borders were sealed. “Shops and markets will remain open. There is no need for panic buying,” the chief minister said. “We are passing through a very critical phase. We must fight the disease. But there is nothing to panic. Do not pay heed to rumour. I will ask the SPs, inspectors-in-charge, police commissionerates to take steps against rumours and hoarding. There are rumours on shortage of essential commodities.” Banerjee said, “I came to know that trucks carrying perishable commodities from different states are waiting at Petrapole border. The commodities will rot if the trucks stand there indefinitely. They should return to the states from where they came. Beef up surveillance at entry points”. The CM’s intervention came after retail shops, department stores and other big stores in markets across the city reported a sharp rise in sales of staples, daily essentials and personal hygiene products, ever since the city’s first Covid-19 positive case was reported, with impending lockdown at the back of people’s minds. Only some particular items were flying off the shelves, said Gouranga Sardar, owner of Laxminarayan Store, Kidderpore Market.



“Rice, atta, edible oil, pulses, ready to eat food packets, personal hygiene products and liquor are being purchased in bulk by customers who are otherwise very careful in choosing items. Many were scared that the Prime Minister might announce and emergency during his speech,” said Gautam Rakshit, a manager of major retail chain in Barisha. Shankar Palit, a rice trader of Garia Market, said 70% of his 300-tonne rice stock emptied in just two days as people kept calling to place order. Palit generally offers free doorstep delivery of rice, if the quantity is of more than 20 kg. But for the last few days, he had to stop that as people queued up to buy rice. The shops TOI visited in south and central Kolkata said sales of some essential commodities were up by 70-90%. “We know how my nephews in the US suffered because of the lockdown there. They were stranded at home with no essentials. Moreover, there was panic over PM’s probable announcement of state of emergency. Who knows what will happen tomorrow?” said Mayank Agarwal, who was busy loading his packets full of essential commodities in his car at New Market. With panic buying continuing unabated, the agri-marketing and food and civil supplies department is keeping a strict vigil through the Kolkata Police enforcement branch. “We are keeping a close watch on the markets and supply system. So far, we have not found any irregularity. There is no reason to panic. If necessary, we may carry out raids to prevent any hoarding,” said state government officials.



Co-Flyers of Covid-19 Positive Teen Traced, All Advised Home Isolation

A poster put up at the condominium where the affect youth lives.



Kolkata: The state government has traced 17 passengers who had travelled with the Covid-19 positive teen in the Etihad Airways flight via Abu Dhabi to Kolkata on Sunday. It has also given Jharkhand the passenger details after it was learnt that some passengers were from the neighbouring state. All passengers have been advised an immediate medical check-up and home isolation. Meanwhile, two maids who worked for the patient’s family in their home have tested negative for coronavirus. According to sources, two immigration officers who had interacted with the teenager at the airport have been asked to go on home isolation. The 18-year-old Covid-19 patient’s mother, a senior bureaucrat, his father, a child specialist, and their two drivers have already been sent to the Rajarhat quarantine facility for a fortnight’s isolation. The two maids will also be sent for a 14-day isolation. Beliaghata ID Hospital sources said the teenager has been responding to treatment and his condition is stable. “He has only complained of mild cough. He has no other problem,” a source said.



The apartment owners’ association of the condominium, where the family lives, on Thursday submitted a list of nine people to the state health department who have recently returned from abroad and have made them stay in home isolation. “None of them still has any symptom but we have submitted their details to the state government,” said the secretary of the owners’ association. “No one is now owning up to have visited the patients’ apartment in the last few days or having met them. We have knowledge about few of the neighbours who had even spent some time inside their home but if they do not own up, we cannot force them,” said another member of the association. From Thursday, KMC has begun fever surveillance by visiting homes and complexes at boroughs 11and 12, comprising areas in south and east Kolkata, covering Patuli, Garia, EM Bypass, Naktala, Baghajatin, Jadavpur, Santoshpur and areas off EM Bypass. “We have been receiving a number of calls from these areas about people who have come from outside. Some of them are suffering from fever and other symptoms of coronavirus. Hence, we have been undertaking a survey and will submit the report to the state health department,” said a senior KMC official.



TN Records 3rd Covid-19 Case, Curbs on Big Shrines & Shops

TOUGH TIMES: A worker sprays disinfectant at St. Thomas Mount Shrine.



Chennai: Tamil Nadu has ordered a lockdown of sorts from Friday after a third person, a 21-year-old student who flew in to Chennai from Dublin in Ireland, tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday. He is at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital. All large retail textile and jewellery showrooms with centralized air-conditioning have been ordered to stay shut from Friday till March 31. Special arrangements would be made for people to pick up jewellery they had already ordered. Vegetable and fruit markets, grocers, medical stores, and restaurants would remain open as usual. All major temples have also been closed to devotees, though priests would continue daily poojas. Churches and mosques have been asked to avoid large gatherings till March 31. The state government also cut interstate bus services and asked the railways to reduce services wherever possible. Passengers entering the state by road or rail would be screened at the borders. Screening would be stepped up at domestic airport terminals in the state too. Places in rural and urban areas where people gather in large numbers would be sprayed with disinfectant twice a day. Airports, railway, bus and metro rail stations would be disinfected thrice a day. The decisions followed a meeting chaired by chief minister K Palaniswami to discuss strategies to combat Covid-19. The CM appealed to people to cooperate with the government, asked the health department to set up special hospitals with isolation beds in all districts, and counsel passengers on home quarantine through videoconferencing. Awareness and preventive measure will have to be taken in IT parks, small, micro and large industries. Managements must ensure food served in these canteens are hygienic and allow staff to work from home, whenever possible, the CM said.



Health minister C Vijayabaskar said the third patient landed in Chennai on March 17. He was screened at the airport and sent on home quarantine as he did not show symptoms. On March 18, he came to hospital with symptoms of cough, fever and shortness of breath. The test was positive on Thursday. The state public health department has advised his parents and friends to quarantine themselves at home for the next 14 days and call a government hospital if they have symptoms such as cold, cough or breathlessness. “He has visited a friend and travelled with one to the hospital when he developed symptoms,” public health officials said. They were also checking if he had contact with more people. Meanwhile, Rajiv Gandhi Government General hospital dean Dr R Jayanthi said the condition of the two other covid-19 positive patients in the hospital is stable. Visitors, including relatives, are barred entry into the ward. The patients are being served food cooked in hospital kitchen. “Our doctors are talking to them to ensure they are spirited. They are allowed video chats with their friends and relatives,” she said. Tamil Nadu’s first Covid-19 patient tested negative after treatment in Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital. The patient was discharged from hospital earlier this week but he is still on doctor’s watch, officials said. Meanwhile, the nasal and throat swabs collected from a 65-year-old patient admitted to a private hospital has been sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune. The patient who travelled to New Zealand has fever, cough and shortness of breath.



Punjab Man is 4th Corona Victim, 54 New Cases Reported in 2 Days


Punjab: India recorded its fourth death due to Covid-19 on Thursday even as fresh cases surged in the country, with more than 50 recorded in the past two days. The country’s fourth coronavirus victim was a 70-year-old man from Punjab, who had returned from a two-week trip to Germany via Italy. As many as 27 new cases were reported on Thursday from 14 states, taking the total number of cases recorded in India so far to 198. There has been a spike in the number of new cases in the past two days, with 54 being reported from the states. The health ministry has confirmed 173 cases so far. The virus travelled to new territories with Gujarat and Chhattisgarh reporting their first cases on Thursday. The latest Covid-19 casualty, a native of Punjab’s Nawanshahr district, was a patient of hypertension and diabetes. He died on Wednesday morning. Test reports of his samples received on Thursday confirmed that he was suffering from Covid-19. Government officials said he had gone on a two-week trip to Germany via Italy and landed at Delhi on March 6 and left for Punjab the same day. After the man’s samples confirmed the virus, authorities completely blocked his village. “We have quarantined around 56 villagers, including 18 from his family, and relatives who came in contact with him,” Nawanshahr civil surgeon Dr Rajinder Bhatia said, adding that those quarantined include the doctor, nurse and ward body who attended on him. “He reported typical symptoms of heart attack with chest pain and died in around 25 minutes,” said Bhatia. The number of states reporting Covid-19 deaths has gone up to four now, the other three being Karnataka, Maharashtra and Delhi. With Gujarat reporting two confirmed cases and Chhattisgarh one, the number of states and Union territories affected by the dreaded virus rose from 18 to 20 on Thursday. The second case in Gujarat is of a 21-year-old girl who had landed in Mumbai from London on March 13 and reached Surat on March 14.



Hospitals Covid-19 Ready with 1K Isolation Beds

PREPARED FOR THE FIGHT: Private and state-run hospitals have all set up isolation wards to treat Covid-19 cases.



Chennai: Government and private hospitals in the state are well-prepared to handle possible Covid-19 cases public health authorities and health minister C Vijayabaskar said on Thursday. Isolation wards have been set up across state and hospitals have been stocked up with ample ventilators. Hospitals across the state put together have at least 1,120 beds set aside to treat Covid-19 patients. Of them, state-run facilities house approximately 600 beds, including ones for critical care. “As many as 100 beds are critical care beds. This was done considering that less than 10% may require ventilation,” said state health secretary Beela Rajesh. Private hospitals have set aside at least 400 beds for Covid-19 care following a government directive. Up to 10% of them are for emergency care. Responding to queries in the assembly on coronavirus spread, Vijayabaskar said government officials had held discussion with managements of private hospitals on Wednesday. “The government will depute a committee of dean and a microbiologist to review isolation wards in private hospitals to see if they meet specifications. We’re specific that the wards should have three-tier security,” the minister said.



There are about 1,900 ventilators available in government hospitals across the state, 400 of which were recently added. The Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation, which is incharge of procuring and maintaining equipment for government hospitals, has added some 100 more ventilators exclusively for Covid-19 infected patients in critical care. Corporation managing director P Umanath said the state can divert ventilators for general use to Covid-19 isolation wards if required. Ventilators are generally sourced from China, Germany, Spain, Japan and the USA. It may not be possible for the government or private hospitals to import new ones due to border lockdowns, sources said. But they can use locally manufactured ones, which doctors said were of decent quality, if need arises. Vijayabaskar said cashless facility was available to cover treatment costs and that individuals being treated at private hospitals can avail concessions under the CM’s comprehensive health insurance scheme. He dismissed allegations that private laboratories were charging up to Rs 5,000 for running Covid-19 tests and said the government would recommend well-equipped labs for approval from the Indian Council for Medical Research for Covid-19 testing.



International News



ITALY OVERTAKES CHINA’S VIRUS TOLL Reports 3,405 Deaths, 150 More Than China’s, Despite Fewer Infections

An Israeli couple in Ein Hemed dance at their wedding performed at a venue offering free, small-scale ceremonies for those whose planned events got cancelled due to virus restrictions imposed by the government.



Rome: The death toll in Italy from the coronavirus overtook China’s on Thursday in a stark illustration of how the crisis has pivoted toward the West. Italy, with a population of 60 million, recorded at least 3,405 deaths, or roughly 150 more than in China — a country with a population over 20 times larger. Italy tallied 902 deaths in the last two days alone: 475 on Wednesday and 427 on Thursday. The total number of cases rose to 41,035 from a previous 35,713, up nearly 15%, a faster rate of growth than seen over the last three days, the Civil Protection Agency said. Italy reached the bleak milestone the same day that Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus first emerged, recorded no new infections. The worldwide toll crept towards 10,000 as the total number of infections topped 220,000, including nearly 85,000 people who have recovered. A visiting Chinese Red Cross team criticised Italians’ failure to properly quarantine themselves and take the national lockdown seriously. The head of the delegation, Sun Shuopeng, said he was shocked to see so many people walking around, using public transportation and eating out. “Right now we need to stop all economic activity and we need to stop the mobility of people,” he said. “All people should be staying at home in quarantine”. Health authorities have cited a variety of reasons for Italy’s high toll, key among them its large population of elderly people. Italy has the world’s second-oldest population, and the vast majority of its dead 87% were over 70.



Spain has been the hardesthit European country after Italy, and in Madrid a four-star hotel began operating as a makeshift hospital for coronavirus patients. The Madrid Hotel Business Association said it has placed 40 hotels with room for 9,000 people at the service of the Madrid region. Spain on Thursday announced that virus deaths had jumped by nearly 30% over the past 24 hours to 803. The number of people who have contracted the disease has meanwhile grown by around 25% to 17,395. The British government, which was slow to react to the virus, has shifted gears and is now drawing up legislation giving itself new powers to detain people and restrict gatherings. The bill is expected to be approved by parliament next week. Meanwhile, the WHO warned that the virus is spreading quickly in Africa. “About 10 days ago we had about five countries” with the virus, said WHO’s Africa chief Matshidiso Moeti. Now 35 of Africa’s 54 countries have cases, with the total close to 650. It is an “extremely rapid evolution”, she said. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei planned to pardon 10,000 more prisoners to combat the virus. The country’s toll from coronavirus jumped to 1,284 on Thursday, with the total number of infections rising to 18,407. “Based on our information, every 10 minutes one person dies from the coronavirus and some 50 people become infected with the virus every hour in Iran,” Iran health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur tweeted.

News Flash – 19 March 2020

National News



State Bumps Up Testing as 4 More Cases Take Tally to 45

A Mumbai couple got married at Bhandup on Wednesday, with everyone turning up wearing masks.



Mumbai: A 68-year-old domestic help tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday, making this the first case to come from a slum pocket in Mumbai. A day before, her 49-year-old US-based employer who came to Mumbai around 10 days ago had tested positive. The total number of cases in Maharashtra went up from 41 to 45 as three other cases were reported, one each from Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Ratnagiri. The Pune patient who tested positive, a 28-year-old woman, had returned from the Netherlands via Dubai; the Pimpri-Chinchwad patient, a 21-yearold, had travelled to Philippines, Singapore and Sri Lanka; and the 50-year-old man from Ratnagiri had returned from Dubai. Civic officials said a 59-yearold Filipino who had earlier tested positive and is undergoing treatment at Kasturba Hospital, is critical. Mumbai now has eight positive cases and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, 14. Meanwhile, health minister Rajesh Tope said testing facilities will be started in eight new places across the state. Of them, three new testing labs in KEM Hospital, Kasturba Hospital and BJ Medical College (Pune) will be operational from Thursday, while the remaining five will be started in the next eight days. BMC has directed nine major private hospitals and a railway facility to reserve, in all, 90 beds for Covid-19 patients. It said the beds are likely to be offered at concessional rates at least 50% the usual charge. But some hospitals told TOI that starting isolation facilities would take a while (See P 4). BMC officials said the woman was the first slum dweller to test positive and was giving vague information about the houses where she works, making contact tracing hard. Four family members have been tracked and sent to Kasturba for testing.



House help likely got infection from her employer, her family members are high-risk contacts and will be tested,” said an official. “We will reach out to her neighbours or other help working in the building,” an official said. Additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani said there was no need to worry as the woman had not contracted the infection from her area of residence. “She most likely got it from her employer, who has a travel history. So this continues to be a case of local transmission, not community,” he added. The woman was admitted to Kasturba on Tuesday after her 49-year-old employer came positive. The man, a resident of N ward (Ghatkopar), had come on March 7 from the US. He approached the hospital after developing symptoms. His mother, who too is said to have accompanied him on this trip, was admitted along with two neighbours and the help. The mother and neighbours have tested negative and been discharged, though they have to be under 14-day home quarantine. BMC’s Dr Daksha Shah confirmed the 68-yearold didn’t have a travel history. Dr Shah added that out of the 16 positive patients at Kasturba, the 59-year-old Philippines national was critical. TOI has learnt the man is breathing with help of a ventilator. The anti-HIV combination drug, Lopinavir-Ritonavir is being used to treat him. A source told TOI the man has underlying health conditions. He is part of a 10-member group that came to Navi Mumbai from the Philippines. Two more people from the group have tested positive. Sources, however, said the man was not 59-year-old but 79. Around 74 suspected people are currently quarantined at Kasturba. Before Tope spoke of new testing centres, only 3 labs were operating in the state: Kasturba, NIV Pune and IGMC Nagpur. Tope has asked officials to check for any lapses in the “travel history check” of a 28-year-old Covid-19-positive woman who went from Mumbai to Pune after travelling to the Netherlands and France. Asked why she was not quarantined as France was among “high-risk” countries, Tope said the woman only said she had gone to the Netherlands.



Mumbai Prepares to Quarantine 26k Indians Coming from Gulf


Mumbai: As the total number of coronavirus cases in India went up to 171 and Maharashtra, with four more patients testing positive on Wednesday, continued to lead the list at 45 (by a wide margin), the Mumbai civic body prepared to receive around 26,000 Indians expected to land in the city between Thursday and March 31 from Covid-19-hit Gulf nations such as the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman. The BMC’s estimate of nearly 26,000 comes from arrivals at the city’s airport and information of travellers obtained from the Centre; 23 flights come to Mumbai from these countries every day. According to the Centre’s guidelines, all arrivals from the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman are to be quarantined for 14 days starting March 18 (Wednesday). Since 15 people from Maharashtra who earlier arrived from Dubai have tested positive, the BMC has converted one of its newly-constructed training centres for its engineers in Powai into a quarantine facility for the anticipated arrivals, apart from the isolation facility at Seven Hills hospital in Marol. The Powai facility has several conference rooms where a few hundred beds are being installed, civic officials said. Most Indians expected to land by month-end are employed as blue-collared workers in the Middle East, officials said.



BMC Directs 9 Pvt Hospitals to Start Isolation Wards



Mumbai: BMC on Wednesday directed nine major private hospitals and a railway facility to reserve, in all, about 90 beds for Covid-19 patients. It said the beds are likely to be offered at concessional rates —at least 50% the usual charge. But some hospitals told TOI that starting isolation facilities would take a while as procuring protective gear, training medical workers and creating designated areas will take time. Isolation wards separate ill persons with communicable diseases, whereas the purpose of quarantine is to separate or restrict the movement of healthy people. BMC said Jaslok, HN Reliance, Hinduja, Kokilaben, SL Raheja, Bombay, and Lilavati can now treat Covid-19 patients, but samples for testing will have to be sent to the civic-run labs at Kasturba or KEM hospitals. A BMC notice said Jaslok Hospital would reserve five beds, HN Reliance two, Hinduja 20, Kokilaben 17, Raheja 12, Bombay four, Lilavati 15, and Gurunanak and St Elizabeth two beds each. Jagjivan Ram Rail hospital will have a 10-bed unit. Under emergency powers vested with BMC, it can get private hospitals to take in Covid-19 patients. Municipal commissioner Praveen Pardeshi said, “One need not come directly to Kasturba, but go to any one of these hospitals. Swabs will be collected and sent to Kasturba or KEM for testing”.



Additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani said the isolation wards will become fully operational over a week or 10 days. “We have told them to start with 1-2 beds and scale up gradually,” he said, adding that the decision was made after a meeting on Wednesday. “Once patients land at the airport and are screened by our doctors, they will be given a choice to go to any of these centres if they need isolation,” he said. Currently, travellers are being sent to Seven-Hills Hospital, Marol, that has a 300-bed quarantine facility. Ten patients are quarantined at Seven Hills and another ten at the nearby Mirage Hotel. Several hospitals said setting up isolation facilities could take time. “Personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers is expensive and in short supply,” said a hospital head. Ajaykumar Pande of Lilavati said PPEs now cost at least 5-6 times more than their usual prices. “If the government helps us with procuring PPEs and consumables, we can expedite the process,” he said, adding that Lilavati has started work on identifying a corner where an isolation facility would be started. Dr Santosh Shetty of Kokilaben said they would reactivate an isolation facility created during the H1N1 outbreak. “We would take within 10 days, we have to factor in existing patients, where to move them, fix protocols and do staff training,” he said. BMC has said a decision on charges will be made soon.



KEM, Haffkine to Start Tests Today, Up City’s Capacity to 300 Samples a Day


Mumbai: Testing capacity for Covid-19 will double from 150 to 300 in the city on Thursday, with arrangements made for tests at KEM Hospital and Haffkine Institute, apart from Kasturba Hospital’s molecular laboratory. The capacity could even jump to 1,000 Covid-19 tests per day within a few days if the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) gives permission to more government as well as private laboratories. The WHO has recommended scaling up testing facilities in India to confirm the fact that community transmission of the virus has not yet taken place. India is currently testing barely 6-7 samples per million of the population, a figure far lower than most countries battling the pandemic, causing apprehensions that Covid-19 cases may be under-reported. BMC commissioner Praveen Pardeshi said Kasturba and KEM hospitals would jointly test around 300 samples a day. KEM on Wednesday tested samples which were reconfirmed by the National Institute of Virology, Pune, and the results were found to be definitive, the BMC said. Additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani said KEM will start testing swab samples from Thursday. “They will share Kasturbai’s load,” he said. On Wednesday, Pardesi held discussions with private labs and hospitals, including Metropolis, SRL, Thyrocare and Hinduja Hospital laboratory, to similarly add testing facilities.



BMC has asked these labs to share their details with ICMR to get the mandatory permission to conduct tests. “Once they get the permission, they can also conduct around 1,000 tests a day,” said Pardeshi. Earlier in the day, state health minister Rajesh Tope visited NIV in Pune and said eight new laboratories, including at Pune’s B J Medical College, would be allowed to conduct tests for Covid-19. The Centre will provide 10 lakhs more kits for Covid-19 testing, he added. Currently, the infrastructure at Kasturba allows for 150 samples to be tested daily. The BMC is now ramping up the facility and will add new equipment that will allow 250 samples to be tested daily from Friday, said civic officials. “Kasturba laboratory currently has six trained personnel to conduct the tests. BMC is now recruiting more professionals for increasing tests,” said officials. The state-run Sir J J Hospital, Byculla, which has a molecular laboratory to test for tuberculosis, will also provide Covid-19 testing facilities. At Haffkine Institute, said Tope, two new labs will be added in the coming four days. NIV will provide equipment in Dhule, Aurangabad and Solapur to set up Covid-19 testing facilities. BMC officials said Aurangabad corporation has reached out to the BMC to train its personnel to conduct tests. “The state is also ready with 700 ventilators and 600 isolation beds,” said Tope.



One Fresh Case Each in Noida & Gurgaon



Gurgaon: Police say that the man had been staying in Sydney for the past one year and had come to India to visit his family members at the SBS Nagar in Punjab. He works at a private company. He was scheduled travel to his hometown from Delhi on Thursday morning. Police have recovered his mobile phones and some luggage that have been seized. His family members have been informed about the incident. Sources say the body could not be removed from the scene for quite some time since the doctors advised staffers to maintain a distance of over 5 metre from the body until it was scanned for the virus. His family members in Punjab are on their way to Delhi. The body was shifted to the Safdarjung mortuary late at night. Safdarjung hospital is one of the nodal centres for quarantining of suspected as well as confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Delhi. Delhi government officials said 10 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the state till date, including two cases confirmed on Wednesday. One of them, 22-year-old from woman from North Delhi returned from London on March 14 while the other one, a 38-year-old woman from east Delhi had returned from Saudi Arabia on March 10. In Noida’s Sector-41, a 26-yearold man who had returned from Indonesia earlier this month was tested positive. A 22-year-old Gurgaon woman was tested positive by the National Cooperative Development Cooperation (NCDC), but her reports are wait from NIV, Pune. As of now, there were four confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Noida and three in Gurgaon. The Gurgaon patient is a Palam Vihar resident, who had recently returned from London. She was admitted to a quarantine centre on Tuesday, and her family members have been kept under watch after the NCDC reports arrived on Wednesday. “We have got information that there are three positive cases in the city so far. But we are yet to get a confirmation from NIV, Pune, on the third case” said Rajiv Arora, the Haryana additional chief secretary (health).



Arora, who was in the city recently to oversee preparedness, directed the Gurgaon municipal corporation to form a sub-committee to integrate both private and government medical facilities to tackle the situation. He asked the chief medical officer to set up a centre where people can get masks. Arora also pointed out that ICMR would decide on the private labs that would be allowed to carry out Covid-19 tests. “At present, we have two testing labs in Haryana PGI Rohtak and Khanpur Medical College in Sonepat,” he added. He appealed to people to behave responsibly. “We are only following the guidelines of the central government. People should not overload them with misinformation,” Arora said. In Noida, samples of the 26-year-old man were collected on March 8 and the reports came on Wednesday morning. He has now been admitted to Government Institute of Medical Sciences in Greater Noida, while his wife has been kept in home isolation. Her samples would be tested too. Members of the Sector-41 RWA said the couple stayed as tenants in a two-storeyed building. His landlord, his wife and their three children have also been advised to get tested. Anil Khanna, the RWA president, said the patient’s landlord had told him they hadn’t come in contact with the couple in the past 15 days. “We have also sent out advisories that other people who may have come in contact with the couple should be monitored too,” Khanna said. The Gautam Budh Nagar administration has deployed 56 teams for door-to-door surveillance and gathering details of those with recent travel history. “He is a 26-year-old man who lives with his wife. He has been sent to GIMS for further treatment,” said Dr Anurag Bhargava, the chief medical officer. Dr RK Gupta, the director of GIMS, said the condition of the 26-year-old man and that of the two others tested positive in Tuesday is stable. A team from the district administration and health department went around the Sector 41 locality and carried out a door-to-door surveillance of all houses within a 3km radius. Apart from this sector, areas around an office in Sector 80 where a Delhi resident and his colleague have tested positive were sanitised. Similar drives were carried out in sectors 78 and 100.



Off-Duty ASI Chases Down Armed Robber, Victim Catches his Aide


New Delhi: An off-duty police officer fought two armed criminals, who had robbed a man at gunpoint, and managed to nab one of them who was holding a pistol in Yamuna Vihar on Wednesday night. The policeman, ASI Ravinder, had gone to Yamuna Vihar to meet his nephew around 7pm. While leaving the area, he saw three men engaged in a scuffle. One of them fired two rounds and started running away. The cop chased the robber and nabbed him. The accomplice was caught by the victim, who had sustained a gunshot wound near his private parts. Ravinder works in the office of DCP (Central). He was unarmed when the incident occurred. He told police that he left for his house around 8.20pm. “When I reached Noor-e-Ilahi around 8.25pm, I saw three people engaged in a scuffle during which two rounds were fired. The victim started screaming for help. He said the two men had snatched his mobile phone. I left my motorcycle and started chasing the man holding a pistol, who started running towards a restaurant,” said Ravinder. The ASI finally nabbed the robber and snatched his pistol. A crowd soon collected and started thrashing the accused. The victim, Saurabh Gupta, a stock broker, caught the other robber. The accused, Imran alias Model and Imran, were handed over to cops from Bhajanpura police station. Two used cartridges were recovered from the spot. Gupta was rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment.



Now, 8 Private Firms Can Test Covid-19 Samples Already Examined by NIV-Pune


New Delhi: The drug regulator has given the nod to Roche Diagnostics and seven other private companies for conducting performance evaluation studies for Covid-19 tests with Roche saying the regulator has given its approval in record time. The approvals, however, mean that the companies cannot yet commercialize or conduct the tests in open market till the regulator gives a final approval following the validation process. Roche said the Indian regulator gave approval in “record time”, while the US regulator did so a few days earlier. “With this approval, these companies can now test samples that have already been tested by National Institute of Virology, Pune. If their results match with that of NIV, they will cross the validation stage,” an official in the drug controller’s office told TOI. He said firms will have to seek further approval before they are allowed to sell these tests in open market. “The test licence accorded to Roche Diagnostics India allows us to initiate steps to import select quantities of the cobas SARS CoV-2 diagnostic test for product performance evaluation. Following successful completion of the evaluation, a decision from the authorities will enable us to commercialize the kits in India,” Roche Diagnostics India managing director Shravan Subramanyam said.



Subramanyan said the test received the United States Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorisation a few days earlier and the Indian regulator has provided “the test license in record time”, enabling the company to initiate the process of bringing it to the country. “Though this is the first step towards enabling access to the cobas SARS CoV-2 diagnostic test in India, it reinforces the government’s intent to enable public-private partnership and improve patient access in a potentially serious healthcare situation,” he said. The performance evaluation is conducted to ensure efficacy and accuracy are similar to clinical trials. It is however not called so because a typical clinical trial is conducted on real patients, whereas these samples were received from NIV, Pune. Earlier this week, the government decided to rope in private laboratories to ramp up testing network as a preparedness measure to combat any community outbreak. The Indian Council of Medical Research has also issued guidelines for testing and notifying of positive patients by private institutions including hospitals and laboratories. Private labs have been asked to collect samples from doorstep to avoid risk of infection. Besides, appropriate biosafety and biosecurity precautions are to be ensured while collecting samples. A disease specific separate collection site may be created, the guidelines said. Once the validation process is complete, private labs are likely to start testing from next week.



Covid-19 Cases Spike in State, 8 +Ve in One Day



Hyderabad: The number of Covid-19 cases saw a massive jump in Telangana on Wednesday with the state recording eight positive cases in a single day, taking the total count to 13. While one patient is a 22-year-old who had returned from Scotland on March 15, the rest seven are Indonesians. The Indonesians were part of a religious group that had been picked up from Karimnagar along with another in the group who had tested positive on Tuesday. The group had stayed in Karimnagar for three days after arriving from Delhi via Ramagundam. All the eight patients are currently kept in isolation at Gandhi Hospital where they were rushed to on March 16. The Indonesian group had travelled from Delhi to Ramagundam in Sampark Kranti Express (12708) on March 13 in S9 coach as per railway police. People who had travelled in the coach have been advised to be careful and approach government authorities. The 22-year-old who tested positive was studying BBA in Scotland and had arrived in Hyderabad on March 16. He had gone to his Medchal resident from the airport at 6.30 am and stayed with three family members and the next morning developed high fever and cold, and was rushed to Gandhi Hospital. “His test results have come positive and his condition is being monitored round the-clock. We have quarantined four people who met him and are checking his flight details,” an official said. With the number of cases steadily increasing, the Telangana government on Wednesday said it would re-examine the health status of 70,545 foreign travellers who had arrived in the city since January 15. A worried state government put 1,683 persons on home quarantine on Wednesday as it strengthened containment measures against the possible spread of disease.



ATM Firm Driver Who Fled with Rs.92L Held


Hyderabad: A day after it came to light that a driver of an ATM cash replenishing service company escaped with ₹92 lakh cash from Chilkalguda, police nabbed the culprit and recovered cash on Wednesday. Though the incident happened on Sunday, police, after a manhunt, managed to nab the offender on Wednesday. The offender provided fake details to his employer to hoodwink law enforcement agencies, police sources said. On Sunday evening, P Harish, 45, manager incharge of CMS Info systems, lodged a complaint with Chilkalguda police alleging that a driver of one of their vehicles used to transport cash from banks to ATM centres, had escaped with Rs.92 lakhs cash on Sunday afternoon at Chilkalguda. According to the complainant, the accused driver, gunman Ravi Kumar and cash custodian’s T Ravi and Jogammeda went from their office in Lower Tank Bund to SBI’s branch at Koti around 10.30am on Sunday. Around 12 noon, CMS staff reached SBI’s Koti branch in an SUV. They took indent from a bank employee and withdrew Rs.1.6 crore to load in SBI’s ATM centres on the AS Rao Nagar route.



The CMS team made their first stop at an SBI ATM near Shiva tea point in Chilkalguda at 1pm and took out Rs.68 lakhs cash from the vehicle to load in the ATM. While gunman Ravi Kumar, cash custodian’s T Ravi and Jogammeda got down from the vehicle to load the cash in ATM, the accused drove the SUV ahead after informing his colleagues that he would take a U-turn and get ready to go towards their next stop. As the driver did not return with the vehicle for a long time, the CMS team alerted a colleague, who, in turn, alerted the manager. CMS staff tracked the GPS of the SUV and located it near Lalapet flyover. “At Lalapet flyover, CMS staff found the abandoned vehicle, but the remaining Rs.92 lakh cash and the accused was missing,” Chilkalguda police said. Police registered a case under Sections 408 and 420 of the IPC and launched a manhunt to nab the offenders. Both police and Task Force teams searched for the offender and nabbed him. According to sources, the accused joined CMS with an intention to commit the offence and provided fake details at the time of joining to avoid detection by law-enforcement agencies.



Kolkata Takes Guard Against Covid-19 Condominium on Sanitization Overdrive to Check Virus Spread

The Panchasayar neighbourhood where the domestic help, who used to work at the infected patient’s home, live.



Kolkata: The apartment owners’ association of the residential complex off EM Bypass from where the city’s first Covid-19 positive was reported is preparing a list of residents who got in physical contact with any of the family members of the infected patient in the last three days and will ask them to get themselves tested and remain in home isolation thereafter. The owners’ association has also requested each of the apartment owners to disclose if any of their family members will fly back to Kolkata or has returned from novel coronavirus-affected nations in the last two weeks. On the basis of the disclosure, it will make a separate list of residents at risk and will submit it to the state government. “We have come across a few residents who had visited the patient’s home after he had returned from the UK. We have informed the state health department about them and are also asking the residents to get themselves tested and stay in home isolation for the next few weeks,” said the association secretary. On the list of “residents at risk” based on their travel history, the secretary said: “We have learnt from the example that people are not following home isolation advisory and hence we have pleaded to all the apartment owners to disclose details of those who have returned from virus-affected nations in the last few weeks and if anyone is scheduled to come from abroad in the next few days. Once the list is ready, we will submit it to the state government,” said the secretary. A meeting of the board of managers of the residents’ association was held at the complex at 11pm on Tuesday to decide on “emergency measures” that need to be taken. It was decided that all residents will avoid moving out of home as far as possible. Most have chosen to stay and work from home, barring even kids to go out and play in the greens or the club.



“None of us knew that we had lived with a corona-positive neighbour till that late. We were racking our brains to think who amongst us might have been in touch with the family. Soon, it looked like an impossibility because there are 565 flats and many of us share maids, nurses and caregivers,” said one of the residents. The owners’ association on Tuesday started a clean-up drive from midnight itself. “As part of the process, we have been disinfecting the entire common area of the building, including staircase handles, lifts, lobby and its furniture and all other places. “Apart from that, we are also taking some immediate preventive measures, like mandatory hand wash of everyone entering the complex, procurement of infrared thermometers for temperature check, keeping all doors and windows of lobby open so that people need not touch the doors. All social gatherings have been cancelled,” said another official, adding that they have even closed down the complex’s club and gymnasium till March 31. Also, public address systems are being employed to spread awareness about the do’s and don’ts that residents are expected to follow. Meanwhile, KMC has identified the domestic help who used to work at the infected patient’s home and got her admitted to Beliaghata ID Hospital for necessary tests. “The woman lives at a slum in the Panchasayar neighbourhood and we have sent her to the hospital for necessary tests. We have also started a clean-up and disinfection drive along with an awareness camp at the neighbourhood where the woman lived,” said Ananya Banerjee, the councillor of ward 109.



HK Uses IIT Madras Alumnus Bio-Sensor on Covid-19 Patients

NOVEL DETECTION SYSTEM: A dashboard shows analytics sent from a biosensor that routinely tracks deviation in 20 Covid-related biomarkers including temperature, respiration rate, heartbeat, blood pulse wave of a patient.



Chennai: An artificial intelligence-based remote-monitoring system developed by an IIT Madras alumnus’s startup that includes a biosensor to measure oxygen levels, respiratory patterns, temperature and heart rate is helping Hong Kong track health of Covid-19 patients and pick up on early signs and symptoms of disease in those quarantined. The Hong Kong Health Authority is asking all those who test positive as well as those under quarantine to wear the biosensor owned by Biofourmis, a Boston-based company founded by 28-yearold entrepreneur Kuldeep Rajput. The device, Everion, was developed five years ago to monitor heart failure patients. It is worn on the arm and can measure over 20 different biomarkers in real time, including heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen levels, skin temperature and activity. The biosensor is part of a system that includes a companion smartphone app that asks patients questions about their symptoms and a web dashboard that doctors use to observe patients. In the past two-and-a-half weeks, 1,000 quarantined people and 100 positive cases in Hong Kong have been monitored with the system which is being administered by the University of Hong Kong.



“We are facing one of the toughest times globally as we monitor the outbreak which has caused panic and concern. There is a need for 24 x7 touchless monitoring in this case and such unconventional methods would help us gauge epidemiological understanding of Covid-19,” said Dr David Chung at the University of Hong Kong. The device’s medical grade sensors, including optical, temperature, electrodermal, accelerometer and barometer, are allowing clinicians and medical analysts to track disease progression in Covid-19 patients and related symptoms in suspected cases. “Our programme can monitor all physiological biomarkers that indicate deterioration in patients of coronavirus. It’s not a machine or a test to diagnose or confirm coronavirus. But what it will do is look at respiratory patterns, depths, expiration, shortness of breath and oxygen levels,” Rajput told TOI from Boston. “An asymptomatic patient may take a few days to exhibit coronavirus symptoms. But our device can catch any deviation in their respiratory system,” he said.



International News



World Infections Hit 2,00,000; Deaths Top 8,000 Italy Coronavirus Deaths Rise by Record 475 in a Day

A German-Polish border near Frankfurt hit with traffic jam stretching more than 65 km towards Berlin.



Madrid/Beijing: Hundreds of millions of people faced a world turned upside down on Wednesday by unprecedented emergency measures against the coronavirus pandemic that is killing the old and vulnerable and threatening prolonged economic misery. There was particular alarm in Italy where the number of people dying from coronavirus has risen by 475 in one day to nearly 3,000 the biggest increase since the outbreak. There are a total of 35,713 confirmed cases in the country, with more than 4,000 having successfully recovered. Lombardy, the worst-hit region, recorded 319 deaths in one day. Barring a miracle, Italy will surpass China in the number of virus deaths in just one more day. China has seen 3,241 deaths, most in the hard-hit province of Hubei. “This is a once-in-a-hundred-year type event,” said Australian PM Scott Morrison, warning the crisis could last six months as his nation became the latest to restrict gatherings and overseas travel. The fast-spreading disease that jumped from animals to humans in China has now infected over 203,700 people and caused 8,218 deaths in 145 nations, triggering emergency lockdowns and injections of cash unseen since World War II. “We have never lived through anything like this,” Spain’s PM Pedro Sanchez told a parliament chamber nearly empty with more than 90% of lawmakers staying away.



Hastily reintroduced border checkpoints prompted chaos across Europe as nations step up entry restrictions and limit movement. The European Union announced a decision on Tuesday to implement a 30-day restriction on non-essential travel to its territory, and at least 12 countries have re-erected border checkpoints, stemming the flow of people and goods. As of Wednesday evening, Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was set to declare a state of emergency, granting authorities exceptional powers to help fight the spread of Covid-19. Meanwhile, the US sent its two military hospital ships Comfort and Mercy to the New York harbour and the West Coast, while the Swedish military is setting up a field hospital near Stockholm. US President Trump said on Wednesday the country was on wartime footing and invoked special powers through the Defence Production Act to expand manufacturing of masks and protective equipment. The US state of Nevada, home to the casinos of Las Vegas, effectively shut its entire leisure industry overnight. The sector employs 3,55,000 people. Canada PM Justin Trudeau said his government is deferring tax payments until August, providing a wage subsidy for small businesses and pausing student loan payments as part of massive stimulus package to limit economic damage from the Covid-19 pandemic. Up to 82 billion Canadian dollars (US$56.4 billion) is being spent. The money is about 3% of Canada’s gross domestic product. UK ordered schools to close from Friday for millions of children until further notice after criticism that the government was too slow to react to the spread of coronavirus.



405 Indian Stranded in Kuala Lumpur Brought Home



Kuala Lumpur: India has evacuated its 405 citizens, including students, stranded at Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Indian High Commission here said on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the Indian government approved AirAsia flights for Delhi and Vizag to help the stranded Indians. “Thanks @AirAsia for flying out 405 stranded Indians transiting thru KLIA in Special flights to Delhi and Vizag today. Kudos to @hcikl officials for working tirelessly since yesterday to make it happen,” the High Commission tweeted. The Indian nationals were stuck at the airport after the government, which on Monday banned the entry of passengers from EU countries, Turkey, the UK from March 18 till March 31, also closed its doors to those from Afghanistan, the Philippines and Malaysia with immediate effect. “Appreciate the difficult situation of Indian students and other passengers waiting in transit at Kuala Lumpur airport. We have now approved Air Asia flights for you to Delhi and Vizag,” External affairs minister S Jaishankar tweeted on Tuesday. “These are tough times and you should understand the precautions. Please contact the airline,” he said. The number of novel coronavirus cases in India rose to 151 on Wednesday. The cases include 25 foreign nationals and three persons who died in Delhi, Karnataka and Maharashtra.

News Flash – 18 March 2020

National News



63-Year-Old Man Dies at Kasturba: Maharashtra First Casualty, India’s 3rd


Mumbai: Maharashtra on Tuesday recorded its first Covid-19 casualty India’s third with the death of a 63-yearold man who was undergoing treatment at Kasturba Hospital, Chinchpokli. Another patient undergoing treatment at Kasturba is said to be critical. Two more persons in the state one from Mumbai and the other from Pune also tested positive on Tuesday, taking the state’s count to 41. Of the 40 people now in public hospitals in the state, one is critical, seven have mild symptoms, and the rest are showing no symptoms. Twenty-six of these patients are men and 14 women. Civic officials said the new case in Mumbai is of a 49-year-old man from Ghatkopar who came back from the US on March 7. The latest case in Pune is of a 26-year-old man who also returned from the US on March 14. Civic officials said the senior citizen from Mumbai who died on Tuesday had high blood pressure which, combined with inflammation of the heart muscles and an increased heart rate, contributed to his death. He also had pneumonia. His last rites were carried out in the presence of his daughters, sons-in-law and civic volunteers at the Shivaji Park electric crematorium. His wife and son, who too have tested positive and are currently under treatment at Kasturba, were informed of the death, but could not attend the final rites.



Guard, Aide Arrested for Rs.18 lakhs Theft



Mumbai: A security guard and his accomplice were arrested from Uttar Pradesh on March 13 for allegedly stealing ornaments worth Rs 18.2 lakh from the flat of a retired bank manager in Vile Parle (east) on February 15. The entire booty was recovered from Raja Singh alias Vikas (27) and his aide Angad Kashyap (27). Singh committed the offence two days after he started working as a security guard at Satyam Cooperative Housing Society in Vile Parle. Assistant inspector Kishor Doijad said Singh had at least eight similar offences registered against him in Mumbai. DCP (zone VIII) Manjunath Singe said action should be initiated against the security agency who hired Singh.



Corona Count: 1 more in Delhi, Two Each in Gurgaon & Noida

A robot distributes face masks and sanitizers in Kochi on Tuesday.



New Delhi/Ghaziabad: Four persons tested positive for coronavirus in Noida and Gurgaon, while a man who lives in Saket tested positive in Delhi. A 26-year-old Gurgaon woman, who had recently returned from Malaysia, was the first Haryana resident to test positive on Monday, while a second confirmed Covid-19 case was reported from the city on Tuesday. In Noida, a Sector 100 resident who had returned from France was the first to test positive on Tuesday. The second is a man from Sector 78. The Gurgaon man, 40, who tested positive on Tuesday, had returned from London on March 7 and had been in quarantine since March 9. He is in Safdarjung hospital and samples of eight persons who came in contact with him have been collected. “We are in touch with his primary contact group,” officials said. As many as 1,486 people are being examined in Gurgaon for Covid-19. Of them, 1,273 people are in home isolation; three are admitted in Medanta-The Medicity hospital whereas three others are in Fortis. Meanwhile, a 57-year-old businessman, who was the first Ghaziabad resident to be tested positive, returned home on Tuesday after doctors said he had fully recovered. The Raj Nagar Extension resident expressed gratitude to doctors in both Ghaziabad and Delhi for his quick recovery.



He was admitted to RML Hospital in Delhi on March 5, and was tested positive for Covid-19 a day later. In Noida, the Sector-100 resident who tested positive had told authorities that she had been screened at the airport during her return from France on March 13 and had tested negative then. She developed symptoms a few days later, following which a doctor advised her to remain in isolation. The second Noida patient is a man from Sector-78. Officials said he tested positive after he came in contact with his boss, a Delhi resident who had tested positive earlier and had visited the factory in Sector-80 on March 13. “Two persons a woman with recent travel history to France and a man have been tested positive for Covid-19. They had been in isolation and are undergoing treatment currently,” said Anurag Bhargava, chief medical officer of Gautam Budh Nagar. So far, a total of 1,400 cases have been tracked in Noida, with 1,065 of them under surveillance. The authorities have collected 200 samples, of which three have been found positive and 139 negative. The results for 59 are waited. District magistrate BN Singh said both patients who tested positive would be monitored closely and at least 3km areas around their houses scanned.



Thane Housing Society Stands by Family put in Quarantine



Thane: While there are reports of a few housing societies in Mumbai not allowing foreign-returned residents to enter premises, a Thane building has gone out of the way to ensure that one of its residents and his family, who arrived from a Covid-19 notified country on Monday, don’t feel isolated. Initially apprehensive, the building’s other residents consulted health experts and have now ensured that the family is strictly quarantined. They have ensured doorstep delivery of items, including grocery, for a fortnight so that the family doesn’t need to step out. “Our committee decided to stand by the family that has been put in home quarantine. It could have been any of us. So we decided to stand by them. We regularly interact with them on the intercom,” said a committee member of the society. A few societies have started restricting the entry of outsiders, mandating “thorough sanitisation” for members. A complex has sought an undertaking from families about recent foreign travel while helps and workers have been asked to stay away. Meanwhile, after Kasarwadavli locals objected to work on a quarantine facility there, mayor Naresh Mhaske on Tuesday appealed to them to cooperate with the administration. “Municipal staff are working tirelessly to ensure that the coronavirus does not spread. So, residents should cooperate with them. Quarantine facilities are being developed in some parts of Thane, but there is no reason to worry for locals as the administration is taking all possible precautions”.



Coronanxiety Behind 70% of Calls to 104 Helpline



Bengaluru: A 24/7 helpline on coronavirus is overwhelmed with queries, but most of the calls are driven by anxiety rather than the need for right information on coronavirus and steps for prevention and medical help, health officials said. The 104 helpline is run by the state government. Most callers have no history of travelling abroad or meeting those who did. They complain of a runny nose, cough or fever, and request that they be tested for Covid-19 at the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases (RGICD). While helpline operators don’t discourage anyone from reaching out and patiently answer questions, they worry someone who actually needs guidance might not get through because of the deluge of calls. “Nearly 70% of the calls we receive are nothing but anxiety calls. This is not the time to be afraid but to be prepared and aware,” said Dr Omprakash Patil, director, state health and welfare department. “The experience of other countries tells us that close to 85% of the infected people will recover very well. Another 10-12% may have to battle it out when there are associated complications like hypertension, diabetes and respiratory issues.



Mortality rate is only 2-3%”. Covid-19 tests can be ordered only for those who have travelled to affected countries and who develop symptoms of the infection during home isolation. Primary contacts of positive cases are also tested. If you don’t fall in either categories, you cannot get tested. “Right now, everyone with fever presumes that she or he will have Covid-19. Those with fever and cold without a travel history must consult general physicians and take treatment. Not all cases are Covid-19,” said a senior health officer. The 108 ambulance helpline has also been getting several panic calls. Most people express the fear that they are infected and seek tests. Eight 108 ambulances are stationed at Kempegowda International Airport. “Lately, we have been getting requests from the public to ferry them to testing centres. We have shifted 60 suspected cases to the designated hospitals,” an official said.



State Panel Checks Private Hospitals nCoV Preparedness


Kolkata: A team from the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission (WBCERC) on Tuesday visited seven private hospitals along EM Bypass to inspect their preparedness in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. “All hospitals, including the private ones, must keep their facilities ready to receive and treat Covid-19 patients or the suspected cases, if the need arises. Our motive of visiting these hospitals is to see if they are prepared for this,” said Justice (retired) Ashim Kumar Banerjee, the chairperson of WBCERC. So far, the government hospitals mostly Beliaghata ID Hospital have been handling the suspected cases that has crossed 70. A few cases had earlier been referred from private hospitals in the city. Few days ago, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had asked the private hospitals to keep isolation wards ready and not to refuse admission to any Covid-19 suspect. Accompanied by members of the health panel, including doctors Makhanlal Saha and Maitreyi Banerjee, the chairperson went to seven hospitals to see they had kept the isolation wards ready and if facilities like hand sanitizers and masks were available, especially for frontline health workers.



They also enquired if hospitals were playing their part in disseminating the correct information for awareness on the outbreak. “We found facilities at four hospitals satisfactory. But the rest have been suggested to revamp its preparedness immediately. We will revisit these three hospitals towards the end of this week to see if they have implemented our suggestions,” said Banerjee. The health panel will be visiting more hospitals on Wednesday. “We have a five-bed screening ward for Covid-19 suspected patients. The WBCERC delegation inspected it on Tuesday,” said a source at Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences. While AMRI has two isolation beds in Mukundapur, its units in Dhakuria and Salt Lake have kept three and four isolation beds ready, respectively. “We have 10 isolation beds ready for Covid-19 suspected patients in addition to the isolation area in the emergency wing for screening of such patients,” said a source at Fortis Hospital. Peerless Hospital, Medica Super Specialty Hospital and Ruby General Hospital were the other hospitals the team inspected on Tuesday.



Face Police Action if you Spread nCoV Rumours


Kolkata: Kolkata Police has set up special teams both at Lalbazar and in each police division to flag down and take action against widespread rumour-mongering regarding the Covid-19 scare. The cops have decided to take the carrot and stick policy in this regard it will be encouraging for those who bring baseless rumours to the police’s notice, while legal action will be taken against all those spreading canards. Special drives have already been undertaken across the city where cops are trying to reach out to the community asking them to desist from any speculation. The cop action comes amid reports of Odisha police arresting a person for spreading Covid-19 related rumours and the social media being flooded with “home grown remedies” and theories about the outbreak. Police commissioner Anuj Sharma himself led from the front with a tweet in Bengali on Tuesday morning. “Do not listen to rumours or pay heed to them. Do not believe anything unless checking its veracity and truthfulness. Take all precautionary steps to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Stay safe, stay healthy,” he tweeted. His tweet got 60 tweets and 220 likes within a short span of time.



The Behala police division officially the southwest division has promised to take out a tableau in the area on Wednesday. “We will highlight on how it is important not to spread fake news and rumours as that can only manifold the care and stop people from taking proper care,” said DC (SWD) Nilanjan Biswas. The cyber and social media cells of Kolkata Police are keeping an eye on the social media. Sources said that it was necessary to act given a section of men was selling fakes evoking God while others were living in false beliefs neither propagated by the state administration and World Health Organization (WHO) nor any established doctor. A senior IPS officer said that “forwarding unverified message as true in effect was fostering nothing less than creating fakes”. He recounted how once after a fake message went viral he had to call up the control room and verify facts. “In case of any misinformation or when you feel unsure about a piece of information, do get in touch with the nearest cop or police station. We urge all individuals to carry the numbers of the local police stations,” he said.



Thai National Who Tested Negative for Covid-19 Dies, Aides Quarantined in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu



Coimbatore: A 49-year-old man from Thailand who recently tested negative for Covid-19 died at the isolation ward of Coimbatore Medical College Hospital on Tuesday afternoon. Although hospital authorities said Donrosal Khamidoi died of renal failure, his symptoms included fever and breathlessness that progressed to organ failure, which is typically how Covid-19 progresses. Donrosal, of Songkhla, who had landed in India with five other tourist son March 6 to visit temples, had decided to return home on Sunday after he came down with fever and severe weakness. “Our thermal scanners at the airport caught his fever and we brought him to CMCH the same evening,” said deputy director of public health Dr Ramesh. “We immediately collected his throat swab and sent it to Chennai. When he arrived, he was having fever, light breathlessness and an infected ulcer in his leg,” he added. “We agree that fever followed by multi-organ failure is similar to Covid-19 symptoms, but he tested negative. As per protocol we are to test suspected symptomatic patients only once. It is only Covid-19 positive patients who have to be tested twice before being declared negative,” said Dr G Ramesh Kumar. The public health department said though the test results came negative on Monday evening, they continued to isolate and treat him for renal failure and sepsis. “But he passed away on Tuesday,” said Dr Sadagopan.



The doctors said he was a diabetic patient with a history of kidney disease and had renal failure almost immediately after being admitted. “We began giving him peritoneal dialysis for his failing kidneys and antibiotics to bring down his temperature. He did not mention having a cold before the fever. We isolated him purely because he could be a carrier of the virus,” said CMCH medical superintendent Dr Sadagopan. They have decided not to conduct a post mortem as the district administration is sending the body back to Thailand. The health department has now decided to isolate the other five people who were touring along with Donrosal and test them for Covid-19. Donrosal’s five other friends, who had accompanied him, have also been quarantined. The district health department officials admitted the five Thailand citizens to government hospital in Perundurai after one of their team mates diagnosed with Covid-19 died on Monday evening. According to an officer, the six had come to Erode from Thailandon Saturday to participate in some religious meetings. “One of them suddenly fell sick and decided to return to Thailand. He booked a flight from Coimbatore airport, where he arrived on Sunday. Airport officials subjected him to a medical check-up and confirmed that he was having Covid-19 symptoms. Subsequently, he was quarantined in CMCH and diagnosed with Covid-19 on Monday evening,” said Dr S Soundammal, deputy director, health services, Erode district. Based on the information that he was accompanied by five others, the health department officials in Erode went to Perundurai, where they were staying, and admitted them to the government hospital. “Doctors have collected their blood samples and they will be treated based on the reports,” Soundammal said.



Fire at Government Cattle Farm Near Hosur Destroys 50 Acres

IN FLAMES: The farm, which is spread across 1,640 acres, is the biggest of its kind in Asia.



Krishnagiri: A major fire broke out in the government cattle farm at Mathigiri near Hosur here on Monday night. While the cattle are safe, about 50 acres of trees, grass and herbs were destroyed in the incident. The farm, which is spread across 1,640 acres, is the biggest of its kind in Asia. Besides 1,000 cows, both exotic and indigenous, the farm houses goats, sheep, roosters, hens and pigs. Pointing out that trees, herbs and grass were cultivated on 50 acres for grazing the cattle, an official said fire engulfed the area around 10.30pm on Monday. As the fire began to spread, employees at the farm alerted the fire and rescue services personnel at Sipcot who sprang into action to douse the flames. It took them three hours to bring the fire under control. The official said the cattle were put up on the right side of Hosur-Denkanikottai state highway, which passes through the farm, while the grazing area that caught fire was on its left side. “The fire didn’t spread to the area where the cattle were put up, thanks to the road in-between. All the cattle are safe.” Preliminary investigation revealed that someone might have thrown a live cigarette butt or matchstick into the farm. The Mathigiri police have registered a case and initiated inquiry.



International News



Europe Faces Border Chaos, Choked Supply Lines, France Declares War with Virus, Puts 67M Under Lockdown, An Unprecedented Act

A woman takes a selfie on the empty Place de la Concorde in Paris.



Berlin: Strict new controls to slow the spread of the coronavirus froze traffic at global borders on Tuesday, idling trucks in columns more than 48 km long at some European crossings, while masked security officers turned back travellers at others. The moves by officials bent on protecting their citizens raised new questions about how to maintain supplies of food, medical equipment and other goods in coming weeks that will be critical to nations in lockdown. From France to Germany to Spain, millions were confined to their homes as shops and restaurants closed and borders were sealed, while European leaders edged towards banning non-essential travel to the continent. The draconian measures, never before seen in peacetime, have upended society and roiled financial markets, prompting governments to roll out emergency economic measures as fears mount of a global recession. France put its 67 million people under lockdown on Tuesday, in an unprecedented act during peacetime, and said it was ready to nationalize big companies suffering from the financial turmoil created by the deepening crisis. Drafting in the army to help transport gravely ill people and ordering border controls, President Emmanuel Macron late on Monday said citizens could leave their homes only to buy food, go to work, seek medical care or get some exercise on their own.



In Paris, police patrolled eerily quiet streets, stopping drivers and pedestrians and demanding that they present an interior ministry document justifying their movement. The form can be downloaded on the ministry website and citizens can present an electronic version on their smartphones. “We are at war, a public health war certainly. We are fighting not against an army or another nation. But the enemy is there, invisible and elusive and on the move,” he said in a sombre TV address on Monday night. Meanwhile, word of the border closings fanned growing fears in Europe, prompting widespread hoarding. “There is enough for everybody,” German agriculture minister Julia Kloeckner said, castigating people for spreading panic by posting fake reports that supermarkets would be closing. The moves come as caseloads in Spain and Italy where more than 2,500 deaths now account for a third of world’s total — continued to spiral. Worldwide, the number of cases topped 190,000. In Britain, where officials had resisted stringent measures to curb the virus, new research on the virus prompted a dramatic escalation on Tuesday. A study by Imperial College London estimated that the virus could kill 250,000 people in the UK and more than 1 million in the US, unless officials took action to stop its spread.PM Boris Johnson told people to eliminate unnecessary contact with others, work from home where possible and avoid bars, restaurants, theaters and other venues. Schools remained opened for the time being. But on Tuesday it was chaos on many borders, with traffic backed up for dozens of kilometers. The line of cars and trucks in Lithuania was some 60km long after Poland closed its border, while similar traffic jams could be seen on the borders with Germany and the Czech Republic.



US Cops Hunt Thieves Who Tried to Drag Away ATM



North Carolina: Authorities in North Carolina are searching for at least two suspects who were captured on CCTV footage chaining an ATM to a stolen pickup truck and attempting to drag it away, according to officials. Cops said they found the fallen ATM damaged. Police said it didn’t appear any money was taken.

News Flash – 17 March 2020

National News



Tighter Corantine: Even Indians from EU, UK, Turkey Barred Entry



New Delhi: In measures aimed at containing Covid-19, the government on Monday extended the travel ban beyond affected countries and prohibited entry of all passengers, including Indian nationals, from the European Union, European Free Trade Association, Turkey and the UK to India with effect from March 18. The Centre also expanded compulsory quarantine for minimum 14 days for passengers coming from or transiting through the UAE, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait. On Monday, the health ministry reported114 confirmed positive cases of Covid-19. Of these, 13 cases are cured, whereas two patients with co-morbidities died. The total 114 positive cases include 97 Indians and 17 foreigners. With reference to the EU, EFTA, Turkey and UK, the new advisory said, “No airline shall board passenger from these nations to India with effect from 1200 GMT on March 18. The airline shall enforce this at the port of initial departure.” The decision was taken after a high-level GoM meeting on Monday. Last week, the government suspended almost all visas and passenger traffic on check-posts to check import of infected cases from abroad.



Despite Government’s Advice, Trains & Buses Packed on Monday

The state’s advisory against crowding seems to have had little effect on commuting. Except for people putting on masks or covering their faces by other means, it was business as usual during rush hour on Monday. Experts say crowds won’t decrease unless the work-from-home rule is strictly enforced.



Mumbai: Despite chief minister Uddhav Thackeray’s appeal to companies to allow employees to work from home and citizens to practice social distancing, it was mostly business as usual on Monday. Around 10.30am at Andheri station, barring the masks, dupattas and handkerchiefs covering faces, nothing was different. Most commuters used the overcrowded escalators instead of the comparatively spacious staircases. Some applied sanitisers every 15 to 20 minutes. “There is no dramatic reduction in crowds on trains, at least during peak hours,” said a WR official. “There is a drop, but it is more during the non-peak hours as irregular travellers may be avoiding work,” said a CR official. Similarly, while congestion on the roads was visibly less than on other days, traffic continued. “Although the roads are far from empty, congestion is less than before and travel time has reduced. I took an hour and a half to go from Kandivli to Dadar on Monday. On other days, it takes two hours and 15 minutes,” said a stockbroker. A motorist, Meeta Palan, said she did not come across much congestion on JVLR and Eastern Express Highway on Monday morning, unlike on other days. Several Mumbaikars said they had not yet been informed about the work-from-home option. Content writer Prajakta Kulkarni, who travels from Thane to Belapur daily, said, “The train I took was slightly less crowded than usual, but most people were still travelling to work. Our organisation has asked us to come on Tuesday as well. They said they would soon arrive at a decision on working from home”.



While people are refraining from stepping out unless absolutely necessary, huge crowds at departmental stores continue. “On one hand, the government is urging people to stay away from crowded places, but a lot of people are out at vegetable markets, which get crowded in the evening. Also, there is a rush at hypermarkets, where you literally rub shoulders with others,” said Kusum Shah, a housewife from Mulund. A doctor told TOI the government will have to take more drastic steps if the idea of social distancing has to work in a city like Mumbai. “The directive to stay home has to come from employers. Even one person less in the street means a reduction in the chances of a Covid-19 transmission,” he said. “The government would also have to upscale its sanitization measures. Local trains, escalators and handrails must be cleaned at least half a dozen times a day if infection has to be contained”. BMC’s Dr Daksha Shah on Monday reiterated that people must understand why social distancing is crucial. “We have a window of 14 days to cut down the chances of transmission as much as possible. By staying home or working from home, every Mumbaikars will contribute to reducing crowds,” she said, adding that the move could help reduce even the spread of the seasonal flu. “A lot of people with seasonal cough and cold and come to the Covid-19 OPD at Kasturba Hospital, which not only is a sign of unnecessary panic, but also puts them at risk,” she said, advocating an urgent need for social distancing.



3-Yr-Old Tests Positive, Maharashtra Cases Up to 40



Mumbai: Maharashtra reported six more positive Covid-19 cases on Monday, taking the total number in the state to 40. Five of the six new cases are from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region one from Mumbai, two from Kalyan and two from Navi Mumbai while the sixth is from Yavatmal. Mumbai now has six cases in all and the MMR, 14. The state has announced Rs 45 crore as aid for fighting the outbreak. Collectors have been granted powers to procure ventilators and other equipment. CM Uddhav Thackeray said collectors are responsible for implementing preventive measures. Of the Rs 45 crore, Rs 15 crore is for Konkan division which includes Mumbai, Rs 10 crore for Pune and Rs 5 crore each for Aurangabad, Amravati, Nagpur and Nashik. A three-year-old girl from Kalyan became the youngest to test positive in the state so far. Her 37-year-old father, who returned from the US, had tested positive earlier. The girl and her 33-year-old mother tested positive on Monday. The mother and child don’t have a history of foreign travel and are likely to have contracted the infection from the man. In Mumbai, the latest case was reported from S-ward (Vikhroli, Bhandup) The individual, a 44-year-old woman, had travelled to Lisbon in Portugal and returned on March 16. A close contact of hers has been admitted to Kasturba Hospital along with her, while two low-risk contacts have been self-isolated. BMC’s Dr Daksha Shah said the woman had come to Kasturba for a check-up on returning to India.



The new cases from Navi Mumbai were those of a 47-year-old man and a 42-year-old man, both part of a ten-member group that had returned from Philippines. Their acquaintance, a 59-year-old man, had previously tested positive. Dr Shah said while seven members of the group have tested negative, they have been kept quarantined. A 50-year-old woman from Yavatmal, part of a 40-member group from Dubai, several of whose members have been infected, tested positive on Monday after initially testing negative. 108 people have been kept in isolation facilities across the state and 621 are in home quarantine. State officials said two Paediatric cases had been seen earlier in Pimpri-Chinchwad: two 12-year-olds who contracted the infection from a close contact who had travelled as part of the 40-member group to Dubai. Kerala too had a three-year-old patient on March 9. Scientific papers have said the disease has been significantly milder among neonates, infants and children. In a review in Indian Journal of Paediatrics, Dr Tanu Singhal has cited a Chinese case series of 34 children admitted in a Shenzhen hospital. In 28 children, the infection was linked to a family member and 26 children had a history of travel to Hubei in China, where the disease started. All patients were either asymptomatic (9%) or had mild disease. “All children recovered with basic treatment and did not need intensive care,” she wrote, adding there were no severe or critical cases. The common symptoms were fever (50%) and cough (38%).



3 Corporations Invoke Emergency Clause, insist on Hand Wash Points

ON ALERT: At many establishments at Khan Market, arrangements have been made for guards to check temperature at the entrance.



New Delhi: For residents’ welfare associations, market bodies, restaurants, banquet hall, hotels, guesthouses and mall managements, it is now mandatory to have a sanitation facility at various points where hands can be properly washed with soap and water and spritzed with hand sanitisers. On Monday, the three municipal corporations issued these instructions under the rarely invoked Section 376 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957, which empowers the municipal commissioners to issue directions to be observed by public or a particular section to prevent outbreak of a disease. The requirements will remain applicable, for now, till March 31. The managements of restaurants, banquet halls, hotels, guesthouses and mall have also been instructed to ensure no crowding at any particular site on their premises. “Any persons who commits the breach of these directions will be deemed to have committed an offence under Section 188 of Indian Penal Code dealing with disobedience of an order duly promulgated by a public servant and will be prosecuted in court,” a municipal official asserted. “Violators are liable to be punished with a fine and imprisonment up to six months”. The order specifies locations where sanitation points need to be installed. RWAs and commercial establishments have been told to have these at entry points, while market association will should do so at multiple points, including entry points and existing piaos (water dispensers).



“Checks on compliance will begin from Tuesday. The goal is to control the spread of the novel coronavirus before it overwhelms the health system,” said a health official. “The last time Section 376 was resorted to was during the dengue epidemic of 1997 when people were warned that mosquito breeding conditions on their premises was punishable”. While North Delhi Municipal Corporation commissioner Varsha Joshi said the facility should offer either soap and water or sanitisers, a health official said the former was preferable. Not all RWAs are happy with the order. Chetan Sharma, head of Confederation of NCR RWAs, said that its members were voluntary organisations with no funds for such requirements. “The municipals should provide us resources to set up sanitary points,” he said. B S Vohra of the East Delhi RWA Joint Front pointed out that this order could be suitable for group housing societies, not plotted colonies. “EDMC and Delhi government should provide the RWAs with sanitisers and masks,” Vohra added. Rajeev Kakria of Greater Kailash I RWA felt that instead of ordering the RWAs, the corporation commissioner should have requested the residents’ associations to help gap the shortcomings and functioning of the civic bodies. “RWAs do not have half the funds that civic bodies squander on endless meetings,” he snapped. “The government doesn’t want to empower RWAs through some statutory laws but turns to them for everything”.



Vigil Up on All Entry Routes to Telangana


Hyderabad: With Maharashtra turning into the epicentre for coronavirus in the country, the Telangana government is taking no chances and has extended border restrictions between the two states. To this effect, check posts have been set up across four different entry points to Telangana. Officials at these four check posts Dharmabad, Boraj, Zahirabad and Sirpur Kagaznagar have been told to maintain extra vigil. State health minister Eatala Rajender has also instructed the officials to set up screening centres similar to those at the airport along the inter-state border areas. “With travel restrictions in place, it is likely that the number of people coming in from Maharashtra to Telangana will not be too high,” said a senior health official. The official said that although screening of all those who are entering the state will be conducted, samples will not have collected from everyone as viral load will be less when a person does not have any symptoms. Meanwhile, the health minister said that the facility at Vikarabad will not be used to provide treatment to those with symptoms of coronavirus. “Treatment for positive patients would be provided only at Gandhi and Chest Hospital,” the minister said. The state has also set up quarantine facilities at Telangana State Forest Academy in Dulapally and Haritha Valley View Resorts at Ananthagiri Hills in Vikarabad district. The GMC Balayogi Athletic Stadium in Hyderabad’s Gachibowli is also being considered as an option.



Private Facilities Pad up to Fight Coronavirus


Kolkata: Several private hospitals in Kolkata have prohibited or restricted the entry of medical representatives on their premises from Monday. They have also curtailed visiting hours and restricted the number of visitors per patient to just one to minimize the latter’s contact with outsiders. Doctors and medical staff have been asked to use protective gear like gloves and masks and stay quarantined at home if they have travelled to the affected countries or states in the last fortnight. At least one hospital has barred visitors from all their wards, allowing entry to only family members of ICU patients. Belle Vue Clinic has barred medical representatives’ entry following a meeting with doctors. The latter felt it was advisable since their presence often leads to a crowding at the lobby area, which is also used by patients and their families. That apart, they come in close proximity to doctors who can’t avoid physical contact with patients. “There is a danger of transmission from medical representatives to patients through the doctors. Medical representatives have to be mobile and keep coming in contact with a cross-section of people. The bar will remain in force till further notice,” said Belle Vue CEO P Tandon. The hospital has put up a notice announcing the ban and has restricted the entry of visitors to just one per patient. AMRI Hospitals, too, have prohibited the entry of medical representatives across its three units from Monday. It has also barred patients’ visitors in the morning and restricted their entry to just one hour in the evening. Doctors welcomed the decision and said it will help to prevent transmission. “Physical contact has to be reduced to the extent possible on hospital premises. Medical representatives have a roving job and need to interact with doctors.



The latter must have access to patients and may end up infecting them in case they expose themselves to potential carriers of the coronavirus. The move will help to reduce the chances of infection,” said AMRI Hospital consultant Debashish Saha. He added that while senior doctors will have little difficulty if they cut themselves off from medical representatives, junior medics may need their help. “Till the Covid-19 fear persists, seniors may help juniors with medicine names. It is indeed necessary to avoid contact with outsiders,” added Saha. Medical representatives have also been temporarily barred from RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS). The hospital has also banned the entry of patients’ visitors across its wards, except for those admitted at the ICU and those undergoing surgery. “Only one relative is allowed along with each patient visiting the OPD. Patient relatives are requested to avoid coming to the hospital as much as possible. Screening of every individual at entry point in the OPD and inpatient area for fever is being carried out with infra-red thermometers. We are providing necessary information over the PA system as well as brochures across the hospital,” said RTIICS zonal director R Venkatesh. Medica Super Specialty Hospital has not been allowing medical representatives on its premises since 2018. From Monday, each of its six floors has a different visiting hour for patients’ relatives. “While this will help to prevent crowding, we have also reduced the number of chairs at our ground floor lobby to discourage people from waiting inside the hospital for long,” said Medica chairperson Alok Roy.



Cop’s Safety Steps at PS, Road Kiosks

An officer gives a mask to a complainant at a police station.



Kolkata: An hour-long meeting at Lalbazar chaired by commissioner Anuj Sharma has led cops to launch several measures at police stations and outside to combat the Covid-19 threat. The big decisions included were to procure thermal scanners for police stations and traffic guards, stock up on masks and sanitizers and ensure that cops underwent regular check-ups. For Kolkatans, it will mean a host of changes while entering police stations a check of temperature, compulsory use of sanitizers and getting a mask when they arrive to lodge a report. The police have also decided to shut down all its blood-donation drives carried out at the beginning of every summer. On Monday evening, the police began distributing masks to all complainants who came to police stations. Following instructions from the state, Sharma has also directed all OCs of all police stations to start intensive campaigns to spread awareness on how to stay safe from Covid-19. Police personnel have started circulating leaflets among the public and pasting pamphlets on walls in crowded areas, mainly Metro stations and bus termini. Sharma has asked cops to follow the guidelines mentioned on the leaflets too. Sources said that Kolkata Police will also use the community policing initiatives to spread awareness. While teams from police stations are spreading awareness, the Enforcement Branch has been visiting the medicine shops and wholesalers to prevent black-marketing of masks and hand sanitizers.



G-40 from Dubai Makes up Nearly 40% of Maharashtra Cases


Mumbai: One more person from the Dubai group of 40 travellers has tested positive for coronavirus after initially testing negative. With this, the group alone has contributed to nearly 40% of Maharashtra’s 40 positive cases as on Monday. The state is currently observing nearly 300 contacts of these travellers, who landed in Mumbai on March 1 and dispersed to 10 districts, including Belagavi in Karnataka. A state official said that 40 people had gone on a tour of Dubai and Abu Dhabi on February 24 and returned on March 1. Of them, 15 have tested positive so far, while 22 have tested negative. The remaining three from Karnataka continue to be asymptomatic and under home quarantine. Soon after a couple from Pune tested positive on March 9 the first cases in the state the government initiated a mammoth contact tracing exercise spanning multiple districts and cities. On Monday, a 50-year-old woman from Yavatmal tested positive after she had tested negative on March 12. This woman is from the group of 40 people that had been to Dubai. Her latest samples were sent to Indira Gandhi Government Medical College and Hospital in Nagpur on Saturday evening, which came back positive.



This is arguably the first case in India in which a suspect who had earlier tested negative developed symptoms afterwards and then tested positive. Epidemiologist Dr Pradeep Awate said the woman’s 17-year-old son, a student, had previously tested positive and was undergoing treatment in Pune. While the son had travelled to Pune after reaching Mumbai, his family went on to board another domestic flight to reach their destination. Dr Anup Kumar Yadav, commissioner, National Health Mission, said the health department has traced all the 40 people and their contacts, and many have been kept in isolation. In fact, the spread from this cluster has prompted the state to request the Centre to include Dubai, the UAE and the US in the list of countries that are under surveillance. “We are yet to hear from them on it, though,” a senior official said. The officials added that Dubai was not one of the countries where passengers were screened from, and therefore they left the airport without any checks. The other cluster under the state’s close observation is a group of 10 people from Navi Mumbai, who have returned from the Philippines. So far three have tested positive.



First to Pest +Ve in Odisha Took Rajdhani from Delhi

A railway worker cleans a coach of Howrah-New Delhi Rajdhani Express in Kolkata.



Bhubaneswar: A 33-yearold researcher who allegedly changed guesthouses multiple times to avoid home quarantine following his return from Italy 10 days ago has become the first person in Odisha to test positive for Covid-19. By the time the patient arrived in his hometown Bhubaneswar last Thursday, he had come in contact with 129 people, 76 of them fellow passengers aboard Rajdhani Express, officials said. The researcher had arrived in Delhi from Milan on March 6 and cleared screening at the airport because he was asymptomatic at the time. On being advised home isolation for 14 days, he chose not to proceed to Bhubaneswar and moved from one accommodation to another in Delhi till March 11. “The patient spent the first night in a private guesthouse near AIIMS before shifting to another run by IIT Delhi and, later, to a third accommodation in the congested Paharganj. On March 11, he boarded the Rajdhani to Bhubaneswar and arrived in the state capital next day with flu-like symptoms,” an official said. The man’s father received him at the railway station and took him home in an autorickshaw. On March 13, he visited Capital Hospital for a check-up and was moved to the isolation ward the next day. He tested positive on Sunday.



Big Kerala Hospital in Crisis as 43 Doctors & 8 Nurses Quarantined

Kerala transport minister A K Saseendran screens passengers using infrared thermometer at a check-post in Wayanad on Monday.



Thiruvananthapuram: The Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST) at Thiruvananthapuram has plunged into a major crisis after 76 of its employees, including doctors, had to be asked to go on leave and be in home quarantine after they came in direct contact with a doctor from the radiology department who tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday. Among them are 43 doctors, eight nurses, 13 technical staff and two administrative staffers. Among the doctors, 26 were placed in ‘high-risk contact’ category and 17 in the ‘low-risk’ group. The families of the doctors and other employees, demarked to be secondary contacts, are also under intense surveillance. Hospital sources said none of the patients admitted to the hospital will be discharged. Departments have been asked to prune outpatient and inpatient services. All elective surgeries have been postponed and only emergency services will be offered for now. Hospital authorities said there won’t be a total shut down at the hospital. Those who travelled with the doctor from Spain have also been traced. Among this lot, 27 people were found in the high-risk category and 156 persons were placed in the low-risk category. The doctor had reached Thiruvananthapuram from Spain on March 2 early in the morning on QR 506 flight from Doha without any symptom. Since Spain was then not in the list of high-risk countries, the doctor reported for duty the very next day. On March 8 he started exhibiting the symptoms. He reported this to the state health department and to hospital authorities. But, he was not advised home quarantine by authorities. On March 10, he came to the hospital again and met higher authorities. Then he was asked to go on leave for 14 days. His swab sample was collected on March 11 and he tested positive on Sunday.



International News



More People Now Infected Outside China


China: The global battle to contain the new coronavirus breached a new level of urgency on Monday, as governments locked down borders and millions of workers, students and worshipers were ordered to stay home. The shifting fronts in the battle were made clear by figures showing that cases outside China where the virus originated surpassed those inside its borders for the first time. Infections outside China passed 87,000, while case numbers in China stand at 81,032. Spain officially became the fourth-most infected country in the world, surpassing South Korea as its arc of contagion curved higher. Only China, Italy and Iran have more confirmed cases of Covid-19 than Spain, where the number of infections increased overnight by roughly 20%, to 9,428, and the number of fatalities rose to 309, according to the Spanish health ministry. The actual figure was presumed to be even higher, because Spain switched to a new system of reporting. Italy reported its biggest day-to-day increase in infections 3,590 more cases for a total of 24,747. With 1,809 virus-related deaths, Italy has more than a quarter of the global death toll. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen suggested putting in place a 30-day ban on people entering the bloc for non-essential travel reasons in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.



“The less travel, the more we can contain the virus,” she said in a video message. Von der Leyen said people with long-term EU residency or who are family members of European citizens, plus diplomats, doctors and health care workers could be exempted from the ban. The measure would be a step up from national border controls imposed by numerous EU member states including Italy, Spain and Germany. Among the most drastic measures, the Swiss city-state of Geneva banned gatherings of more than five people, though exceptions were made for business meetings that followed public health rules. Switzerland declared a state of emergency on Monday and began mobilizing reservists. In the US, health officials recommended a limit to groups of 50 or more people and a government expert said a 14-day national shutdown may be needed. California, Illinois and Ohio told all restaurants to close. New York City will shutter the nation’s largest public school system as early as Tuesday, sending over 1.1 million children home. South Korea reported only 74 more cases but there were still worries that infections might surge again from those returning from Europe or from local people attending church services. Worldwide, over 175,000 people have been infected, 7,007 have died and over 77,000 have recovered, most of them in China.

News Flash – 16 March 2020

National News



Covid-19 Cases to be Discharged only after 2 Negative Tests in 24 Hours: Government

A girl wears a mask in Karachi. Covid-19 cases in Pakistan spiked by 20 on Sunday, to 53 in all Global Interest in Jaipur ‘Model’.



New Delhi: The government has issued a discharge policy for Covid-19 cases under which a positive case shall be managed as per protocol and discharged after only two samples test negative within 24 hours and there’s evidence of chest radiographic clearance and viral clearance in respiratory samples. Cases of suspected coronavirus, who test negative in the first instance, can be discharged on doctor’s advice but will be monitored for 14 days after their last contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case, the guidelines said. The policy was announced even as coronavirus cases in the country rose to 115, according to reports from states. The health ministry confirmed 107 cases, a rise of 23 since its last update on Saturday. While no new death was reported, patients cured of the disease also stayed unchanged at 10. Of the 107 confirmed cases, 95 are active cases. So far, India has reported two deaths related to Covid-19, both senior citizens with co-morbidities. “Contract tracing of these cases is being rigorously pursued. So far, this has led to identification of more than 4,000 contacts who have been put under surveillance,” the health ministry said. A patient in Buldhana, who died on Saturday and whose sample was taken, has tested negative, it said. On Sunday, health minister Harsh Vardhan reviewed actions taken by states and their preparedness to prevent, contain and manage cases.



4 Rescued as Fishing Boat Tilts off Arnala

Two brothers and their wives had set out to fish on Sunday morning.



Mumbai: A family of four on a fishing boat was rescued by a police patrol boat after their boat titled mid-sea at Arnala in Virar (west) on Sunday morning. Two brothers, Rajesh (34) and Paresh Vaity (38), had set out to fish at the periphery of the sea along with their wives, Nisha (25) and Vandana Vaity (28). Three Palghar district policemen were patrolling at sea around 8am, moving towards Arnala fort. They heard screams coming from a fishing boat, and saw ‘Sai Ichha’ partially tilted in the water, after being lashed by waves. The two women were brought onto the police boat first. With the help of Rajesh and Paresh, the policemen pulled the fishing boat to the shore using a rope. The five of them managed to empty the boat of the water that had seeped into it. The women, who were in shock, were treated at a local hospital. The four reside in the Arnala fort area. Another sinking boat headed to Mandwa was rescued on Saturday, and a coastal police patrol boat rescued 88 people, including 20 children. The ferry, that had left Gateway of India in the morning, began to sink 1km from the Mandwa jetty around 10.15am.



Malls, Cinemas, Clubs Shut in NCR as UP & Haryana Tighten Curbs




New Delhi: The war against coronavirus intensified in India on Sunday with more states ordering closure of educational institutions, and others imposing a virtual lockdown by extending restrictions to other public places like cinema halls, malls, gyms and swimming pools. The most populous state in the country, Uttar Pradesh, directed indefinite closure of all multiplexes, cinemas, clubs and gymnasiums in 10 districts, including state capital Lucknow, and Noida and Ghaziabad in NCR. The Yogi Adityanath government which had on Friday shut down schools, colleges and universities across the state till March 22 said in an official statement on Sunday that strong steps were needed to check the progression of the outbreak in UP from category two to category three. Malls, however, will remain open, clarified a government spokesperson late Sunday evening. Till Sunday, UP had reported 13 positive cases, including eight in Agra, two each in Ghaziabad and Lucknow, and one in Noida. Besides Lucknow and districts in the NCR, other districts brought under the virtual lockdown are Maharajganj, Sidhartnagar, Balrampur, Sravasti, Pilibhit, Gorakhpur and Lakhimpur Kheri all along the Indo-Nepal border. Haryana on Sunday issued a fresh advisory barring the assembly of more than 200 people at any place, while directing all cinemas and malls in the state to be closed till March 31. In addition, the state has also closed all government and private schools till March 31.



In Gujarat, all schools, colleges, malls, multiplexes and swimming pools were ordered shut till March 29 by the state government, which has also directed municipalities, nagar palikas and gram panchayats to impose a fine of Rs 500 for spitting in public. Assam, too, ordered closure of all educational institutions, cinema halls, swimming pools and gyms till March 29. However, all ongoing exams will continue as per the earlier schedule. Following in the footsteps of the Supreme Court and the Delhi high court, Gauhati HC restricted its functioning as well as that of its benches in Kohima, Aizawl and Itanagar to “urgent matters only”. Assam, however, has not banned entry of foreigners. Tamil Nadu and Puducherry also joined other states in imposing restrictions by declaring holidays till March 31 for students till class V. TN also shut down cinema halls and malls in districts bordering Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra. In Mumbai, police invoked Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code till March 31 to prohibit tour operators from conducting any kind of group tours to foreign or domestic destinations. The curbs imposed by various states on Sunday come a day after similar measures were taken by state governments in Maharashtra, West Bengal, Punjab, Telangana, Himachal Pradesh and Goa.



Techie Abducted for 3.5 Hours, Robbed of Rs.4.4k at Knifepoint



Bengaluru: A software engineer was allegedly abducted in a minibus for more than three and a half hours and made to withdraw Rs 4,400 from an ATM. The miscreants also stole his cellphone before he managed to give them the slip in south Bengaluru on Friday night. The two abductors have been arrested. Satish N, 37, a resident of Banashankari II Stage and employee of Dell International Services, Whitefield, usually parks his scooter near Devegowda Petrol Bunk, from where he boards an office cab to go to work. On Friday too, he did the same. After returning from work, Satish met his friend Mahesh near the petrol bunk at 9pm. The duo left for a friend’s place near Katriguppe for dinner. Around 12.20am, they returned and found Satish’s scooter key missing. The duo began walking towards Katriguppe signal to reach Devegowda Petrol Bunk when a minibus stopped and its driver offered them a lift. The duo boarded the vehicle. When the truck reached the petrol bunk, Mahesh alighted and walked towards an ATM to withdraw money while Satish remained in the bus and was chatting with the driver and another person in the vehicle.



However, the bus began moving and the duo threatened to kill Satish at knifepoint. They drove towards Sarakki signal and later towards Talaghattapura on Kanakapura Main Road. They took him to two ATM kiosks to withdraw money from his account, but both didn’t have cash. The irked abductors began talking about killing Satish. When Satish pleaded for his life saying he has a child, the accused took him to an ATM kiosk in Khodays Factory and got him to withdraw Rs 4,400. They also sent an SMS to his wife, asking her for money. After about three and a half hours, the minibus reached Devegowda Petrol Bunk and stopped for a while. The accused were discussing where to abandon Satish when he managed to escape from the vehicle. Realising Satish had fled, the abductors sped away. Though the accused claimed he was abducted and assaulted, police registered a case under IPC section 394 (voluntarily hurting while committing robbery). Based on the vehicle’s registration number, police arrested Deepak, 25, a murder accused, and Prashanth, 29.



Virus Alert: T and AP Enter Lockdown Mode


Hyderabad: Amid the coronavirus outbreak, IT companies in the city have started giving their employees an option to work from home and started screening their temperature and as a precautionary measure to keep workplaces safe. Companies are also implementing measures to maintain high levels of hygiene at the workplaces by making hand sanitizers available for every employee and are creating awareness by putting up posters and distributing booklets on symptoms of Covid-19. Bharani Kumar Aroll, vice chairman, Society for Cyberabad Security Council (SCSC) said, “Industry bodies like Hyderabad Software Exporters’ Association (HYSEA), Cyberabad Security Council, NASSCOM have all come together on one platform and are trying to work with the nodal officers by getting regular health bulletins. Depending on that, we are taking measures and keeping the communication channel open with all the companies”.



“We are also trying to contain the panic. People working from home may happen soon and it doesn’t really impact the overall business as such. Anybody who has high temperature or any of the symptoms of Covid-19 are being educated not to come to the office and to keep themselves them isolated for a few days. We have also distributed booklets that talks about the whole process,” he said. Meanwhile, a few companies such as Google Hyderabad have started screening the temperature of its employees. “They have started checking the temperature of all the employees at the entrances of the office using a device. We also have an option to work from home if needed,” an employee said. Speaking to TOI, Srikanth Srinivasan, Head Membership, NASSCOM said, “We have put out an advisory saying that the employees should exercise abundant caution. We have also enabled all necessary permissions for work from home, but are leaving the decision to the wisdom of the organization based on the situation”. “Some organisations have already been doing temperature checks and slowly others might start following,” he added.



2 with Covid-19 Symptoms Isolated in Coimbatore



Coimbatore: A 49-year-old man from Thailand and a 26-year-old local woman who had returned from Qatar suspected to be infected with Covid-19 have been admitted to the isolation ward of the Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital (CMCH). The man had arrived in Tamil Nadu last week to visit religious places along with a group from Thailand. After visiting some religious places in Chennai, they reached Erode in a car on Saturday. There, the man developed fever, cough and cold. So, people in his group brought him to the Coimbatore airport on Saturday with a plan to send him to Chennai and from there, to Thailand. The special medical team at the airport that checked the man, who is also diabetic, found that he had symptoms of Covid-19. He was taken to CMCH and admitted to the coronavirus isolation ward. Samples of his blood and sputum have been sent for testing. The woman, who hails from the city, had returned from Qatar on Saturday. She had approached CMCH for treatment on Sunday after developing fever and cold. The medical team collected samples from her for testing and admitted her to the hospital’s isolation ward. Public health department officials are sanitizing vehicles entering the state through the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border as a precautionary measure.



Over 450 Indians Evacuated from Covid-19-Hit Iran, Italy in 2 Flights

BACK HOME: Indians inside the Air India flight at Milan airport as they were being evacuated from Italy on Sunday.



New Delhi/Jaisalmer: Over 450 Indians, including students, stranded in coronavirus-hit Iran and Italy were brought back by two flights on Sunday and were quarantined at separate facilities, according to officials. A total of 218 Indians, mostly students, from Milan landed at around 9.45am at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) and were taken to an ITBP quarantine facility in south-west Delhi’s Chhawla area. More than 230 Indians brought back from Iran reached New Delhi at about 3.15am and were quarantined at the Indian Army Wellness Centre in Jaisalmer, the third batch to be evacuated from that country. They had arrived in Delhi on a Mahan Air flight from Tehran and were ferried by two Air India flights to Jaisalmer, IGI airport officials said. While external affairs minister S Jaishankar said that a total of 234 Indians have been evacuated from Iran, defence spokesperson Col Sombit Ghosh said, “236 persons have landed in Jaisalmer by two Air India flights this morning”. Jaishankar said the batch comprises 131 students and 103 pilgrims. “234 Indians stranded in Iran have arrived in India; including 131students and 103 pilgrims. Thank you Ambassador Dhamu Gaddam and @India_in_Iran team for your efforts. Thank Iranian authorities,” Jaishankar tweeted. The minister had told Rajya Sabha that the government was focusing on evacuating Indians stranded in Iran and Italy as these countries are facing an “extreme situation”.



International News



Europe Locks Itself, But Virus Still On Prowl, Italy’s 368 Deaths in a Day Exceeds China’s Highest Daily Toll of 254

For the second Sunday in a row, Pope Francis delivered his blessings from inside the Apostolic Library instead of from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square. Meanwhile, the Vatican said on Sunday that its traditional services during the week before Easter, which usually draw tens of thousands of people, would not be open to the public next month, a step believed to be unprecedented in modern times.



Italy: The coronavirus continued its assault on Italy, the hardest hit country outside of China, with officials on Sunday reporting the number of deaths rose to 1,809 a 25% increase over the day before and the largest one-day uptick yet of any country. The 368 deaths Italy reported exceeds the highest single day number China reported at the height of its outbreak. China’s highest daily toll was on February 13, when the country reported 254 new deaths, according to the WHO. The staggering caseload in Italy topped 24,700, even as the entire nation has been locked down for a week. Germany will close its borders with Austria, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Spain and France announced drastic countrywide restrictions this weekend. The countries are the hardest hit after Italy. Spain’s 47 million inhabitants awoke to the first day of a nationwide quarantine as part of a 15-day state of emergency. Spain’s health ministry said the country has recorded 288 deaths, up from 136 on Saturday. The number of infections rose to 7,753 from 5,700, a 32% jump. One after another, countries continued to implement extraordinary measures. Austria banned gatherings of over five people and imposed steep fines for those who disobeyed a far-reaching curfew. Public parks, sporting fields and restaurants will close from Monday, and fines for violations are to 3,600 euros. The Netherlands announced a lockdown that will last until April 6, closing most schools and child care facilities. Restaurants and gyms will also be closed. In Lebanon, banks will close until March 29. South Africa declared a national state of disaster. Australia said those arriving in the nation would need to isolate themselves for 14 days, and foreign cruise ships would be banned for 30 days.

News Flash – 13 March 2020

National News



Mumbai, Thane & Pune Each Get 1 New Covid-19 Case


Mumbai: Covid-19 cases in the state jumped to 14 on Thursday after a resident from Mumbai and two individuals from Thane and Pune were detected positive for the infection. Among the new cases, a 64-year-old man from the city with a travel history to Dubai was serious, state officials said late on Thursday, adding that there were discussions to invoke the Epidemic Act of 1897 in Maharashtra. Until Wednesday, the state had had 11 cases. Public health minister Rajesh Tope confirmed that the Mumbai resident who had tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday was admitted in the ICU of a private hospital with breathing difficulty. “His condition is critical. We are closely monitoring his condition,” the minister said. BMC officials, however, said the man was not on a ventilator and that his condition was stable. BMC’s additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani said the individual was given the choice to shift to Kasturba Hospital, the city’s dedicated isolation facility. Health officials said the individual had returned to the city on March 8. Soon after, he visited the private hospital he routinely consulted with a cardiac complaint. His treating doctor, however, suspected that it was not his routine heart problem and that the breathing difficulty was caused by something else.



His samples, sent to Kasturba’s PCR laboratory for testing on Thursday, came positive in the evening, triggering a flurry of activity. Sources said the individual was kept in isolation in the private hospital. Kakani said BMC teams were dispatched to begin the process of contact tracing. “He may have come in contact with family members, doctors and paramedic staff at the hospital, among others. Our teams will begin taking their details,” he said, adding that the BMC was consulting the individual and his treating doctor on shifting him to Kasturba Hospital. The two other new positive cases in the state were of a 35-year-old Thane resident with a travel history to France and a 33-year-old Pune resident who had returned from the US. The Thane man, who is undergoing treatment at Kasturba Hospital, was responding well to treatment, Kakani said. He added that Mumbai has added nearly 100 isolation beds and would upgrade more, depending on the situation. So far, over 190 people have been admitted at Kasturba Hospital, of which two have come positive. On Thursday, another 20 patients were admitted, taking the total count of isolated patients to 40. Even as cases of coronavirus cases were rapidly detected, state officials said they were faced with instances where individuals refused to be quarantined.



Commuters Cringe & Scowl in Crowded Trains; CR, WR & BEST on Coronavirus Alert

Masked commuters on Thursday.



Mumbai: Boarding the crowded fast trains at Kalyan during morning peak hours is routine for 35-year-old Deepak Gosavi, who squeezes in, brushing past accommodating commuters. For the past couple of days, the routine’s acquired an edge: jostled passengers would give him a glare or turn their faces away as he passed. “There are some with masks, and on Thursday, a man kept using a hand sanitiser as he had to help commuters put their bags on the luggage rack,” Gosavi recalled. Since the novel coronavirus has made its appearance in Mumbai, commuters are swinging between precaution and panic. “People are apprehensive these days, considering that WHO has declared a pandemic. If anybody sneezes or coughs, many are covering their mouth and nostril, while some try to move away,” said Gosavi. Pranay Maniar, who goes to K C College by a 9.30am train from Matunga, said he found the local “crowded” as usual on Thursday. “During my journey, I witnessed a slight increase in the number of commuters in masks as compared to previous days and people were aware of the virus. Many were carrying sanitisers. This reminded me to go for a hand wash after the journey,” he recounted. Sushil Verma, who takes the 10.55am CSMT-bound fast train from Shahad, found things ‘normal’ with friends shaking hands. “I found many travelling as if nothing has happened, except three men in masks,” he said.



But railways have taken Covid-19, as the novel coronavirus has been designated, seriously and is on “high alert”. “We are spreading awareness through announcements at stations, locals and long-distance trains,” said Central Railway chief public relations officer Shivaji Sutar. “We have created isolation wards in our railway hospitals with staff and doctors equipped with personal protection gear, masks and gloves with adequate sanitisers for infection control. Educative posters on Dos and Don’ts have been displayed at stations and inside trains, audio and video clips are being played through the central public address system and on LED/TV screens,” added Western Railway chief spokesperson Ravinder Bhakar. Both CR and WR have designated 75 beds in isolation wards at all divisions and central hospitals, including a dedicated ward of 30 beds at Jagjivan Ram Hospital at Mumbai Central, another 10% beds in a dedicated ward at the Byculla railway hospital and a third at Kalyan hospital. Trained doctors and medical staff have been kept on alert at all Emergency Medical Centres at suburban stations. BEST and MSRTC too have swung into action. “All our buses are sanitised at the depots before a journey. We also have posters, camps to create awareness,” said BEST spokesperson Manoj Varade.



Delhi Shuts Down Schools, Colleges and Cinema Halls & Malls

A foreign tourist at Paharganj, where hotels are staring at up to 80% cancellations.



New Delhi: Declaring the spreading of Covid-19 as an epidemic, the Delhi government on Thursday announced its decision to shut down all schools and colleges where examinations are not on and cinema halls, as a precautionary measure, till March 31. Announcing this, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said this would prevent coronavirus from spreading. Of 74 confirmed cases in the country, six have been reported in Delhi. Kejriwal said “sufficient” beds had been kept for quarantining suspected cases and all government and private offices, and shopping malls and shops have been directed to disinfect their premises regularly. Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain, meanwhile, wrote to Union health minister Harsh Vardhan asking him to increase the number of testing facilities in the capital. Delhi University announced suspension of classes in all its colleges till March 31but the faculty will be available. IP University, too, suspended classes but the faculty has been asked to report for work. Ambedkar University is yet to take a call while Jawaharlal Nehru University said it would continue to hold classes. Jamia is waiting for directions from UGC and the ministry of human resource development before taking a decision. The Board examinations conducted by CBSE will continue. Cinema halls in the city will be closed from Friday, the day when new movies are released.



Kalaburagi Man, 76, is India’s First Covid-19 Fatality

DESERTED AISLES: A passenger is screened for flu symptoms at Kempegowda International Airport on Thursday. KIA has segregated elevators, restrooms, exit gates and baggage belts for passengers arriving from coronavirus-notified countries.



Bengaluru: A 76-year-old man from Kalaburagi in north Karnataka, who died on March 10, is the country’s first Covid-19 fatality, with test results on Thursday confirming that he was infected. The man, with a travel history to Saudi Arabia, died when he was being brought from a Hyderabad hospital to Kalaburagi on March 10. His throat swab samples reached a Bengaluru lab only on March 11. Karnataka health and family welfare department officials said though the senior citizen had arrived from a Covid-19-affected country, his symptoms were misleading and tests for coronavirus were delayed due to old age-related complications such as breathing difficulty, asthma and hypertension. “Forty-three people, including his family members and doctors, who had come into contact with him are under home isolation, and are being monitored closely,” a health official said. The man from Kalaburagi, 570km north of Bengaluru, had left for Mecca in Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage on January 29. He arrived on February 29 at Hyderabad airport where he was screened and showed no symptoms of Covid-19, and proceeded to Kalaburagi, about 230km away.



CCTV Shows 5 Men Breaking into iPhone Shop



Bengaluru: A day after 54 iPhones were burgled from a store in Gandhi Bazaar, Basavanagudi, verification of CCTV footage from an adjacent building showed a gang of five men targeting the shop. The gang decamped with 54 mobile phones worth Rs 32 lakh, Rs 2.1 lakh in cash and digital video recorder of CCTVs from iAstra, an authorised iPhone dealer, which is a part of Arjay Retail. Complainant Dipesh HP, owner of the shop, and jurisdictional Basavanagudi police said iAstra is an authorised iPhone dealer. The TOI report on the burglary (March 12), mentioned iAstra as a resale shop, based on information provided by police. It has since been learnt that the store only sells boxed handsets that are new. Two CCTV footage that run for 10.5 minutes and 8.2 minutes, respectively revealed the burglary took place between 4.30am and 5am on Tuesday. TOI has a copy of the videos. In the footage, the gang of five is seen wearing caps. While one of them stands guard on the road, four others carrying backpacks reach the store. They are seen carrying equipment needed to break into the store. Of the four, three start breaking the lock, while the fourth one is seen bringing out a bedsheet. He holds it as a cover, preventing passersby from seeing what the other three are up to. The activity suddenly pauses and the men leave the spot only to return within minutes. “In 30 minutes, the gang made multiple attempts to enter the shop and succeeded only in the last try. One of them entered the shop and came out with the loot a few minutes later, after which they all fled the spot,” a police officer said. The dog and fingerprint squads examined the crime scene on Tuesday morning. Shop owner Dipesh submitted to police a list of the stolen devices, the models and international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) numbers. Police have formed a team to trace and nab the miscreants.



Corona Scare at City IT Firms, Staff Told to Work from Home



Hyderabad: Even as state health authorities await reports of three Covid-19 suspects and another suspected case from Warangal came to light on Thursday, information technology firms asked employees to work from home and stepped up security measures in offices. Anyone with a body temperature of more than 99 degree Fahrenheit on the thermal check is being barred from entering offices and some companies are even actively checking with employees if they have any fever or cold. “I was turned away from office on Monday since I had a cold. Although, I do not have a recent travel history to any of the affected countries, our HR has asked anyone with mildest symptoms to work from home or avail off depending on their condition. This is in addition to other measures taken in our office like sanitation, distribution of masks and sanitisers,” B Shikhar, a software employee working at Hi-Tec City.



While sanitation drives and advisories have become a regular feature in most IT offices, managements were struggling with charting out timelines and plans for managing work from home. “We have a workforce of less than 200 and despite all measures put in place, we are looking at having majority of the people work from home in the near future. The step will be essential to continue our services in case of the spread of the infection,” a CEO of a company said. IT services company Tetrasoft at Mindspace has gone ahead and placed a health desk with doctors and nurses in tow to ensure its employees are safe and sent back home if they display any symptoms. Meanwhile, the high-powered committee formed to monitor Covid-19 in Cyberabad area has already issued an advisory to firms to mandate all employees returning from foreign assignments to work from home for 14 days. “If returnees show symptoms, ask them to get tested at listed hospitals and work from home (WFH) for 14 days. Employee should join back only after producing a doctor’s certificate,” the advisory added.



Malls Adopt Steps to Create Safe Zone for Customers and Staff

Hand sanitizer being dispensed to customers at the entrance to South City mall on Thursday.



Kolkata: Amidst debates on what measures can be taken in a public place against coronavirus without triggering unwarranted fear, authorities at the city’s oldest mall have asked all the staffers to don masks. It is also in talks with paramedics to adopt thermal screening at the entrance in a week to demonstrate that it is safe inside. Several other malls have started offering hand sanitizers at entrances and introduced regular deep cleaning of surfaces like elevator buttons, escalator rails and door handles. Speaking to TOI, Forum Mall operations head Ujjal said masks had been handed out to ground staffers to ensure health safety. “We have around 35 staffers who are in constant touch with several hundred people daily. Masks will ensure their protection as they go about making the mall safe for the patrons,” he said “We will check temperatures of staffers and visitors and request those who have fever to visit a doctor,” he explained. The mall management has also kept a tissue box and hand sanitizer at the entrance for use by customers. It has also introduced a mobile sanitizer and tissue carrier, equipping staff with a pouch belts to dispense them to customers. In addition, it has begun disinfecting the frequent touch-points in the facility.



The management at the other malls South City, Quest, Acropolis and City Centre have also intensified cleaning operations, but have opted against use of masks or thermal screening, pointing out that it could actually scare customers instead of reassuring them. “We are taking precautions quietly. Announcing it may alarm customers,” said Manmohan Bagri of South City Mall, where toilets are being cleaned more rigorously and more often. The mall is also using its LED screens to make people aware on ways to stay safe from the virus. At Quest, the floor and all touch-points are being mopped every four hours. But here, too, the mall is against any demonstrable action that triggers panic among customers. “Footfall has dipped by10% in the past 10 days. For now, we can keep the environment clean and make the place safe for customers,” said mall in charge Sanjeev Mehra. With the Maharashtra government advising people not to go to malls, most mall officials here are on edge. Inox, which operates multiplexes in several malls, said providing a hygienic experience remained the top-most priority till the prevailing concerns subsided. “We have increased the frequency of our hygiene routines and will follow any government advisory that is issued at the local, state or national level,” a spokesperson said.



Bangladeshi Barge Sinks After Collision with Port Vessel

Bangladeshi barge MV Mamatamoyee Maa sinks in the Hooghly on Thursday.



Kolkata: A Bangladeshi barge, with fly ash on board, sank in the Hooghly near Pujali in South 24 Parganas on Thursday morning after colliding with a vessel of the Syama Prasad Mukherjee Port Trust (SPMPT). The port vessel DV Rabindra was on its way to Diamond Harbour when the Bangladeshi barge entered the navigation channel without warning. The collision left both vessels damaged. While the DV Rabindra managed to sail away towards Diamond Harbour, the master of the barge MV Mamatamoyee Maa attempted to sail the vessel towards the shore. But it sank close to Akra due to the bore tide. All 13 crew members were rescued. “Around 10.30am, the DV Rabindra master spotted the barge in the channel. Barges in the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route are supposed to stay away from the navigation channel. The DV Rabindra was on an urgent buoy repairing work, but tried to take evasive action. The master also asked MV Mamatamoyee Maa to pull away, but it didn’t. SPMPT chairman Vinit Kumar has ordered an inquiry,” a senior port official said. Manirul Islam, pilot of the MV Mamatamoyee, admitted that his vessel was not supposed to be in the navigation channel. “I realized that there was something wrong and was trying to call the pilot of another barge ahead of us over the wireless when the collision occurred,” he said. Times View: Every effort should be made to assess the possible impact, if any, of the incident on the marine bio-diversity of the region.



International News



Viral ‘Earthquake’ Shocks The World


Washington/Rome: Sweeping travel bans cascaded around the globe on Thursday, walling off countries and even entire continents, keeping people inside their homes, and slowing the engines of commerce to stem the coronavirus pandemic. After weeks downplaying the impact of the virus, US President Donald Trump’s announcement of strict rules barring most Europeans from entry came as a shock across the Atlantic. Within hours, even the European Union’s passport-free travel came into question, with guards in places that had been without borders for more than a decade and airports shut down. Indeed, Europe may have become the new China that was the worrying refrain among officials on both sides of the Atlantic on Thursday, who said that Europe had now become the new epicentre of the pandemic. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Robert Redfield told US lawmakers in a House hearing that “within the world now, over 70% of new cases are linked to Europe… Europe is the new China”. In a similar refrain, the head of the Danish health authority, Soeren Brostroem, said on Thursday that “the epidemic has gotten a new epicentre, and that is Europe”. He told reporters that “if one looks at day-by-day developments, Europe has the greatest growth now. And it is not just Italy, but also a number of other countries in Europe that have had a worrying development”. The European Center for Disease says the continent has more than 22,000 cases of the new coronavirus. Deaths in Italy alone topped 1,000 on Thursday, with more than 15,000 testing positive.



China, on the other hand, said its epidemic had passed its peak, as it logged just 15 new infections, its lowest daily tally since the outbreak began. The spread has slowed so much in China that the government sent a medical crew to Italy and offered surplus supplies to Iran and other countries in need. So far more than three-fourths, or around 68,000, of China’s patients have recovered. The virus, detected three months ago in Wuhan, has now trudged across the breadth of the globe, trapping 123 countries in its breadth, infecting more than 130,500 people and killing more than 4,900. The last week alone has seen dizzying developments erupt by the hour. European football leagues, American basketball tournaments, school terms for millions of students, weddings, baptisms, funerals, nightlife, culture high and low — all fell by the wayside with a swiftness that was becoming increasingly difficult to grasp. “It’s similar to what you might think of as an infectious disease equivalent of a major earthquake that’s going to shake us for weeks and weeks,” said Dr Jeff Duchin, a top public health official for the Seattle area, which has one of the biggest coronavirus outbreaks in the US. Britain PM Boris Johnson called the pandemic “the worst public health crisis for a generation”. His chief scientific adviser said on Thursday that the country likely has up to 10,000 people infected. The PM has now stepped up the response to the outbreak. In California, the governor advised officials to cancel any gatherings of more than 250 people, as well as any smaller meetings where people must be closer than 6 feet a description that includes everything from dinner parties to political rallies. Congress shut the US Capitol and House and Senate office buildings to the public until April 1, and the White House canceled tours.

News Flash – 12 March 2020

National News



State asks Doctors to Fix SOP to Battle Virus


Mumbai: If the steady stream of visitors, especially in swanky cars, to the BMC-run Kasturba Hospital near Saat Rasta on Wednesday was an indicator, Mumbaikars seem to be in panic mode. A woman who walked into the Kasturba complex seeking direction to the Covid-19 OPD, said she had had a cough for four days. Although she hadn’t visited any foreign country or met people who had travelled abroad, she said, “I just want to be sure this cough is not the coronavirus.” Two sisters who had returned from Dubai on March 3 were among those who wanted to be sure they weren’t infected. At the end of Wednesday, the hospital had taken 10 of these OPD visitors into the quarantine facility and planned to test them on Thursday. The visitors included office-goers who wanted a certificate stating they were not infected and could travel abroad or rejoin office. “My office wants to send me to Kazakhstan, but I need a certificate saying I don’t have the virus. But Kasturba doctors said I don’t need such a certificate,” a man said. The panic is also apparent in calls received by BMC’s disaster control room. Dr Santosh Narayankar, 34, a post-graduate doctor in preventive social medicine attached to one of the civic hospitals, has been attending to calls from anxious Mumbaikars for five days.



Some callers who have a travel history ask questions such as “People around us are avoiding us, what should we do?”. From March 6, the BMC decided to station a doctor within the disaster control room to attend to queries Mumbaikars may have. Several doctors from civic hospitals are stationed at the control room on a shift basis. Between March 6 and 11, 146 calls were received; 37 callers asked general information such as symptoms of the virus, the testing locations and preventive measures, while 37 others called in stating they have cold and cough and if they should take a test. On an average per day, 30 calls are being received, most from those who have a travel history or are planning to travel. Narayankar recounts how one caller said since he has returned from an international destination, his office wants him to submit a ‘fitness certificate’ before he resumes work. But he is unable to produce it as his family doctor has said there is a 14-day incubation period, only after which he would be able to check him.



Infected City Couple are Senior Citizens


Mumbai: An elderly couple became the first novel coronavirus patients of the city when they tested positive for the virus at Kasturba Hospital on Wednesday. The 70-year-old male and his 68-year-old wife had travelled to Dubai with the Pune couple who tested positive on Tuesday. The couple is in the quarantine facility at Kasturba and seem stable, said BMC officials. The other four – including another couple and a mother-daughter pair – tested negative for the virus and were discharged late on Wednesday night. Initially, BMC wanted to be “extra cautious” and keep the four for a few more days to check if they develop symptoms, but decided to let them go home and keep tabs on their health over the phone for 14 days. The couple was among 38 people contacted after the Pune couple tested positive; so far, nine from the Dubai team are positive. Agencies reported swab samples of the positive Mumbai couple will be sent to the Pune-based National Institute of Virology (NIV) for reconfirmation. Quoting Kakani, the report said swab samples would be sent to NIV for testing “as per protocol”. Sources said the couple don’t exhibit severe symptoms. “One of them appears to have had a cold, while the other has no symptoms,” said the source. They are being given symptomatic treatment, but officials said there are adequate medicines and infrastructure to help patients. It is learnt three people in the couple’s home have been placed in home isolation, and their status will be followed up by BMC every day. Meanwhile, 10 new people were admitted to Kasturba Hospital facility on suspicion of being infected. “Most people came on their own or were referred by private doctors to undergo the test,” said additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani. He said BMC has been training private doctors on how to recognize and manage Covid-19 patients.



Autos, Buses from Outside to be Disinfected

All metro trains and DTC and Cluster scheme buses are already being disinfected as a precautionary measure against the novel coronavirus infection.



New Delhi: After ensuring that all Delhi Metro coaches and Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) and Cluster scheme buses are thoroughly disinfected every day to prevent spread of coronavirus, Delhi government is now focusing on getting autorickshaws, e-rickshaws and the buses coming to the city from other states disinfected. “We are coming out with an advisory for drivers of autos, e-rickshaws, mini-buses, etc., to create awareness about the necessity to keep their vehicles disinfected. They will be advised to thoroughly clean the vehicles and follow general dos and don’ts,” a Delhi government official said. “This is not only important for the safety of their passengers, but also to protect themselves from any infection,” the official added. The official further said that drivers and owners of smaller vehicles, such as autorickshaws, Phat Sewa, Eco Sewa, maxi cabs and e-rickshaws, might not have the financial means to ensure thorough cleaning of vehicles by the prescribed disinfectants. “We are planning to disinfect these vehicles free of cost at DTC and Cluster depots. The owners will be able to visit the nearest bus depot and get their vehicles disinfected. This facility is expected to start within a couple of days,” he added.



While all DTC and Cluster scheme buses are being disinfected daily, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has also intensified the cleaning of its trains and common surfaces at stations. Inter-state buses coming from neighbouring states will be disinfected at the three inter-state bus terminals (ISBTs), starting Thursday. “All ISBTs, including the platforms and the common surfaces, are being disinfected. Starting Thursday, all buses arriving at Delhi’s ISBTs will be thoroughly disinfected,” said KK Dahiya, special commissioner (transport). He is also managing director of Delhi Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation, which manages Delhi’s ISBTs. “We are writing to the authorities concerned in the neighbouring states, urging them to ensure that all buses headed to Delhi are disinfected,” he added. As many as 3,467 buses from other states arrive in Delhi every day and most of these operate from Kashmere Gate ISBT (1,636), followed by Anand Vihar ISBT (1,210) and Sarai Kale Khan ISBT (621). Most of the interstate buses arrive from Uttar Pradesh (1,519), followed by Haryana (757) and Uttarakhand (313). DTC doesn’t operate any inter-state buses as its entire fleet runs on CNG, which is not easily available in other states.



Tips for Senior Citizens to Avert e-Fraud


Kolkata: A phenomenal rise in the number of cases of white-collar crimes in the last one year has prompted Lalbazar to launch an extensive and sustained campaign to educate senior citizens about ways of staying safe from cyber crooks. The first phase will involve those enrolled with the Pronam programme. This time, the objective is to warn seniors not to believe anyone talking to them over phone. Often, the accused sweet talks potential victims to shed inhibitions and give away bank details. The training is going to be based on practical experiences. “Senior citizens and kids are most prone to fall prey. Hence, even as we reach schools, it is important that we take senior citizens into confidence,” said an officer from the community policing section. Various police divisions have already begun organizing training schedules. “One obvious reason why senior citizens fall prey to cybercrimes is their lack of technical knowledge. Often, they are not comfortable in the online environment. They are also attractive targets of cyber criminals as most tend to have more wealth or a heftier ‘nest egg’. We were surprised by the range of questions and the hunger for knowledge among the senior citizens so far.



There have been questions ranging from what phishing is all about to what precautions are necessary before sharing personal information on any online platform,” said an officer. The cops have divided their presentation at various community centres into four different parts. While the first part deals with payment card fraud (its process, procedures and methods of mitigating frauds), the second session is dedicated to the new-found tricks employed by cyber fraudsters and the resultant emerging trends along with the dos and don’ts. The third part, exclusively, informed participants about phishing frauds and safe banking practice. The Q&A session ends the interactions. “We have issued advisory time and again about not revealing the PIN and other sensitive details to any individual but scammers are finding ways to get private information. We appeal to all to stay alert. If anyone is found committing a crime, kindly report the matter. Now that we have educated them, we hope that they would make their peers aware of cyber frauds,” said an officer at Lalbazar.



International News



Coronavirus Outbreak is a Pandemic, Declares WHO

A worker disinfecting Kilic Ali Pasha Mosque in Istanbul. Turkey reported its first virus case on Wednesday.



Italy: The spread of the coronavirus across more than 100 countries now qualifies as a global pandemic, World Health Organisation said on Wednesday. Until now, the WHO had avoided using the term to describe the epidemic leapfrogging across the world, for fear of giving the impression that it was unstoppable. “Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, chief of the WHO, said at a news conference in Geneva. “We cannot say this loudly enough or clearly enough or often enough,” he added. “All countries can still change the course of this pandemic.” In the past two weeks the number of cases outside China had risen 13-fold, and the number of countries affected had tripled, a sombre-looking Tedros said. The virus, which emerged in China in December, has spread around the world, halting industry, bringing flights to a standstill, closing schools and forcing the postponement of sporting events and concerts. There is evidence on six continents of sustained transmission of the virus, which has infected more than 120,000 people and killed more than 4,300.



According to the WHO, an epidemic is defined as a regional outbreak of an illness that spreads unexpectedly. The WHO had not declared a pandemic since 2009, when it gave that designation to a new strain of H1N1 influenza. Before the WHO’s comments, the UK and Italy announced multi-billion-dollar war chests to fight the disease. The US, too, said it was considering extending the tax filing deadline from all Americans beyond April 15, while lawmakers are discussing a stimulus package. Britain’s government promised on Wednesday nearly $39 billion in stimulus to its economy as its new chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, outlined plans to boost public spending and bury the austerity politics of the last decade. In Italy, PM Giuseppe Conte announced that his government was developing a plan to spend about $28 billion to confront the coronavirus emergency. Italy is the hardest hit country outside of China. Confirmed cases across Italy rose to 12,462 from a previous 10,149, while toll jumped by 196 in 24 hours to 827. But China’s new cases have dwindled. Wuhan, at the center of its outbreak, was told resume operation of key industrial sectors. China’s new worry is that the coronavirus could re-enter from abroad. Beijing announced that all overseas visitors will be quarantined for 14 days. Of 24 new cases that China reported Wednesday, five arrived from Italy and one from the US. Chancellor Angela Merkel said the virus was likely to infect about two-thirds of the German population.