Category Archives: News Flash

News Flash – 11 March 2020

National News



5 Coronavirus Cases Confirmed in Maharashtra & Kerala Put Under Lockdown


Pune/Thiruvananthapuram: India’s count of coronavirus cases rose by 18 to 62 with eight testing positive in Kerala, five in Maharashtra, four in Karnataka and one in J&K on Tuesday. A Pune couple, their daughter, one of their co-travellers from a group of 40 on a Dubai trip, and the cab driver who drove the family from Mumbai to Pune on March 1 on their return were the five confirmed cases in Pune. Meanwhile, the Kerala government went on high alert after eight new cases were reported. Government sources said the number of cases is expected to rise and have imposed a host of regulations, including shutting down all educational institutions and cinema halls till March 31. All government functions too have been suspended till the month end. The CM urged all religious heads and institutions to organised events without mass gatherings.



How Coronavirus Attacks: Study of 56,000 Confirmed Cases Reveals it Stage by Stage


New Delhi: There is widespread panic across the world about Covid-19 caused by the novel coronavirus. But what does this insidious infection agent do to the human body? There are some answers after a review of nearly 56,000 Covid-19 cases from China, the country of origin of the perilous spread. The review of the Chinese cases shows that the virus causes mild to moderate symptoms after infection in most cases, such as fever, dry cough and fatigue. But this is when the infection is limited to the upper respiratory tract the nose and the throat. Once the infection involves the lower respiratory tract, complications set in. The human lower respiratory tract consists of the windpipe (trachea), and the bronchi, bronchioles and alveoli that make up the lungs. These structures pull in air from the upper respiratory system, absorb the oxygen into the blood and release carbon dioxide in exchange. A review of the Covid-19 cases that had turned severe and critical, comprising 14% and 6% of the total cases, respectively, showed infection damaging the lungs, therefore leading to shortness of breath in which the patient starts breathing faster, more than 30 times a minute, and a drop in the level of oxygen in the blood. If the infection spreads to more than half of the lung, the oxygen transferring capacity of the organ gets affected. As a result, oxygen level in the blood decreases. This lack of oxygen gradually affects the brain, heart and then the other organs.



“In severe cases when the lung is damaged, complications can be limited to symptoms such as shortness of breath and low oxygen saturation. But if this continues despite treatment, the patient falls unconscious due to less oxygen in the brain. It can also lead to multi-organ failure,” said Dr Arup Basu, senior pulmonology consultant, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. According to the WHO-China Joint Commission report, 13.8% of the reviewed cases involved severe disease and 6.1% turned critical. “Individuals at highest risk of severe infection or death include people aged over 60 years and those with underlying conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and cancer,” the report said. Dr Basu explained that patients without other conditions usually recover from acute respiratory distress syndrome caused by an infected lung. “Those without a history of any underlying illness succumb to the condition only when there is a secondary bacterial infection,” he pointed out. “However, when patients already have chronic conditions, it is possible the viral infection can cause septic shock or multi-organ dysfunction or failure.” This explains why the review reported most deaths occurred among persons with co-morbidities. Dr Rommel Tickkoo, associate director, department of internal medicine, Max Saket, said treatment for Covid-19 is symptomatic because there is no specific drug or cure for it. “Management of a severe Covid-19 case involves ventilator support, fluid rehydration and fight against sepsis,” he said. He noted that even in swine flu infection, the severe symptoms are similar to Covid-19. Unlike swine flu with a mortality rate of 0.03%, according to WHO data, mortality rate for Covid-19 is much higher at around 3.4%.



Bengaluru Reports 3 Fresh Virus Cases; Infected Techie’s Wife, Daughter Positive

BUG BITES TRAVEL: The KSRTC main terminus in Bengaluru wears a deserted look. Karnataka government urged IT companies to defer international trips of employees, besides expressing fears some staffers have wrongly declared travel history or given screening a miss.



Bengaluru: Three more cases of Covid-19 infections from Bengaluru were confirmed on Tuesday, taking the total in the state to four. The new cases include the 47-year-old wife and 13-year-old daughter of Karnataka’s first positive case, a software engineer from Dell. The girl is Karnataka’s first Paediatric case. Unlike the techie who had returned from the United States, his wife and daughter had no travel history to any country. The state’s fourth patient is a 50-year-old software engineer of Mind tree who returned to Bengaluru from the US via London on March 8. He reported at Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases (RGICD) on Monday. Including his wife and daughter, 12 persons who were in contact with the Mind tree techie are under observation. None of them has been admitted to the hospital. All the four confirmed patients are now in the isolation ward at RGICD and their condition is said to be stable. A colleague of the Dell techie who had travelled with him from the United States and was admitted to RGICD has tested negative for the infection. In all, 2,666 primary and secondary contacts of the techie’s family are on the health and family welfare department’s radar. Meanwhile, a 24-year-old engineer, the first Covid-19 case of Telangana who worked and lived in Bengaluru, has recovered, a minister said.



As 8 New Cases Surface, Kerala Shuts Schools, Colleges, Cinemas till March 31



Thiruvananthapuram: With eight more people testing positive for coronavirus in Kerala on Tuesday, the total number of infected people now under treatment touched 14, as the government decided to impose severe restrictions, including closure of educational institutions and cinema houses till month end to halt its further spread. The fresh cases include parents of the three-year-old boy, who tested positive for Covid-19 in Kochi on Monday on the family’s return from Italy, and eight of their close relatives and friends who came in contact with them. The aged parents of the couple have also tested positive and they are presently under intensive care at the Kottayam medical college hospital. “There was slight variation in the ECG of one of the patients. Now it has stabilised. Our effort is to save their lives,” health minister KK Shailaja said. Efforts are on to trace all those who had come in touch with the family, she added. Details are being collected about passengers who had travelled in the flight they took from Italy. Kerala has got sanction from the central government to test samples at the Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode medical college hospitals, she said. At least 1,495 people are under observation 1,236 under home quarantine and 259 in isolation wards at various hospitals. So far 980 samples have been sent for testing, of which 815 samples turned out negative, according to sources. Kerala has been hit by the second round of coronavirus cases after the country’s first three positive cases in the state were successfully cured and discharged from hospitals last month. Biometric punching at secretariat and all government offices and PSUs had been stopped till March 31. Private sector organisations should also take similar measure, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in a statement.



Bomb Threat Triggers Panic at School



Hyderabad: Panic prevailed for a while at the Delhi Public School at Nacharam here on Tuesday morning after an anonymous email warning of a bomb planted in school was received by the management. The email later turned out be a fake one. The police are investigating the source of the email and have sought help of the Cybercrime cell of the Rachakonda Police to nab the sender.



International News



South Korea’s Open Virus Alerts Spark Affair Gossip

Detailed log of suspects’ daily schedules is embarrassing and violates basic human rights.



Seoul: Allegations of affairs, revelations of membership of religious sects: South Korea’s openness about infected patients has been key in its fight against the coronavirus but raised uncomfortable questions over privacy and stigmatization. South Korea has confirmed over 7,500 infections, one of the largest outside China, where the virus first emerged, although new case numbers have been declining. Officials say that has been made possible by widespread testing of potential contacts — the South has tested over 2,10,000. Across the country, local authorities have been issuing emergency alerts on cellphones to those living or working in districts where new cases have been confirmed. The text message arrives with a shrieking warning, announcing nearby locations visited by patients before they were diagnosed with the virus and their links to other cases. More information is available on municipal websites, sometimes with breakdowns of individuals’ daily schedules, even down to the minute, and details of their residence and employer often making them identifiable individually. In a country where virtually everyone owns a smartphone, doxing maliciously spreading private information about individuals and businesses online has long been a problem. And the consequences have been sometimes embarrassing, even brutal, with the National Human Rights Commission describing them as “human rights violations”. “We can’t help but worry about the situation where the confirmed patients become subject to secondary damages, such as being criticised, ridiculed and abhorred online,” it said.



Two confirmed patients have been accused of having an extra-marital affair, after their travel logs showed similarities. A woman who tested positive said she received hateful comments online after a city mayor revealed her boyfriend is a member of Shincheonji, the controversial religious sect linked to more than half the South’s cases. “I am having a hard time mentally, more so than (physical) pain,” she wrote on her Facebook account, which she has since turned private, asking other users not to share her personal information. Michael Hurt, a sociologist at Korea National University of Arts, said that while the alerts reassure the public that authorities are dealing with the epidemic, they can unintentionally lead to “stigmatization of areas as infected or ‘dangerous’”. Companies identified as visited by infected people have also been hit. South Korea has an advanced medical system, a free press and a strong culture of public accountability, and Seoul’s foreign minister says the government has stressed transparency when tackling the public health crisis. But even a health ministry civil servant could not avoid online bullying after contracting the virus. The municipal government of Sejong where the ministry is based revealed that she took gym classes taught by an infected instructor, as well as a detailed breakdown of her daily schedule. Most online comments slammed her as “irresponsible” for going to a gym during the outbreak, but others picked on items such as her lunch hours, saying they were too long for a civil servant and accused her of “slacking off”. The Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters was forced to step in to defend her, saying her gym visits took place before authorities advised people to avoid public gatherings and adopt social distancing.



Covid-19: Italy Puts 60m People on Lockdown

SAFETY MATTERS: A woman walks across the deserted Vittorio Emanuele II galleria shopping mall in Milan on Tuesday. The measures extended a restricted zone that Italy had imposed on Sunday across the north, including the major cities of Milan and Venice, where streets were semi-deserted. (Right) Prince Charles does an Indian ‘Namaste’ to greet people at the Commonwealth Day reception 2020 in London on Monday.



Rome: Italy imposed unprecedented nationwide restrictions on its 60 million people on Tuesday to control the deadly coronavirus, as China signaled major progress in its battle against the global epidemic. The outbreak, combined with a crash in oil prices, caused carnage on financial markets on Monday, sparking the biggest losses in more than a decade although Asian markets recovered slightly on Tuesday and European stocks opened strongly. The World Health Organization warned there was a “very real” threat of a pandemic, but its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the planet was “not at the mercy” of the illness, which has so far killed more than 4,000 people. China was keen to underscore its progress in tackling the virus President Xi Jinping paid his first visit to the epicentre of the crisis, the city of Wuhan in Hubei province. Figures from China showed further signs that the worst is over with officials reporting 17 deaths and 19 new infections on Tuesday, the lowest daily number of new cases since reporting began in late January. China’s apparent progress stands in stark contrast to the rapid rise around the world, particularly in Italy, where more than 9,000 cases and 463 deaths have been reported — the most severe outbreak elsewhere in the world. In a desperate bid to stem the spread, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the entire country would be placed on lockdown from Tuesday. “I am going to sign a decree that can be summarized as follows: I stay at home,” Conte said. “Travel must be avoided across the entire peninsula unless it is justified by professional reasons, by cases of need or for health reasons.” The measures extended a restricted zone that Italy had imposed on Sunday across the north, including the major cities of Milan and Venice, where streets were semi-deserted.



The national restrictions will run until April 3 and mean that schools and universities will all immediately close. Top-level football matches and all other sporting events are also being suspended for the coming month. But it was not immediately clear how the measures would be enforced trains and flights continued to operate into and out of Milan and Venice on Monday despite the earlier decree. Despite the lockdown, Pope Francis told priests to visit the sick. In neighbouring France, the government has banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people, leading to the cancellation of music concerts and other cultural and sporting events. Worldwide, more than 1,14,000 cases have been recorded in 105 countries and territories. Africa, Latin America and Oceania are the only regions yet to report major outbreaks. Panic buying of products such as sanitising hand wash has spread across the world and officials in countries with no outbreak have begun imposing draconian measures India for example has banned foreign cruise ships from docking. Senior officials have not been spared by the disease. Several Iranian top-brass succumbed in the early phase of the spread and the head of the Port Authority in the US city of New York tested positive on Monday. Reports have swirled suggesting US President Donald Trump could be vulnerable after several senior Republicans quarantined themselves because they had been in contact with a virus sufferer. The White House insisted Trump had not been in contact with anyone confirmed to have Covid-19, but Vice-President Mike Pence did little to dampen concern when he conceded he did not know whether the president had been tested. There are concerns that the United States could become another hotspot, with at least 26 deaths and 605 confirmed infections so far. Trump has played down the risks of the virus for weeks but after Monday’s market rout he promised “very substantial” economic measures would be put to Congress on Tuesday.

News Flash – 9 March 2020

National News



Corona Cases Rise to 39 as 5 More Found Infected in Kerala


New Delhi: The number of Covid-19 cases in India rose to 39 on Sunday, with five people from Kerala a couple and their son who returned from Italy on February 29 and their two relatives testing positive for the novel coronavirus. Some reports said one person had died in Ladakh and another in West Bengal. Both were admitted in Covid-19 wards. Union health ministry hasn’t yet put them in the list of confirmed cases. Kerala health minister K K Shailaja said the state has been put on high alert. Shailaja said the Kerala couple, in their 50s, and their son (24) did not report at the airport health desk or any other health centre. Their travel history became known only on March 6, when one of their relatives went to a hospital with fever. Due to the couple and their son’s irresponsible behaviour, two of their relatives have also got the virus now. We have learnt that they have also attended several functions and visited several relatives after their return to Ranni (a small village in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala) where they live,” Shailaja said.



The couple and their son, local authorities said, even refused to cooperate with health officials, following which they were forcibly admitted to the isolation ward of the Pathanamthitta general hospital. “As of now their condition is stable,” the Kerala health minister said, adding two nonagenarian members of their family will be shifted to the Kottayam Medical College hospital as a precaution. According to a recent WHO study, based on the assessment of Covid-19 outbreak in China, 88% people with Covid19 had fever. Dry cough was seen in about 68% cases, followed by fatigue (38%), sputum production (33%), shortness of breath (19%), sore throat (14%) and headache in about 14% cases among others. The report also said deaths happen mostly in patients with co-morbidities such as cardiovascular diseases (13.2%), diabetes (9.2%), hypertension (8.4%), chronic respiratory disease (8%) and cancer (7.6%). The WHO report also says only about 2% of patients aged 18 years and under suffered from Covid-19.



65-Year-Old Loses Rs.50k in ATM Fraud



Kolkata: A 65-year-old man has lodged a complaint with Ultadanga police station, alleging that someone had stolen his debit card last month and siphoned off Rs 51,533 from his account by making multiple transactions over the last one week. The complainant, Goutam Mukherjee, a retired state government employee, said that he had come to know about the theft only last Thursday when his card was not responding. Having checked with his bank about the matter, Mukherjee realised that someone had swapped his card and stolen the money through multiple transactions. He blocked the card and approached the police. Preliminary investigation revealed that the man had used the debit card at an Ultadanga Road ATM last on February 28. He claimed that while coming out of the ATM, he had bumped into someone and the card had fallen from his hand. The person whom he had collided with bowed down, lifted the card and handed it over to him. He put the card in his pocket and left the ATM kiosk. “It is possible that while Mukherjee was putting the password in the machine, the person might have noted it down, standing outside the kiosk. The latter intentionally collided with him to swap the card and then withdrew the money. We have started a case of theft and cheating and are checking the CCTV footage of the ATM for investigation,” said a senior police officer.



No Security Staff to Frisk Users of First Metro Train

BIG LAPSE: Security was not on duty around 4.30am at the Thirumangalam metro station.



Chennai: Footfalls may have increased at metro rail stations, but Chennai metro rail is not taking passenger security seriously. Security staff in charge of frisking commuters and manning baggage scanners are not present in the mornings when the stations open for the first service at 4.30am. On Saturday, a TOI photographer swiped his metro card and reached the platform early in the morning without being frisked as no staff was available at the security kiosk and the ticket counter at the Tirumangalam metro station. The station was readied for services and the turnstiles were switched on, a few commuters were waiting near the ticket counter for the staff to issue tickets, but there was no one to screen the baggage or frisk the passengers. This was not a stray incident. Commuters who take the first metro train say security staff arrive late. A metro rail staff said that security duties such as scanning of bags and frisking of commuters have been outsourced to a private company, but the personnel take time to arrive in the morning.



Since operations staff have to keep the stations ready for the first train, the counters and turnstiles for entry to the ticketed areas are switched on as per the train timings. “We cannot wait for all the security personnel to be in to open the stations,” the metro rail staff said. Though metro rail has installed door frame metal detectors and baggage scanning machines, the checks are not done strictly. Pandian, a frequent user, said a few days ago two drunk commuters created ruckus inside a train in Anna Nagar. “I was surprised how the two managed to get in as they were heavily drunk. They created nuisance inside the train. Other commuters were sitting quiet and did not interfere. The security staff should be more watchful. I have complained to metro rail authorities but I am yet to get a response on the action taken,” he added. All the stations are supposed to have armed police personnel at the entrance. But of late, they are not to be found. Metro rail officials said that they would require time to comment.



International News



Italy’s Death Toll Surges by 133 to 366. It has 2nd Most Fatalities, Infections after China

The Grand Princess cruise ship that has been held off the coast of California after more than 20 people on board tested positive for the coronavirus will dock on Monday at the port of Oakland, the vessel’s operator said. Passengers on the ship who require acute medical treatment and hospitalisation will disembark first and be taken to facilities in California, according to the boat’s operator, Princess Cruises. Other guests on board who are California residents will be quarantined in a federal center in the state, the statement late Saturday said. California has emerged as an early centre for the virus in the US, with about 100 cases in all.



Italy: The global fight against the coronavirus entered a new stage this weekend as Italy ordered an unprecedented peacetime lockdown of its wealthiest region, New York’s governor declared a state of emergency, and a cruise ship carrying at least 21 infected people was set to dock as early as Monday in California. More than 1,07,500 cases of the virus have been confirmed across at least 95 countries. More than half of those infected have recovered, according to a global database maintained by Johns Hopkins. At least 3,654 people have died, all but 557 in mainland China. Italy on Sunday recorded the second-highest coronavirus toll in the world, after reporting a sharp jump in deaths and overtaking South Korea on infections. The number of fatalities nearly tripled, rising from 133 to 366 on Sunday, according to the civil protection agency, with most deaths occurring in the hard-hit Lombardy region in Italy’s wealthy north. The country now has the most deaths of any country outside China, and the second most COVID-19 infections in the world, after the number of cases rose by a single-day record of 1,492 to 7,375. South Korea currently has some 7,313 cases, and Sunday said its rate of infection was slowing. Civil protection agency chief Angelo Borrelli said Italy was ordering 22 million surgical masks to help stop the spread.



The US has counted more than 450 cases across 32 states and the District of Columbia, and 19 deaths. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency on Saturday. The state’s caseload rose from 89 on Saturday to 105 on Sunday, including a driver in New York City who worked for Uber and two unexplained positive tests of people 321km to the north. Anthony Fauci, the head of the infectious diseases unit at the National Institutes of Health, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that after initial missteps distributing tests, there should be 4,00,000 more tests available by Monday and 4 million by the end of the week. As recently as Saturday, US President Donald Trump said he would continue to hold his political rallies, which sometimes draw up to 20,000 people. The Democrats competing to challenge him in the November 3 presidential election, US Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, have not cancelled any campaign events so far. Fauci said authorities in the US may also need to consider steps to keep people out of crowded places if the virus continued to spread. Still, he downplayed the likelihood of the type of large-scale quarantines put in place in China and Italy, while saying nothing could be ruled out. He urged those most at risk to limit travel.

News Flash – 6 March 2020

National News



Thieves Target 3 ATM’s in a Night, Flee with Rs.24 Lakhs



New Delhi: Thieves struck at three different ATMs in southeast Delhi on the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday. While the locals in Jamia Nagar spotted them and thwarted their bid, the thieves managed to uproot and take away ATMs in Jaitpur and Pul Prahladpur. Just two days ago, thieves had unsuccessfully tried to steal an ATM in Lajpat Nagar. None of the ATMs targeted had a guard deployed there, and the same modus operandi tying the ATM to a hook and driving the vehicle ahead with a jerk to uproot it was used in all the cases. It is suspected that the same gang of thieves is on the prowl and a manhunt has been initiated to nab them. The incident at Jamia Nagar area was reported around 2.40am from Okhla Vihar colony when the locals dialled 100. The cops reached the spot and found the machine broken and kept outside the booth. A probe revealed that a passerby named Rizwan had raised an alarm after noticing four persons trying to load the broken ATM in a vehicle, forcing the accused to flee. “The accused also damaged the CCTV of an adjacent ATM kiosk and sprayed a black substance on the targeted ATM kiosk to hide their identity,” said a police officer. At Jaitpur, police received information around 5am about the theft. An ATM installed at F- Block, Harsh Vihar was broken and cash around Rs 7.91 lakh stolen. The cops are checking the CCTV footage from the kiosk to identify the thieves. Around 8am, police were informed about another ATM theft in Pul Prahladpur area. The thieves were here in a pickup van; the CCTV footage has revealed. About Rs 17 lakh was stolen here. DCP (south-east) RP Meena said that FIRs have been registered and teams formed to crack the cases.



30 Corona Cases Confirmed, 23 More Positive in 1st Test


New Delhi: A 57-year-old Ghaziabad resident with a recent travel history to Iran has become the 30th person to be confirmed positive for Covid-19 in India. The number of cases is likely to rise sharply as health authorities await results of reconfirmation tests on 23 more whose initial tests have shown the presence of the virus. The Ghaziabad man has been quarantined at Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia hospital. His wife and son have been put in an isolation ward in a Ghaziabad hospital. Besides, local authorities said, they have advised three of his employees to remain in home isolation. Samples taken from the 23 individuals have been sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, for final confirmation. “Many of them are likely to test positive and may require isolation too,” said a source. The health ministry said that besides the cases related to travel, some cases of community transmission are beginning to be observed, indicating that the virus may be spreading undetected in local communities. Therefore, the ministry said in a statement that states have been asked to form rapid response teams at the district, block and villages levels.



The novel coronavirus infection has so far killed more than 3,300 people globally and infected nearly 96,000. Rapid response teams in Delhi and NCR, where a majority of Covid-19 patients are under quarantine at present, have been actively tracing everyone who may have come in contact with the infected individuals and are testing them for the virus. Across India, 3,452 samples have been sent for testing of which 29 (the Ghaziabad resident was declared as a positive case later) have been found to be positive for Covid-19 till now, the health ministry said on Thursday. “Testing of 92 samples is in process and 23 samples are being reconfirmed,” it added. In some relief for Telangana, blood samples of two persons from the state that were sent to the NIV have tested negative. “All new Covid-91 patients are stable,” Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said. The 30 cases recorded so far include 16 Italian tourists from a single group.



Airport Health Body Asks for More Hands to Screen All International Passengers

Passengers scanned for suspected Covid-19 cases at city airport on Thursday.



Mumbai: The Airport Health Organisation (APHO) team working at Mumbai airport to scan passengers for suspected coronavirus cases has asked for more manpower from the state as the government has extended the screening to include all international arriving passengers. Currently, a team of 65 personnel from APHO works in shifts to carry out round-the-clock medical screening of international arriving passengers, said a source. On Wednesday, the government extended the screening to all international passengers. “Each passenger isn’t individually screened for high temperature or other symptoms like cough and breathlessness. Most pass through thermal scanners, which are monitored by APHO staff. But given the high volumes handled by the Mumbai airport, we need more staff if effective screening of all passengers has to be done,” said a source. So what is the procedure currently followed at the airport? “On board an arriving flight, announcements are made and passengers on all international flights have to fill out a self-declaration form,” said an airline source. The form asks for the list the countries the passenger visited in the past 14 days, whether they have high temperature, cough, and so on.



“On landing, every international passenger passes through zones that are being captured by thermal scanners. Some are readily visible; you can see the stationary cameras pointed to take images of passengers walking by. Some are stealthily hidden, probably to screen passengers who try to avoid the scanners,” said an airline pilot who operated an international flight on Wednesday. The second kind of screening is more intrusive and is largely used for passengers arriving on direct flights from countries battling a Covid-19 outbreak. After exiting the aerobridge and before reaching the immigration counter, passengers fall into a queue where they face a hand-held camera that scans for high body temperatures, said a source. “The airport has four stationary thermal scanner cameras and 25 hand-held devices that take the temperature,” said a source. Depending on the traffic, there are four-eight counters for hand-held thermometers. Passengers who have fever or cough are sent for further medical examination where they are asked about their travel and health-related details to ascertain if they should be quarantined. The National Disaster Response Force has begun conducting coronavirus awareness programmes for immigration, ground staff and luggage handlers, said Mahesh Nalavade, deputy commandant, NDRF. A total of 65,621 passengers have been screened since January 18.



Trace Back Your Steps if you have got Flu


New Delhi: This is the time of the year when seasonal influenza is at its peak and swine flu is also reported widely. The coming of Covid-19 the disease caused by novel coronavirus that exhibits symptoms similar to influenza and swine flu has made the situation more complicated. Doctors are flooded with patients suffering from fever, sore throat and cough, most of which could be caused by both seasonal flu and swine flu. But now almost everyone is scared that he or she may have got Covid-19. The problem will get worse if the novel coronavirus infection starts spreading in the community, beyond those with a travel history to the affected countries. Only a few such cases have been reported so far, according to the Union health ministry. “There isn’t enough data or research on the difference in symptoms in a person suffering from seasonal influenza versus those down with Covid-19. If everyone suffering from cough and sore throat comes to hospital, the system will crash,” said Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant of internal medicine at Apollo Hospital. People shouldn’t panic and first figure out whether they have come in contact with anyone who has tested positive for Covid-19, he said.



“Many people who are suspected for the novel coronavirus infection but don’t have any severe symptom such as breathing difficulty and pneumonia need not be hospitalised. In the coming days, we may see more people with suspected Covid-19 being isolated at home,” said Dr Arun Gupta, a Paediatrician. Since last December, data shows, Covid-19 has infected over 97,000 people globally. “The death rate is around 3.4%. Most patients develop only mild symptoms and recover without any need for hospitalisation,” pointed out Dr G C Khilnani, chairman of PSRI Institute of Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine. Both common flu and Covid-19 can’t be treated with antibiotics, effective only in case of bacterial infections. In both cases, treatment focuses on reducing symptoms such as fever. “In severe cases, hospitalisation and support such as mechanical ventilation may be required,” Dr Khilnani said. The doctors advise frequent and thorough hand washing, staying home when sick and limiting contact with infected people to fight the new virus. But if you still suspect you have contacted it, contact the designated helpline. “District surveillance officers have been appointed. They will visit the person and, if required, he or she may be transported to a designated hospital for tests,” said an official. Many people are also asking if an increase in temperature will reduce disease spread. The US apex health body, however, says the link is still not clear.



In 10 Years, Karnataka Recorded 15k H1N1 Cases & 532 Deaths



Bengaluru: Karnataka has reported 14,917 cases of H1N1 Influenza A since 2010, of which 532 were fatal. This includes the 256 cases and three deaths one each in Bengaluru Rural, Davanagere and Tumakuru districts witnessed between January 1 and March 4 this year. The viral infection had created panic in 2008-09 with people standing in long queues at Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Disease where the drug, Tamiflu, was available. Over the years, H1N1 hasn’t triggered panic like Covid-19 as people have developed herd immunity against it. Dr Shashidhar Buggi, who helmed RGICD during the H1N1 outbreak in 2008-09, said, “The man v/s viruses are a recurring fight. The only difference between the Covid-19 threat now and H1N1 outbreak in 2008 is that we had medicines ready then. Tamiflu was given to all family members of the patient. People developed herd immunity over months and the fear subsided”. According to Dr Mahesh Kumar, senior consultant physician at Narayana Health, H1N1 cases are seen routinely and some have led to complications. “H1N1 can lead to viral pneumonia in some cases, which can be serious. We have three such cases in our ICU. All three are middle-aged male patients who are being monitored. In contrast, no Covid-19 case in India till now has seen any complication apart from fever. In a hot country like ours, the virus will not survive for a longer duration,” he said. When healthy people wear masks, they constantly touch their face to adjust it, which is riskier. “There is no need for them to wear masks. Those who cough/ sneeze can wear them,” he added. “Avoid being in crowded places. Washing hands is important. So is active tracing of cases,” said Dr Buggi.



All International Flyers to Undergo Thermal Check at Airport; Singapore Advisory Withdrawn

(Top) NDRF training at the airport on Thursday; (above) thermal scanning on; (right) special cleaning being undertaken.



Kolkata: Health officials at Kolkata airport have begun universal screening at the international wing, bringing more than 4,000 flyers a day under the ambit of thermal check to detect fever. On Thursday afternoon, the National Disaster Relief Force held a training and orientation programme for all ground-handling staff on Covid-19 virus and ways to prevent its spread at the airport. So far, more than 45,000 passengers have been screened at the airport since January 17. The check, which initially began on flyers from China and Hong Kong, was extended to those arriving from other South-East Asian countries, including Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia from February 2. Last week, the list was extended to Nepal and Singapore. But with the virus now spreading to 78 countries, the ministry of health and family welfare has asked airports to make thermal screening mandatory for all flyers from abroad. “Passengers arriving in Gulf carriers, flights from South-East Asia as well as South Asian countries Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka are being screened. Earlier, only flyers with recent travel history to China, South Korea, Iran, Italy and Japan had to undergo mandatory thermal screening. Later, Macau, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan were added to the list,” said a senior airport official.



Flyers of all international flights entering India from any airport are to submit a self-declaration forms with personal details, like numbers and addresses in India and travel history to health and immigration officials at the airport. On Thursday, the central advisory removed Singapore from the travel restriction advisory. But flyers arriving from there will continue to be screened. Though Singapore Airlines officials are relieved that the city nation has been taken off the restricted-travel list, they aren’t sure when traffic loads would normalise While Singapore Airlines has continued with its flight schedule despite the traffic decline, other airlines have reduced frequencies to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, while those to Kunming, Guangzhou and Hong Kong have been suspended. The largest number of daily connections from Kolkata are to Bangladesh, followed by Thailand and Malaysia. Dubai is next with Bhutan, Doha, Abu Dhabi, Kathmandu, Yangon and Colombo to follow. With the nCoV scare now real, following detection of multiple positive cases in India, airport authorities established fresh protocols for disinfecting surfaces, including counters, chairs and door handles. Also, hand sanitizes have been provided at immigration counters and health desks. Housekeeping staff in charge of washrooms have been asked to clean them with disinfectants more regularly.



International News



Pull Out All the Stops to Check Virus March: WHO to World

Saudi Arabia on Thursday emptied Islam’s holiest site for sterilisation over fears of the new coronavirus. State television relayed images of an empty white-tiled area surrounding the Kaaba inside Mecca’s Grand Mosque, which is usually packed with tens of thousands of pilgrims. The move was a ‘temporary preventive measure’ but the upper floors of the Grand Mosque were still open for prayers, a Saudi official said. He called the measure ‘unprecedented’. On Wednesday, the kingdom halted the Umrah for its own citizens and residents.



Bangkok: The global march of the new virus triggered a vigorous appeal on Thursday from the World Health Organisation for governments to pull out “all the stops” to slow the epidemic, as it closed Bethlehem’s Nativity Church and blocked Italians from visiting elderly relatives in nursing homes. As China, after many arduous weeks, appeared to be winning its epic, costly battle against the new virus, the fight was revving up in newly affected areas of the globe, unleashing disruptions that profoundly impacted billions of people. The UN health agency urged all countries to “push this virus back”, a call to action reinforced by figures showing there are now about 17 times as many new infections outside China as in it. To date, the virus has infected nearly 97,000 people and killed over 3,300. “This is not a drill. This is not the time for giving up. This is not a time of for excuses. This is a time for pulling out all the stops,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a daily briefing in Geneva. “Countries should be preparing for sustained community transmission… They have been planning for scenarios like this for decades. Now is the time to act on those plans”. As Chinese manufacturers gradually reopened their factories, anti-virus barriers went up elsewhere. In Italy, the epicenter of Europe’s outbreak, workers in latex gloves pinned “closed” notices on school gates, enforcing a 10-day shutdown of the education system.



A government decree on Thursday urged the country’s famously demonstrative citizens to stay at least three feet apart from each other, placed restrictions on visiting nursing homes and urged the elderly not to go outside. Italy’s toll climbed on Thursday to 148, and its confirmed cases to 3,858. Iran, which has registered 107 virus deaths, has also closed schools and universities. Now it has introduced checkpoints to limit travel between major cities. Iranians were urged to reduce their use of paper money. Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, said the US offered humanitarian assistance to help Iran deal with its outbreak but “the regime rejected the offer”. In the US, California joined the list of states declaring emergencies. So far, 11 deaths have been linked to the virus one in California and the rest in Seattle with 162 confirmed cases across the country. Hundreds of people were placed in self-quarantines due to cases in a New York suburb. Off the coast of California, a cruise ship with about 3,500 aboard was ordered to stay put until passengers and crew could be tested because a travellers from its previous voyage died and another one was infected. South Africa confirmed its first case, becoming the seventh African nation to report infections. Britain and Switzerland reported their first coronavirus deaths. Palestinian officials closed the storied Church of the Nativity in the biblical city of Bethlehem indefinitely, weeks ahead of the busy Easter holiday. In China, where hospitals were releasing hundreds of recovered patients, officials reported 139 new cases of infection and 31 more deaths. Overall, China has reported 80,409 cases and 3,012 deaths.

News Flash – 5 March 2020

National News



Covid-19 Screening Extended Even to Transit Flyers from Hotspots Italy, Iran


Mumbai: Flyers arriving even indirectly from Italy and Iran will now be screened for Covid-19 at Indian airports. Those coming directly from the two countries and from East Asian airports are already being screened for the new coronavirus. The DGCA in its latest circular has thus extended the medical screening ambit to passengers arriving from Italy and Iran via transit hubs, mainly Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi. In a report on Tuesday, TOI had raised concerns that exempting passengers from Iran and Italy who fly into India after transit halts, mainly in West Asia, could pose problems as transit airports are points where hundreds of passengers, including those from some of the worst-affected Covid-19 countries, mingle for hours before boarding their onward connections. Also, a large number of India bound passengers from the US, Europe and Africa land in West Asian airports first. For instance, India has been the number one international tourist source market for Dubai for a few years now. Nine days ago, Dubai banned flights from Iranian airports save Tehran. On Tuesday, Dubai airport tweeted that all flights from Iran were being banned and thermal scanners would screen passengers for symptoms.



But an airline medical officer said, “Even though airports in West Asia are screening passengers flying in from Italy and Iran with thermal scanners, this is not a foolproof method of detection. An asymptomatic patient or one who has taken symptomatic treatment could escape the scanner and board an onward flight to, say, Mumbai.” With the latest DGCA circular (issued late on Tuesday) though, not only will such passengers boarding onward flights to India be put through medical screening on arrival, but also will be subject to follow-up checks via phone calls for about two weeks. The BMC’s health officers call such passengers and if they develop a fever or symptoms, they are quarantined. The DGCA said in its latest circular, “Passengers (foreign and Indian) arriving directly or indirectly from China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Thailand and Singapore must undergo medical screening at the port of entry.” It also said that any flyer upon landing in India must submit personal details and travel history to health officials and immigration officials at all ports.



23 More People Test Positive for Virus in Agra, Delhi & Jaipur


New Delhi: The novel coronavirus scares in India took a serious turn on Wednesday, with the health ministry confirming as many as 23 new cases all in Delhi-NCR, Agra and Jaipur taking the total number of people who have so far been infected to 29. A 26-year-old Paytm employee, a resident of Pankha Road in Janakpuri, became the second Delhi resident to contract Covid-19. He had recently returned from a vacation in Italy, a coronavirus hotspot. A majority of the new cases were among a party of Italian tourists, with 15 more testing positive, including the wife of the 69-year-old man, currently being treated in Jaipur, who had possibly carried the infection from Italy. Others included six Agra relatives of a Delhi resident who earlier tested positive for the infection. The Paytm staffer worked at the company’s Gurgaon office, which has been shut for 15 days. Paytm has advised employees in offices across India to work from home for two days. Paytm has also advised all team members who were in contact with the patient to get tested. The firm has nearly 3,000 employees, and the majority work out of its offices in Noida and Gurgaon. Health officials in Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan where the Covid-19 patients have been travelling face a massive task of tracing and testing everyone who may have come in contact with the infected people. The number of such persons is estimated to be over 100.



“The Italian nationals who tested positive for Covid-19 had been travelling across Rajasthan, Agra in Uttar Pradesh and parts of Delhi, before being put under isolation. The Delhi resident, too, came in contact with more than 60 individuals including his family members from the time he returned from Italy – where he is suspected to have caught the infection to the time when he was finally tested positive for the novel coronavirus infection,” said a source. Meanwhile, Paytm announced a slew of precautions after one of its employees tested positive. A company spokesperson said, “One of our colleagues who recently returned from Italy has sadly been tested positive for coronavirus. He is receiving treatment (at Safdarjung hospital) and we are extending complete support to his family. As a precautionary measure, we have suggested his team members to get health tests done immediately. We have also advised all our colleagues to work from home for a couple of days while we get our offices sanitised. However, there will not be any impact on our daily operations and Paytm services will continue as usual”. Government sources said all persons found positive for Covid-19, except the 69-year-old Italian who was first in his group to be detected and who is under treatment at Sawai Manshingh hospital in Jaipur, are stable.



Office Parks, Tech Companies on Alert Over Coronavirus Concerns

MASK ON: From exam halls, traffic intersections and railway stations to private events, masks featured prominently as residents tried to keep themselves safe.



Bengaluru: Business parks across Bengaluru are adopting urgent measures to ensure their premises are clean amid growing concerns over coronavirus, stepping up efforts to maintain hygiene in common areas such as washrooms and food courts. Companies, too, are taking precautions such as drastically reducing business travel to the worst-affected countries, China, Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Italy. They have advised employees to work from home if they have flu-like symptoms. Embassy Office Parks, which operates complexes such Manyata Tech Park and Embassy Tech Village on the Outer Ring Road, Bengaluru, has been disinfecting and sanitising the compounds while also seeking expert advice on prevention, detection, recording, isolation and treatment. “As of March 4, we are not aware of a single case of positive test for the virus in the more than 200,000 people who work on our business parks. We do understand that one employee of a company at one of our parks, who had travelled from a Level 3 country, was screened in the last 36 hours and determined to be asymptomatic (sic),” a company spokesperson said in a statement. Developer Brigade, whose clients include Amazon and ABB, said it was running awareness campaigns on LCD screens across its parks to make employees aware of the steps to follow in case of fever and general caution such as washing hands and avoiding touching the face.



The company has been sanitising washrooms more frequently, cleaning them every two hours instead of about five hours earlier. It is treating common areas and floors once every four hours. “Not only that, we have instructed the cleaners to wear masks, gloves and safety shoes and clean the door handles, faucets, taps, walls and washbasins very carefully to ensure that objects that come regularly in contact with the body are clean,” said Subrata Sharma, chief operating officer of Brigade’s commercial business. Wipro has suspended travel to and transit through mainland China, including Hong Kong and Macau, until further notice, and advised its employees to avoid non-critical travel to Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Italy. Any employee who travelled to an affected area within China in the past few days has been asked to work from home for 14 days before returning to office,” it said. Cognizant said it had suspended travel to affected countries and cut back on non-essential trips. Employees have been requested to work from home if they experience flu-like symptoms. Accenture has undertaken a business continuity plan, basically taking stock of its critical resources and backup arrangements in case employees are asked to work from home. TCS is also taking precautions. “We are working closely with all the local, regional and global health institutions and are implementing the latest recommendations given to us. We are ensuring that our staff have all the information and support they require,” a spokesperson said.



Don’t Panic, come back to Work: Telangana Tells IT Companies


Hyderabad: The Telangana government on Wednesday told IT companies in Hyderabad not to suspend operations over Covid19 fears. Officials also told companies to take prior permission before taking any such decision. The directive comes on a day when some IT companies housed in Raheja Mindspace IT Park in Hi-Tec City suspended operations. The city’s IT sector employs over 4.5 lakh people. So far, only one techie has been confirmed Covid-19 positive. Another techie who works in Raheja Mindspace is suspected to be positive. Asking the managers to stay calm, state IT & industries principal secretary Jayesh Ranjan announced that Cyberabad police commissioner V C Sajjanar would be the nodal officer for industry players to contact before taking any step. The announcement was made at a press meet attended by Ranjan, Sajjanar, director of public health G Srinivas Rao and representatives of IT companies and Raheja Mindspace IT Park. On Wednesday morning, some companies working out of Building 20 at Raheja Mindspace suspended operations and directed employees to work from home after a female employee of one of the companies was suspected to have contracted the virus. The employee, had returned from Italy. “Since some of those at the workplace were exposed to her, sanitation work was taken up by Raheja Mindspace authorities on Wednesday. From Thursday, companies can work without issues,’’ Ranjan said. Raheja Mindspace CEO G Shravan said nine companies work out of Building 20. “Except four companies, the rest conducted operations on Wednesday without any hassle. The building houses 7,500 employees working in different companies,” he said. Sajjanar said authorities are keeping an eye on the rumours floating on social media and would crackdown on rumour mongers. While some companies with offices in the vicinity of Building No. 20 asked employees to work from home and also cautioned them to avoid use of elevators, for many other companies it was business as usual.



In fact, many IT employees trooping into work complained about shortage of masks, some others said they have been provided masks and hand sanitisers at their offices. The day also saw companies circulating mails to keep employees informed about the Do’s and Don’ts and to prevent any panic. In a communication to employees, US-based Pegasystems, which also has a facility in Mindspace, said that due to the changing nature of the situation and differing levels of maturity of the virus in each region, it’s very difficult to issue blanket statements on policy on particular issues and encouraged its offices to act locally and/or regionally based on specific circumstances. IT industry representatives said they have suggested to companies to temporarily discontinue the use of biometric attendance systems and instead encourage use of ID cards. Many IT companies, especially MNCs, said they have already been following global advisories on Covid-19 and have been encouraging people to work from home in case they are unwell. “We are providing real-time guidance to employees in all affected regions. We will continue to monitor the situation and take action as necessary to help protect employees,” said a Microsoft spokesperson. A TCS spokesperson said the company is working closely with all relevant local, regional and global, health institutions and are implementing the latest recommendations. Even IT body Hysea said it is working with Telangana government and has issued an advisory to member companies on how to handle cases of employees returning from abroad. “This is a broad advisory… It is up to individual companies to further take specific steps… in line with their policy and specific situation on the ground,” said a Hysea spokesperson.



International News



Virus Scare: Saudi Halts Pilgrimages to Mecca, Iran Cancels Friday Prayers

LOUVRE BANS CASH OVER VIRUS FEARS: The Louvre Museum in Paris reopened on Wednesday after staff ended coronavirus walkout. The museum has shifted to card-only payments as part of new measures that helped persuade employees worried about getting sick to return to work. WHO has urged people to avoid using banknotes, fearing they could be vectors of disease.



Bangkok: Saudi Arabia banned citizens from performing the Muslim pilgrimage in Mecca, Italy ordered schools to close nationwide and Iran cancelled Friday prayers for a second week as nations scrambled on Wednesday to control the coronavirus outbreak. From religion to sports, countries were taking drastic and increasingly visible measures to curb the new coronavirus that first emerged in China and was spreading quickly through Europe, the Mideast and the Americas. In the US, frustration mounted over US officials’ delays and missteps in testing people for the virus. Deaths spiked in Iran and Italy, which along with South Korea account for 80% of the new virus cases outside China, according to the World Health Organization. In all, more than 94,000 people have contracted the virus worldwide, with more than 3,200 deaths. “People are afraid and uncertain. Fear is a natural human response to any threat,” said WHO leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “But as we get more data, we are understanding this virus and the disease it causes more and more.” WHO said about 3.4% of people infected with the Covid-19 virus globally have died, making it deadlier than the common flu.



In Daegu, the South Korean city at the center of that country’s outbreak, a shortage of hospital space meant about 2,300 patients were being cared for in other facilities while they awaited a hospital bed. South Korea reported 435 new infections on Wednesday, far smaller than its high of 851 a day earlier. A total of 5,621 people in S Korea have contracted the virus and 32 have died. Italy’s virus deaths rose to 107, the most of any country outside of China. Its outbreak has been concentrated in the northern region of Lombardy, but fears over how the virus is spreading inside and outside the country prompted the government to order all schools to close nationwide till March 15. Iran reported 92 deaths among its 2,922 confirmed cases. The country on Wednesday cancelled Friday prayers for the second week in a row. The UN health chief has warned sharply against hoarding medical supplies, saying they are needed to protect health care workers. Accordingly, the Czech Republic, Russia and Germany announced bans on exporting protective gear like masks. That followed a similar move by France, where major hospitals have seen their masks stolen by the boxful. In the US, more than 120 cases have been reported. Nine people have died, all in and around Seattle, Washington. China reported 119 new cases on Wednesday, all but five in the outbreak’s epicenter of Wuhan. Beijing’s health commissioner said two new cases in the Chinese capital were apparently infected abroad, in Iran and Italy.

News Flash – 4 March 2020

National News



4 Municipal Hospitals Identified to Setup Covid-19 Isolation wards at Short Notice


Mumbai: Four municipal hospitals where isolation wards can be set up at short notice in case of a Covid-19 outbreak have been identified by the BMC, said additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani on Tuesday. Currently, only Kasturba hospital has an isolation ward in the city. The hospitals shortlisted are Hinduhridaysamrat Balasaheb Thackeray Trauma Care Hospital in Jogeshwari; Bhabha hospital in Bandra, Bhabha hospital in Kurla and Rajawadi in Ghatkopar. “The goal is to have over 500 isolation beds, including those in private hospitals. In case of an outbreak, there should be effective measures in place to contain the spread as the population density in Mumbai is high,” Kakani said. Among the other measures being taken by the municipal corporation include upgrading facilities in Kasturba, developing facilities at other locations by roping in more civic, state government and private hospitals. Kakani said the BMC has already started talks with two private hospitals. He said the third step would be to ensure adequate stock of medicine, material and protective gear, enough to last at least 10 days. “We have also issued a tender for long-term purchases so that we can procure material as and when we want,” he said, adding that finally if an outbreak does occur, the BMC would also focus on spreading awareness and information on combating the virus.



The state had also told government medical colleges to be ready to set up isolation wards. “Isolation wards could be set up in district hospitals so that there are over 500 isolation beds to tackle an outbreak,” Dr Pradeep Awate, disease surveillance officer, state government, said. Awate was speaking at a discussion organised by the Observer Research Foundation on ‘Combating Coronavirus’. He said surveillance was being carried out at the district level where telephonic contact was made with travellers who had been to places under Covid-19 threat. “If they develop any symptoms, they are referred to isolation wards,” he said. He said 3,245 samples had been tested in the country so far and that many of these were repeat tests done after 15 days of quarantine. “In the last four days itself, 365 samples were tested,” he said. The BMC has also been tracking passengers who arrived from countries battling the virus outbreak. “Even if they are asymptomatic, we make a phone call to them for 14 days. We have deputed people for this,” Kakani said.



Fear Goes Viral: Why you Shouldn’t Panic


New Delhi: Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain on Tuesday said the government was taking all possible steps to keep the city safe. Flanked by deputy CM Manish Sisodia, Jain said, “Isolation wards are being readied in 25 hospitals, including 19 government-run and six private hospitals.” As many as 3.5-lakh N95 masks were being arranged, he added. “We have over 8,000 separation kits for staff treating coronavirus patients”. Health ministry officials told TOI that the six people from Agra, who are suspected to be infected, have a high viral load and have been quarantined at Safdarjung Hospital, while others who came in contact with the Delhi resident have been put under isolation at their respective homes. “Those admitted at Safdarjung hospital are under isolation and stable. We have sent their lung washing samples for testing the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune. Confirmation is awaited,” the health ministry said. The Delhi Covid-19 patient had visited the La Piazza restaurant at Hyatt Regency Delhi on February 28. As a precautionary measure, the hotel said they had asked the staff present at the restaurant at that time to go on self-quarantine for 14 days. “Government authorities recently confirmed that an individual who dined at La Piazza restaurant at Hyatt Regency Delhi on February 28, 2020, has been diagnosed with Covid-19,” Hyatt Regency Delhi, area VP and general manager Julian Ayers said in a statement.



Meanwhile, an Italian tourist, who had come to India along with 21 others from his country, has confirmed positive for Covid-19. The virus has also showed up in the first test conducted on his wife. With this, the total number of cases in India is likely to rise to seven. Officially, the number is six because the result of the confirmatory test on the Italian woman is awaited. Of these, three cases detected in Kerala have been treated and sent home. Top officials in the health ministry said both the Delhi resident and the Italian national confirmed positive for Covid-19 were stable. “They are under quarantine and recovering well at Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital and Jaipur’s Sawai Man Singh Hospital, respectively,” said an official. The other Italian nationals in the group (13 women and eight men) and three drivers who accompanied them have been put under isolation at the ITBP facility, sources said. Sources said Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the issue of Covid-19 management in Delhi with chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. This was the first meeting of the two since Kejriwal took charge as chief minister for his third term. Meanwhile, in Ghaziabad, the health department sent two samples of residents, who have recently returned from Iran, for coronavirus testing. Officials from the department said that they got information about the two people one from Indirapuram and the other from Vaishali, Sector 5 on Monday. While one person is suffering from cough and cold, the other is not known to have any such symptoms as of now. G K Mishra, the district malaria officer, said: “No positive case of coronavirus has been found in Ghaziabad so far”.



Another 345 Under Covid-19 Lens; 986 in home Isolation in Bengal


Kolkata: As many as 345 people in the state were added to the list of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) suspects and advised to be put in home isolation on Tuesday. So far, there has been no positive case of Covid-19 in the state. All the swab samples collected from Covid-19 suspects in West Bengal tested negative. But the state health department is on its toes and is continuously monitoring 986 persons kept in home isolation, many of them from Kolkata. With increasing number of people returning home from places affected by the virus, the health department has scaled up the number of isolation beds in hospitals, taking more such facilities into the fold. “Though all 28 samples collected from suspects so far have tested negative for the virus, we are on our toes with strict surveillance,” said Dr Ajay Chakraborty, director of health services. Earlier, 30 persons had been kept under observation in hospital isolation. While 89 people who had travelled to the affected regions have completed the home-quarantine period, 986 continue to remain in home isolation till the 28-day surveillance period is over, even if they do not have any symptom. As a precautionary measure, the first isolation facility to treat the affected was set up at Infectious Diseases & Beliaghata General (IB&BG) Hospital in Kolkata with 20 beds, much before India reported its first confirmed Covid-19 case in Kerala.



At present, apart from the medical colleges in the city, eight state-run facilities in the districts have also set up isolation wards, taking the number of isolation beds to 92. “So far we have been able to manage. We are equipped to increase our isolation facilities if the situation demands,” Chakraborty added. The Covid-19 scare surfaced in the city in January when a Thai national died at a private city hospital. However, her swab samples sent to National Institute of Virology, Pune, tested negative for Covid-19. “Apart from one or two samples in the initial days, all swab samples have been tested at the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, ICMR. This is saving a lot of time in procuring the reports. It is also taking the load off the NIV, Pune, laboratory,” said Shanta Dutta, director, NICED. Earlier, NICED, Kolkata, was also getting samples from the neighbouring Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. But after the central government expanded the network of laboratories, NICED has been testing samples from only West Bengal. On Tuesday, three suspects who were under hospital observation were discharged after their samples tested negative. Currently, no patient is under hospital isolation.



State to Procure Robots to Fight along with Firemen in Critical Cases


Kolkata: The state fire department will soon have robots in its squad to fight alongside firemen. It is in an advanced stage of acquisition of four such robots, which will be used in situations like extreme heat, suffocating smoke and possibility of explosion. With this addition, Bengal will be the first fighting unit in the eastern region to have robots. If everything goes according to the plan, the robots will be pressed into service in this March itself. Sources said these robots will help in fighting devastating chemical fire like Bagri Market with much greater efficacy. “Since our chief minister Mamata Banerjee accorded highest importance in safeguarding people’s life and property, we are trying fast to complete the tender procedure and acquire them. These robots will certainly be a game-changer in fire-fighting. Bengal will be the first fire-brigade in the eastern region to attain this level of modernisation,” said Sujit Bose, minister of state for fire and emergency services (independent charge). The decision of acquiring robot was taken after a delayed success in containing the fire at Bagri Market. It was induced by chemicals stockpiled by traders and also many places remained inaccessible because of the intense heat and toxic fume. The fire fighters fought an unequal battle to contain he fire.



“In such cases, robots will be an ideal solution. They have inbuilt motors to throw water or foam at such a speed that even a chemical fire can be put out really fast. We will not only save lives of firefighters, but will also help in dousing the flames in shortest possible time,” said Jag Mohan, director general, fire service. These robots are designed to fight the most hazardous fires. Made with fire and heat-resistant materials, these robots are remote controlled. “They can reach the seat of the fire and extinguish it most effectively,” said additional director general Niladri Chakraborty. Since these robots are fitted with sensors and has ability to capture thermal imagery, it will give us live report of actual intensity and extent of the fire. This would also help us to adopt a correct firefighting strategy. They can carry out critical tasks of extinguishing systems in buildings and automatically move to the source of fire to carry out the initial fire extinguishing process until the fire fighters reach the spot. The gadgets can also be used to carry out awareness drives in malls. The robot will be subject to a trial period of three months and then evaluated to determine its technical and operational efficiency, said an officer.



International News



Can’t Stop Virus Sans Protective Gear, and they are Rapidly Depleting: WHO


China: The world has entered uncharted territory in its battle against the deadly coronavirus, the UN health agency warned, as new infections dropped dramatically in China on Tuesday but surged abroad. Globally, the virus has killed more than 3,155 people and infected around 92,722 across 77 countries and territories even as a clear shift in the crisis emerges, with nine times as many new cases recorded outside China as inside, according to the WHO. China excluding the territories of Hong Kong and Macau where the epidemic emerged at the end of December, had 80,151 cases, of which 2,943 were fatal. There were 125 new infections and 31 deaths. Outside of China, a total of 12,571 cases have been recorded around the world since the epidemic began, including 212 deaths. There have been 2,441 new cases outside China since Monday. The most affected countries after China are: South Korea (5,186 cases, 28 deaths, 851 new cases), Italy (2,502 cases, 79 deaths, 466 new cases), Iran (2,336 cases, 77 deaths, 835 new cases) and Japan (268 cases, 12 deaths, 14 new cases). Japan has also recorded over 700 cases aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess moored off Yokohama. The WHO on Tuesday also said understanding how the new coronavirus spreads was rapidly increasing, but warned the protective gear needed to fight the disease was “rapidly depleting”. The UN health agency voiced concern that the masks, googles and other protective equipment used by health workers was running out amid panic buying and manipulation of markets. “We are concerned that countries’ abilities to respond are being compromised by the severe and increasing disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment…caused by rising demand, hoarding and misuse,” Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.



“We can’t stop Covid-19 without protecting our health workers,” he said. The prices of surgical masks have increased six-fold, while the cost for ventilators had tripled, he added. Tedros said WHO had shipped more than half a million sets of personal protective equipment to 27 countries, but warned that “supplies are rapidly depleting”. He urged a dramatic hike in production, saying WHO estimates the response to COVID-19 would require 89 million medical masks, 76 million pairs of examination gloves and 1.6 million goggles each month. With the threat of a full-scale pandemic growing by the day, governments around the world shifted their focus on Tuesday to devising plans to contain the spread of the new coronavirus rather than to stamp it out. While Italy has locked down towns, other countries have stopped short of imposing mass quarantines and instead have discouraged large gatherings, delayed sporting events and banned arrivals from virus-hit nations. Twitter told staff across the world to work from home. China has even confirmed 13 imported infections, including eight Chinese nationals who worked at the same restaurant in northern Italy’s Lombardy region. Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong province are imposing 14-day quarantines on people arriving from countries with a severe epidemic. “We are in uncharted territory,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday. “We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures”.

News Flash – 3 March 2020

National News



Screening Extended to Flyers from Italy and Iran, but what about Hubs like Dubai?


Mumbai: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Monday extended medical screening for coronavirus (Covid-19) to passengers on flights arriving from Italy and Iran besides those on flights from airports in East Asia. But for India, the proverbial elephant in the room are airports in West Asia, which are the most popular transit hubs for passengers flying into India. It’s there that India-bound passengers from airports in Europe, the US, and Africa would possibly mingle with those who have flown in from Iran and Italy before they board their onward connection. “For India, it’s critical to look into the possibility of India-bound passengers getting infected in transit hubs. A passenger typically spends at least 2-3 hours milling around with hundreds of other passengers, including those who have flown in from Iran and Italy,” said a senior airline official. For instance, eight direct flights from Tehran fly into Dubai daily, apart from six flights in total from Rome, Milan and Venice, bringing in over 3,000 passengers daily from these destinations into Dubai. Again, 17 flights link Dubai to Mumbai daily, which is the busiest international route into India. Apart from these, 12 flights from Dubai fly to Delhi, seven to Kochi, and six to Hyderabad daily.



“Dubai airport gets the largest number of passengers from India. In 2019, 11.9 million passengers from India landed at Dubai and so, an equally large number would be flying out of Dubai to India,” said an aviation consultant. There are other West Asian airports like Doha, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, and Riyadh where similar intermingling of India bound passengers with those from Iran and Italy occur. The big problem with extending screening to passengers coming in from West Asian airports pertains to sheer volume. “It would greatly increase the workload of airport health organizations as the number of passengers to be screened would jump manifold. It would decrease the efficiency of detection as human factors like fatigue would set in. From Dubai alone, about 8,000-9,000 passengers would be flying into Mumbai,” said a medical practitioner with an airline. Dr Om Srivastava, an infectious diseases expert held a similar view. “It’s not possible for medical staff to screen thousands of passenger’s day after day, without fatigue setting in. What is more realistic is to have a separate holding area for those travellers who may be of high risk, where they can be screened. Risk has to be identified. The rest of the passengers coming into the airport (should be) free to move on to their destinations. That way you are moving passengers fast”.



Covid-19: City ‘Running Out’ of Sanitizers, but Soap & Water Offer Better Prevention


Mumbai: Hand sanitizers, which are popular because they can reportedly kill the 2019 novel coronavirus (Covid-19), have become difficult to find in shops in the city and its extended suburbs. Nevertheless, WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise people to frequently wash hands with soap and water or an alcohol based sanitizer as a measure against Covid-19. “The sanitizer shortage has been there for 10-15 days,” said Tushar Kurne of the Maharashtra State Chemists & Druggists Association (MSCDA). “Well-known brands are no longer available at most retail outlets in the city. There is an element of panic buying among people due to coronavirus fear. There is growing awareness about the usefulness of a sanitizer even among schoolchildren”. A call to National Chemists, opposite KEM Hospital, Parel, revealed that only bottles of 75ml and a few of 100ml were available. “We don’t have stocks of Dettol, Lifebuoy or Himalaya brands anymore,” said a dispensing chemist at the outlet. The Wellness Chain of pharmacies too didn’t have sanitizers of the market leaders. “The brands we have in stock too are good,” said an official from one of the chain’s outlets in Thane.



But a chemist from Dahisar “begged to differ” on the “shortage theory”. “Sanitizers are not products that we stock in bulk. A shopkeeper mostly keeps three of each brand but in recent weeks, given the coronavirus fear, people have bought a shop’s complete stock. There is no shortage, just that people are stocking it up,” he said. A senior doctor from a public hospital felt that the “shortage” was the results of “hoarding” at various levels. Kurne said that in the initial days of the coronavirus infection sweeping through China, many companies exported huge sanitizer supplies from India. Despite attempts, officials of Reckitt Benckiser, which manufactures Dettol Instant Hand Sanitizer, declined to comment. An HUL spokesperson told TOI, “We have adequate stocks of hand sanitizers and hand-wash soaps in India. We are encouraging consumers to wash hands with soap and use sanitizers at key times during the day,” he said. Doctors, meanwhile, pointed out that a sanitizer can never replace soap and water completely (see box). “A sanitizer is a handy and effective way to break the coronavirus transmission chain,” said infectious diseases specialist Dr Om Srivastava from Jaslok Hospital, Pedder Road.



6 More Nations on Airport nCoV Alert


Kolkata: Mandatory thermal screening on arrival at Kolkata airport has been extended to flyers with recent travel history to Italy, Iran and South Korea — the latest novel coronavirus transmission hotspots — along with Germany, Japan and Malaysia. This increases the number of countries on the Covid-19 watch list at the airport to 12. Immigration officers have been instructed to check the passports of all arriving international flyers and send passengers with Schengen visa or travel history to any of the 12 countries on the nCoV watch list back for thermal screening before being allowed to formally enter the country. Schengen visa allows visitors entry to 26 European states, including Italy. In addition, all passengers arriving by Singapore Airlines from Singapore, IndiGo Airlines flights from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi in Vietnam and Malindo Air and AirAsia flights from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia will undergo thermal screening checks before they proceed to immigration. “We have been screening passengers in flights arriving from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The travel documents of other international passengers were being checked by immigration authorities. Now, the list has been expanded to include Italy, Iran, South Korea, Germany, Japan and Malaysia,” a senior airport official said. While flyers with symptoms of flu will be sent directly to the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Beliaghata for quarantine, those having such travel history but no symptoms will be advised home quarantine for two weeks.



IndiGo — that has cancelled its flights to China’s Guangzhou from Kolkata indefinitely — has started rationalizing its daily direct flights to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. From Monday, they reduced the frequency to these cities in Vietnam. “Instead of daily flights, we shall operate flights to these cities on alternate days. In the next 10 days, there will be six flights to Hanoi and four to Hochi Minh City,” an official said. Singapore Airlines, though, has no plans to immediately cut down flights. Flights to China were the first to be grounded after India cancelled visas to Chinese citizens and evacuated Indians stranded in the country. But the spread of nCoV to more than 50 countries has increased uncertainty. The health ministry has also issued an advisory to flyers, urging Indians to refrain from non-essential travel to Iran, Italy, South Korea and Singapore. Currently 21 airports are constantly screening passengers arriving from Kathmandu, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore and Japan for possible exposure to the novel coronavirus.



Madhavaram Fire: Wrecker could have Cleared Path for Rescuers


Chennai: A wrecker, if available, could have eased the entry for rescuers to the Madhavaram firm gutted by a fire on Saturday, say experts. Neither the fire and rescue services nor police had such a vehicle that could have cleared the mass of trucks and containers from near the wall dividing GRR Logistics from its neighbour on Erukkanchery High Road. As a result, smaller vehicles were used to tow away the containers and trucks to clear the path to the wall they had to break to get close to the inferno. “Until this was done, fire personnel pumped in foam from atop the wall,” said an officer. This wasn’t as effective and it was 9pm before the blaze was finally put down. A call was received at the fire control room around 2.45pm and a team led by Madhavaram station fire officer Pargunan rushed there in a short while, but it took another two hours before the containers could be cleared and the wall broken. C Sylendra Babu (DGP), additional in charge of fire and rescue services, said, “Fire personnel worked from all four sides to stop the fire from spreading”. A fire officer said, “GRR Logistics comprised a covered portion of 10,000 sq. ft., while another 10,000 sq. ft. of open space was used as a storehouse”. No police station or fire station in north Chennai, where there is a lot of container movement, has a wrecker vehicle, another officer said. GRR Logistics also didn’t have any of the safety gadgets – emergency fire extinguisher, water sump or hose reels — crucial for fighting a fire.



International News



Global Virus Infections near 90,000. Cases Outside China 9 Times More

Tourists take pictures while standing next to locals wearing masks as they wait for a canal boat in Bangkok.



China: The coronavirus appeared for the first time in New York, Moscow and Berlin and clusters of the disease surged around the world, even as new cases in China dropped to their lowest level in six weeks on Monday and hundreds of patients were released from hospitals at the epicentre of the outbreak. Almost nine times more cases were reported outside China than inside it over the past 24 hours, according to the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The global death toll pushed past 3,000, and the number of people infected were nearly 90,000, with fast expanding outbreaks in South Korea, Italy and Iran. In the Middle East, a worsening situation in Iran was accompanied by concern for its top leaders after a member of the council that advises the Islamic republic’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei died of Covid-19. The death of Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi came as Iran announced the virus had killed at least 66 people among 1,501 confirmed cases. Its caseload surged more than 250% in just 24 hours. The WHO said a team of experts flew into Tehran on Monday to help local health workers respond to the outbreak. Around the world, the virus reshaped people’s routines, both at home and at work, from the millions of Japanese schoolchildren facing four weeks without class to special voting booths for Israelis under quarantine.



Mobile hospitals were planned in Iran, and the “Mona Lisa” hung in a vacant room of the shuttered Louvre in Paris. Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Portugal were among the newest places to detect the virus. More than 60 countries, including nine of the 10 most populous, have reported infections. Even as alarms grew louder in much of the world, Monday brought positive signs from China, where the outbreak started two months ago. China reported 202 new cases of the virus, its lowest daily count since January 21, and the city at the heart of the crisis, Wuhan, said 2,570 patients were released. South Korea, with the worst outbreak outside of China, said it recorded 599 new cases on Monday, bringing the total to 4,335. The toll rose to 26. In Europe, leaders braced for worsening caseloads after the count surged in France, Italy and to a lesser degree Spain over the weekend. Italy’s infections ballooned 50% in 24 hours to 1,694. The Louvre, the world’s most popular museum, remained closed as its 2,300 workers expressed fears of contracting the virus from visitors arriving from all over the world. Japan closed schools for most of the country’s 12.7 million children until the end of the month, creating difficulties for some families. Mika Nakajima, a museum employee and single mother, said she has already used up her paid vacation days to take care of her aging parents and her son and fears losing her job.

News Flash – 2 March 2020

National News



2 Arrested for Rs.70k Theft from Navi Mumbai ATM



Navi Mumbai: Sanpada police have arrested two men for allegedly stealing Rs 70,000 from an Axis Bank ATM in Juinagar. The police identified the key accused as Suyog Dhivar, the manager of the agency appointed by the bank for their ATM repair and maintenance, and the other as Jhonson Shetty, a taxi driver. The police said Dhivar gave the key to the ATM to Shetty who then removed cash from the machine. Assistant sub-inspector Rahul Raul said, “Dhivar would insert a rubber material in the ATM’s cash dispenser which would cause the cash to get stuck in a partition instead of falling into the tray. The bank would then call the agency to fix the ATM. Thereafter, Dhivar would send his Shetty to repair the ATM, and he would pocket the stuck cash”.



3 Killed in Collision Between 2 Goods Train in MP District

MANGLED REMAINS: A coalladen train collided with an empty goods train near Ghanhari village in Singrauli district of Madhya Pradesh on Sunday.



Singrauli: Three people were killed after two goods trains collided near a village in Madhya Pradesh’s Singrauli district on early Sunday morning, police said. The track on which the accident occurred is managed by the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) for coal transportation from Madhya Pradesh to Uttar Pradesh, a police officer said. The accident occurred around 4.40am when a coalladen train heading towards Uttar Pradesh from Amlori mine in Madhya Pradesh collided with an empty goods train near Ghanhari village, located around 7kms from here, Singrauli additional superintendent of police, Pradeep Shende said. Thirteen wagons of one of the trains and an engine jumped off the tracks following the collision. Three bodies have been pulled out from the engine so far, the officer said. The deceased were identified as Ramlakhan Bais, 29, a local resident, Rasheed Ahmed, 65, and Mandeep Kumar, 26, both hailing from Uttar Pradesh, he said, adding that they seem to be the locomotive drivers of the trains and a points-man. It seems the accident occurred either due to an error on part of the drivers or because of some fault in signaling, Shende said. The mishap has not affected rail passenger traffic as it occurred on the track exclusively used by the NTPC to ferry coal for power generation, he added. Meanwhile, East Central Railway’s chief public relations officer (CPRO), Rajesh Kumar, in a statement said the Indian Railways has nothing to do with the accident. He said the accident took place in the merry go round (MGR) system completely owned and operated by NTPC, Rihand. The NTPC is investigating the matter.



5 Killed in Sonbhadra Mine Collapse



Varanasi: Three more bodies were recovered around 4am on Sunday, two days after a stone mine collapsed on seven workers in Billi Markundi area of Sonbhadra. While two labourers were brought out alive on the day of the collapse, bodies of the remaining five have been recovered in a two day-long rescue operation. The state government has announced Rs.4 lakhs compensation for each of the kin of deceased and Rs. 50,000 to those injured. District officials said the last rites of labourers Gulab, Ram Prahlad and Shivcharan were completed after autopsy. “As all bodies buried under debris have been recovered, rescue operation has been stopped,” said Sonbhadra district magistrate S Rajalingam. Representing CM Yogi Adityanath, UP primary education minister Satish Chandra Dwivedi went to Sonbhadra and enquired about the condition of two injured labourers at the hospital and met families of the victims. Directives have been issued to initiate stern action against those found responsible for the mine collapse.



International News



Oz, Thailand Report 1st Deaths; Italy sees 40% Jump in Cases

The coronavirus epidemic shut down France’s Louvre Museum on Sunday, with workers who guard its famous trove of artworks fearful of being contaminated by the museum’s flow of tourists from around the world. Art lovers were unable to visit the Louvre as workers staged a walkout after a staff meeting about the outbreak. ‘The risk is very, very, very great,’ Andre Sacristin, a Louvre employee and union representative, said. ‘While there are no known virus infections among the museum’s 2,300 workers, it’s only a question of time,’ he said. Almost three-quarters of the Louvre’s 9.6 million visitors last year came from abroad.



China: The number of countries hit by the coronavirus climbed past 60 on Sunday, and infections and deaths continued to mount around the globe, emptying streets of tourists and workers, shaking economies and rewriting the realities of daily life. In Paris, the Louvre Museum closed, and priests stopped placing sacramental bread in worshippers’ mouths. Panic buying of daily necessities emerged in Japan. Tourist sites across Asia, Europe and the Mideast were deserted. And governments closed schools and banned big gatherings. Australia and Thailand reported their first deaths on Sunday, while the Dominican Republic (first in tourist-rich Caribbean), Ireland and the Czech Republic recorded their first cases. Iran, Iraq, Italy and South Korea, among other places, saw the number of infections rise. More than 87,000 people worldwide have been infected, and nearly 3,000 have died. The US on Saturday recorded its first death, a man in his 50s in Washington state who had underlying health problems but who hadn’t travelled to any affected areas. Rhode Island reported its first “presumptive positive” virus case, a man in his 40s who had recently travelled to Europe. “Additional cases in the US are likely, but healthy individuals should be able to fully recover,” President Trump said at a Saturday briefing, where officials announced heightened warnings about travel to certain regions of Italy and South Korea as well as a ban on travel to Iran.



Trump also vowed travellers from countries at high risk of the virus would be screened before boarding and upon arrival. China, where the outbreak began two months ago, on Sunday reported a slight uptick in new cases over the past 24 hours to 573, the first time in five days that the number exceeded 500. They remain almost entirely confined to the hardest-hit province of Hubei and its capital, Wuhan. South Korea reported 210 additional cases and two more deaths from the virus, raising its totals to 3,736 cases and 20 fatalities. South Korea has the second-largest number of infections outside. Iran’s toll from Covid-19, the disease the virus causes, climbed to 54 as the number of cases jumped overnight by more than half, to 978 people. The new figures represent 11 more deaths than reported on Saturday and 385 new cases. Italy said on Sunday that the number of people infected has risen 40% to 1,576 in 24 hours, while another five infected people have died. British authorities said the number of people confirmed as infected rose by 12, bringing the country’s tally to 35, with one death. Most of the new cases involved people who had been in Italy or Iran. The number of people infected in Germany jumped sharply to 129, having doubled from 66 on Saturday. The virus has prompted cancellations or of several sporting events.

News Flash – 29 February 2020

National News



Phone Thief Drags Woman Out of Moving Train Near Borivli Station



Mumbai: A 28-year-old woman, who is employed as a visual effects artist, was dragged out of a moving Vapi passenger train when she caught the man who snatched her phone near Borivli station. The accused, Wasim Shaikh, was later arrested. Cops said he is a history-sheeter who had been extended from railway property. The incident took place on February 20, when the woman (name withheld on request) was returning from Palghar. “I usually commute by local trains, but when the Vapi passenger arrived at 6.50pm, I boarded it as it was getting late. The train was packed, but I managed to get a seat in the general coach,” she told TOI. By 8.11pm, the train reached Borivli’s platform 10. “The train halted for nearly 10 minutes at the station. I dialled my mother, but as I was not getting network, I moved to a single seat closer to the door.” Just then the train started moving. As she was going through photographs on her phone, a man, who was in the coach, snatched her phone. “I grabbed his arm, confident that he could not escape as the train had left the platform. But to my horror, he jumped out of the moving train and dragged me along. I landed on the tracks and hurt my head and shoulders even as he scaled a wall and fled. I screamed for help and a couple from a building near the tracks came to my rescue,” she said. They offered her water and cotton to stop the blood flowing from her head, and helped her reach the platform where a policewoman rushed her to hospital. “I couldn’t register a complaint at that time, but did after I got better,” she said. Based on the description given by the woman and going through CCTV footages of various stations, the police tracked down Shaikh, who lives on a pavement in Borivli. “Shaikh led our team to Rahul Kahar (20) who had bought the stolen phone. He too was arrested,” said senior inspector Bhaskar Pawar, Borivli GRP.



Two Held for Attempting to Break Pen ATM



Chennai: Two men were arrested on Friday for attempting to break open an ATM as they could not withdraw cash at Rathan Bazaar in Parry’s on February 25. A police team solved the case with the help of the CCTV camera footage and the arrested Sudhakar and Suryah, both are natives of Chidambaram, employed as coolie in Parry’s.



International News



Coronavirus Slows in China, But Gallops Across the Globe


China: After Brazil confirmed its first coronavirus patient this week, cases have now been reported from every continent except Antarctica, forcing countries to take drastic measures for its containment. Italy has at least 11 towns on lockdown while parts of UK, Japan, Iran and Germany have shut down schools. In California, 8,400 people are being monitored for the virus. Several countries, including India, have either lowered flight frequency to affected countries or issued travel advisories. Saudi Arabia has banned foreign pilgrims. Amid a warning from the World Health Organisation that the new coronavirus has “pandemic potential”, TOI tracks its global march as the death toll touches 2,867 and confirmed cases cross 83,000 on Friday. In US, preparation for pandemic On his Indian visit, US President Donald Trump cast coronavirus as “a problem that’s going to go away”, but experts disagree. The US State Department and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it expects Covid-19 to spread in the US. Dr Nancy Meissonier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, was quoted by CBS News as saying, “It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but more of a question of exactly when this will happen.” The US has recorded 60 confirmed cases and Trump has announced a new team led by Vice President Mike Pence to tackle the virus. Tourists trapped as Europe locks down Italian towns in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto remain under lockdown with schools, churches and markets shut with the country reporting 655 cases and 17 deaths. The Vatican is shutting all catacombs open to public as humidity and limited space in the underground burial sites can favour spread of the virus, according to CNBC. Neighbours are nervous too. Several European countries now have confirmed cases and many of them can be traced back to Italy.



Earlier this week, a dozen UK schools sent home students and teachers who had returned from skiing trips in the Italian Alps, according to The Guardian. About 1,000 holidaymakers and workers were quarantined in a hotel in Tenerife, a top destination in Spain’s Canary Islands, after two Italian guests tested positive. India issues travel advisories Iran, one of the worst affected nations outside China, said its deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, tested positive for the coronavirus. By Friday, 34 people had died out of 338 positive cases. Dubai and UAE have halted all flights to Iran and several nations have advised citizens to avoid travel. India has issued an advisory that people from Iran, South Korea and Italy or having such travel history since February 10, 2020, may be quarantined for 14 days on arrival. Travel to Singapore is also not advised. On Thursday, India temporarily suspended visa on arrivals for nationals of Japan and South Korea. South Korea, which has the largest outbreak outside mainland China, has recorded 13 deaths and 2,337 confirmed cases. Japan’s botched quarantine Media reports have quoted Japan’s health minister as admitting that many who were allowed to disembark the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship, which remained moored in Yokohama for several weeks, have developed symptoms, including fever, and will now undergo tests. Nearly 1,000 passengers were allowed to leave the ship last week after testing negative. PM Shinzo Abe on Thursday asked schools to close until April. Improvement in China? The number of daily cases reported outside China have exceeded the number of cases reported within the country. Cities in China have started lowering their emergency response level, local media reported. Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, however, remains under lockdown with mainland China recording 2,788 deaths and 78,824 infections.



WHO Raises Global Virus Risk to Top Level after 56 Nations Hit

NOT TAKING CHANCES: School children disinfect their hands before leaving school in Osaka. Japan has ordered schools across the country to close from Monday to check spread of the new coronavirus.



Beijing: From eastern Asia, Europe, the Middle East, the Americas and Africa, a steady stream of new cases on Friday fuelled the sense that the new coronavirus epidemic may be turning into a global pandemic, with some health officials saying it may be inevitable. At least 210 people have died from coronavirus in Iran, in various cities, as of Thursday night, BBC Persian reported on Friday, citing hospital sources. An Iranian health ministry spokesman, however, rejected the claim and said that only 34 people had died in the country of the virus so far and that 388 were infected. In Japan, officials in the northern island of Hokkaido declared a state of emergency because of the pace of new infections there. South Korean officials are rushing to test thousands of members of a church at the centre of that country’s outbreak. The virus has had wide-ranging impact, even forcing K-pop megastars BTS to cancel four Seoul concerts due in April. Africa has long been a source of concern, and a case in Nigeria raised fears that more infections might lurk there undetected. Nigeria aid the patient was an Italian citizen who had returned to Lagos, the country’s largest city, from Milan on Tuesday. The patient was stable, did not have “serious symptoms” and was being treated at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, a suburb of Lagos.



In Europe, Wales and Northern Ireland both reported their first confirmed cases, and Switzerland banned all gatherings of more than 1,000 people. More than 83,000 people in at least 56 countries have been infected, and more than 2,800 have died, according to NYT. New infections outside China are now outpacing those within the country, the site of the first and by far the largest outbreak. The World Health Organisation on Friday raised its global risk assessment of the new coronavirus to its highest level. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the risk was being raised to “very high” because of the continued increase in cases and the number of new countries affected in recent days. These developments “are clearly of concern”, Tedros told reporters in Geneva. But he added: “We still have a chance of containing this virus, if robust action is taken to detect cases early, isolate and care for patients and trace contacts.” The WHO does not officially use the word “pandemic,” often defined as the worldwide spread of a new disease, but many health experts say the coronavirus epidemic is one, or soon will be. The virus has proliferated around the globe over the past week, emerging on every continent except Antarctica, prompting many governments and businesses to try to stop people travelling or gathering in crowded places. Still, signs in China offered hope that the outbreak could be contained. China reported 44 more deaths on Friday, raising its toll to 2,788, with 327 new cases the lowest daily figure for new infections in more than a month.