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.

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