News Flash – 13 March 2020

National News



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


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



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



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

Masked commuters on Thursday.



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



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



Delhi Shuts Down Schools, Colleges and Cinema Halls & Malls

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



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



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

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



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



CCTV Shows 5 Men Breaking into iPhone Shop



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



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



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



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



Malls Adopt Steps to Create Safe Zone for Customers and Staff

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



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



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



Bangladeshi Barge Sinks After Collision with Port Vessel

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



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



International News



Viral ‘Earthquake’ Shocks The World


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



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

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