News Flash – 17 March 2020

National News



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



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



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

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



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



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



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



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



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



3 Corporations Invoke Emergency Clause, insist on Hand Wash Points

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



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



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



Vigil Up on All Entry Routes to Telangana


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



Private Facilities Pad up to Fight Coronavirus


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



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



Cop’s Safety Steps at PS, Road Kiosks

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



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



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


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



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



First to Pest +Ve in Odisha Took Rajdhani from Delhi

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



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



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

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



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



International News



More People Now Infected Outside China


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



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

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