News Flash – 19 March 2020

National News



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

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



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



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



Mumbai Prepares to Quarantine 26k Indians Coming from Gulf


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



BMC Directs 9 Pvt Hospitals to Start Isolation Wards



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



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



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


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



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



One Fresh Case Each in Noida & Gurgaon



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



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



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


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



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


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



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



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



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



ATM Firm Driver Who Fled with Rs.92L Held


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



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



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

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



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



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



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

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



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



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



International News



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

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



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



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



405 Indian Stranded in Kuala Lumpur Brought Home



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

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