News Flash – 21 March 2020

National News



All Private Offices, Non-Essential Services Shut in City & Pune


Mumbai: On a day the number of Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra crossed the 50 mark, CM Uddhav Thackeray ordered the shutting down of all private offices and shops and establishments that provide non-essential services in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Nagpur till March 31. The shutdown came into effect from Friday midnight. While public transport like buses and trains will still remain operational, the state has appealed to people to reduce crowds on these services. All government offices will also work with 25% attendance, down from the 50% that was being implemented from Thursday. Restaurants can stay open if they operate with 50% customer capacity and have a three-feet separation between patrons. Thackeray, in a live video address on Friday, said these measures were being taken to reduce crowds in the cities and in the public transport systems. “I am aware many people may not like this decision, but the number of positive coronavirus cases in these cities is going up. Despite repeated appeals, crowds in trains and buses have not reduced,” he said. Thackeray said the government was reviewing crowds, and if they didn’t reduce, a decision to stop trains and buses would be taken. Those exempted from the lockdown are establishments providing essential services like drinking water, sewerage services, banking services, telephone and internet services, railway and transportation services, food, vegetables and groceries, hospitals, medical centres and medical stores, newspapers and the media, electricity providers, ports, oil refineries, petroleum and the IT sector providing for any of these essential services.



Production and manufacturing units required for functioning of these essential services will continue to work at 50% staff strength. Also exempted are key infrastructure projects, foreign consulates, and production, transportation, supply chain, ecommerce of all essential goods and warehousing of essential food, grocery, grains. The state has also left out stock exchanges, clearing corporations, stock brokers, depositories and SEBI registered participants operating through these institutions. The state has empowered civic chiefs to decide in case of doubts if an establishment is essential. If anyone violates the order, action can be taken under Section 188 of IPC which provides for six months’ jail term or a fine of Rs 1,000 or both. “We are not closing down trains and buses as emergency service personnel use them to get to work. It is very easy for us to shut these,” the CM said. Uddhav, like PM Modi, asked employers not to cut wages of staff. Taxis and autorickshaws on Mumbai’s roads may come down drastically during the shutdown though public transport has been allowed. A union leader said, “Having over a lakh auto makes no sense as there will hardly be business. Most autos will switch to share routes; others may gradually go off roads.” Kaali Peelis will be fewer, around 10,000; there are 20,000 on normal days. Ola and Uber cabs will function, but a lot will depend on driver partner availability. BEST buses will operate, as will MSRTC.



Dharavi Man May Face Arrest for Defying Home Quarantine

Passengers arrive at city airport on Friday. The Centre has banned all international flights to India from March 22-28.



Mumbai: The Mumbai police is likely to initiate legal action against a Dharavi resident who stepped out of home quarantine and moved around in public on Friday. The 43-year-old man had travelled to Dubai in search of a job, and on his return four days ago was stamped at the city airport and asked to remain home quarantined for 14 days. He has now been sent to Seven-Hills Hospital in Andheri where he will be quarantined. A BMC official said: “He had erased the ‘Home Quarantine’ stamp with some chemical. We conduct random checking and found out that one of them was not at home. We have taken serious cognizance of it and immediately took him to the police station”. Police commissioner Parambir Singh told TOI, “We caught the person and sent him to Seven Hills Hospital as he did not follow the home quarantine directives. Legal action will follow later, but this should be a lesson for those who are running away from quarantine centres. This is the first case in our jurisdiction and we are enhancing security on all home quarantine arrangements in the city”.



Assistant municipal commissioner of G-North ward Kiran Dighavkar, which covers areas like Dharavi, said every day the ward has been receiving a list from Mumbai airport about the number of travellers entering the city and placed on home quarantine. “The police, along with BMC teams, are keeping a vigil as to whether the persons are adhering to the direction given to them. In many cases, we personally visit the homes,” he said. This is the fourth instance in the past two days where people who were to remain quarantined were found in public places. Seventeen people were deboarded from trains in three separate instances on Thursday. On Wednesday, four passengers en route to Surat were deboarded at Palghar station. On Thursday, state home minister Anil Deshmukh had said that stern action would be taken against those escaping quarantine centres by booking them under the Epidemic Diseases Act. The offence carries a punishment of six months in jail or Rs 1,000 fine or both.



2 Covid-19 Cases in City, 4 Others Take State Tally to 54


Mumbai: Six persons tested positive for Covid-19 in the state on Friday, taking Maharashtra’s tally to 54, still the highest count among states by a fair distance. Two of the new cases were in Mumbai, two in Pune and one each in Kalyan, and Pimpri-Chinchwad. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) now has 21 cases, one less than Pune and contiguous Pimpri-Chinchwad. After Pimpri (12), Mumbai now has the second highest number of cases (11), followed by Pune (10). Health minister Rajesh Tope said at least five patients have responded to treatment and have tested negative for the virus. “They will continue the quarantine and if they still test negative, they will be discharged,” said Tope. State officials added 41 are asymptomatic and 8 have mild symptoms. In Mumbai, two patients continue to be serious. On Friday, BMC opened three more screening centres for Covid-19 at K B Bhabha, Bhabha Kurla and Rajawadi in Ghatkopar to decongest Kasturba that has been screening nearly 600 people daily. Among those who tested positive from Mumbai was a 62-year-old man from D ward (Tardeo, Girgaum, Malabar Hill) with travel history to the UK, while the second individual is a 38-year-old man from F north ward (Matunga, Sion, Dharavi), who has visited Turkey.



Civic authorities said the person found positive in Kalyan, a 53-year-old man, had a travel history to Dubai. Incidentally, he developed symptoms almost after two weeks of returning to the country. A 20-year-old man who had returned from Scotland tested positive in Pune. Divisional commissioner Deepak Mhaisekar confirmed that a 41-yearold woman, undergoing intensive treatment at Bharati Hospital in Pune, had also tested positive. Her throat swab when sent by the hospital authorities to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) to rule out swine flu turned out to be positive for Covid-19. In Pimpri-Chinchwad, the new patient is the 24-year-old brother of the 22-year-old man who had tested positive after a trip to Philippines and Singapore. BMC’s Dr Daksha Shah said the 62-year-old from south Mumbai had returned to the city on March 14. He had underlying conditions, including diabetes, and had undergone chemotherapy for cancer. His condition is said to be stable. The 38-year-old also returned on March 14. After developing symptoms on the fourth day, he was admitted to Kasturba on Wednesday. The hospital now has 127 patients admitted.



Pune Woman with No Foreign Travel Contact Tests +Ve

Health workers spray disinfectant on roads in Chennai on Friday.



Pune: Doctors at the Bharati hospital here were flummoxed when the throat swab sample of a critically-ill woman admitted under their care turned out to be positive for the novel coronavirus on Friday morning though they had sent it to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) to rule out swine flu (H1N1). The doctors had not suspected Covid-19 as the 41-year-old woman, resident of Sinhagad road, had not given any history of foreign travel or any known contact with foreign travellers or with anyone found infected with the infection. Besides, none of the positive coronavirus cases in the country so far have been due to community transmission. When contacted, Pune divisional commissioner Deepak Mhaisekar said, “The directorate health services of the state have reported this case to the government of India. Officials are gathering information about all people the woman may have come in contact with. We will officially be able to say anything on the community spread of the virus thereafter.” Health authorities, however, ruled out the case as being one of community spread of coronavirus in India, saying it was likely that the woman may have unknowingly come in contact with someone with a recent history of international travel or any close contact of such travellers.



Incidentally, the woman attended a marriage in Vashi, Navi Mumbai, on March 3 where around 1,500 guests were present. Four of her family members her mother, her two children and a niece are also showing flu-like symptoms including fever, sore throat and cough. Sinhagad road in the city, where the woman resides with her family, is one of the five identified clusters of the coronavirus infection in Maharashtra. Five of the nine positive cases of coronavirus within the municipal limits of Pune are from the Sinhagad road area. Bharati hospital, where the woman has been on ventilator support since March 16, is one of the 11private hospitals in Pune designated for the isolation and treatment of patients with Covid-19. “We sent her throat swab to NIV for confirmation of swine flu on Wednesday. We received an email from the NIV on Friday stating that she has tested positive for Covid-19 and negative for swine flu,” Paediatrician Sanjay Lalwani, medical director of Bharati hospital.



Delhi Malls, Markets Shut for Three Days



New Delhi: The Delhi government on Friday announced closure of all shopping malls, Dilli Haat and discontinued tourist bus facility in an effort to contain spread of the coronavirus. However, pharmacy, grocery, vegetable and fruit stores will remain open, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal said in a statement on Friday. The Confederation of All India Traders, which has over 4,000 market associations as members in Delhi, also announced a three-day closure of all shops from Saturday. UP also directed malls in Noida, Lucknow and Kanpur to be shut till further notice. Educations institutions will be closed till April 2. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, for the first time in 18 years of its operation, decided to suspend its operations on March 22 in support of ‘Janata Curfew’. Most cabs and all autorickshaws too will remain off the roads. The government decided to suspend non-essential services till March 31 and asked heads of departments to allow employees to work from home.



60,000 Quarantine Beds Set Aside as Corona Cases Rise

Contestants take precautions before a beauty contest in Jabalpur on Friday.



New Delhi: Health ministry officials said the government was taking focused steps to ramp up preparedness in terms of capacity building and procurement of essential items for hospitals so that they can treat Covid-19 patients. So far, 19,111isolation beds have been reserved in public and private hospitals, up from around 17,000 till the first week of March. Similarly, ventilators have been increased by 2.5 times since January and around 60,000 quarantine beds earmarked across the country. “The medical infrastructure in the country needs to be prepared for any possible influx of patients on account of Covid19,” an advisory issued late on Friday said. The measures have been proposed up to March 31 and will be reviewed. It was also said that all hospitals will carry out a preparedness drill on March 22 the day of the “Janata curfew” called by PM Narendra Modi and the health ministry has issued detailed guidelines. The advisory is intended to address concerns that the health infrastructure may struggle to tackle the burden if more severe cases are diagnosed and to maintain the edge gained by a series of proactive steps that have been taken to substantially shut down the borders for a large section of travellers. The health ministry reported 223 confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Friday, recording a significant jump of 50 cases since Thursday. The 223 cases include 191 Indian nationals and 32 foreigners. The cases are among more than 14,000 tests conducted to check on people suspected for the disease.



So far, 173 Covid-19 cases have been hospitalised. While 23 of them were cured, four deaths were reported. The advisory also asked hospitals to discharge stable patients at the earliest and restrict further admissions. “Some beds should be set apart and prepared for creating isolation facilities in every public and private hospital. All hospitals should mobilize additional resources including masks, gloves and personal protection equipment. Healthcare personnel should be trained for dealing with any foreseeable emergencies,” the advisory said. All hospitals must ensure that they have adequate trained manpower and resource pools for ventilator and ICU care, it added. The advisory included various other preparedness measures for indoor facilities, out-patient departments, administrative as well as for communication and awareness activities. Besides banning export of personal protective equipment like masks, the government has also identified manufacturers and placed orders for additional procurement. The government maintained that as the burden was rising progressively, it was important to break the chain of transmission by strictly following social distancing protocols.



Next 2 Weeks Crucial to Contain Spread of Virus Across the State, LOCKDOWN DAY 7 Health Department Officials Fear Social Interaction by those in Home Quarantine Could Tip Balance

TOUGH TIMES: Staff of Karnataka chapter of Indian Red Cross Society hold placards on Mysuru Road, requesting people to donate blood. Donations have fallen due to the Covid-19 scare. (Right) Amaresh, a software engineer working in Canada married Sneha at a simple function in Davanagere on Friday.

Only a few relatives and friends attended the function which was monitored by taluk officials to ensure the families stuck to directions pertaining to large gatherings. The bride and groom were cordoned off by tape and guests greeted the couple from afar to ensure social distancing norms were followed.



Bengaluru: The weekend and the next couple of weeks will likely decide which way the Covid-19 situation would head in Karnataka, experts and officials say. Social distancing is the key to break the spread of the virus and the statewide lockdown will be put to the test during these days, experts say. Health department officials fear social interactions by those who should remain in home isolation could undermine efforts of the government. A top bureaucrat said though the upcoming weekend closure is required, the tempo needs to be sustained. “But our concern is after the Sunday shutdown, people should not take to the streets in large numbers the next day,” he added. Dr V Ravi, professor and head, department of Neurovirology, Nimhans, said Karnataka’s preparations kicked in much earlier than during previous viral outbreaks. “This is the first time we prepared early,” Ravi said. “How effective the measures will be being everybody’s responsibility and not the government’s alone. Unless people own responsibility, we cannot be assured that the state would overcome the situation. People must avoid crowding and not go out when not required”.



Health and family welfare department officials are holding confabulations on the way ahead to contain the spread of the virus. “So far, there have not been cases of community spread,” an official said. “But we need to make sure we overcome problems at the earliest. All those who have come from abroad and primary and secondary contacts of persons who test positive must stay put and behave responsibly”. A senior official with the department said stamping on hands of those returning from abroad should have been started earlier for better impact. “Since we have not done it, we should ideally be going in search of all those 42,000 people who returned to Karnataka in the last 14 days, and stamp their hands. That’s to make sure they remain in home isolation and do not step out. But this is a mammoth task. It’s virtually impossible to do,” he said. Health experts reiterate the need of the hour is to remain at home and not to venture out. “However tempting it may be to travel around, it is more important to help oneself and everyone around by staying at home this weekend. Cook, read, tele chat with friends and tele-consult your doctor if needed, but stay home. We must all do our bit to support the government’s efforts at containment,” Dr Sunita Maheshwari, vision group member, health and medical education, Karnataka, said.



3 More Positive Cases Take Telangana Tally to 19

Passengers queue up at Secunderabad Railway Station for thermal screening before boarding trains.



Hyderabad: In the wake of coronavirus scare, the Telangana high court on Friday directed the state government to postpone SSC examinations scheduled to be held from March 23 to 30. The HC, however, allowed Saturday’s (March 21) exam to be held as per schedule. The HC said it was not advisable to compel students to travel to exam centres and congregate for three hours amid the looming threat of the virus. As exams are scheduled to be held till April 6, government should assess the situation and re-notify the schedule, it said. Education special chief secretary, Chitra Ramachandran, said the rescheduled exam dates will be intimated later. A bench of Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice A Abhishek Reddy gave this direction while hearing a public interest petition filed by M Balakrishna of Secunderabad, who challenged the decision of the SSC Board to go ahead with the exams, spread over three weeks from March 19 to April 6. The case will be heard again on March 30. Petitioner’s counsel Kowturu Pavan Kumar urged the HC to direct authorities to review their decision in this regard.



The bench, while directing the authorities to postpone SSC exams between March 23 and 30, asked the government to re-assess the matter on March 29. A high-level committee should review coronavirus-related situation and decide the next course on re-notifying the exams, the bench said. Advocate general B S Prasad tried to convince the bench, saying that preventive measures, including disinfecting the exam halls, had been taken. The bench, citing a circular issued by the HRD ministry, said while it was important to maintain the academic calendar and schedules, it was equally important to look after the safety of students, teachers and parents. “We have taken note of precautionary measures being taken by government. However, in view of the prevailing situation world over, we feel that exams should be postponed,” the bench said, considering the likelihood of further deterioration of health situation in coming days. “Think of rescheduling exams slated to be held from March 31to April 6 also,” the bench said. Reminding authorities about the great danger being posed by the virus, HC hoped they would be alive to the ground realities.



City Registers Second +Ve Corona Patient, also from UK

Ambulances wait outside the south Kolkata residential complex to take the family members of the city’s second Covid-19 patient for quarantine.

Everyone living in the complex has been advised not to venture out and help as well as drivers have been barred from coming in.



Kolkata: A 22-year-old management graduate from London, who had landed in Kolkata on March 13 via Delhi, has tested positive for Covid-19, taking the number of cases in the city to two. The youth son of a prominent sanitary hardware store owner in south Kolkata had no symptoms when he arrived, but was advised strict home isolation. He got in touch with the Beliaghata ID Hospital and sought admission on Wednesday after he developed a sore throat and came to know that two of his friends who had accompanied him on the flight from London had tested positive in their home cities of Chhattisgarh and Punjab. A swab test confirmed the presence of the virus early on Friday, and the youth has been kept in isolation at the hospital’s IB2 ward, where the other Covid-19 patient the 18-yearold who had also contracted the virus in London is under treatment. Eleven members of the youth’s family, including his parents and grandparents, have also been shifted to an isolation centre in New Town. The youth’s family owns four flats at the apartment complex in which they stay. Soon after his arrival, his father had called the Beliaghata ID Hospital and sought advice, said sources. He was asked to monitor his son’s temperature and check whether he suffered from breathlessness. None of these symptoms showed up till Monday morning, when the youth felt a slight soreness in his throat. Alarmed, he called the hospital again and was advised home isolation. On Wednesday, he came to know about his two friends, and drove down to the hospital, accompanied by his father. The youth was immediately tested and placed in an isolated unit.



His father said that though the family was wary about neighbours’ reactions, due to the stigma attached with Covid-19, and worried about his son’s health, they were trying their best to remain calm. “Although no one in the family has so far shown any symptom, we are wary. We are trying to avoid panic, though. There shouldn’t be any stigma attached to the disease. My son will recover and bounce back,” he said. The family has been kept in isolation at the Chittaranjan National Cancer Research Centre in New Town. Even though it appears the family did everything right, and the youth kept himself confined at home since arrival, a section of neighbours said they were “worried” because members of the family had been “moving about”. “Till their test reports arrive, we are not sure. So, we are adopting extreme precautions,” said a neighbour. There were also rumours that the youth had been seen in the neighbourhood. His father, however, strongly denied that, saying his son didn’t leave home. A group of residents of Ishwar Ganguly Street and SP Mukherjee Road alleged that the family members had visited their shop several times in the last few days. They lodged a general diary at the Kalighat police station and demanded that the shop be locked. Two stores owned by the family were sealed later on Friday and will be fumigated, said cops. Soon after he tested positive early on Friday, the youth was shifted from an isolation bed to a cabin at the IB2 ward, which had been created for Ebola virus patients. The other Covid-19 patient is in the same unit. A hospital source said that the 22-year-old has shown no severe symptoms till now, and was stable. “Since he is young and his health parameters fine, we are sticking to conservative treatment,” said the source. The city’s first Covid-19 positive had arrived from London last Sunday. He tested positive on Tuesday.



South Kolkata Condo ‘Locked Down’ after Youth Tests Covid-19 +Ve

Everyone at the south Kolkata complex being told to wash their hands before entering the towers.



Kolkata: The condominium in south Kolkata, where the city’s second confirmed Covid-19 patient lives, woke up to a “lockdown” on Friday and the chilling realization that the virus had reached the doorsteps. “Our councillor has confirmed that one boy from Tower 2 has tested positive for Covid-19. The entire family as well as their driver should be quarantined immediately. The health department has asked all residents of the complex to stay in home isolation and not to move out of their respective flats unless there’s an emergency. No outsiders, including drivers, domestic help and guests, will be allowed inside the complex. In case of any fever or illness of any member in the complex, they can contact the doctors available in the complex immediately,” the president of the apartment association messaged to residents on a social media group on Friday morning. Though the association had begun taking guard against the virus, which has wreaked havoc worldwide, more than a week earlier, the functionary said they were shocked when a positive case was identified from the address. “I have instructed everyone to go into home isolation. The residents have agreed and are cooperating with us. We understand, people are not used to such an atmosphere of a lockdown, but that is the only solution to the current problem,” the president said. She added she had also requested the families not to deduct salary of the domestic help and drivers, who have been barred entry into the complex to minimise the chance of the spread of the novel coronavirus. On Friday, after ambulances took away all the 11 family members of the youth, health department and KMC workers arrived to sanitize the common areas of the building, including the lobby, lifts, stairs and corridors on 25 floors of two towers. The family owns two flats in each of the two towers.



According to information shared by the family with the state health department, the youth returned from London on March 13 but did not show any Covid-19 symptom when he was screened at the airport. He was advised home isolation. The apartment owners’ association president said the youth did abide by the home isolation advisory and never stepped out of his flat. A person living in the youth’s building said, “Our complex usually hums with activity since 8am with cars being washed, domestic help chatting while walking into flats, people leaving for work and children, who have no school, playing in the corridors and the garden below. But it fell eerily silent on Friday morning”. But the residents aren’t quite certain if the quarantine protocol was strictly followed within the extended family, who also lives in the same complex. Moreover, on learning about the youth testing positive, some residents of S P Mukherjee Road and Ishwar Ganguly Street submitted a petition to the Kalighat police station on Friday, alleging he, along with his father, had visited a bath fittings shop, owned by the family, this week. The residents requested the cops to shut the shop and disinfect the surroundings. The association last week issued an advisory, urging those who had travelled abroad in the past seven days or returned from any of the notified countries to stay in home isolation for at least 14 days. Gym and banquet facilities were shut and entry of delivery personnel was restricted. “The complex had been following safety measures, like people being told to wash hands while entering and exiting and disinfecting of lifts, lobby and common toilets. From Friday, the exercise has been heightened and everyone has been told to maintain self-hygiene,” said Debasis Kumar, MMiC (parks and gardens) who owns a flat at the condominium.



Gated Communities Step Up Fight Against Coronavirus


Kolkata: Alerted by back-to-back confirmed Covid-19 cases in the city and the fact that both the patients are residents of two premium housing societies, residential complexes in Kolkata have started enforcing a set of rules to fight the spread of virus. At Urbana, the residents’ association have formed a Covid-vigilance core committee comprising residents, advisors and doctors and a second level of committee Covid vigilance team comprising two representatives from each of the towers. They have been tasked to ensure any resident coming from abroad is reported to the state government and stays in home quarantine. The committees are meeting daily at 8pm to discuss the developments. “We have a large influx of people who frequently travel abroad. If anyone comes from abroad and is without any symptom of infection, we are asking them to stay in home quarantine. Most of them are co-operating. We are reporting to the chief minister’s office if anyone is not co-operating,” said Sanjiv Ganeriwal, president of Urbana Welfare Association. The complex has stopped all sorts of interior decoration and renovation works to limit entry of outsiders. The association has also made videos on dos and don’ts and on personal hygiene advisory and is sharing them on WhatsApp groups. At Silver Spring off EM Bypass, the resident association isn’t allowing any delivery personnel inside the complex and has been asking residents to either come to the reception and pick the order by himself or to collect it later from the security personnel. The complex has also barred entry of outsiders if they have high temperature.



For residents, anyone tested with temperature above 98.5°F is being asked to stay in home quarantine. “As a precautionary measure, we have covered all the lift buttons with plastic sheets and have been cleaning them in regular intervals. We are changing the plastics every day. We have also engaged five housekeeping staff dedicated for timely cleaning of all common areas,” said Ashok Baid, a senior member of the association. At South City, the apartment owners’ association has put up photos and videos citing out corona advisory in the common area and the security help desk, covered lift buttons with plastic sheets and have closed down children parks, clubs and swimming pools. “We live in a mini township with about 5,000 residents and about 2,000 support staff walking in and out throughout the day. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, we have taken some measures that include mandatory hand-washing, using sanitizers to mop frequently touched areas, like door handles and lift buttons, and maintain self-isolation as much as possible,” said Sunil Agarwal, a senior member of the association. Apart from ensuring all basic safety and hygiene measures that most complexes are following, residents of Power Towers in New Town have also been strongly advised to not to forward any WhatsApp content on coronavirus before checking its authenticity. “We have seen a number of fake messages in the form of audio clips, video, photos and write ups circulating in our apartment owners’ WhatsApp groups. It will only intensify the panic. Hence, we have asked all owners to refrain from sending such messages and maintain personal and community hygiene as much as possible,” said Sovan Dutta, a senior member of the association.



Kolkata Malls to Remain Shut on Sunday, for Sanitization

Quest Mall that was shut on Friday will remain closed till Sunday.



Kolkata: The Quest Mall in Park Circus has shut down for three days from Friday for sanitization. The other malls — Acropolis, South City, Forum and City Centre I & II, too, will stay shut on Sunday for the same reason. Sushil Mohta, the chairman of Merlin Group and director of South City, said Sunday is the best day for sanitization and given the situation, it’s also good for taking precaution. Incidentally, Prime Minister Modi has also called for a “Janata Curfew” on Sunday, which may also lead to lesser footfall. However, a grocery Hypermart in Quest and South City Mall, will remain open. The Quest Mall will start functioning again on March 23, a circular sent to the retailers said. This is being done to sanitize the mall and encourage social distancing, authorities said. “This is being done to ensure the safety of our retailers and customers. We will, however, allow the hypermarket to operate because it serves day-to-day needs of our customers,” said Sanjeev Mehra, spokesperson for Quest. On Friday, the Hypermart opened at 2 pm.



South City, Forum, Acropolis, and City Centre I & II, have decided to stay shut on Sunday and completely sanitize the premises. South City Mall will allow a Hypermart to operate on Sunday but Acropolis said it will keep everything, including the Hypermart, closed. “The idea is to encourage social distancing. If we keep the Hypermart open, the purpose will be defeated,” said K Vijayan, mall head of Acropolis. South City mall has changed its timings from Saturday till further notice. The mall will now open at noon and shut at 8:30pm, instead of its usual 10am-to-10pm schedule. “We are doing this to bring down the peak-hour crowd. We are also allowing seating at alternate tables in our food court to maintain social distancing,” said Dip Biswas, DGM authorities to cope the Covid-19. All touch points are being sanitized on an hourly basis. Some malls have even introduced wash basins for handwashing. The City Centre malls are using toothpicks to touch elevator call buttons both inside and outside. Disposable cups with toothpicks have been provided outside elevators. Touch points, include hand rails of elevators, door knobs, flush handles and taps at basins. These are being sanitized on an hourly basis. Touch points include hand rails of elevators, door knobs, flush handles and taps at basins. These are being sanitised on an hourly basis.



Gang in ‘Corona Masks’ Loots Jewellery Shop



Kolkata: A group of five robbers in ‘corona masks’ posed as customers and robbed a jewellery showroom on Madhyamgram Station Road on Friday evening. They also beat up the owner and employees and looted most of the ornaments and cash worth rupees several lakhs kept in the showcase and locker at the gun point. The showroom owner and employees said that they initially didn’t suspect the masked men as they thought they were customers wearing masks for safety reasons to protect themselves from nCoV. Police are looking for the culprits. According to a local, it was around 5.40pm when the gang entered the near empty showroom close to Madhyamgram flyover. A team led by Abhijit Banerjee, SP, Barasat also visited the spot to investigate the case.



8 Killed, 9 Injured in Blast at Fireworks Unit Near Sattur

Eight others were injured in the blast at the unit at Sippiparai in Virudhunagar district.



Virudhunagar: Seven women and a man were killed in a blast at a fireworks unit at Sippiparai near Sattur here on Friday afternoon. Nine others who sustained severe injuries have been admitted to government hospitals in Tuticorin, Tirunelveli and Kovilpatti. As many as 30 employees were working at the licensed unit. While Rani, 42, Jayabarathi, 45, Badrakali, 33, Veerathai, 34, Thamaraiselvi, 32, and Thangammal, 39, died on the spot, Murugaiah, 55, died at hospital. Later, an unidentified woman worker was also found dead at the blast site. Though manufacturing of fancy firecrackers is not permitted in a DRO-licensed unit, the employees were understood to have been making such crackers illegally. They were handling chemicals for this purpose in a working shed when the blast happened. The fire from the shed engulfed and brought down nearly 12 other working sheds inside the unit. Fire and rescue services personnel put out the fire after nearly two hours. Virudhunagar superintendent of police P Perumal visited the spot and conducted an inquiry. The Elayirampannai police registered a case and are conducting investigation. Virudhunagar collector R Kannan visited the employees undergoing treatment at the Kovilpatti Government Hospital.



International News



627 Die in 24 Hours: No Respite for ITALY

DANCE OF HOPE: A ballet dancer in a gas mask performs at Times Square in New York City.



Italy: The hardest-hit country in Europe, reported 627 new deaths on Friday its biggest day-to-day rise since the outbreak began and said new cases also shot up. Italy now has seen over 4,000 deaths and 47,000 infections. The soaring numbers came despite a nationwide lockdown. With the contagion showing little signs of abating, PM Giuseppe Conte’s government is set to reinforce the near-total lockdown in the country. The plan is to extend the current ban on non-essential activities until at least early May, according to officials who asked not to be named. Conte is expected to announce new measures before the current restrictions expire on March 25. The government may also call in the army to help enforce the restrictions. Soldiers have already been deployed in the southern regions of Sicily and Calabria. Meanwhile, Spain became the second European nation to register more than 1,000 deaths, and officials warned that the country’s health care system could soon be overwhelmed even as doctors were already being forced to choose which patients to save.



“Admitting someone may mean denying the entry to someone else who may benefit more,” a Spanish organisation that represents intensive care providers wrote in a report. It recommended prioritising patients with more than two years of life expectancy, and taking “social value” into account. Spain reported 1,043 deaths and 20,410 infections. The global toll surpassed 10,000, with the virus still multiplying and gaining footholds in new corners of the world. The number of infections rose to 2,65,495 worldwide. The WHO noted the epidemic’s dramatic speed. “It took over three months to reach the first 10,000 confirmed cases and only 12 days to reach the next 1,00,000,” it said. PM Boris Johnson told cafes, bars and pubs to close from Friday night as he stepped up restrictions aimed at reining in Britain’s snowballing coronavirus outbreak. “We are going to defeat this disease with a huge national effort to reduce the spread by reducing unnecessary social contact.” The enforcement also applies to nightclubs, theatres, cinemas and gyms. Some of the only good news came from Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak began. For the second day in a row, no new infections were reported and only 39 cases were recorded nationwide all brought from the outside. China’s death count was steady at 3,253. Iran’s official toll of more than 1,400 dead was rising quickly as well amid fears it is underreporting its cases.

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