Children wearing masks looking out of the window of their house during  the nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus, in Patna, Bihar on April 1, 2020.
Children wearing masks looking out of the window of their house during the nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus, in Patna, Bihar on April 1, 2020. |IANS

India COVID-19 toll reaches 53, number of cases crosses 2000

By Sonny Abraham/NetIndian News Network

New Delhi, April 2, 2020

India today reported 12 more deaths due to coronavirus (COVID-19), taking the toll to 53, and 235 new cases of infection in the past 24 hours, which raised the total to 2069 so far.

Four of the new deaths were reported from Maharashtra, three from Madhya Pradesh, two in Delhi and one each from Punjab and Gujarat. In addition, Andhra Pradesh reported its first death.

Of the total 53 deaths so far, Maharashtra accounted for the highest number at 13, followed by seven in Gujarat, six in Madhya Pradesh, four each in Delhi and Punjab, three each in Karnataka, Telangana and West Bengal, two each in Jammu & Kashmir, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh, and one each in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Meanwhile, there continued to be serious concern about a religious congregation that was held under the aegis of the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) in the national capital in mid-March after some of the participants tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days.

Many of the participants of that event have returned to their homes in different states and, after Telangana reported late on Monday night that six of them had died and several more had tested positive for COVID-19, there is worry that the attendees may have infected many of their contacts.

This is borne out by the sharp rise in the number of cases in states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi and Telangana and the fact that many of them had attended the Delhi event or had come in close contact with the returnees.

In the latest figures put out by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare this morning, the number of 53 deaths does not fully account for the six fatalities announced by Telangana.

Several hundred of the participants were staying at the Tablighi Jamaat headquarters here after the lockdown came into effect on March 25 and the authorities in the past two days have cleared the complex and screened all of them. Many of them have been sent into quarantine while those who have tested positive for the virus have been hospitalised.

The total number of 2069 COVID-19-positive cases includes the 53 deaths and 156 patients who have been cured and discharged from hospitals, which meant there were 1,860 active cases of the virus in the country as of this evening.

Of the total 2069 cases, Maharashtra accounted for the highest number at 335, followed by 265 in Kerala, 234 in Tamil Nadu, 219 in Delhi, 113 in Uttar Pradesh, 110 in Karnataka, 108 in Rajasthan, 107 in Telangana, 99 in Madhya Pradesh, 87 in Gujarat, 86 in Andhra Pradesh, 62 in Jammu & Kashmir, 53 in West Bengal, 46 in Punjab, 43 in Haryana, 24 in Bihar, 16 in Chandigarh, 13 in Ladakh, 10 in Andaman & Nicobar Islands, nine in Chhattisgarh, seven in Uttarakhand, five each in Assam and Goa, four in Odisha, three each in Himachal Pradesh and Puducherry, and one each in Jharkhand, Manipur and Mizoram.

Meanwhile, as the 21-day nationwide lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus entered the ninth day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Chief Ministers of all States that a common stratedy was needed to ensure a staggered re-emergence of the population once the restrictions were lifted.

Interacting with the Chief Ministers via video-conferencing on the COVID-19 situation, Modi asked them to brainstorm and send suggestions for the exit strategy. He reiterated the importance of social distancing in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

He said it was necessary to ensure the availability of separate, dedicated hospital facilities for COVID-19 patients.

Underscoring the importance of coordinated action and the need to avoid overlaps in efforts of stakeholders, the Prime Minister talked about the need of setting up Crisis Management Groups at the district level and appointment of District Surveillance Officers.

“COVID-19 has attacked our faith and belief and is threatening our way of life,” he said. He appealed to the Chief Ministers to reach out to community leaders and social welfare organizations at the state, district, town and block levels to build up a united front based on community-approach in the battle against the pandemic.

The Government has said that it was committed to identifying, isolating and quarantining the COVID-19-positive Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) workers in India after their congregation in Nizamuddin in Delhi.

Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba on Wednesday asked the States to complete contact tracing of the Tablighi Jamaat conference participants on a war footing.

At a video-conference with Chief Secretaries/DGPs of the States to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic situation, Gauba stressed the importance of intensive contact tracing of Tablighi Jamaat participants as the dispersal of the participants all over the country has increased the risk of the spread of COVID-19.

Gauba also said the foreigners who had participated in the Tablighi Jamaat had violated visa conditions and asked the States to initiate action for violation of visa conditions against them and the organizers of the event.

The States were also asked to ensure that intra-state movement of goods was allowed without any hindrance while maintaining social distance.

Along with ensuring the manufacturing of essential goods, the supply chains of such goods should be maintained, he added.

Another cause for worry for the government is the large numbers of migrant workers who have, in the wake of the 21-day lockdown imposed across the country from March 25 to contain the spread of the coronavirus, left the big cities and industrial centres for their homes in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and so on.

At one stage, in the past few days, there were hundreds of workers who had left on foot from Delhi and other places for their homes on foot. Later, there were scenes of large crowds that had gathered at points like the Inter-State Bus Terminals in Delhi in the hope of getting a bus to make the journey.

Since then, the Centre has made it clear to the States that they must ensure that thre is no movement of people across cities or on the highways so that the lockdown achieves its purpose of stopping transmission of the virus.

District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police were made personally responsible for implementation of these directions which have been issued under the Disaster Management Act.

The Centre also advised the States to make adequate arrangements for food and shleter for the poor and needy people, including migrant labourers, at the place of their work.

States have been also told to ensure timely payment of wages to labourers at their place of work during the period of lockdown without any cut. House Rent should not be demanded from the labourers for this period. Action should be taken against those who are asking labourers or students to vacate the premises, the Centre said.

As a follow-up, the Centre has issued detailed guidelines on the handling of the migrant workers at their place of work as well as those who are in transit on their way to their homes and those who have already reached their destinations.

The workers had decided to leave for home because the lockdown and the resultant closure of thousands of small and big businesses, has left them without jobs and without money to pay rent or buy food.

The Centre has pointed out that the congregation of migrant workers at bus stations or at state borders may make them susceptible to COVID-19 inefection. They, in turn, could carry the infection to far-flung rural localities, where it would be difficult to track them and their contacts.

The advisory contains guidelines on screening of workers wherever they are, at their place of work, or in transit or in their villages, including quarantine for those with symptoms or those who are above 60 years of age and who have co-morbidities. Some of the others, depending on the symptoms shown by them, could be asked to undergo home quarantine for 14 days.

The advisory also includes directions of establishment of quarantine centres for workers who are on their way home and for those who have already reached their villages.

Under the orders of the Supreme Court, States have been directed that trained counsellors and community group leaders of all religions will visit and provide psycho-social support to the migrants in relief camps.