People queueing up outside a grocery store in Noida, near Delhi, to stock up on essential items, on April 8, 2020.
People queueing up outside a grocery store in Noida, near Delhi, to stock up on essential items, on April 8, 2020.|IANS

India COVID-19 toll rises to 149, number of cases reaches 5274

By Sonny Abraham/NetIndian News Network

New Delhi, April 8, 2020

India today reported 25 more deaths due to coronavirus (COVID-19), raising the toll to 149, and 485 new cases of infection in the past 24 hours, taking the total number to 5,274 so far.

The new deaths reported by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare today included 16 in Maharashtra, two each in Delhi, Haryana, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal and one in Andhra Pradesh.

Of the total of 149 deaths so far, Maharashtra accounted for the highest number at 64, followed by 13 each in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, nine in Delhi, seven each in Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, five in West Bengal, four each in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, three each in Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, two each in Jammu & Kashmir and Kerala, and one each in Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Odisha.

The total number of 5,274 cases includes the 149 deaths and 411 patients who have been cured, which meant there were 4,714 active cases of the virus in the country as of this evening.

Of the total 5,274 cases, Maharashtra accounted for the highest at 1,018 -- becoming the first state to cross the 1,000-mark, followed by 690 in Tamil Nadu, 576 in Delhi, 427 in Telangana, 343 in Uttar Pradesh, 336 in Kerala, 328 in Rajasthan, 305 in Andhra Pradesh, 229 in Madhya Pradesh, 175 in Karnataka, 165 in Gujarat, 147 in Haryana, 116 in Jammu & Kashmir, 99 in West Bengal, 91 in Punjab, 42 in Odisha, 38 in Bihar, 31 in Uttarakhand, 27 in Assam, 18 each in Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh, 14 in Ladakh, 10 each in Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Chhattisgarh, seven in Goa, five in Puducherry, four in Jharkhand, two in Manipur and one each in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Tripura.

According to the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, as many as 274 districts in the country have reported COVID-19 cases so far.

In Uttar Pradesh, the state government today decided to seal hotspots of COVID-19 infection in 15 districts. As soon as the announcement was made, large numbers of people in places like Noida and Ghaziabad came out to stock up on food articles, medicines and other essential items.

As per the order, a total of 12 hotspots in Gautam Budh Nagar and 13 in Ghaziabad will be sealed as precautionary measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 which has so far claimed four lives across Uttar Pradesh, which has 343 confirmed cases.

Long queues of people were seen outside grocery stores, though senior government officials had said that there was no need for panic and that essential goods would be made available to them.

"Dear residents, no need for panic buying. Identified hot spots shall be sealed and home delivery of essential commodities and services shall be available at all places in the district. We shall take strict action against rumour mongers and spreaders," they said.

Meanwhile, Mumbai, the worst-hit city in India, has become the first to make face masks compulsory for people when they step out of their homes for any reason.

In a decree, BMC Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi said the measure was necessitated as studies have revealed that wearing face masks can substantially reduce the spread of coronavirus from and to persons coming in contact with each other, besides other mandatory social distancing measures already implemented.

He has ordered that any person moving around in public places like streets, hospitals, offices, markets, etc, for whatever reasons must wear a face mask.

This would also be applicable to all people moving around in their official or personal vehicles at any site, office or workplace, besides attending any gatherings or meetings at workplaces.

The masks can be the regular 3-layer masks or cloth masks, either available with pharmacies or home-made which can be washed and reused after disinfecting them, Pardeshi said.

The civic chief's strict orders -- with punitive clauses -- came as Mumbai accounted for the highest numbers of COVID-19 deaths (40) and positive cases (686) in the country so far.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has written to the States to ensure availability of essential goods by invoking the provisions of the Essential Commodities (EC) Act, 1955.

These measures include fixing of stock limits, capping of prices, enhancing production, inspection of accounts of dealers and other such actions.

There have been reports of loss of production due to various factors, especially reduction in labour supply. In this situation, there is a possibility of inventory building/hoarding and black marketing, profiteering, and speculative trading, resulting in price rise of essential goods, an official press release said.

The States have been asked to take urgent steps to ensure availability of these commodities at fair prices for public at large.

Offences under EC Act are criminal offences and may result in imprisonment of 7 years or fine or both. State/Union Territory Governments may also consider detention of offenders under the Prevention of Blackmarketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980.

The Government has said that it is focussing on ensuring the uniform and effective implementation of lockdown measures by the States and Union Territories (UTs) and adherence to social distancing norms by citizens to battle the pandemic.

"A series of measures have been taken by both Central and the State government to break the chain of transmission. Responses have been escalated as per the ongoing increased cases noted across the country. States have been asked to ensure adequate COVID-19 Care Centres are in place across the country," an official press release said.

Several districts have taken measures which have emerged as best practices. Some of these are as follows:

Pune district in Maharashtra sealed the central region of Pune and Kondhwa area effectively and carried out door-to-door survey of homes located across 35 sq. km area. The team is also checking persons with co-morbidity like diabetes and hyertension, apart from travel history and contact tracing.

Pathanamthitta district in Kerala ensured surveillance, gathering travel history, contact tracing, ensuring quarantine facilities and providing essential and psychological support.

The Government of India has launched a training module for management of COVID-19 named ‘Integrated Government Online Training’ (iGOT) portal on DIKSHA platform for the capacity building of frontline workers to handle the pandemic efficiently. They include doctors, nurses, paramedics, technicians, ANMs, State Govt Officers, Civil Defence officials, National Cadet Corps (NCC), National Service Scheme (NSS), Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) and other volunteers.

AIIMS, New Delhi has been conducting several webinars to build the capacity of different categories of healthcare professionals for COVID-19 management. Online training of physicians for antenatal care and labour management of pregnant women with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection has been scheduled by AIIMS during this week. The detailed schedule is available on the MoHFW website.