People waiting for a bank to open during the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, in New Delhi on April 15, 2020.
People waiting for a bank to open during the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, in New Delhi on April 15, 2020.|IANS

India reports 22 more COVID-19 deaths, toll crosses 400

By Sonny Abraham/NetIndian News Network

New Delhi, April 16, 2020

India today reported 22 more deaths due to coronavirus (COVID-19), raising the toll to 414, and 447 new cases of infection since yesterday evening, taking the total number of infected persons in the country to 12,380.

Figures released by the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare this morning showed that the 22 new deaths included nine in Maharashtra, the worst-hit state, five in Andhra Pradesh, three in Gujarat, two each in Delhi and Tamil Nadu and one in Karnataka.

Of the total of 414 deaths so far, Maharashtra accounted for the highest number at 187, followed by 53 in Madhya Pradesh, 33 in Gujarat, 32 in Delhi, 18 in Telangana, 14 each in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, 13 in Punjab, 12 in Karnataka, 11 in Uttar Pradesh, seven in West Bengal, four in Jammu & Kashmir, three each in Haryana, Kerala and Rajasthan, two in Jharkhand, and one each in Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Odisha.

The total of 12,380 cases includes those who have died as well as 1,489 patients who have recovered, which meant that the number of active cases in the country stood at 10,477 as of this morning.

Of the total of 12,380 cases, Maharashtra accounted for the highest at 2,916, followed by 1,578 in Delhi, 1,242 in Tamil Nadu, 1,023 in Rajasthan, 987 in Madhya Pradesh, 766 in Gujarat, 735 in Uttar Pradesh, 647 in Telangana, 525 in Andhra Pradesh, 388 in Kerala, 300 in Jammu & Kashmir, 279 in Karnataka, 231 in West Bengal, 205 in Haryana, 186 in Punjab, 70 in Bihar, 60 in Odisha, 37 in Uttarakhand, 35 in Himachal Pradesh, 33 each in Assam and Chhattisgarh, 28 in Jharkhand, 21 in Chandigarh, 17 in Ladakh, 11 in Andaman & Nicobar Islands, seven each in Goa, Meghalaya and Puducherry, two each in Manipur and Tripura and one each in Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram.

The total number of cases includes 76 foreigners, the Ministry said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry has divided all districts of the country into three categories: Hotspot districs, Non-hotspot districts with reported cases of COVID-19 and Green zone districts.

Hotspot districts are those from where more cases are currently being reported or where the rate of increase in cases is more, that is the doubling rate of cases is less.

The districts which have not reported any cases yet, have also been directed to work on cluster containment plans. In order to break the chain of transmission, focus needs to be on contact tracing, monitoring and clinical management. States have been asked to uniformly implement the containment plan in every district across the country, an official press release said.

A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Tuesday the extension of the nationwide lockdown for another 19 days until May 3 to contain the spread of the global pandemic, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued consolidated revised guidelines, including a list of select activities that will be allowed in some areas from April 20 to mitigate the hardships being faced by the public.

An official press release said that, under the relaxations from April 20, transportation of goods will be permitted without any distinction of essential or non-essential. Farming operations, including procurement of agricultural products, agriculture marketing through notified "mandis" and direct and decentralized marketing, manufacture, distribution and retail of fertilizers, pesticides and seeds; activities of marine and inland fisheries; animal husbandry activities, including the supply chain of milk, milk products, poultry and live-stock farming; and tea, coffee and rubber plantations will be allowed to be functional.

To provide an impetus to the rural economy, industries operating in rural areas, including food processing industries; construction of roads, irrigation projects, buildings and industrial projects in rural areas; works under MNREGA, with priority to irrigation and water conservation works; and operation of rural Common Service Centres (CSCs) have all been allowed. These activities will create job opportunities for rural labor, including the migrant labor force, the release said.

Manufacturing and other industrial establishments with access control have been permitted in SEZs, EoUs, industrial estates and industrial townships after implementation of SOP for social distancing.

Manufacture of IT hardware and of essential goods and packagings is also allowed. Coal, mineral and oil production are permitted activities.

"It is expected that the industrial and manufacturing sectors will see a revival with these measures, and will create job opportunities while maintaining safety protocols and social distancing. At the same time, the important components of the financial sector, e.g., RBI, banks, ATMs, capital and debt markets as notified by SEBI and insurance companies will also remain functional, with a view to provide enough liquidity and credit support to the industrial sectors," the release said.

"Digital economy is critical to the services sector and is important for national growth. Accordingly, e-commerce operations, operations of IT and IT enabled services, data and call centres for Government activities, and online teaching and distance learning are all permitted activities now," it said.

The revised guidelines also permit all health services and the social sector to remain functional; public utilities to function without any hindrance; the supply chain of essential goods to operate without any hindrance; and, important offices of Central and State Governments and local bodies to remain open with required strength.

"In sum, the revised consolidated guidelines are aimed at operating those sectors of the economy which are critical from the perspective of rural and agricultural development and job creation, while maintaining strict protocols in areas where safety is paramount to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country," the release said.

"However, these additional activities would be operationalized by States/ Union Territories (UTs)/ District Administrations based on strict compliance to the existing guidelines on lockdown measures. Before operating these relaxations, States/ UTs/ District Administrations shall ensure that all preparatory arrangements with regard to social distancing in offices, workplaces, factories and establishments, and other sectoral requirements are in place," the release said.

The consolidated revised guidelines would not apply in containment zones, as demarcated by States/ UTs/ District administrations. If any new area is included in the category of a containment zone, the activities allowed in that area till the time of its categorization as a containment zone would be suspended, except for those activities that are specifically permitted under the guidelines of Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India.

The activities permitted under the revised guidelines from April 20 will not be allowed within the containment zones. In these zones, no unchecked inward/ outward movement of population will be allowed, except for maintaining essential services, i.e., medical emergencies and law & order duties, and government business continuity.

Very strong containment measures will be implemented in the hotspot districts accounting for large number of COVID-19 cases or with fast growth of cases. Detailed guidelines on delineation of containment zones and containment measures have also been issued. Only essential services are to be permitted in these zones and strict perimeter control and strict restrictions on movement enforced.

The release said the permitted activities from April 20 are aimed at ensuring that agricultural and related activities remain fully functional, the rural economy functions with maximum efficiency, employment opportunities are created for daily wage earners and other members of the labour force, select industrial activities are allowed to resume their operations, with adequate safeguards and mandatory standard operating protocols (SOPs) and the digital economy.

The activities prohibited across the country include travel by air, rail and road; operation of educational and training institutions; industrial and commercial activities; hospitality services; all cinema halls, shopping complexes, theatres, etc., all social, political and other events, and opening of all religious places/ places of worship for members of public, including religious congregations.

There are certain national guidelines like mandatory home-made face covers at work places and in public places, strong hygiene and health care measures like provision of sanitisers, staggered shifts, access control, thermal screening and imposing fines for spitting etc.

Penalties will be imposed for violation of the guidelines, the release said.