Doctors bid farewell to COVID-19 patients who were discharged post- recovery from a hospital in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir on April 14, 2020.
Doctors bid farewell to COVID-19 patients who were discharged post- recovery from a hospital in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir on April 14, 2020. |IANS

India reports 24 more COVID-19 deaths, 624 new cases

By Sonny Abraham/NetIndian News Network

New Delhi, April 15, 2020

India today reported 24 more deaths due to coronavirus (COVID-19), raising the toll to 377, and 624 new cases of infection since yesterday evening, taking the total number of infected persons to 11,439, as the nation braced itself for an extended nationwide lockdown period till May 3 to contain the spread of the pandemic.

Figures released by the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare this morning showed that the 24 new deaths included 18 in Maharashtra, the worst-hit state, two each in Delhi and Gujarat, and one each in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Of the total of 377 deaths so far, Maharashtra accounted for the highest number at 178, followed by 50 in Madhya Pradesh, 30 in Delhi, 28 in Gujarat, 17 in Telangana, 12 each in Punjab and Tamil Nadu, 10 in Karnataka, nine in Andhra Pradesh, seven in West Bengal, five in Uttar Pradesh, four in Jammu & Kashmir, three each in Haryana, Kerala and Rajasthan, two in Jharkhand, and one each in Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Odisha.

The total of 11,439 cases includes those who have died as well as 1,306 patients who have recovered, which meant that the number of active cases in the country has gone up to 9,756 as of this morning.

Of the total of 11,439 cases, Maharashtra accounted for the highest at 2,687, followed by 1,561 cases in Delhi, 1,204 in Tamil Nadu, 969 in Rajasthan, 730 in Madhya Pradesh, 660 in Uttar Pradesh, 650 in Gujarat, 624 in Telangana, 483 in Andhra Pradesh, 387 in Kerala, 278 in Jammu & Kashmir, 260 in Karnataka, 213 in West Bengal, 199 in Haryana, 176 in Punjab, 66 in Bihar, 60 in Odisha, 37 in Uttarakhand, 33 each in Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh, 32 in Assam, 27 in Jharkhand, 21 in Chandigarh, 17 in Ladakh, 11 in Andaman & Nicobar Islands, seven each in Goa and Puducherry, two each in Manipur and Tripura and one each in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Mizoram. One case reported earlier in Nagaland has been shifted to Assam.

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

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the announcement about the 19-day extension of the lockdown in a televised addess to the nation yesterday morning, saying the country could not afford to drop its guard at this stage in the fight against the pandemic.

However, he said that there could be a conditional relaxation of the stringent lockdown conditions from April 20 in some areas after a review of the situation. At the same time, he declared that the relaxations could be withdrawn if cases of infection were reported in those areas or if the guidelines are violated.

"Areas that will succeed in this litmus test, which will not be in the hotspot category, and will have less likelihood to turn into a hotspot, may be allowed to open up select necessary activities from 20th April. However, keep in mind, this permission will be conditional, and the rules for going out will be very strict. Permission will be withdrawn immediately if lockdown rules are broken, and spread of coronavirus risked. Hence, we must make sure we ourselves don’t become careless, not allow anyone else do so. A detailed guideline will be issued by the Government tomorrow in this regard," he said.

The Prime Minister said the provision for this limited exemption in such identified areas after April 20 had been made keeping in mind the livelihood of the poorer sections.

"Those who earn daily, make ends meet with daily income, they are my family. One of my topmost priorities is to reduce the difficulties in their lives. The government has made every possible effort to help them through the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojna. Their interests have also been taken care of while making the new guidelines," he said.

"These days, the harvesting of the Rabi crop is also in progress. The Central and State governments are working together to minimize the problems of the farmers," he said.

The lockdown, imposed on March 25 for 21 days initially, would otherwise have ended at midnight last night.

Hours after the extension was announced, more than 3,000 migrant workers, belonging to different states and stranded in Mumbai because of the lockdown, gathered near the Bandra railway station in the metropolis, demanding that transportation arrangements be made for them to return to their homes immediately.

The workers complained that they were left without any work, income and money, and said they wanted to get back to their families.

The Mumbai Police resorted to a mild cane-charge before managing to persuade the crowds to disperse.

Yesterday's gathering in Mumbai, and a smaller crowd in Mumbra, were similar to the scenes witnessed earlier in Delhi and in places such as Surat and Ahmedabad in Gujarat and in Hyderabad in Telangana.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health said that a total of 602 dedicated COVID-19 hospitals with 1,06,719 isolation beds and 12,024 ICU beds have been developed across the country to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

The Office of Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India has issued guidelines for controlling spread of COVID-19 in densely populated areas. The emphasis of this manual is to bring frugal sanitary and hygiene solutions and measures with focus on community shared toilet, washing or bathing facilities.

Following the extension of the lockdown, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) today issued directions to all the Ministries and Departments of the Government fo India and all State and Union Territory governments saying that the measures stipulated in the Consolidated Guidelines of MHA, for containment of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, will continue to remain in force up to May 3.

According to the order, all restrictions that have been imposed in various sectors, and on various activities, will continue to remain in force. These restrictions would have to be enforced strictly by all the authorities concerned.

The communication to States and UTs emphasized that as per the orders issued by MHA under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the States/Union Territories cannot dilute restrictions imposed via the aforesaid guidelines.

The Railways have announced the cancellation of all passenger train services in the country till May 3, while the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has said that all commercial domestic and international flights will remain cancelled till that date.

Within India, all bus and taxi services are cancelled and there are severe restrictions on movement of private transport vehicles. All district and state borders are sealed to prevent the movement of people and transmission of the virus.