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
National

India reports 39 more COVID-19 deaths, 1,118 new cases

By Sonny Abraham/NetIndian News Network

New Delhi, April 15, 2020

India today reported 39 more deaths due to coronavirus (COVID-19), raising the toll to 392, and 1,119 new cases of infection in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of infected persons to 11,933, even as the Government permitted select additional activities from April 20 during the nationwide lockdown that has now been extended to May 3.

The lockdown, initially imposed for 21 days from March 25, was extended by another 19 days yesterday and the government said the relaxations allowing more activities from April 20 were aimed at mitigating hardships to the public.

Figures released by the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare this evening showed that the 39 new deaths included 18 in Maharashtra, the worst-hit state, six in Uttar Pradesh, four in Gujarat, three in Madhya Pradesh, two each in Delhi and Karnataka and one each in Meghalaya, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.

Of the total of 392 deaths so far, Maharashtra accounted for the highest number at 178, followed by 53 in Madhya Pradesh, 30 each in Delhi and Gujarat, 18 in Telangana, 13 in Punjab, 12 in Tamil Nadu, 11 each in Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh, nine in Andhra 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 11,439 cases includes those who have died as well as 1,344 patients who have recovered, which meant that the number of active cases in the country has gone past the 10,000-mark to 10,197 as of this evening.

Of the total of 11,933 cases, Maharashtra accounted for the highest at 2,687, followed by 1,561 cases in Delhi, 1,204 in Tamil Nadu, 1,005 in Rajasthan, 987 in Madhya Pradesh, 735 in Uttar Pradesh, 695 in Gujarat, 647 in Telangana, 503 in Andhra Pradesh, 387 in Kerala, 278 in Jammu & Kashmir, 277 in Karnataka, 213 in West Bengal, 199 in Haryana, 186 in Punjab, 70 in Bihar, 60 in Odisha, 37 in Uttarakhand, 33 each in Assam, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh, 27 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. 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 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.

He had also 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.

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 nearby 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.

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.

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.

NNN

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