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Coronavirus in India LIVE updates: Cases in India climb to 834

The number of novel coronavirus cases in India reached 834, as the country enters third day of the 21-day long lockdown introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Of this, 66 people have been cured, discharged or migrated. The death toll has risen to 19.

Globally, the pandemic has affected more than half a million people and killed 24,053. The US with 85,505 caes has surpassed China (81,782) as the country with highest number of cases.

We have been covering the developments related to the coronavirus pandemic as it unfolded. Here are answers from experts on your queries about the virus, and a map of confirmed cases in India.

The Helpline Number for corona-virus : +91-11-23978046

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Here's how it evolved in India:

Here are the latest updates to the global health crisis, and its impact on India:

Woman with no foreign tour history tests coronavirus positive in Maharashtra

A woman in her early 40s has tested positive for coronavirus in Maharashtra's Pune city, a senior official confirmed on Saturday. The woman, who is currently on ventilator support at Bharti Hospital, tested positive for the infection after her throat swabs were sent to National Institute of Virology to check for possibility of swine flu (H1N1), he said. The woman does not have travel history to a foreign country, but had travelled to Vashi in Navi Mumbai to attend a wedding on March 3, he said.

New coronavirus case in Karnataka; total number of infections

A new novel coronavirus case has been reported in Karnataka on Saturday, taking the total number of infections to 16 in the State. A 32-year old person from Gauribidanur in Chikkaballapura district, who has returned from Mecca has been confirmed for COVID-19 infection, Health Minister B Sriramulu tweeted.

Goa imposes section 144

Goan government has imposed section 144 in the state, restricting the assembly of more than four people. "Any person contravening this order shall be punishable under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code," the order reads.

Air India to send aircraft to bring back Indians stranded in Rome

National carrier Air India will send a 787 Dreamliner aircraft to Rome on Saturday afternoon to evacuate Indians stranded there amid the coronavirus crisis. The Centre issued a statement on Thursday that no international flights would be allowed to land in India from March 22 onward for a period of one week. An Air India official said the flight to Rome would take off from the Delhi airport around 2:30 pm. The flight will evacuate all Indians stranded in Rome and return to Delhi on Sunday morning, the official added.

New coronavirus case in Karnataka; total number of infections 15

ICMR revises testing strategy to fight spread of new coronavirus

The Indian Council of Medical Research revised its strategy to fight the spread of the new coronavirus on Saturday, saying all hospitalised patients with severe acute respiratory illness, shortness of breath and having fever and cough will now be tested for COVID-19 infection.

The new ICMR guidelines also said asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case should be tested once between day 5 and day 14 of coming in his/her contact.

The apex body for biomedical research revised its strategy in view of a spurt in coronavirus cases in the country this week. The new strategy aims to contain the spread of infection more effectively and to provide reliable diagnosis to all individuals meeting the inclusion criteria of COVID-19 testing.

Till now, all asymptomatic individuals who undertook international travel in the last 14 days and developed symptoms, all symptomatic contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases and all symptomatic health care workers were being tested for the infection as per the guidelines.

'Big rise' in Maha coronavirus cases, avoid travel: Health Minister

Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Saturday said the state has witnessed a "big rise" in the number of coronavirus positive patients with the addition of 11 such cases, and appealed to the people to avoid using public transport to contain the spread. Talking to reporters, Tope said the number of coronavirus positive patients in the state has increased to 63 with 11 new cases.

Six new coronavirus positive cases in Gujarat, total 13 now

Six new coronavirus positive cases were reported in Gujarat on Saturday, which took the tally of such patients to 13 in the state, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said here. Twelve of these patients have history of travel abroad, while one person in Surat had visited Delhi and Jaipur recently, he said. "Four of these cases were reported in Ahmedabad city, one in Ahmedabad rural, three each in Surat and Vadodara, and one each in Rajkot and Gandhinagar," Rupani said.

Establishments asked not to sack employees in view of Covid-19

The Maharashtra government on Saturday asked the private and public establishments in the state not to terminate the services of its employees even if they go on leave in view of the coronavirus outbreak. It also asked these establishments not to deduct the wages of their employees.

In his directive, State Labour commissioner Mahendra Kalyankar has said that if any worker goes on leave, he should be deemed to be on duty without consequential deduction in wages for this period.

PM Modi appreciates frontline workers

In a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appreciated the role played by security guards, cash van crew, cleaning, pest and fumigation services and others who are acting as the first line of defence against COVID19.

Rahul Gandhi calls for financial package

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi called for immediate steps to revive the country's economy on Saturday and said there was a need for a big financial package.

He pointed out that the coronavirus outbreak was a serious attack on our fragile economy and took potshots at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call for beating of "thalis" in the honour of those working to contain the spread of the virus.

Gandhi said clapping would not help the daily wage workers and small and medium entrepreneurs.

"The coronavirus is a big attack on our fragile economy. Small and medium entrepreneurs and our daily wage workers are the most affected.

"Clapping will not help them. Today there is a need for cash relief and tax sops, besides relief in repayment of loans as part of a big economic package. Take immediate steps," the former Congress chief said in a tweet in Hindi.

Coronavirus: SC lawyer bodies appeal to CJI to declare holidays for 2-4 weeks

The Supreme Court lawyers bodies - SCBA and SCAORA - have decided to recommend to the Chief Justice of India S A Bobde to prepone the summer vacation in the top court by declaring holidays for two to four weeks in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

In an executive committee meeting of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) held on Saturday, it was resolved that the summer vacation of the top court should be preponed and holidays declared from March 23 onwards for four weeks.

"Considering the various suggestions made by distinguished members of the EC (executive council), it has been resolved that Chief Justice and Justices of the Supreme Court may consider the feelings and well being of all stake holders, declare vacation in the Supreme Court for four weeks beginning from Monday, March 23," a copy of the resolution sent to the media by SCBA said.

HRD ministry tells educational institutions to allow students still in hostels to stay put

The HRD ministry on Saturday advised all educational institutions to let students who are still in hostels to stay put and take necessary precautions in view of coronavirus outbreak.

"Students who are still in hostels, particularly foreign students, should be allowed to continue in their hostels and advised to take all necessary safe precaution," HRD Secretary Amit Khare said in a letter to the institutions

People not taking lockdown seriously, says Nagpur civic chief

People of Nagpur are not taking the lockdown in place for the novel coronavirus outbreak seriously, its municipal commissioner Tukaram Mundhe said on Saturday. He said a survey of the ground situation by civic officials found most shops had downed shutters but there was considerable traffic on the roads. Provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act are in place in the city which allows officials to impose measures like lockdown and quarantine to quell an outbreak.

Union home secy asks state chief secretaries to ensure proper observance of 'Janta Curfew'

Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla on Saturday asked chief secretaries of all states to ensure that the 'Janta Curfew' called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday is observed properly in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The home secretary also told the top bureaucrats of all states to see that local bodies, fire services, police and civil defence blow sirens or ring bells on Sunday evening to express gratitude towards those involved in tackling the disease.

"As you are aware, Hon'ble Prime Minister, during his Address to the Nation on March 19, on combating COVID-19, requested all citizens to observe 'Janta' curfew (a curfew imposed for the people, by the people, on the people themselves) from 7 AM until 9 PM on this Sunday, the 22nd March 2020.

"During this curfew, no one apart from those involved with essential services is supposed to venture out of home," Bhalla said in his letter.

Coronavirus: Disinfection drive launched in Delhi's Azadpur Mandi

A disinfection drive was launched in Azadpur Mandi, the biggest fruit and vegetable wholesale market of Delhi, on Saturday in view of the coronavirus pandemic. Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (Azadpur) chairman Adil Ahmad Khan said four teams have been constituted to disinfect the market spreading 83 acres and the drive will continue for the next few days. Khan said hand sanitizers are being distributed among labourers and besides, awareness campaign is being run at the market. The disinfection drive will also be carried out in other wholesale fruit and vegetable markets in Okhla, Ghazipur and Keshavpur.

Bihar shuts down bus services, restaurants, banquet halls till March 31

The Bihar government on Saturday ordered shutting down of bus services, restaurants and banquet halls across the state till March 31 to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus, officials said.

However, home delivery and take home services of restaurants will remain functional, a health department order said.

The state government, invoking the Bihar Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19 Regulations, 2020, said the restrictions have come into force with immediate effect. "The decision was taken for prevention and control of the outbreak of epidemic disease namely COVID-19 in the state," Health Department Principal Secretary Sanjay Kumar said in the order.

No coronavirus case has been reported in Bihar so far, Health officials said.

12 fresh cases in Kerala, total touches 49

For the second consecutive day, Kerala reported 12 more fresh cases of coronavirus taking the tally in the State to 49, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Saturday, even as he ruled out the possibility of community spread. However, he warned of strict action if government instructions were not followed to keep the virus at bay.

While six more people tested positive from Kasaragod, three new cases each were from Kannur and Ernakulam districts, Vijayan told reporters after a COVID-19 review meeting here. "All those who were diagnosed with the virus today had returned from Dubai recently.

AIIMS to suspend routine walk-in OPD registration from Monday

The New Delhi AIIMS has decided to temporarily suspend routine walk-in OPD registration of patients from March 23 as it redirects its resources to control the Covid-19 outbreak.

"It has been decided to temporarily close down routine walk-in OPD's patients' registrations including Specialty Clinics at AIIMS Hospital and all Centres from March 23 till further orders," an AIIMS official said.

On Friday, the AIIMS had issued a circular postponing all nonessential elective procedures and surgeries and directed for only emergency life-saving surgeries with effect from March 21.

14-hour Janta Curfew to curb coronavirus started

India launched a 14-hour long curfew on Sunday to limit the fast-spreading coronavirus epidemic in the country, where 315 people have so far been found to have contracted the disease.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an address to the nation last week urged citizens to stay indoors from 0130 GMT to 1530 GMT - a move that he said would be a crucial test for a country to assess its abilities to fight the pandemic.

"Let us all be a part of this curfew, which will add tremendous strength to the fight against the COVID-19 menace," Modi tweeted minutes before the curfew commenced. "The steps we take now will help in the times to come,' he said in the tweet.

Coronavirus positive cases in Maharashtra jump to 74

The total number of coronavirus positive patients in Maharashtra has risen to 74 with 10 more positive cases reported in the last 24 hours, officials said. Of the 10 new cases, 6 are in Mumbai and 4 in Pune, they said on Saturday. Earlier this week, a Covid-19 patient died in Mumbai.

Novel coronavirus cases in India rose to 324 on Sunday after fresh cases were reported from various parts of the country, the Union Health Ministry said.

The total includes 41 foreign nationals and four deaths reported from Delhi, Karnataka, Punjab and Maharashtra so far.

"The total number of active COVID-19 cases across India stands at 296 so far," the ministry said, adding that 24 others have been cured/discharged/migrated while four have died.

Maharashtra has reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases at 63, including three foreigners, followed by Kerala at 52 including seven foreign nationals.

Delhi has reported 27 positive cases, which include one foreigner, while Uttar Pradesh has recorded 25 cases, including one foreigner.

Telangana has reported 21 cases, including 11 foreigners. Rajasthan has reported 24 cases, including two foreigners.

In Haryana, there are 17 cases, which include 14 foreigners.

Karnataka has 20 coronavirus patients. Punjab and Ladakh have 13 cases each. Gujarat has 14 cases while Tamil Nadu has 6 cases which includes 2 foreigners.

Chandigarh has five cases.

Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal reported four cases each.Andhra Pradesh and Uttarakhand have reported three cases each. Odisha and Himachal Pradesh reported 2 cases each.

Puducherry and Chhattisgarh have reported one case each.

Another COVID-19 Patient in Maharashtra dies, bringing the death toll to two in the state

A 63-year-old coronavirus patient died in Mumbai on Sunday, taking the death toll in Maharashtra to two, a health official said. The man was admitted to the H N Reliance Hospital here on Saturday.

The Brihamumbai Municipal Corporation in a statement said the patient had chronic history of diabetes, high blood pressure and ischemic heart disease.

He developed acute respiratory distress syndrome leading to his death, the statement said. Earlier this week, another COVID-19 patient died in Mumbai.

With this, the toll has gone up to two in the state, with both deaths reported from Mumbai.

The total number of coronavirus positive patients in Maharashtra has risen to 74 with 10 more positive cases reported in the last 24 hours, officials said on Sunday. Of the 10 new cases, six are in Mumbai and four in Pune, they said.

263 Indians evacuated from Italy

A batch of 263 Indians evacuated from Italy in view of the COVID-19 outbreak there were brought back to the country on Sunday and sent to a ITBP quarantine facility, officials said.

"The special flight had 263 passengers. It landed at around 10 am at Delhi airport from Rome," an Air India official said.

The Air India flight had taken off from the Delhi airport on Saturday.

"All the 263 people are being taken to our quarantine centre in Chhawla area of south-west Delhi after thermal screening and immigration at the tarmac," an ITBP spokesperson said.

The Indo-Tibetan Border Police quarantine already has 215 Indians housed since March 15 after they were similarly evacuated by a special Air India flight from Rome.

The facility has earlier hosted two such batches of Indians and foreigners who were brought back from Wuhan in China in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. PTI NES DSP

Kerala Under Complete Lockdown; Left Government Welcomes Janata Curfew

Kerala is under a complete lock-down and roads in the state capital and other parts wore a deserted look on Sunday as the 'Janata curfew' proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to check the spread of coronavirus, was observed by the people.

The self-imposed curfew, called by the Prime Minister was welcomed by the Left government in the state. Barring a few vehicles, roads in major cities including Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam were empty.

State-run transport buses were off the roads while Kochi Metro Rail also stopped its service along with private buses and the auto-rickshaws.

State Health Minister K K Shailaja said people must stay at home and avoid crowds while following the directions of the government to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

"It's important that people follow the directions of the health department. Strong action will be taken against those who fail to follow the instructions of the state government," Shailaja told reporters.

Fire department officials were seen spraying water mixed with disinfectant at many places in Thiruvananthapuram city.

Some of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) offices across the state has also initiated cleaning of its premises.

An official of KSRTC in Thrissur said they were cooperating with the curfew and the staff engaged in cleaning work were those who stayed back after yesterday's night shift.

People of the state are also cooperating with the 'Janata curfew,' which began at 7 am.

With 12 new positive cases of Covid-19 reported on Saturday, the total number of infected persons under treatment in Kerala had gone up to 49. Earlier, three people were cured.

At many places police personnel were seen discouraging those who came out of their houses and created awareness among them on the importance of social distancing.

"We urge the people to stay inside their homes and clean their residence and premises," Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said yesterday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had appealed for a 'Janata Curfew' on Sunday between 7 am and 9 pm as part of social distancing to check the spread of the deadly virus.

Karnataka Shuts Down State Borders

The Karnataka government has decided to shut state borders, also postpone all exams including SSLC (class 10), aimed at controling the spread of COVID-19 virus, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said on Sunday.

Streets in the capital city and other parts of the state wore a deserted look as the 'Janata curfew' proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help check the spread of coronavirus began.

The Chief Minister complimented and thanked people of the state for supporting the Prime Minister's call for observing the 'Janata Curfew'.

Appealing to people in the cities not to travel to villages for the next 15 days to control outbreak in rural areas, Yediyurappa said a decision has also been taken to screen all domestic passengers henceforth at airports.

"We have decided to completely shut state's borders, we request cooperation of every one in this regard. All examinations including SSLC (class 10 that was scheduled from March 27) have been postponed, however only one PUC (class 12) paper scheduled for tomorrow will be held," Yediyurappa told reporters here.

The chief minister said he held detailed discussions with Narayana Health Chairman Dr Devi Shetty, senior Ministers and officials of his government this morning regarding certain important measures need to be taken.

A 1,700-bed facility at Victoria Hospital in the city will be converted as a special hospital for COVID related cases with immediate effect, he added.

"It has been decided to postpone all elections that was scheduled...most importantly I appeal to people residing in the cities not to travel to villages for fifteen days, as there are no problems there, cases are in the cities," he added.

Yediyurappa said already all international passengers are being screened, and it has been decided toscreen all domestic passengers at airports from now on.

He said Balabrooie Guest House in the city will be converted into "Corona War Room" and all related measures will be monitored and implemented from there under his leadership.

"The War Room will function round-the-clock and all task force meetings and video conferencing will happen from there," he added.

The Chief Minister asked people not to fear or panic and go for stocking of food grains and other essential substances and said "the government has taken care in this regard."

Noting that it has been decided to immediately increase the number of labs to test for COVID-19 virus, Yediyurapp said, all those who have come into contact with infected persons whether they show symptoms or not, will be tested.

"Facilities are being made ready to testat least 200 out of every 10 lakh people. With the help of ICMR and NIV we have decided to get permission to as many government and private labs to test COVID-19," he said.

To support the COVID task force that has been formed with senior Ministers as members, a team of senior officials has been constituted, and they have already started functioning, he added.

Punjab on Lockdown with 14 cases

The Punjab government on Sunday decided to enforce lockdown in the entire state till March 31 in the wake of the threat of coronavirus.

Punjab has so far reported 14 cases of coronavirus.

"Punjab government will enforce lockdown in the entire state till March 31," a senior official told PTI here.

Eleven more persons tested positive for coronavirus in Punjab on Saturday, taking the total number of confirmed cases of the infection to 14 in the state.

Special Trains From MH to WB

Around 1,000 passengers arrived at Howrah in a special train from Mumbai on Sunday morning and were screened by medical officers of the West Bengal government there in view of the novel coronavirus outbreak, sources said.

On Saturday, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed her anguish at thousands of passengers being brought to West Bengal from Maharashtra and other states by the Railways amid the Novel Coronavirus outbreak and called for an immediate halt of interstate trains.

The special train arrived at the New Complex of Howrah station at 7.22 am, the sources said, adding that the passengers were cordoned off by RPF and GRP personnel.

All the nearly 1,000 passengers who disembarked at the terminal station were examined by medical officers of the state government, the sources said.

Medical officers of the state also examined passengers who disembarked at Kharagpur, the only other station where it stopped in West Bengal, from the special train from Mumbai, the sources said.

Apart from the special train, passengers of all long- distance trains arriving at Howrah in the South Eastern Railway jurisdiction on Sunday are being screened for any signs of fever, cough, the sources said.

On being informed that two special trains from Maharashtra, one from Mumbai and another from Pune were headed towards Howrah, the chief minister had instructed the state chief secretary to get in touch with the Railways.

West Bengal Chief Secretary wrote to the Railway Board chairman on Saturday requesting to ensure that no trains from outside West Bengal enter the state from midnight of March 22 till March 31 owing to the situation developing due to spread of novel coronavirus.

Latest Numbers:

The number of coronavirus cases rose to 324 on Sunday after fresh cases were reported from various parts of the country, the Ministry said.

With the five deaths so far, the total number of active COVID-19 cases across India stands at 295, the ministry said, adding that 24 others have been cured/discharged/migrated.

The figure of 324 includes 41 foreign nationals.

Shut down measures in Assam:

Markets were shut and vehicles were off the roads as crores of people in Assam stayed indoors on Sunday in response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Janata Curfew' call in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 14-hour voluntary curfew began at 7 am, but people in the state stopped venturing out since Saturday night.

In a tweet, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said, "I am joining the #JantaCurfew and staying at home today. Led by the guiding force of PM @narendramodi ji, we are ready to fight COVID-19. Together, we can defeat #Coronavirus."

The prime minister's appeal of the voluntary self- quarantine exempted essential services, but many of the pharmacies too pulled down their shutters in the state.

In Guwahati, people stayed indoors and all markets and commercial establishments were shut, amid a gloomy weather.

The districts also witnessed a similar picture with empty national highways and closed markets as people largely remained at their homes.

A few two-wheelers and private cars were seen on the roads in the morning, primarily out to collect essential items such as milk and bread.

The state breathed a sigh of relief with the second test of the sample of a four-and-a-half-year-old girl turning out to be negative, hours after she tested positive.

Altogether over 1.72 lakh people were screened across Assam till March 21 in wake of the pandemic, the Health and Family Welfare Department said. In its daily bulletin, the department said that 26,094 passengers were screened at the six airports in the state.

While 7,181 travellers were screened at the three land ports -- Darranga (Baksa), Mankachar (South Salmara) and Sutarkandi (Karimganj), 1,38,919 persons were screened at other places such as rail stations and bus stands.

Indian Railways, which carries more than 25 million commuters every day, said it has cancelled all passenger train services until March 31.

Firefighters in western India fumigated areas around closed markets, public squares and urban slum districts.

Experts have warned that the country's cases are growing at rates seen during the early stages of the outbreak in other countries, which subsequently reported exponential increases in infections.

Minutes before the self-imposed curfew kicked in, Modi said the curbs would help authorities better fight the COVID-19 menace.

"The steps we take now will help in the times to come," he said in the tweet.

While the curfew will be relaxed by Sunday evening, authorities have declared lockdowns in many cities and suspended several rail and road transport services as fears of community transmission of the virus grew across India.

"The curfew period has given us a chance to scale down each and every activity across India," said a senior aide to Modi, adding that a more rigid approach could trigger protests or unrest.

"A breakdown of law and order will be the worst thing to happen at this point of time," he said on conditions of anonymity.

Vegetable vendors and small tea shop owners were quietly closed down by local police and truck drivers were given free masks and sanitizers at check points on inter-state highways.

Private events, such as weddings, and local elections were cancelled. The federal government was accelerating the production of masks and has allowed deodorant manufacturers to produce sanitisers.

Visuals from the Janata Curfew:

The Centre and state governments have decided to completely lock down 75 districts across the country where coronavirus cases have been reported, officials said on Sunday.

It has also been decided to suspend the interstate bus services till March 31, the officials said.

The decisions have been taken at a high-level meeting attended by chief secretaries of all states and the cabinet secretary and the principal secretary to the prime minister.

In view of the need to contain the spread of the deadly COVID-19, it was agreed that there was an urgent need to extend the restrictions on the movement of non-essential passenger transport, including interstate transport buses till March 31, a Union Home Ministry official said.

State governments will issue orders allowing only essential services to operate in about 75 districts with confirmed COVID-19 cases or casualties, the official said.

The districts where lockdown was announced are from states that include Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

It was noted that several state governments have already issued orders in this regard. All the chief secretaries informed that there was overwhelming and spontaneous response to the call for 'Janata curfew' given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The state governments may expand the list depending on their assessment of the situation.

In the meeting, it was decided to suspend all train services till March 31, including sub-urban rail services. However, goods trains are exempted. All metro rail services were also suspended till March 31.

The total number of novel coronavirus cases in India rose to 341 on Sunday after fresh cases were reported from various parts of the country, the Union Health Ministry said.

The total number of novel coronavirus cases in India rose to 341 on Sunday after fresh cases were reported from various parts of the country, the Union Health Ministry said.

The total includes 41 foreign nationals and five deaths, the latest being reported from Maharashtra, taking the death toll in the state to two.

Delhi, Karnataka and Punjab have reported one death each so far. Twenty-four others have been cured/discharged/migrated.

The figure of 341 cases include 63 cases in Maharashtra, which has reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases, including three foreigners.

Kerala has reported 52 cases, including seven foreign nationals.

Delhi has reported 27 positive cases, including a foreigner, while Uttar Pradesh has recorded 25 cases, including a foreigner.

Karnataka has 20 coronavirus patients. Punjab and Ladakh have 13 cases each. Gujarat has 14 cases while Tamil Nadu has 6 cases, which includes 2 foreigners. Chandigarh has five cases.

Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and West Bengal reported four cases each. Andhra Pradesh and Uttarakhand have reported three cases each. Odisha and Himachal Pradesh reported 2 cases each.

Puducherry and Chhattisgarh have reported one case each.

Lockdowns not enough: WHO

Countries can't simply lock down their societies to defeat coronavirus, the World Health Organization's top emergency expert said on Sunday, adding that there need to be public health measures to avoid a resurgence of the virus later on.

"What we really need to focus on is finding those who are sick, those who have the virus, and isolate them, find their contacts and isolate them," Mike Ryan said in an interview on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

"The danger right now with the lockdowns ... if we don't put in place the strong public health measures now, when those movement restrictions and lockdowns are lifted, the danger is the disease will jump back up."

Bihar Reports Death, Health Ministry yet to confirm coronavirus cause

Bihar also reported its first death due to COVID-19 on Sunday, as a man with a travel history to Qatar died at the AIIMS in Patna, hospital superintendent CM Singh said.

The 38-year-old man, a resident of Munger district, was admitted to the hospital on Friday with a kidney ailment.

However, the Health Ministry was yet to confirm the death due to coronavirus.

According to a new order issued by the railways, only goods trains will run from March 22 midnight to March 31 midnight.

In an unprecedented move, the railways on Sunday announced suspension of all its passenger services from March 22 midnight to March 31 midnight and said only goods trains will run during the said period.

The railways had already trimmed down its services on Friday by cancelling a majority of trains. However, it had allowed all trains that had already started the journey to continue.

Anand Mahindra, the CEO of the Mahindra Group, announces a series of measures to help battle COVID-19

Anand Mahindra, in a series of tweets, noted the upcoming need India will have for ventilators and temporary hospitals.

Flowers to stay indoors

The Delhi Police on Sunday offered flowers to people in the city who stepped out of their homes during the 'Janta Curfew', called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting them to stay indoors, officials said.

In some parts of Delhi, policemen also handed out masks and sanitisers to spread awareness about coronavirus.

The 14-hour-long 'Janta Curfew', which began at 7 am, is part of a social distancing exercise to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The Delhi Police took to Twitter and made public announcements to create awareness about the 'Janta Curfew' and urged people not to leave their homes unless really necessary.

Those who are stepping out of their homes are being greeted with roses and requested to stay indoors, the officials said.

"We are on the roads for your safety. Please stay at home!! Policemen giving flowers to motorists requesting them to stay at home. Please support us," Deputy Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) Eish Singhal tweeted.

"Distribution of flowers, face masks, sanitisers and awareness campaign to fight against Coronavirus in the area of PS Sultanpuri, Outer Delhi.....#stay home and be safe," tweeted Deputy Commissioner of Police (Outer) A Koan.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central) Sanjay Bhatia said largely people were adhering to the 'Janta Curfew'.

"Since 7 am, we have noticed that people are not coming out of their homes unless it is really necessary. We have selected 15 points in central Delhi, which is usually crowded and frequented by people. In these areas, our policemen wearing masks have been offering flowers to public and urging them to stay at home," he said.

Police vehicles deployed in parts of the Central district will blow sirens at 5 pm to take part in the exercise, he added.

In a televised address to the nation on Thursday, Modi had called for the 'Janta Curfew' on March 22, saying no citizen, barring those in essential services, should get out of their houses. He had asserted that it will be a litmus test to show India's readiness to take on the coronavirus challenge.

Novel coronavirus cases in the country climbed to 341 on Sunday. Delhi has reported 27 cases so far, according to the Union Health Ministry.

As urged by Prime Minister Modi, people across the country came out on their balconies, terraces and front yards clapping and beating utensils to show gratitude to health workers who are at the forefront of the coronavirus fight.

Here are some of the visuals from different parts of the country:

Delhi announces lockdown

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has announced that Delhi will be under lockdown till March 31. "The Covid-19 pandemic has caused an extraordinary situation and calls for extraordinary measures," he said in a tweet.

75 districts to go under lockdown

With the number of positive cases spiking up to 370, and two new deaths, the centre advised state governments to enforce a lockdown in the 75 districts that have reported such cases. However, essential services will be allowed to operate in the 75 districts.

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The decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by the Cabinet Secretary and the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister with chief secretaries of all the states

"The state governments were advised to issue appropriate orders to allow only essential services to operate in the 75 districts which have reported confirmed cases or casualties relating to COVID 19. The state governments may expand the list depending on their assessment of the situation. It was noted that several state governments have already issued orders in this regard," a government statement said.

'Janta Curfew' beginning of a long battle

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday the 14-hour 'Janta Curfew' is the beginning of a long battle against coronavirus outbreak and the countrymen have proved that together they can defeat any challenge.

Today's Janta Curfew may end at 9.00 pm, but this does not mean we start celebrating," he tweeted.

He said the self-imposed curfew should "not be considered as a success" as it is the "beginning of a long battle".

"Janta Curfew is beginning of a long battle. Today countrymen have told that we are capable, and once we decide we can take on any challenge together," he said.

Total deaths at 7

India reported three more coronavirus deaths on Sunday, including the first casualties from Bihar and Gujarat, taking the toll to seven and the number of COVID-19 cases rose to 360, officials said, as authorities suspended all train passenger and inter-state bus services till March 31 in unprecedented steps to contain the spread of the infection.

A 38-year-old man with a kidney ailment and recent travel history to Qatar died at AIIMS-Patna and a 67-year-old man died at a hospital in Surat in Gujarat, state officials said, but the Union Health Ministry was yet to confirm the deaths. Another death was reported from Mumbai of a 63-year-old man.

As the virus cases climbed, the central and state governments decided to lock down 75 districts from where COVID-19 cases have been reported to break the chain of transmission, and the Health Ministry said states would earmark hospitals to exclusively treat coronavirus patients.

Entire Telangana under lockdown till March 31

Telangana will be under complete lockdown till March 31 as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao said on Sunday. Rao made the announcement after chairing a high-level meeting to discuss the situation in the state where the total number of coronavirus positive cases has gone up to 26. We should show the same spirit as we did today (Janta curfew) till March 31, we will be able to stop the spread of the disease. Telangana will be under lockdown till March 31," he said.

6 locally transmitted cases in Delhi: Arvind Kejriwal

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal said that six locally transmitted cases have been reported in the national capital. Kejriwal added that all private offices will remain closed but the employees- permanent and contractual- will be considered on-duty and would have to be provided salary for the duration.

Domestic flights to and from Delhi remain operational

Amidst confusion around if flights will continue to operate to and from Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) clarified that domestic flights shall continue to operate and the airport will remain functional.

Andhra Pradesh under lockdown

Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy announced that Andhra Pradesh will be under lockdown till March 31.

The real story of social distancing that no one will tell you

"Don't be an a*****e, stay home", "break the chain, stay home", "you need to draw the line here, just don't step out". And there I was just trying to extinguish my inner Sita and the strain of rebellion. My eyes are red from staring at screens of various sizes for four straight days. I continuously wonder whether the film of my life is Welcome or it is Shaun of the Dead, my nails have grown because I am not feasting on them anymore and I most definitely think...(Read more)

Number of cases rise to 26 in Karnataka, 21 in Punjab

Six new cases reported in Karnataka which made the total number of Covid-19 cases in state spike up to 26. Meanwhile the number of Covid19 cases rises to 21 in Punjab, according to the State Health Department.

15 more fresh COVID-19 cases reported in Kerala

Kerala Health department said out of the 15, five are in Kasaragod district, four in Kannur and two each in Malappuram, Kozhikode and Ernakulam districts.

Shah Rukh Khan's appeal

In a creative, witty appeal to the public amid rising coronavirus concerns, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan on Sunday shared a video to spread some cheer and awareness.

On a day when the country observed Janata Curfew, the 54-year-old actor said the initiative called on by PM Narendra Modi "will help against the spread of virus".

Shah Rukh posted an over 5 minute-long video in which he used his old movies and songs to drive the message of taking necessary precautions and most importantly, hope, during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Uber, Ola to suspend services in Delhi from Mar 23-31

Services of Ola and Uber will not be available in Delhi till March 31 amid the lockdown announced by the state government to contain the spread of coronavirus infection.

The Delhi government on Sunday said the city will be in lockdown from March 23 to 31, under which no public transport, including private buses, taxis and autorickshaws will be allowed.

"Uber is complying with all Central and State Government directives related to its services for containing the spread of Coronavirus," an Uber spokesperson said in response to a query.

An Ola spokesperson said the company "will enable a minimal network of vehicles to support essential services in cities, wherever applicable, as part of this national effort to reduce the contagion of COVID-19".

The two companies -- which account for a major share of the taxis running in the national capital -- had already suspended temporarily their shared rides on their respective platforms.

Situation in Tamil Nadu

While COVID-19 cases have been reported from Chennai, Kancheepuram and Erode in Tamil Nadu, the state government is yet to take a decision on whether to go for a lockdown.

Meanwhile, a lack of an adequate number of public transport is making people travel in crowded buses in Tamil Nadu, leading to fears that this will help spread the virus.

ICMR says 415 cases in India

In a statement, the Indian Council of Medical Research said that it has tested samples from 17,293 individuals, out of which 415 have been found positive for the COVID-19 disease.

Members of Fire and Emergency Services decontaminate a road during a 14-hour long curfew to limit the spreading of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country, in Ahmedabad, India, March 22, 2020

COVID-19 hits markets, Rs 10 lakh crore lost in an hour

Investor wealth plummeted by over Rs 10 lakh crore in the first hour of trade on Monday as the equity markets went into a tailspin and sank 10 per cent. Rising cases of coronavirus (Covid-19) has hit market sentiment negatively, with the equity markets starting the week with a massive selloff.

The market capitalisation of BSE-listed firms dropped by Rs 10,29,847.17 crore to Rs 1,05,79,296.12 crore just before the trading was halted for 45 minutes. Markets took a heavy beating as the BSE benchmark index plunged 2,991.85 points or 10 per cent -- its lower circuit limit.

All the constituents from the BSE 30-share index witnessed selling led by Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, IndusInd Bank and Bajaj Finance, tanking up to 19.98 per cent.

All the sectoral indices too traded with heavy losses led by bank, realty and finance.

Total COVID-19 cases rise to 415

The total number of COVID-19 cases in the country surged to 415, a spike from the 360 figure the night before, the Health Ministry said on Monday.

The figure includes 41 foreign nationals and seven deaths.

Gujarat, Bihar and Maharashtra reported a death each on Sunday. Four fatalities were reported earlier from Karnataka, Delhi, Maharashtra and Punjab, the ministry said. The 415 figure also includes 24 people who have been cured, discharged or migrated, it said.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said 18,383 samples have been tested till 10 am on Monday.

It was not immediately clear where the new cases have come from.

The total number of positive novel coronavirus cases includes 67 in Maharashtra, including three foreigners, and Kerala also at 67, with seven foreign nationals, data issued by the ministry showed.

Till Monday morning, Delhi had reported 29 positive cases, including a foreigner, while Uttar Pradesh recorded 28, also including a foreigner, it added. Rajasthan reported 27 cases, of which two are foreigners. Telangana reported 26 cases, including 11 foreigners. Karnataka has 26 coronavirus patients, the ministry said.

Cases have been reported from across the country, including from Haryana, Punjab, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

AIIMS to shut down OPD from March 24 till further notice: Order

AIIMS has issued an order to shut down OPD, including speciality services, all new and follow up patients' registration from March 24 till further orders.

The premier institute had earlier decided to temporarily suspend routine walk-in OPD registration of patients from March 23 as it redirects its resources to control the Covid-19 outbreak.

"It has now been decided that all OPD services including speciality services, all new and follow up patients' registration in AIIMS hospital and all centres will remain closed from March 24 till further orders," the new circular on Monday said.

Coronavirus: Police deployed in 7 districts of Haryana to enforce lockdown

Police personnel were on Monday deployed in strength to enforce lockdown in seven districts of Haryana, including Gurugram after the state government put in place emergency measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Police put up barricades at many places and were seen stopping vehicles and sending back many people to their homes after ascertaining that they were out for non-essential work.

However, people having medical or any other emergency and those connected with maintaining essential and emergency services were being allowed.

People were also allowed to come out from their homes a for short period to buy essentials like bread, milk and medicines.

The Haryana Government has ordered a lockdown in seven of its 22 districts--Gurugram, Faridabad, Sonipat, Panipat, Jhajjar, Rohtak and Panchkula from 9 pm on Sunday to March 31.

Parliament may be adjourned early

Both Houses of Parliament will be adjourned sine die on Monday after passage of the Finance Bill, sources told PTI on Monday.

The session was earlier scheduled to conclude on April 3.

The session is likely to be concluded almost 12 days ahead of schedule due to the looming threat of COVID-19.

Many political parties, including the TMC, have decided not to attend the session on Monday due to the coronavirus scare amid lockdowns announced by many states for varied periods, the sources said.

People defy lockdown orders, Punjab imposes curfew

The Punjab government on Monday imposed a curfew to combat coronavirus, making it the first state to take the drastic action after finding that many people were ignoring the lockdown ordered by it.

The authorities are enforcing a state-wide lockdown which came into effect on Monday and will last till March 31.

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced the curfew as people were defying the lockdown, officials said.

"After reviewing the situation with the Chief Secretary and the DGP, the CM has announced a full curfew with no relaxations," an official spokesperson said.

Prohibitory order in TN

Tamil Nadu will be under a lockdown till March 31 from 6 PM on Tuesday to prevent the spread of coronavirus and CrPC section 144 will be invoked for its implementation, Chief Minister K Palaniswami announced. Making a statement in the assembly on Monday, he said that barring essential and emergency services, public and private transportation will not function. The announcement came a day after the COVID-19 cases in the state rose to nine.

Delhi govt announces Rs 50 crore

Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi has allocated Rs 50 crores for fighting Coronavirus in Delhi. Finance Minister Manish Sisodia said, during the Delhi budget session, that "this is govt's initial allocation. Delhi Govt assures that it will increase this budget if required"

Migrant workers returning to Odisha to be kept in isolation

he Odisha government on Monday said migrant Odia workers who have returned from coronavirus-hit states may be at "potential risk" and district collectors have been asked to keep them in home isolation. Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) P K Jena in a twitter post on Monday tagged a message of the health and family welfare secretary Nikunj B Dhal to all the district collectors to this effect.

Rohini's Lal Path Labs becomes Delhi's first private lab to get approved to test COVID-19

First Private lab approved for COVID-19 testing in Delhi: Lal Path Labs, Block -E, Sector 18, Rohini, Delhi.

12 private labs with 15,000 collection centres approved for COVID-19 testing

12 laboratory chains have been registered and they have started functioning. These 12 have 15,000 collection centres across the country: ICMR Director-General Balram Bhargava

COVID-19 claims 8th life, 55-year old Kolkata man dies

55-year old man from Kolkata was confirned to be dead on Monday afternoon. He had been hospitalised for few days now at a private hospital in Salt Lake. He had travelled to Bilaspur in Maharashtra recently and returned to Kolkata in Azad Hind Express. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee holds all party meeting on COVID-19 situation.

19 states, UTs under complete lockdown, partial shutdown in 6 others

A complete lockdown has been announced in 19 states and union territories. Six states and union territories have been kept under partial lockdown: Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Health Ministry

Bengaluru liquor stores closed till March 31

All liquor stores in Bengaluru will remain closed until March 31 following the lockdown announced by the Karnataka government in the wake of the spread of coronavirus. This order was issued on Monday and will come into effect immediately.

In a notification issued on Monday, Bengaluru Urban Deputy Commissioner GN Shivamurthy stated that liquor stores, bars, pubs, and restaurants will remain closed till March 31 irrespective of the license held by them.

"The decision has been taken in the interest of public health and to ensure that coronavirus does not spread from person to person," read a notice issued by GN Shivamurthy, Deputy Commissioner, Bengaluru Urban.

Maharashtra imposes total curfew

Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray announced a state-wide curfew on Monday saying that he was compelled to do this as people were not following the instructions of self isolation and social distancing.

Maharashtra: Case filed for marriage function during Janta curfew

The Aurangabad police have booked a person for flouting prohibitory orders and holding the marriage function of his daughter on Sunday evening, an official said.

The marriage function took place at a lawn on the border of Harsul-Phulambri police station limits while Janta curfew was in force across the country, Inspector Samratsingh Rajput said.

"We have lodged a case under section 188 of IPC against the kin of the bride, who is the daughter of a police official, and groom. We are in the process of identifying the accused," he added. (PTI)

Haryana under complete lockdown, state government sets up COVID-19 relief fund

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has announced a COVID-19 relief fund. The fund will start with a contribution of Rs 5 lakh from CM's personal account. Haryana MLAs will contribute one month's salary, state's IAS officers have decided to pay 20 per cent a month's salary.

29 cases reported in Kerala today: CM Pinrayi Vijayan

Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan said that 29 cases were reported on Monday taking the total number of cases in the state to 95 (including 4 patients who have been discharged and 91 who are undergoing treatment).

Assam to go under lockdown from March 24

Assam will go under a lock down from 6 pm, March 24 to 31st of March. Pharmacy, petrol pump, grocery store will however remain open. Also, essential govt services will be functioning. "People must stay indoors" said Assam health minster Himanta Biswa Sarma.

No domestic flights from Wednesday

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has announced that operations of domestic commercial flights would cease from March 24 midnight. "No domestic commercial flight will operate in India from Wednesday onward. Airlines will have to land all their domestic passenger flights at destinations by 11.59 pm on Tuesday," it said. However, operations of domestic cargo flights will continue as normal.

Watch Live: Latest news on COVID-19

Delhi: Curfew passes needed for movement of essential goods and commodities

To ensure proper implementation of Section 144 of CrPC in the national capital, Commissioner of Police, Delhi, has asked all the people, moving for essential goods and services, to get the curfew passes from their concerned districts.

Press release

Police vacate protesters at Shaheen Bagh amid coronavirus outbreak

Protestors against the citizenship law at Shaheen Bagh were vacated by the Delhi Police amid coronavirus outbreak on Tuesday morning, officials said.

The women agitators have been on a sit-in at Shaheen Bagh for over three months, protesting the newly amended Citizenship Act .

Deputy Commissioner of Police (southeast) R P Meena said people at the protest venue in Shaheen Bagh were requested to vacate the site as lockdown has been imposed due to coronavirus outbreak.

However, when they refused, action was taken and they were vacated, the official said.

Kolkata residents put up road blockade to prevent cremation of COVID-19 victim

The last rites of an elderly man, who became the first casualty of COVID-19 in Bengal, was considerably delayed as wary locals put up a road blockade in the city's Nimtala area to stop government officials from cremating him, saying it could lead to virus transmission.

According to police sources, senior officers took over two hours to convince the residents that necessary measures have been taken to avoid contamination.

The final rites of the 57-year-old man were initiated around 11.45 am on Monday, they said.

"We had to tell them that all protocols have been followed in wrapping up the body of the deceased, as per government guidelines. There was no reason to be scared," a senior officer of the Kolkata Police Central Division said.

An official of the health department said there was a long delay in handing over the body, as a family member who was supposed to authorise the whole process failed to turn up at the hospital.

Also, it was a difficult to find a hearse for the body, he said.

It was only after his wife, currently placed under quarantine at a state-run hospital, gave her consent, the body was handed over to the department, he added.

"The body was embalmed in chemicals, wrapped in a prescribed material, following government guidelines. We managed to get a hearse to take the body to Nimtala crematorium ground under the surveillance of a team of Bidhannagar City Police officers," a hospital official said.

West Bengal on Monday reported its first death due to COVID-19, after the elderly man who tested positive for the disease last week died at 3.35 pm at a private hospital.

A resident of Dum Dum in North 24 Parganas, he was admitted to the hospital on February 16 with fever and dry cough. His situation deteriorated on February 19, following which he was put on ventilator.

Delhi under lockdown:

Those violating the lockdown in Delhi will face strict action, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal warned on Monday as many people ignored instructions to stay at home on the first day and large crowds were seen at interstate bus terminals and other places despite prohibitory orders, sparking concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

Admitting that "execution" of the prohibitory orders in the city was "not up to the mark today", the Delhi Police moved to seal all border pickets and said curfew passes will be issued to people associated with essential services.

"Delhi has 30 cases. Twenty-three are those who have returned from abroad, seven are their family members who have been infected," Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted.

"Currently, the situation is under control. Lessons from other countries state that if strictness is not adhered to, things can go out control. This is why there is a lockdown so that the situation does not go out of hand," Kejriwal said.

Read more about the situation in Delhi here.

Kerala Government Appoints 276 New Doctors to Health Department to Fight COVID-19

The Kerala government has appointed 276 doctors in the health department to strengthen its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in the backdrop of rising cases in the state.

The doctors were selected by the state Public Service Commission from the existing rank list and appointed to be the part of the health ministry to fight the coronavirus, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in a Facebook post.

Kerala went in for a total lockdown from midnight on Monday with 28 new positive cases, the highest on a single day, being reported, taking the total number of people under treatment in the state to 91 and over 64,000 under surveillance.

"Appointment has been given to 276 doctors, who were in the rank list of the PSC. The doctors were appointed to carry out the preventive measures and plans prepared by the health department," Vijayan said.

State health minister K K Shailaja said the appointments were made after conducting counselling through video conferencing.

"We will also appoint other paramedical staff," she said in a release.

IIT-K Researchers Developing COVID-19 Targetted Hand Sanitizers

Researchers from IIT Kharagpur have developed two different alcohol-based hand sanitisers based on WHO guidelines amid the coronavirus outbreak, the institute said in a statement.

A team from the School of Medical Science and Technology of the institute manufactured a hand sanitiser containing isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, glycerol and water, it said.

The team comprises research scholars Atul Kumar Ojha, Ayan Gope, Anurup Mukhopadhyay, Lopamudra Das, Akashlina Basu, a few of whom have studied pharmaceutical technology, the statement said.

Another team led by Prof Mihir Sarangi of the Department of Mechanical Engineering has developed a hand sanitiser based on 70 per cent ethanol and 30 per cent aloe vera gel, it said.

Both the teams have made the hand sanitisers available to employees of the institute who are providing essential services to students and staff on the campus.

"The hand sanitisers have been made only for non- commercial purposes," researcher Atul Kumar Ojha said.

PM to address the nation again at 8 PM today

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the nation at 8 PM on Tuesday on the coronavirus outbreak.

"Will address the nation at 8 PM today, 24th March 2020, on vital aspects relating to the menace of COVID-19," Modi tweeted.

He had addressed the nation on efforts to combat the virus on March 19.

Nearly 500 coronavirus cases have been reported in India so far, according to Health Ministry data on Tuesday.

As cases of the viral infection surged, authorities have put almost the entire country under lockdown, banning gathering of people and suspending road, rail and air traffic till March 31.

MH cases climb

Four more coronavirus cases have bee detected in Maharashtra, taking the total number to COVID-19 patients in the state to 101, officials said on Tuesday.

Of the four new cases, three were reported from Pune while one was found in Satara, they said.

The patients have been kept in isolation wards and are being provided medical treatment, the officials said.

No new cases in Delhi in the last 24 hours: CM

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday said no new coronavirus case has been reported in the national capital in the last 24 hours and the biggest challenge now is to not let the situation go out of control.

The chief minister said on Twitter that five people infected with COVID-19 have been discharged from hospitals after getting treatment.

"In the last 24 hours, no new case (of coronavirus) has been reported. Five people have been discharged. We should not be happy right now," he tweeted at 9.59 am.

"The biggest challenge now is to not let the situation go out of control. Need your cooperation for this," Kejriwal added in his tweet in Hindi.

The national capital has reported 30 cases of COVID-19.

According to the Union Health Ministry, 492 cases of the infection have been reported from across the country. The figure includes 41 foreign nationals and nine deaths.

COVID-19 test and treatment likely to be covered under Ayushman Bharat scheme

Coronavirus test and treatment may soon be covered under the government's health insurance scheme Ayushman Bharat, official sources said on Tuesday.

The National Health Authority, responsible for the implementation of the Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, has decided to include the test and treatment of the respiratory ailment in its packages and has sought permission from its governing board, they said.

"We will be implementing it once the approval is given and as soon as the government allows treatment of COVID-19 patients in private hospitals," an official said.

Once implemented, this would enable Ayushman Bharat beneficiaries to get themselves tested for coronavirus infection and in positive cases, the patient can avail treatment at an isolation ward of any empanelled private hospital free of cost, the official said.

The PMJAY aims to cover more than 10.74 crore poor and vulnerable families as per the socio-economic caste census 2011 and provides a cover of up to Rs 5 lakh per family per year for treatment of a certain number of diseases as listed in its packages.

WATCH: Corona anxiety and reality; COVID-19 updates with a pinch of humour

Self-isolation day 5: Banging utensils and capturing panic on video. Watch the video here:

Third COVID-19 Death in Mumbai

A 65-year-old coronavirus patient has died in Mumbai, taking the death toll due to COVID-19 to three in the metropolis, the city civic body said on Tuesday.

The man recently returned from the United Arab Emirates to Ahmedabad. He later complained of fever, cough and difficulty in breathing, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said in a statement.

He also had pre-existing ailments, including high blood pressure and severe diabetes, it said.

He was brought to the Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai on March 20 for treatment, but his health condition deteriorated further.

The man died late Monday evening, the BMC said.

Centre advises states to impose curfew wherever necessary to keep people inside homes

As people continue to venture out despite lockdown, the Centre has advised state governments and union territory administrations to impose curfew wherever necessary in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, officials said on Tuesday.

A top functionary of the central government has called up some of the chief ministers and apprised them of the necessity of imposing the curfew if people continue to venture out of their homes.

The state governments and the union territory administrations have been advised to impose curfew wherever necessary as many people continue to go out of their homes despite the lockdown ordered to check the spread of the virus, a government official told PTI.

The state governments have been conveyed that public gatherings could lead to escalation of the prevailing situation as so far nearly 500 positive cases have been reported from different parts of the country.

"Now, it is up to the state governments to take action as per the local situation and give necessary instructions to the district magistrates who have the powers to impose curfew," the official said.

The move came as 32 states and union territories announced complete lockdown to deal with the pandemic. A few states - Punjab and Maharashtra - and a UT - Puducherry - have already declared curfew in their respective areas.

Woman booked for escaping home quarantine in Nagpur

A 35-year-old woman, who was asked to remain under home quarantine after her return from Sharjah, fled to her parent's house in Uttar Pradesh from Maharashtra's Nagpur city, police said on Tuesday.

The woman arrived at Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport in Nagpur on March 15, and with no obvious symptoms of coronavirus, she was asked to remain under home quarantine for 14 days, an official from Sonepur police station said.

The incident came to light on Monday, when a team of doctors visited her home and found her missing, following which the police were roped in to investigate, he said.

The woman's family informed the police that she had gone to Johanpur in Uttar Pradesh, he said, adding that the authorities in there have been informed about the woman's quarantine status.

An offence has been registered under sections 188 (disobeying an order issued by a public servant), 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and other relevant provisions of the IPC and the Epidemic Diseases Act, he added.

Airline crew members and their families allegedly being harrassed in Delhi

Reports of harassment and discrimination with the family members of those working in the airline sector have surfaced from Kolkata and Delhi.

In a video message, an IndiGo crew member broke down sharing the discrimination being faced by her mother. "When I am not home, people are coming to my mother and harassing her. She can't go to the market to buy groceries" as they are refusing to sell to her. She claimed, in the video, that her family is being harassed because she works with the service industry. While her identity has not being disclosed, the crew member is a resident of Kolkata.

TMC MP Derek O'Brien had intervened in the matter and had asked Kolkata police to assist the crew member facing harassment.

In another video, an Air India crew member and his family can be seen being harassed by neighbours in the night. The video was shot in Delhi's Keshav Puram area. In the video, the crew member can be seen saying to trespassers, "you don't have a right to enter my house like this. You can't click my pictures like this. I know my responsibilities, I am a responsible citizen."

Total Confirmed cases in India rises to 482

TN CM announces Rs 1,000 to ration card holders, auto drivers, and migrant workers

Seeking to provide succour for people whose livelihood has taken a hit due to preventive measures against coronavirus, the Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday announced a Rs 3,280 crore special relief package, including Rs 1,000 each cash assistance to rice ration card holders, autorickshaw drivers and construction workers.

Under the plan covering vulnerable sections, people having 'rice' ration cards will get Rs 1,000 each while all card holders shall get essential commodities - rice, dhal, cooking oil and sugar - free of cost in April.

Also, autorickshaw drivers and construction workers will get a special assistance of Rs 1,000, Chief Minister K Planiswami told the state assembly, ahead of the state-wide lockown coming into force from 6 PM on Tuesday. Considering the hardship faced by the people especially the marginalised sections, the relief has been announced, the Chief Minister said.

Registered pavement hawkers will also get Rs 1,000 assistance while people who have worked under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme this month will get two day additional special wages, he said.

Families of migrant labourers, construction workers and autrickshaw drivers will get 15 kilo rice, one kilo dhal and cooking oil for free.

Destitute people and elderly will get cooked food at their place of residence, he said.

Besides, "Hot, quality food will continuously be provided in Amma Canteens," the chief minister said.

To avoid crowding at Public Distribution System outlets, the relief will be disbursed "through token system" at an appointed day and time.

Those who do not require the subsistence allowance may register online against getting it, he said, in apparent reference to several people holding ration cards but not been availing free rice and other items. If card holders had missed their entitlement for March, they could get them along with April ration, he said.

Tamil Nadu will be under lockdown till March 31 to prevent the spread of coronavirus and CrPC section 144 will be invoked for its implementation, Palaianiswami had said on Monday.

Barring essential and emergency services, public and private transportation, including cars, taxis, autos and buses, will not function, he has said.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the state has risen to 12 with thre more fresh cases being reported on Monday. One patient has recovered and discharged recently.

Watch: A Former MP of England applauds the aide provided by nurses from Kerala in the battle against coronavirus.

"I don't have a problem with people from overseas coming to work in our country because some of the best nurses we learn from, come from South India from Kerala particularly and we are hugely reliant of them," said Anna Soubry.

No salary deduction during domestic flights suspension period: IndiGo tells staff

Budget carrier IndiGo has assured its employees that it will not make any deduction in their salaries or leaves due to the suspension of domestic flights till March 31.

The government's decision to suspend domestic flight would come into effect from midnight Tuesday, as part of larger efforts to curb spreading of coronavirus infections.

In an e-mail to his employees, IndiGo Chief executive Officer Ronojoy Dutta said the company has "reasonable" level of advanced bookings for April and it was "anxious' to fly again albeit with a reduced capacity.

"For those who don't have to be working during this temporary suspension of operations, we will make no deduction of salaries or leaves," Dutta said in the e-mail.

PTI has accessed the e-mail.

Stating that the last few days have been very challenging for the airline, he said "clearly for the next few weeks our revenues will be well below our costs and we will have to make our efforts to penny-pinch and preserve cash".

He also said that as employees "let us also be acutely cognizant of the fact that during this temporary suspension of operations, we will be spending our cash reserves to continue to pay salaries and benefits".

Once this crisis is over, the airline will have to redouble its efforts to rebuild these cash reserves, Dutta added.

Mumbai's Mask Black Market: Masks worth over Rs 15 crore siezed

Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on Tuesday informed that as many as 25 lakh N-95 masks worth over Rs 15 crore were seized in a police operation to check on black marketeering during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Addressing the media in the presence of Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh, Deshmukh said the police had received information about masks being supplied for sale in the black market.

Posing as buyers, officials of the crime branch's Bandra unit intercepted three trucks carrying at least 25 lakh N-95 masks in Sahar area on Monday, he said, adding that the police also raided three godowns in this connection.

The seized goods are worth over Rs 15 crore, the minister said.

While the four arrested accused have been booked under relevant sections of the Essential Commodities Act, the hunt is on for two more, Deshmukh added.

The authorities have initiated the process of supplying the seized masks to government and civic-run hospitals in Mumbai in case of shortage, another official said.

Govt extends tax deadlines in view of lockdown

Giving relief to citizens unable to meet deadlines due to coronavirus outbreak, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said the last date for filing of income tax return for FY2018-19 has been extended to June 30.

Also, interest rate on delayed payment has been cut to 9 per cent from 12 per cent, she told reporters here.

The government has also extended the last date for linking PAN with unique biometric ID Aadhaar to June 30 from March 31.

Giving details of the extension of dates to help citizen cope with the lockdown, she said the Vivad se Vishwas tax dispute resolution scheme has been extended by three months to June 30. Those availing the scheme by the extended deadline will not have to pay 10 per cent interest on the principal amount.

Also, due dates for issuing various notices under the Income Tax Act have also been extended.

Tensions run high in Kerala: Man in isolation ward attacks nurse over delay in receiving tea, another man slaps social worker for reporting his arrival

Peeved over a delay in being served tea, a Gulf returnee attacked a nurse in an isolation ward, while a social worker was slapped by another man for reporting him to the authorities for defying quarantine rules. Police have registered cases in the two separate incidents.

The Gulf returnee, under observation in an isolation ward at a hospital in Kollam lost his cool over a cup of tea.

As he wanted the beverage, nurses attending on him informed his family over phone that he wanted it.

When his family members failed to turn up with the beverage, the youth allegedly got agitated and attacked a health worker and a nurse, police said.

The Muscat returnee had been admitted to the hospital on Sunday after local people alerted police that the man, who was under home quarantine, was roaming around.

The man, who had returned to Kerala on March 9, had been moving around without following the 14 day self quarantine rules.

Cases have been registered against him under various sections of the Indian Penal Code for uttering obscene words, criminal intimidation, negligent act which is likely to spread infection, disobedience of quarantine role and prevention of damage to public property, police said.

The man has been shifted to Thiruvnanthapuram medical college hospital.

In another case, a 27-year-old man, who had recently returned from the Gulf, barged into the house of an Asha worker (accredited social worker) slapped and attacked her, saying she had informed the health authorities about him. Hearing her cries, the neighbours rushed to her house. The woman has been hospitalised with serious injuries.

The woman had been working without a break since the past two weeks following the outbreak of the corona virus.

The youth, who managed to flee, was later nabbed and is now under home quarantine with police and health workers keeping a strict watch over him, police said. Case under various sections of IPC and a separate case for attacking a woman was also registered against him.

Delhi Police to address queries regarding lockdown through social media

The Delhi Police on Tuesday said it will be replying to queries regarding the lockdown in the national capital through social media.

"Hi! Delhi. If you have any question on the #Lockdown, tweet your query with the hashtag #LockdownQuery between 5-6 PM today and we will answer it for you. #StayAtHomeSaveLives," the Delhi Police tweeted using it's official handle.

On Sunday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had announced a complete lockdown in the national capital till March 31 in order to control the spread of coronavirus.

The same day, the Delhi Police imposed prohibitory orders under section 144 of the CrPC till March 31, banning protests and other gatherings.

Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code bans assembly of four or more people at a place.

Delhi has reported 30 cases of COVID-19 so far.

COVID-19: Centre asks states to release funds to set up new hospitals, isolation wards

As coronavirus cases surge, the Centre on Tuesday asked all state governments to release funds for setting up of additional medical facilities like hospitals, clinical laboratories and isolation wards to combat the pandemic.

The move came as the number of coronavirus cases in the country crossed 500.

"The central government has asked all the state governments to deploy fiscal resources for establishing additional medical facilities such as hospitals, clinical labs, isolation wards, expanding and upgrading existing facilities to combat the challenge posed by COVID-19," an official statement said.

These facilities need to be well equipped with ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPEs), masks and drugs to treat the patients, it said.

Take action against forcefull eviction of medical staff by landlords: AIIMS RDA to Union Health Ministry

Doctors, nurses and healthcare staff involved in Covid-19 have been asked to vacate their houses by landlords and several have been forcefully evicted by the house owners: AIIMS RDA claimed in a letter to Union Health Ministry.

The AIIMS Resident Doctors Association has asked the ministry to issue orders prohibiting forcefull eviction of healthcare staff involved in Covid 19 duty by their landlords.
AIIMS RDA has also demanded special transportation facilities for their healthcare staff involved in Covid 19 duty amidst the complete lockdown in the national capital

Global public health experts have warned that a large number of cases remain undetected in India: Rahul Gandhi

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, in a public statement, said, "global public health experts have warned that a large number of cases remain undetected in India and could spread in the absence of containment measures. In this backdrop, the next 3-4 weeks is a crucial window to contain the pandemic in India."

Gandhi has appealed for "urgent lifestyle changes" and to show self-restraint. The formerCongress president has appealed people to stay united in the fight against the Corona outbreak.

Every act of self-restraint "will reduce transmission and help our heroic doctors and frontline healthcare workers" trying to contain the Coronavirus outbreak, the Wayanad MP has said in his statement.

Gandhi's appeal comes hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's second public address onCoronavirus scheduled to be aired at eight in the evening today.

No new case in Delhi the last 40 hours: Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, addressing a digital press conference, informed: "out of 30, there are just 23 coronavirus patients that remain in Delhi."

He further claimed, "there has been no new case in the last 40 hours".

Explaining the need for imposing the curfew, the Delhi CM said, "we had locked down then affected a curfew, I know you must be facing difficulties but all these harsh steps have to be taken".
The Delhi government has made arrangements of free meals as complete lockdown and curfew has been imposed in the national capital. Kejriwal said, "we have noticed that the number of people at night shelters in Delhi is increasing since we have started serving food. We will make arrangements for food to be distributed at more locations soon."

Delhi Chief minister confirms that the state has planned to give Rs 5000 to construction workers who are under the Construction Workers Welfare Board Fund.

Covid 19 Health Ministry Update

Active cases 470
Discharged 39
Dead 9
Migrated 1

Total cases 519

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation. Watch it here:

Prime Minister Modi Modi announces 21-day full lockdown of the country. Do only one thing in these days "stay at home, stay at home, stay at home," he says.

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If we can't stay indoors for 21 days, we'll be pushed back by 21 years: PM Modi

PM Narendra Modi said if we are not able to manage the upcoming 21 days (of nationwide complete lockdown), we will be pushed back 21 years.

15,000 crores allocated for health infrastructure dealing with COVID-19: PM Modi

PM Modi announced a Rs 15,000 crore corpus to develop health care facilities and infrastructure to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Essential supplies to to available in abundance

While announcing complete lockdown starting midnight for three weeks, the Prime Minister assured that we don't need to worry about essential supplies, as they are available and will be made available in future.

Told all the states that healthcare is of prime importance: PM Modi

Social distancing remains the only way to stop coronavirus: PM Modi

"The experience of these countries in the last two months, and what the experts are also saying is that there is only one way to effectively combat it is social distancing," said Prime Minister Modi.

He said "To stop Coronavirus, we must break the cycle of its spread.

"Some people are under the erroneous assumption that social distancing is only for those who are infected, but that is not true. It's for everyone even for the PM."

"The irresponsibilty of some people will imperil your life, the life of your children. If this continues then you and India may have to pay a huge price," warned the Prime Minister.

MHA to issue guidelines of measures, exceptions to essential services

The Ministry of Home Affairs will shortly issue guidelines of effective measures and exceptions to the essential services during this 21-day lockdown. There will shortly be an MHA 24/7 hotline to assist states during this period.

MHA notifies 3-week lockdown

MHA notification for 21-day lockdown

Here are the key takeaways from Prime Minister's Modi's address

Key Takeaways Page 1
Key Takeaways Page 2

Minutes after address, PM tweets asking people not to panic

PM Modi says essential commodities, medicines etc. would be available. Centre and various state governments will work in close coordination to ensure this.

Morning Update

The number of coronavirus cases in India rose to 562 on Wednesday while the death toll due to COVID-19 in the country was revised down to nine, according to Health Ministry data. The ministry in its updated figures on Wednesday morning, stated the second death reported in Delhi was COVID-19 negative, thus bringing down the death toll to nine in India.

Delhi reported two deaths so far with one death reported on Tuesday.

Nine deaths so far have been reported from Maharashtra (two), Bihar, Karnataka, Gujarat, Punjab, Delhi, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh.

According to the data, the number of active COVID-19 cases stood at 512 while 41 people have been cured/discharged or migrated.

The figure includes 43 foreign nationals, the Health Ministry said.

Kerala has reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases so far at 109, including eight foreign nationals, followed by Maharashtra which recorded 101, including three foreigners, according to the ministry data. Karnataka has reported 41 cases of coronavirus patients, while cases in Telangana rose to 35, including 10 foreigners. Uttar Pradesh has 35 positive cases, including a foreign national. Gujarat has 33 positive cases, including a foreigner, while the number of cases in Rajasthan increased to 32, including two foreigners. Cases in Delhi rose to 31, including one foreigner. In Haryana, there are 28 cases, including 14 foreigners, while Punjab has reported 29 cases. Ladakh has 13 cases, while Tamil Nadu has reported 18 cases, including two foreigners. West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh has nine patients each. Chandigarh as well as Jammu and Kashmir have reported seven cases each so far. Uttarakhand has four cases, including one foreigner. There are three cases each in Himachal Pradesh and Bihar, while there are two cases in Odisha. Puducherry, Manipur and Chhattisgarh have reported a case each.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a complete nationwide lockdown for 21 days from Tuesday midnight, asserting in an emotional appeal "with folded hands" that unless India's 130 crore people practice social distancing, the country will lose the war against coronavirus outbreak and slide back 21 years.

MH Count Climbs to 112

Maharashtra reported five new coronavirus cases since Tuesday night, taking the number of cases in the state to 112, the highest in the country so far, officials said.

The latest cases are from Sangli district, where five members of a family in Islampur tested coronavirus positive, the officials said on Wednesday.

"We are checking if the five have a recent travel history within India or outside," an official said.

Ten more cases were detected in the state on Tuesday, and eight were confirmed late on Monday night.

Delhi LG Anil Baijal and CM Arvind Kejriwal addressing joint PC on Delhi lockdown and essential supplies

"During the lockdown, we will ensure essential supplies are maintained", said Delhi LG AnilBaijal. He also said, "We would like to deliver whatever is needed, either telephonically or online."

Kejriwal said, "After PM Modi's speech, we noticed people started mobbing the grocery stores. The entire purpose of the lockdown will be defeated if people started gathering like outside the grocery stores. Corona could spread. I and Delhi LG assure you that there will be no shortage of essential supplies. Don'tindulge in panic buying".

E-passes for the lockdown to be issued in Delhi

Key points from Kejriwal's address:

It is our responsibility to ensure the opening of stores. We will ensure the supply of milk, grocery, medicines.

Grocery store employees, vegetable sellers, those involved in the production of essential goods will be issued e-passes.

We willmake sure no one has to sleep hungry in these 21 days of lockdown.

In thecoming days, there will be problems and difficulties. But we will face these critical times together

Kejriwal releases special helpline number for Delhi Police Commissioner's office in case anyone is facing any problem from the police personnel.

The helpline number for Delhi police-related complaints is: 011 2346 9536

Transfer Rs 7,500 in every Jan Dhan Account : Congress to PM

Congress has demanded implementation of NYAY Yojna (Minimum Income Guarantee Scheme, and transfer of Rs 7,500 in every Jan Dhan Account, every PM Kisan Account, every Pension Account besides distribution of Free Ration Through PDS in the wake of the Coronavirus.

WHO guidelines made accessible in regional languages by IIT-K students

A students' group at IIT Kharagpur has uploaded videos on social media explaining the WHO guidelines on the precautions to be taken to contain the spread of the coronavirus in 12 Indian languages for people to clearly understand the advisory.

Vision Prabaho, a students' group known for its environmental activities on the institutes campus, has uploaded videos on the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines in Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Odia, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu, a member of the organisation said on Wednesday.

"Regional languages will make the advisory reach even the remotest part of the country and avoid misinformation," Biswaroop Mondal, a member of the group said. Members of the group initially uploaded a video on the advisory in Bengali for the local people, he said.

However, other students of the institute urged the group to upload the videos in other languages as well, Mondal said.

Within a day, videos in five different languages were uploaded on social media, and in another two days, the count reached 12, he said.

The efforts of the 20-member group have been lauded by Minister of State for Human Resource Development Sanjay Dhotre in a social media post.

"We are now trying to make videos in Maithili, Santhali, Nagamese and Kokborok," another member of the group said.

The institute is proud of the students who are fulfilling their social responsibilities, a spokesperson for IIT Kharagpur said.

Here's the video in Punjabi:

Grocery stores across the country are drawing circles to promote social distancing

The police and local authorities in Gujarat, Delhi, UP, and Maharashtra have started drawing circles outside shops selling essential commodities, in a bid to practice social distancing during the COVID-19 lockdown. Customers at grocery and medical stores in some districts are required to stand inside circles, which are drawn a metre or two away from each other.

The idea is proving a healthy option for people who come out of their homes to purchase groceries and vegetables.

"As directed by the Patan municipality, circles were drawn outside grocery and medical shops. Customers have to stand inside circles that are drawn at least a metre or two away from each other to maintain social distancing," said Vinod Modi, the general secretary of Patan Medical Shop Owners' Association. Several shop owners in Ahmedabad and Vadodara have also adopted a similar method to maintain social distancing.

In Kutch district, the police urged shop owners at Mundra, Nakhatrana and Bhuj towns to draw such circles.

"Our policemen have been convincing shop owners to draw circles outside their establishments. Social distancing is crucial to fight coronavirus," superintendent of police (Kutch-West) Saurabh Tolumbia said.

Inspired by photos outside a mall in China where the management drew circles on the floor to maintain social distancing to curb coronavirus spread, people in parts of Maharashtra have started implementing the same.

Some towns such as Panhala, Ajara and a village called Pulachi Shiroli in Kolhapur district have started implementing the social distancing idea since Tuesday evening.

Ranjit Chougule, a resident of Pulachi Shiroli village near Kolhapur city said, When I saw the photos of the China all, I was at first amused and thought those people were being crazy. After some time, I realised that it is a useful idea as social distancing will be maintained as well as people will get groceries and other essential services.

"I discussed it with friends and showed it to local shop owners, who after some deliberations decided to go for it. We used white colour to mark circles and/or squares on the road at a distance of over three feet between each marking.

People were asked to stand as per the markings and soon they were also comfortable with it, he said.

A local police official confirmed the development. We were not sure how people would react to it, but it seems the idea is working. Now people don't panic while buying vegetables and groceries and it has reduced our burden as well, the official said.

An official from the Maharashtra Chief Minister's Office on Wednesday said the government has started pushing the concept across the state by sharing photos of such social distancing practices across the state.

"We have so far received photographs from Kolhapur, Nanded and from Talegaon Dabhade town near Pune where people have drawn circles or squares on the street in vegetable markets as well as outside the grocery shops.

"People are following the guidelines by standing in a queue and are also maintaining the required distance, the official said.

Doctors fighting coronavirus forcefully evicted in Delhi & Hyderabad

Some doctors in temporary residences had been forcefully evicted by their landlords over infection fears, the Resident Doctor's Association of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi said.

"(They) are now stranded on the roads with all their luggage, nowhere to go, across the country," the association - which represents 2,500 doctors - said in a letter to the Home Minister on Tuesday, urging the government to intervene.

Late on Tuesday India's Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, said on Twitter he was "deeply anguished" to see reports of doctors being ostracised in residential complexes, adding that precautions were being taken to ensure health care workers were not carriers of the infection.

A home ministry spokeswoman said the Delhi state administration had issued orders saying penal action would be taken against those evicting doctors. She did not comment on the situation in other states.

India has just one doctor for every 1,404 people, the government said in February, significantly below the World Health Organization's norm of one per 1,000.

The AIIMS association's president, Adarsh Pratap Singh, said three doctors in New Delhi and around 15 in the southern city of Hyderabad had already faced issues with their accommodation. He did not have estimates of how many have been impacted overall.

"People are not accepting them... The morale of doctors is down because of this, a stigma is being created due to lack of awareness of coronavirus," he told Reuters on Wednesday.

Airline staff have faced similar problems, with state-run carrier Air India and private airline IndiGo saying there had been instances of employees being ostracised from their communities.

India may see up to 13 lakh cases of COVID-19 by mid-May, scientists warn

The report, compiled by COV-IND-19 Study Group, an interdisciplinary team of researchers, said while India seems to have done well in controlling the number of confirmed cases compared to other countries like the US and Italy in the early phase of the pandemic, the country is critically missing a key component in this assessment -- the number of truly affected cases.

Read more here: India's Coronavirus Growth Trajectory

MP reports first coronavirus death; elderly woman succumbs

A 65-year-old Ujjain-based woman died of coronavirus at a hospital here on Wednesday, becoming the first COVID-19 fatality in Madhya Pradesh, said a senior officer. The woman was undergoing treatment at Indore's government-run M Y Hospital, where she succumbed to the viral infection, Divisional Commissioner Akash Tripathi told PTI. She was admitted to the hospital here after getting initial treatment at Ujjain, her hometown, he said.

Over 55,000 beds ready in Maha for COVID-19 patients: Chavan

The Public Works Department of Maharashtra government has kept ready over 22,000 rooms with more than 55,000 beds which can be used as make-shift hospitals for coronavirus patients, it said on Wednesday. These rooms can be used to set up quarantine wards too, said PWD Minister Ashok Chavan.

"The PWD department has created a capacity of 22,118 rooms with 55,707 beds if we face a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases," he told reporters. "These facilities can be used for quarantine wards as well," Chavan added. These rooms have facilities such as water connection, electricity and washrooms, the minister added. Maharashtra has recorded 122 coronavirus patients so far.

Daily we give you the latest updates on COVID-19. Watch:

PM warns of tough action against those misbehaving with frontline staff, asks people to cooperate with administration

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday warned of tough action against those misbehaving with people on the frontline of the fight against coronavirus like doctors and airline crew, and sought the cooperation of citizens with the administration to deal with the crisis.

Modi chose a video interaction with residents of Varanasi, the constituency he represents in Parliament, to respond to several queries related to the pandemic and his government's response to it, and asserted that focusing on a few incidents of shortcomings will not help at this hour.

If he claimed that all is well, then he would be deceiving himself, the prime minister said, and then added that what is a more important question is that whether the pandemic has to be defeated or not even if it means facing certain difficulties.

Even in normal times, people face certain problems, he said.

Culinary Director of The Bombay Canteen dies of COVID-19

Indian-origin chef Floyd Cardoz, the culinary director of the restaurant The Bombay Canteen, died in New Jersey, days after he was tested positive for COVID-19 recently. Cardoz had tested positive for COVID -19, after which the company Hunger Inc., that owns The Bombay Canteen, released a statement confirming it:

Updates from states:

The ministry said Maharashtra has reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases so far at 128, including three foreign nationals, followed by Kerala which has recorded 109 cases, including eight foreign nationals.

Karnataka has reported 41 cases of coronavirus patients, while cases in Gujarat rose to 38, including one foreigner.

Cases in Uttar Pradesh rose to 37, including a foreigner.The number of cases in Rajasthan increased to 36, including two foreigners, while the positive cases in Telangana stood at 35, including 10 foreigners.

Cases in Delhi rose to 31, including one foreigner.

Punjab reported 29 cases while In Haryana, there are 28 cases, including 14 foreigners.

Madhya Pradesh recorded 14 cases, Ladakh has 13, while Tamil Nadu has reported 18 cases, including two foreigners.

West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh have nine patients each.

Chandigarh as well as Jammu and Kashmir have reported seven cases each so far.

Uttarakhand has four cases, including one foreigner. Bihar also has four cases.

There are three cases in Himachal Pradesh while there are two cases in Odisha. Puducherry, Mizoram, Manipur and Chhattisgarh have reported a case each.

Cases Double in Indore

With five more people testing positive for coronavirus in Indore, the total number of cases in the city have risen to 10, health officials said on Thursday.

The five patients -- two women and three men -- were admitted in different hospitals of the city and tested positive on late Wednesday night, a spokesperson of the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College said.

On Wednesday, five people with no history of foreign travel had tested positive for coronavirus. They included three men, aged 48, 65 and 68, and two women, aged 50 and 65.

The 65-year-old woman from neighbouring Ujjain died at the government-run MY Hospital in Indore on Wednesday.

Earlier, six positive coronavirus cases were reported from Jabalpur and one each from Bhopal, Gwalior and Shivpuri.

Meanwhile, a curfew has been imposed in Indore and Ujjain to contain the spread of the virus.

With new Indore cases, total cases in MP rise to 20

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Madhya Pradesh rose to 20 with five more patients in Indore hospitals testing coronavirus positive, health officials said on Thursday.

The tally includes a Ujjain-based woman, who died on Wednesday in Indore, the officials said.

Among the five new cases in Indore, two are women, a government medical college spokesman said. Curfew has been imposed in seven districts linked to coronavirus positive cases. They include Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Gwalior, Shivpuri, Ujjain and Chhatarpur.

No positive case was found in Chhatarpur but the patient found in Gwalior had travel history of Khajuraho in Chhatarpur, they said.

As a result, curfew was clamped in Rajnagar and Khajuraho towns of Chhatarpur district, officials said.

Hyderabad Hostels and PGs asked not to pressure residents into vacating premises

The Telangana Police on Wednesday directed managements of hostels and paying guest (PG) accommodations not to ask occupants to vacate, after it received complaints that those residing in them were being pressured to leave during the COVID-19 lockdown.

"Since the lockdown is under implementation, no permission/ no objection certificate shall be granted in this regard for any movement of people across the state till further orders in the overall interest of public health and public safety," Telangana Director General of Police (DGP) M Mahendar Reddy said in a directive.

Serious action will be taken against any hostel or PG managements that violate this norm, he said.

Police along with Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) officials were directed to hold meetings with hostel managements and ensure compliance.

Earlier, hundreds of students and employees of hostels and PG accommodations gathered in front of police stations after boarders were reportedly asked to vacate.

Following this, the police decided to give them a one-time pass to go to their native places and some of them were given the passes.

However, late in the evening, the DGP clarified that no passes would be issued for inter -state movement.

In view of the latest directive, a senior police official also said hostel owners and PG managements have been counselled to provide all facilities to the inmates and now, the hostels are functioning.

Earlier, Telangana Home Minister Mohammad Mahmood Ali had ordered the police to issue permit certificates on fast-track basis to those students and inmates who have applied for permit certificates to go to their native places.

Meanwhile, some people who were found "roaming unnecessarily" on roads were caught by police near check posts in different parts of the city and were asked to hold placards like "Practise social distancing", "Please avoid gathering" and "Often wash your hands" seeking public cooperation to check the spread of coronavirus.

Man ends life over Coronavirus fear

A 56-year old man, who suspected he had contracted the coronavirus infection, ended his life in Udupi district, police sources said.

The deceased has been identified as Gopalakrishna Madivala, a resident of Narnadu in Uppoor village of Udupi taluk.

Sources said the man had no specific symptoms of the virus infection. He was awake till 2 am in the night, speaking to his family members. He was found hanging from a tree near the house when others in the house woke up at 5 am on Wednesday.

A death note saying he was taking his life as he doubted he had coronavirus infection was recovered from the house. The note also asked the family members to stay safe.

Local people said the man had earlier told one of his friends that he had the infection and was scared. The fear of the disease might have driven him to take the extreme step, police said.

Madivala had been working as driver with KSRTC for several years and was recently posted as a trainer of new drivers.

If you're feeling down and need help, please call any of India's helpline numbers listed here.

Markets doing well; Awaiting FM Sitharaman's economic cushion

Equity benchmark Sensex jumped over 700 points in opening session on Thursday led by gains in HDFC twins, Infosys, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank amid mixed global cues.

The 30-share BSE barometer was trading 713.76 points or 2.30 per cent higher at 29,249.54.

Similarly, the NSE Nifty was up 167.95 points, or 2.02 per cent, at 8,485.80.

IndusInd Bank was the top gainer in the Sensex pack, rallying up to 20 per cent, followed by Axis Bank, Bajaj Auto, ICICI Bank, HDFC and Bajaj Finance. On the other hand, ITC, Maruti and ONGC were the top losers.

In the previous session, the BSE gauge Sensex shot up 1,861.75 points or 6.98 per cent to settle at 28,535.78, and the NSE barometer Nifty spurted 516.80 points or 6.62 per cent to end at 8,317.85 - the biggest single-day gain for the indices.

According to traders, investors are weighing the economic impact of the 21-day lockdown in the country.

All eyes are on Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's economic package to cushion the economic impact of the lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19, expected to be announced shortly, they said.

India's National Book Trust offers free books for kids in English and regional languages

With people across the country confined to their homes due to the 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus, the National Book Trust (NBT) is providing its select and best-selling titles for free download to encourage reading during the period.

As part of the #StayHomeIndiaWithBooks initiative, over 100 books are available for download from the NBT website, an autonomous body under the HRD Ministry.

"Available in Hindi, English, Asamiya, Bangla, Guajarati, Malayalam, Odia, Marathi, Kokborok, Mizo, Bodo, Nepali, Tamil, Punjabi, Telugu, Kannada, Urdu and Sanskrit, the books cover all genres of fiction, biography, popular science, teacher's handbook, and majorly books for children and young adults," a senior HRD Ministry official said.

"In addition, there are books by Tagore, by Premchand, and books on Mahatma Gandhi -- all in all there are books for everyone in the family to read and enjoy. More titles will be added to the list," the official added.

The select titles available for download also include-- Holidays Have Come, Animals You can't Forget, Nine Little Birds, The Puzzle, Gandhi Tatva Satkam, Women Scientists in India, Activity-Based Learning Science, A Touch of Glass, Gandhi: Warrior of Non-Violence, and many more.

"The PDFs are for reading only and any unauthorised or commercial use is not allowed," the official added.

Find the free titles here!

Kashmir sees heavy restrictions

The restrictions on the movement and assembly of people to contain the spread of the coronavirus were intensified in Kashmir on Thursday, in the wake of four more positive cases detected in the valley on Wednesday, taking the total number of affected persons to 11, officials said.

Of the eight persons who had earlier tested positive for COVID-19 in Jammu and Kashmir, one died on Thursday.

The restrictions on the movement and assembly of people continued for the eighth consecutive day on Thursday, the officials said.

They added that the authorities tightened the curbs across the valley as four more positive cases -- all from Bandipora district -- were detected on Wednesday.

The security forces sealed off many roads and erected barriers to check the movement of people across the valley.

Police vehicles fitted with public address systems went around the residential areas of the city and elsewhere in the valley late on Wednesday as well as on Thursday morning to announce that restrictions under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) were imposed and advised people to stay indoors.

The police were also using drones to announce the restrictions on the movement of people in some parts of the city, the officials said.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a countrywide lockdown on Tuesday evening, the Union Territory administration here had announced a lockdown across Jammu and Kashmir till March 31 on Sunday as part of its efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Essential services, including healthcare personnel, are exempted from the restrictions.

The administration has urged people for cooperation and warned them of action for violating the prohibitory orders.

The district administrations have put in place a mechanism to ensure uninterrupted supplies and delivery of essential services to the public. Essential commodities will be home-delivered to the residents as part of the mechanism.

However, there were reports of violations of the prohibitory orders at several places across the valley, following which the police took action by arresting several people and seizing their vehicles.

The markets across the valley were shut and public transport was off the roads with only pharmacies and groceries allowed to open, the officials said.

Educational institutions are closed, while all public places including gymnasiums, parks, clubs and restaurants have been shut down more than a week before the nationwide lockdown announced by the prime minister.

Restrictions were first imposed in many parts of the valley on last Thursday to contain the spread of the virus. The measures were taken after a 67-year-old woman from the Khanyar area of the city, who had returned from Saudi Arabia on March 16 after performing Umrah, tested positive for COVID-19.

Number of coronavirus cases 649 in India, death toll 13: Health Ministry

The number of coronavirus cases climbed to 649 in India on Thursday and the death toll due to COVID-19 rose to 13, with one death reported each from Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh, according to the Health Ministry.

Goa featured for the first time in the chart prepared by the ministry, reporting 33 coronavirus cases.

In its updated figures at 10.15 am, the ministry stated that 13 COVID-19 deaths were reported so far in the country. Maharashtra reported three deaths, Gujarat two, while Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Karnataka, Punjab, Delhi, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh reported one death each.

According to the data, the number of active COVID-19 cases in the country stood at 593, while 42 people were either cured or discharged and one had migrated.

The total number of 649 cases included 47 foreign nationals, the ministry said.

J'khand to give 2 months' ration in advance

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren said his government has decided to provide two months ration in advance to the beneficiaries of the public distribution system, as the country entered the second day of the lockdown on Thursday to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Around 90 per cent of the families in the state will benefit from this decision, he said.

"Rest assured, your son or brother is continuously making efforts to help the people of Jharkhand," Soren said in a tweet on Wednesday.

He also appealed to the people to abide by the 21-day lockdown order to prevent the spread of the disease.

Jharkhand has not reported any COVID-19 case so far.

The state government had on Wednesday issued a rate-chart of essential items at the public distribution outlets, following reports that a few ration shops were charging higher prices for commodities and some others selling them in the black market, taking advantage of the lockdown.

The government had also assured people that it has sufficient food items in stock to last for several days.

Ranchi Deputy Commissioner Rai Mahimapat Ray said the administration has launched an app - VeggiGo - for people to place order for essential commodities.

He said the administration has also launched a home delivery service for essential goods.

Warm, humid climate linked to slower COVID-19 transmission: MIT Study

A warm and humid weather is linked to slower spread of the novel coronavirus, according to a study which suggests that Asian countries experiencing monsoon may experience lesser transmission of the virus.

The scientists, including Qasim Bukhari from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, assessed data on the number of COVID-19 infections in different parts of the world and compared it with two parameters of weather from all the regions -- temperature and humidity.

The findings, described in SSRN repository, show that 90 per cent of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, transmissions until March 22, 2020 have occurred in regions with temperature between 3 and 17 degrees Celsius.

They added that these regions also had between 4 to 9 gram per cubic metre (g/m3) of absolute humidity -- a measure of the amount of water vapour per cubic metre of atmosphere.

According to the MIT scientists, the total number of cases in countries with mean temperature greater than 18 degree Celsius and absolute humidity more than 9 g/m3 in January-February-early March is less than 6 per cent.

Based on their analysis, the scientists noted that Asian countries experiencing monsoon may see a slowdown in transmission as absolute humidity is generally above 10g/m3 during monsoon.

"Within the US, the outbreak also shows a north-south divide. Northern (cooler) states have much higher growth rates compared to southern (warmer) states. The spread of 2019-nCoV has been limited in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona," they reported in the study.

Even in California, which spans a large climatic zone, the scientists said, the number of cases is double in the northern part of the state than in its south.

"Within the US, Oregon and Louisiana are two outliers, with Oregon having less than 200 cases even though it is straddled between the hotspots of California and Washington and Louisiana having approximately 1,000 cases by March 22 2020, even though it is relatively warm and humid," the researchers said.

They said the overall growth rate is lower in many parts of Asia, Middle eastern, and South American countries even though the countries in these regions have not implemented drastic quarantine measures such as those in China, Europe and some US states.

While it could be argued that there may be lower number of testings such as in India, Pakistan, Indonesia and African countries, the researchers said, many countries like Singapore, UAE, and Saudi Arabia, have performed more 2019-nCoV tests per million people than US, Italy, and several European countries.

Based on this observation, they suggested that non-testing is not an issue at least for the countries listed above, and that many of these countries are also global travel hubs with thousands of people entering and exiting the country everyday.

Citing these factors, the researchers argued that factors other than mobility and quarantining might play an important role in slowing the transmission of the virus.

"With more than 10,000 cases being reported in regions with mean temperature above 18 degree Celsius after March 15, the role of warmer temperature in slowing the spread of the 2019-nCoV as suggested previously, might only be observed, if at all, at much higher temperatures," the scientists wrote in the study.

However, the scientists cautioned that there are several unknowns in the data currently used to arrive at the conclusion.

"Our conclusions are based on currently available data with several unknowns including how the virus is mutating and evolving, case fertility ratio, reproductive numbers and direct versus indirect transmissions," they said.

The researchers also emphasised that the results "in no way suggest that 2019-nCoV would not spread in warm humid regions."

They said effective public health interventions should be implemented across the world to slow down the transmission of 2019-nCoV.

Impossible to keep the needy "disciplined" if immediate relief not given: Salman Khurshid

Former Union Minister Salman Khurshid on Thursday asked the government to rush to the help of daily-wagers and other vulnerable sections of the society affected by lockdowns in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and said it would be impossible to keep them "disciplined" if immediate relief is not given. Containment of the coronavirus is the most important factor and it should go on hand-in-hand with economic support, the senior Congress leader said.

"We are very, very seriously concerned about daily wagers who live in modest homes, people who have very little or no reserves or people who will have no way to fend at all.

In a matter of days, in three-four days these are the people who really will be a serious situation. Something needs to be done for them. I am not quite sure that there is adequate response that is taking care of their future," Khurshid told PTI.

"They need food supplies, they need some money. This would be very, very critical. Because if this kind of relief breaks-down, then it will be impossible to keep people disciplined," he cautioned.

Khurshid said the 21-day lock-down, announced by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is inevitable.

"Whatever we have seen from the experience of the West, I think there is nothing else that could have been done," he added. "So, this is a good strategy."

He suggested a brief curfew relaxation for an hour or so daily, as has been allowed in the West, that also in a very limited way, just to give some "mental relief' for people.

Hospital staff and people providing services ought to be given protective equipment so that they can continue to provide their services. "Thats absolutely important," he said.

"I am not sure that we have enough protective equipment available for medical staff across the country . While that's so, there are other services like garbage cleaning etc., and I am given to understand because of lack of protective equipment there are going to be serious problems," Khurshid added.

Mid Day State Report

Goa featured for the first time in the chart prepared by the ministry, reporting three coronavirus cases.

Maharashtra has reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases so far at 124, including three foreign nationals, followed by Kerala, where the number of cases has climbed up to 118, including eight foreign nationals, according to the ministry data.

The number of cases in Telangana has gone up to 41, including 10 foreigners.

Karnataka has reported 41 COVID-19 cases, while the number of cases in Gujarat has climbed to 38, including a foreigner.

The number of cases in Rajasthan has increased to 38, including two foreigners. Uttar Pradesh has reported 37 cases, including a foreigner, while the number of positive cases in Delhi has gone up to 35, including a foreigner.

Punjab has reported 33 cases, while 30 COVID-19 cases have so far been detected in Haryana, including 14 foreigners.

The number of cases has climbed to 26 Tamil Nadu, including six foreigners. Madhya Pradesh has recorded 15 cases, Ladakh 13, Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir have reported 11 cases each, while West Bengal has nine COVID-19 patients.

Chandigarh has reported seven cases so far and Uttarakhand five, including a foreigner.

Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh have reported three cases each, while two cases have been detected in Odisha.

Goa has reported three coronavirus cases. Earlier, the ministry had wrongly attributed 33 cases to the coastal state. Subsequently, the figure was revised.

Puducherry, Mizoram and Manipur have reported one case each.

March 26 Global Tally

More than 470,800 people have been infected by the novel coronavirus across the world and 21,221 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

Infections have been reported in 200 countries and territories outside China.

Govt to give free food to poor for next three months: FM Sitharaman

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday announced 5 kg of wheat or rice and one kg of preferred pulses free-of-cost every month for the next three months for 80 crore poor across the country to deal with the economic impact of the lockdown amid coronavirus outbreak.

As many of 20.5 crore women Jan Dhan Account holders will get Rs 500 per month for next three months to run their households.

For poor senior citizens, widow and disabled will get an ex-gratia of Rs 1,000.

Also, the daily wage under MNREGA has been increased to Rs 202 a day from Rs 182 to benefit 5 crore workers.

The minister said the government will front-load Rs 2,000 payment to farmers in the first week of April under the existing PM Kishan Yojana to benefit 8.69 crore farmers.

Also, the beneficiaries of Ujjwala LPG scheme will get free cooking gas for the next three months, she said.

This forms part of the Rs 1.70 lakh crore Gramin Kalyan Package.

FM announces Rs 50 lakh insurance cover for doctors, paramedic, healthcare workers

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday announced a Rs 50 lakh insurance cover for healthcare workers who are at the forefront of dealing with coronavirus pandemic.

Sitharaman said the government has finalised an economic stimulus package to deal with the impact of 21-day countrywide lockdown to prevent spread of the virus.

Guj reports third death

The death toll due to coronavirus reached three in Gujarat after a 70-year-old COVID-19 patient died in Bhavnagar district early Thursday morning, a senior health official said.

Three coronavirus cases were reported from the state in the last 24 hours, taking the state's tally to 43, principal secretary (health) Jayanti Ravi told reporters in Gandhinagar.

Giving details about the man who died in Bhavnagar, she said, "He travelled to Delhi recently. He was admitted to hospital on March 24 and died this morning. His test report was positive for coronavirus. He was also suffering from a heart disease, diabetes and hypertension."

Earlier, one death each was reported from Ahmedabad and Surat, she said.

Meanwhile, the total number of coronavirus cases in Gujarat rose to 43 with four more positive cases reported in the state during the last 24 hours.

These cases include one each in Ahmedabad, Surat, Bhavnagar (of the man who died on Thursday) and Gandhinagar, the official said.

Of these 43 cases, the highest 15 were reported in Ahmedabad, followed by Vadodara-eight Gandhinagar and Surat- seven each, Rajkot-four, Kutch and Bhavnagar-one each.

So far, 19,567 people are under the 14-day home quarantine, the official said.

As many as 147 people have been booked for breaking quarantine rules, she said.

The Election Commission has allowed the usage of indelible ink for stamping 'home quarantined' on the hands of suspected persons, the official added.

Sensex Soars After FM's Announcement

Equity benchmark Sensex was trading over 1,000 points higher in afternoon session on Thursday after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a stimulus package worth Rs 1.70 lakh crore to cushion the impact of the lockdown in wake of COVID-19 pandemic.

Paring early gains, the 30-share BSE barometer was up 1,055.11 points or 3.70 per cent at 29,590.89. It rallied over 1,500 points in morning session.

Similarly, the NSE Nifty stood 284.20 points, or 3.42 per cent, higher at 8,602.05 at 1430 hours.

IndusInd Bank was the top gainer in the Sensex pack, rallying up to 34 per cent, followed by Axis Bank, Bharti Airtel, L&T, Bajaj Finance and HDFC.

On the other hand, Maruti, Reliance Industries, NTPC and Sun Pharma were among the top laggards.

In an effort to cushion the economic blow of the 21-day lockdown to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, Finance Minister Sitharaman announced a slew of measures to help the citizens survive the crisis.

The Rs 1.70 lakh crore economic package will be implemented with immediate effect.

The Indian rupee appreciated further by 84 paise to 75.10 against the US dollar in intra-day trade after the announcement.

AIIMS sets up task force to develop management protocol for COVID-19

The AIIMS has set up a task force to develop a management protocol for COVID-19 and has constituted several committees to be able to respond to challenges which may emerge in the coming days due to the rising number of infection.

According to an office memorandum issued on Thursday, the committees which have been constituted for coordination of various activities related to management of patients in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic include resource management committee, human resource committee, diagnostic management committee and medical management committee.

Medical management sub-committees constituted for various patient care areas identified for managing COVID-19 patients will estimate requirement of materials, machines, manpower and diagnostic backup, which will be needed to provide care to the patients and take care of health care workers in these areas.

After having checked local availability of various resources at each location, the requirement of various resources will be worked out by the sub-committees and forwarded to resource management committee and human resource management committee, the office memorandum stated.

Resource management committee will look into demands for materials and machines and decide on ways and means to procure these through store sections of the institute in a centralised manner, it said.

The human resource management committee will look into requirement of manpower and mobilise requisite manpower from within the institute and deploy in various locations.

Diagnostic management committee will assess capacity to do testing for COVID-19 and work out ways to ramp up the same as per needs of the institute.

All healthcare personnel will be trained to handle and use personal protection equipment (PPE) to be able to take care of themselves and patients. This will be coordinated by committee constituted for training.

The memorandum has been issued to all chiefs of centres and all heads of departments at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi.

A doctor couple are among the three persons who tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday taking the total number of COVID-19 cases in the state to 44. According to a media bulletin on COVID-19, the three new confirmed cases on Thursday were contact (of previous positive cases).

The three cases includes a 49-year old man, a resident of Qutbullapur in Medchal district, who is a contact. He travelled to Delhi and the patient is stable and admitted at the designated hospital, it said.

The two other confirmed cases are of a doctor couple from Hyderabad city pertaining to a 36-year old doctor and her 41-year old husband, also a doctor. Both are contact cases. "Both the patients are stable and admitted at the designated hospital," the bulletin said.

State Health Minister E Rajender also held a meeting with health officials on the measures taken up to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has written a letter to all Chief Ministers, asking them to provide food, shelter and medical facilities to all the semi-skilled and unskilled workers of Bengal stuck in their states.

The Tamil Nadu government on Thursday announced extending the ongoing lockdown of the state to stem the spread of coronavirus till April 14, coinciding with the 21-day national lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The lockdown, announced by Chief Minister K Palainswami on Monday as part of the government's measures to tackle COVID-19, was originally scheduled to be in force till March 31, 2020.

"The lockdown and related orders announced till March 31 are being extended till April 14," an official release here said.

The decision was taken at a review meeting chaired by the Chief Minister with various department heads and district collectors to discuss the steps taken to tackle the spread of the virus, it said.

To implement the lockdown, section 144 of Cr.Pc. was issued. It prohibits assembly of more than five persons.

On Tuesday, Modi had announced the 21-day lockdown to halt the spread of the virus, which has so far affected over 600 persons and killed 13.

Bihar govt will take steps to help migrant workers stranded due to lockdown: Nitish

Reaching out to migrant workers from Bihar who are far away from home and severely hit by the nationwide lockdown, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday asserted that his government will make efforts to help them tide over the 21-day period.

At a high-level meeting here chaired by Kumar to review the COVID-19 situation, he said his government will coordinate with other states, through the Resident Commissioner in Delhi, and bear full expenses for food and lodging of migrants who are stranded without work and pay and are struggling to return home since all modes of public transport have come to a grinding halt.

There are no official estimates available of the number of such migrants, though it is believed that it might be in hundreds of thousands and scattered across the country,

from adjacent states like Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal to far-off ones like Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala.

According to media reports, many such workers are losing their jobs in the wake of the virus scare and taking up an arduous journey back home on foot from places as far off as Rajasthan.

Kumar also said a sum of Rs 100 crore has been released from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund, which would be utilised by the disaster management department for setting up shelters for rickshaw pullers and daily wage earners who are living in the state but far from their homes.

These 'aapada raahat kendras' (disaster relief centres) will also provide shelter to workers who may have come from other states to be engaged with projects underway in

Bihar, he added.

The relief centres will be set up at Patna and other prominent towns across the state and care will be taken to ensure social distancing and availability of doctors for

preventing the spread of the pandemic, the chief minister said.

(Inputs from PTI)

Indian Railways extend the cancellation of passenger train services till 14th April

Indian Railways has extended the cancellation of passenger train services till the 14th of next month. Earlier, it had announced the suspension of all its passenger services from 22nd March midnight to 31st March. The decision was taken in view of the 21-day lockdown announced by PM Narendra Modi. However, freight train operations are being continued to ensure the supply of essential commodities.

Poultry farmers in Punjab, Haryana stare at losses due to feed shortage

Poultry farmers in Punjab and Haryana are facing acute shortage of feed because of the nationwide lockdown to check spread of coronavirus, and fear that their birds will die if supply is not restored.

The farmers claimed that supplies of poultry feed, including maize, soybean, groundnut cake, bajra (millet) and other items coming from other states are stuck because of the lockdown.

"We have not been able to get poultry feed ever since the restrictions have been imposed because of coronavirus," Progressive Poultry Farmers Association Punjab President Mohinder Arora told PTI on Thursday.

Arora said the suppliers in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat could not send feed to poultry farmers of Punjab and Haryana, the major suppliers of chicken and eggs in the country.

"Each farmer keeps feedstock of just four to five days and most of them are left with little or no poultry feed," he said.

"The government is not caring for poultry business," he added.

In Haryana, Karnal-based farmer Randhir Singh lamented that poultry birds would soon start dying if the government did not take appropriate steps to ensure the resumption of feed supplies.

Insiders in the poultry business, however, pointed out that because of acute shortage of feed, a few poultry farmers were forced to bury their birds, and some have reduced the quantity of feed for their birds.

"By reducing feed, at least birds have a chance to survive," one of the poultry farmers in Punjab said.

The farmers further said they were not able to deliver eggs because of restrictions on the movement of transport.

The current crisis for the poultry industry comes at a time when it is already suffering losses because of a decline in the sale of eggs and chicken.

The farmers in Punjab and Haryana urged their respective state governments to allow movement of vehicles carrying feed and eggs, otherwise, the industry would soon shut.

Punjab Animal Husbandry Department Director Inderjit Singh said that the department has written to several states for allowing the supply of poultry feed.

Indian footballer wants you to stay at home!

At a time when #StayHomeStaySafe echoes the sentiment of not just 1.3 billion people but the entire world, National Team 'Ironman' Sandesh Jhingan, a born optimist, feels "it's not long before smiles will be back."

"But for that, we need to be responsible, not indulge in any kind of hara-kiri or stupidity," he smiles. "These are difficult times -- it's the time to show our character as a nation. We need to stick to directives from authorities and cooperate. Stick together as a team."

READ MORE: Football will unify us soon, says Sandesh Jhingan

Read our explainer piece on how anti-HIV drug is helped a COVID-19 patient recover in Kerala.

Rajasthan govt leads the way in helping workers migrating

With thousands of hapless daily-wagers trudging along desolate interstate highways on way back to their villages from various places outside the state, the Rajasthan government has begun receiving them and taking step to ferry them to their destinations after screening them for coronavirus infection.

The imposition of 21-day nationwide lockdown to break the coronavirus transmission chain has triggered large-scale influx of Rajasthan's labourers and workers from cities outside the state, including Gujarat, to which they had migrated for work, said state government officials.

The borders of Rajasthan's Jalore and Sirohi districts with Gujarat have been witnessing such large-scale, on-foot migration by labourers to their home from various places in the neighbouring state after the lockdown ever since March 24-25 midnight, said Jalore Superintndednt of police Himmat Abhilash Tak on Thursday.

"Most of these people are coming on foot and are labour class workers. They are dropped a few kilometers from the state borders, from where they begin to walk to the Rajasthan border," said Tak.

The phenomena is not limited the two districts bordering Gujarat alone, but is spread over to Rajasthan's borders with other state's including Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh too, he added, quoting reports from the state's other parts - PTI

Karnataka Congress seeks all-party meet on COVID-19; Objects to RSS 'involvement' in relief work

Karnataka Congress President D K Shivakumar on Thursday demanded that both state and central governments convene a meeting of opposition leaders to discuss measures for controlling the spread of COVID-19 and managing the situation.

He also claimed RSS workers collecting donations and distributing food materials during the lockdown, while others were asked to stay at home.

"Corono issue is not BJPs alone, it is an issue concerning both state and the country. I urge the Chief Minister to call a meeting of opposition leaders, in the same way Prime Minister should also convene an all-party meeting and take everyone into confidence," he told reporters.

Alleging that the situation was being wrongly utilised for propaganda in favour of a political party and philosophy, he said, RSS workers were collecting donation and distributing food materials. - PTI

A doctor of a Mohalla Clinic in northeast Delhi is among the people who have been infected with coronavirus in the national capital, officials said on Thursday.

A senior official of the Delhi health department said the doctor's wife and daughter have also tested positive for COVID-19.

"People who visited the clinic or came in contact with the doctor between March 12 and March 18 have been quarantined," the official said.

The clinic in the Mohanpuri area of Maujpur has been closed and sanitised.

At least 35 coronavirus cases, including a death, have been reported in the national capital till Wednesday night.

COVID-19 crisis: J'khand to give 2 months' ration in advance

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren said his government has decided to provide two months ration in advance to the beneficiaries of the public distribution system, as the country entered the second day of the lockdown on Thursday to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Around 90 per cent of the families in the state will benefit from this decision, he said. "Rest assured, your son or brother is continuously making efforts to help the people of Jharkhand," Soren said in a tweet on Wednesday.

Israel thanks Air India for rescuing its stranded nationals

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, An Air India special flight carrying 314 Israelis back to their country landed safely here on Thursday evening with many passengers carrying Indian and Israeli flags while deplaning.

The Israeli embassy had put up a request with the Ministry of External Affairs, which, in turn, asked Air India to operate such a flight.

The national carrier had earlier organised rescue flights for Indians stuck in China, Italy, Iran and Madrid.

According to a senior official of the airline, the Boeing 777 aircraft had departed from Delhi around 4 pm.

Israel's Ambassador in New Delhi, Ron Malka, came to the airport to see off the passengers and thanked Air India for the selfless service.

"I thank and appreciate the @airindiain flight staff who are responsibly and selflessly ensuring that Israelis get home safe. Dhanyavad from the bottom of our (heart in emoji)", Malka tweeted before the flight took off from India.

COVID-19 to lead to sharp fall in Indian economy: Reuters poll

India's already-slowing economy weakened to at least an eight-year low this quarter and will slow even more sharply in the next six months due to the global coronavirus pandemic, a Reuters poll found.

India's informal sector, the backbone of the economy, will be hardest hit as economic activity comes to a standstill.

"Just as everywhere else in the world, the Indian economy is bracing for the fallout (from) this unprecedented event. We expect the lockdown to dramatically reduce GDP in ... subsequent quarters, while there will be prolonged economic gloom throughout the rest of the year," said Prakash Sakpal, Asia economist at ING.

According to the Reuters poll of economists taken March 25-26, India's economy will expand just 4.0% annually on a year ago in the quarter that ends on March 31, the weakest since comparable records began in early 2012.

India proposes online platform for SAARC to jointly combat coronavirus

India has proposed setting up of a common electronic platform for all SAARC nations to share expertise and best practices in jointly combatting the coronavirus pandemic.

India made the proposal at a video-conference of senior health officials of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries on Thursday.

The SAARC is a regional grouping comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

At an India-initiated video-conference of SAARC leaders on March 15, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had suggested that health professionals of the member nations could come together to jointly fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

"India proposed a shared electronic platform for all SAARC nations to share and exchange information, knowledge, expertise and best practices for jointly combatting the coronavirus epidemic," the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.

It was informed that considerable work had already gone into the creation of the platform, which could also serve as a multipurpose vehicle to further discuss and conduct activities such as online training for emergency response personnel, the MEA said.

The Indian side proposed that till the electronic platform is fully operational, a network of experts representing the health services of all SAARC countries may be set up on email or WhatsApp to enable exchange of all relevant information on a real-time basis.

Kerala Bureaucrat flee from qurantine

Anupam Mishra, Kollam Sub-Collector who was asked to stay at home after he returned from abroad on March 19. Without informing anyone else, he escaped the quarantine and reached his home in Kanpur. The district collector has submitted a report to the state government stating that the sub collecter has violated quarantine restrictions.

Rajasthan: 60-yr-old coronavirus patient dies in Bhilwara

A 60-year-old man, who had tested positive for coronavirus in Rajasthan's Bhilwara, has died due to comorbid conditions, an official said on Friday.

The patient had heart and kidney related ailments and and had visited the private hospital in Bhilwara where doctors and nursing staff were first found coronavirus positive.

"The patient died on Thursday night. Doctors have attributed the death to his comorbid conditions," Additional Chief Secretary (health) Rohit Kumar Singh said.

Two people having tested for coronavirus in the state have died due to comorbid conditions.

A Total 43 positive cases have been found in the state so far which was put under lockdown on March 22.

The death toll due to COVID-19 rose to 17 in the country on Friday and the number of coronavirus cases climbed to 724, according to the Health Ministry.

In its updated figures at 9.15 am, the ministry stated that four deaths were reported from Maharashtra while Gujarat had registered three deaths.

Karnataka has reported two deaths so far, while Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Punjab, Delhi, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh have reported one death each.

According to the data, the number of active COVID-19 cases in the country stood at 640, while 66 people were either cured or discharged and one had migrated.

The total number of 724 cases included 47 foreign nationals, the ministry said.

Meghalaya alleges trucks loading essentials for state made to wait in Assam

Trucks loading essential commodities for Meghalaya are being made to wait at the godowns in Assam and the drivers stamped for quarantine, leading to "unfair" delays, officials said on Friday. The Meghalaya government has registered a strong protest regarding the matter with the Assam government, they said.

COVID-19 to hit India's GDP by 4 points, recession in all G 20 countries: The Economist Intelligence Unit

India's GDP for 2020-21 is set to get a major blow from the Coronavirus outbreak. The Economist's Intelligence Unit had forecasted India's GDP at 6. However, in the wake of the global pandemic, the EIU has revised its GDP forecast to 2.1.

The EIU in its revised forecast has said, "across the G20, all but three countries will register a recession this year. The global economy will contract by 2.2%."

The EIU report claims, the Covid-19's impact on China's economy is set to be much deeper than that of SARS.

The Eurozone will be one of the hardest-hit regions. The EIU has forecasted a full-year recession. It says, "5.9%. Germany (-6.8%), France (-5%), and Italy (-7%) will register full-year recessions.".

COVID-19 battle is war, draft final year medicos for the job: Devi Shetty

India should take a cue from the UK and Italy and allow final year medical students to skip exam and bring them into the hospital system immediately to fight the war against COVID-19, noted cardiac surgeon Devi Prasad Shetty on Friday said. The Chairman and Founder of the city-based Narayana Health said there should be some reforms in medical education like the UK and Italy. In the UK, he noted, final year medical students have been told that they dont need to appear for the exam, and they will be given pass based on the past performance and they can get into the hospital system to fill the shortage.

Intensity, duration of COVID-19 to determine impact on economy: RBI

The RBI on Friday said the impact of coronavirus outbreak on the economy will depend on the intensity, spread and duration of the deadly virus even as the central bank refrained from projecting any numbers for growth and inflation amid the widespread uncertainty.

While announcing the seventh bi-monthly Monetary Policy statement for 2019-20, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said that in view of the impact of coronavirus pandemic, the growth projections for 4.7 per cent for fourth quarter of 2019-20 and 5 per cent for the full fiscal are "now at risk".

Announcing the decisions of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), Das said that no projection for growth and inflation was being given in view of the uncertainty created by outbreak of the deadly virus.

RBI cuts repo rate by 75 bps to 4.4%, PM Modi says "giant steps"

Shortly after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) cut its repo rate by 75 basis points (bps) to 4.4 per cent and the reverse repo rate by 90 bps to 4 per cent, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to twitter calling them "giant steps to safeguard our economy from the impact of the Coronavirus".

The central bank also cut the cash reserve ratio (CRR) for the banks by 100 bps to 3 per cent with effect from March 28 for the next year, which it said will release Rs 1.37 lakh crore in liquidity.

Airlines extend services to government

After IndiGo and GoAir, SpiceJet has also offered services of its aircraft and crew members to the government for any humanitarian missions.

Kejriwal to discuss coronavirus pandemic with world's city leaders

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will represent Delhi and India at a global meeting of city leaders on Friday evening via video-conferencing, organised by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group to discuss the pandemic.

10-month-old baby in Karnataka tests positive for COVID-19

The Karnataka health department confirmed that a 10-month-old boy from Dakshina Kannada district has been tested positive for COVID-19. The patient "has no history of travel to COVID-19 affected countries and was isolated at a designated hospital in Dakshina Kannada. As per the preliminary investigation, the child was taken to Kerala by their family members. The detailed investigation is under process and 6 Primary contacts have been traced and are under house quarantine," the media bulletin read.

Health ministry releases COVID-19 data

Army Chief asks his force to take all precautions against coronavirus

Army Chief Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane on Friday launched an initiative christened 'Operation Namaste' to insulate the 1.3 million strong force from coronavirus infection and extend all possible assistance to the government in containing the pandemic.

He also asked all Army personnel to take prescribed precautions against the virus and assured soldiers and officers deployed along borders with Pakistan and China that special care is being taken of their families in the wake of the pandemic.

"I would request everyone to take care of themselves and their families. Your safety is my first responsibility," the Army Chief said.

"I want to assure all the soldiers posted on the border that we will take special care of your families. We will achieve success in the 'Operation Namaste'," he told reporters.

Gujarat launches app to track home-quarantined persons

The Gujarat government on Friday launched a mobile application which can monitor the movement of those who have been asked to follow home quarantine for suspected exposure to coronavirus. The Geographic Information System (GIS)-based app was launched in Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Vadodara and Rajkot, principal secretary (health) Jayanti Ravi said. The Municipal Corporation of Surat is already using the application to keep track of 3,600 home-quarantined people in the city, she added.

Kerala has reported a major spike in the number of coronavirus cases, with 39 new cases reported from the case on a single day. While the state has tested 5679 samples almost 1200 samples are pending for testing.

The state now has a total of 176 cases.

Delhi Police allows delivery of food, groceries

Delhi Police on Friday issued an order approving smooth delivery of essential goods, including food, groceries and medicines, in the city during the coronavirus lockdown.

Several e-commerce firms and food delivering companies have been complaining that police was not allowing them to ply on roads since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown on Tuesday.

Commissioner of Police S N Shrivastava on Friday issued an order complying with the guidelines given by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The MHA has said while the country needs to be in a 'lockdown', supply and storage of essential goods, including health infrastructure and food, must be allowed.

NEET postponed

The HRD Ministry on Friday postponed the national medical entrance exam, NEET, in view of the countrywide lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak, officials said.

The National Eligibility cum Entrance (NEET) was scheduled for May 3.

The HRD Ministry's National Testing Agency (NTA) took the decision in view of the three-week lockdown as well as pending board exams for a few subjects, a senior official told PTI.

Updated Figures: Saturday Morning

The number of COVID-19 cases climbed to 834 in India on Saturday with the death toll rising to 19, according to the Union Health Ministry.

In its updated figures, the ministry stated two fresh deaths.

However, it could not be immediately known where these two new deaths were reported from as the state-wise figures are awaited.

So far, deaths have been reported from Maharashtra (4) Gujarat (3), Karnataka (2 ) and one each from Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Punjab, Delhi, West Bengal, Jamnu and Kasmir and Himachal Pradesh.

According to the data, the number of active COVID-19 cases in the country stood at 748, while 66 people were either cured or discharged and one had migrated.

COVID-19 patient recovers in Himachal Pradesh: Official

A man has recovered after testing positive for COVID-19 in Himachal Pradesh, an official said on Friday.

The 32-year-old man from Harchakkian tehsil in Kangra district's Shahpur subdivision has recovered from the disease, said Additional Chief Secretary (Health) RD Dhiman in a statement.

His latest report was negative for COVID-19, he added.

Three people had tested positive for the virus in Himachal Pradesh and all were residents of Kangra district, officials had said.

One of the patients has recovered, whereas another is being treated at Rajendra Prasad Government Medical College (RPGMC) in Tanda. The third patient, a 69-year-old man who recently travelled from the USA, had died on March 23.

The man who has recovered and a 64-year-old woman from Dohabe village in Shahpur subdivision were tested positive for the virus on March 20.

Man studying in UK violates quarantine and attends function in West Bengal; Infects Family of Five, including 9 month old baby

Five members of a family, including three children, tested positive for COVID-19 in West Bengal on Friday, taking the number of such cases in the state to 15, a senior health official said.

Among the five are a nine-month-old baby, a six-year-old girl, an 11-year-old boy, and two women aged 27 and 45, he said.

The 27-year-old woman had come in contact with a person from the UK who recently tested positive, the official added. The woman is from Tehatta in West Bengal's Nadia district but now lives in Uttarakhand, he said.

"The person is studying in the UK and was kept in quarantine in New Delhi after he had returned from abroad. But he violated quarantine protocol and came to Tehatta to participate in a family function there. The woman came in contact with the person who tested positive for coronavirus and is now undergoing treatment in a hospital in Delhi," the official said.

The matter unfolded after the 27-year-old woman, mother of the nine-month-old baby, and the six-year-old girl visited a clinic in Tehatta with coronavirus-like symptoms.

The 45-year-old is the mother of the 11-year-old boy.

"Eight members of the family have been quarantined since March 23 at an isolation centre there in Nadia. Today, five among them tested positive for COVID-19," the health department official said.

The five are undergoing treatment at a hospital in Nadia district and will be brought to Kolkata on Saturday in a specialised ambulance meant to carry COVID-19 patients, the official said. The health department officials have identified 18 people in the neighbourhood of the family and put them in isolation. "We will also conduct tests on them," he said.

The state health department on Friday conducted tests on 33 suspected people and the reports are awaited. Of the 15 suffering from the disease in the state, one had died and an elderly patient is in a critical condition.

Cyber criminals sending emails about COVID-19 to dupe people: Delhi Police

Delhi Police on Friday said cyber criminals are circulating emails and social media links on COVID-19 and asked people to be cautious.

According to police, cyber criminals have set up fake social media accounts offering home delivery of medicines and other products.

The are also sending fake emails in the name of health authorities and asking people to visit a specific webpage on which email address and its password are required for logging in. The cyber criminals are then using this information to steal money, police said.

The police asked people to avoid opening the suspicious e-mails and clicking on unverified coronavirus related links on social media. It also advised people to use strong passwords and multi-level authentication for their social media and bank accounts.

In some cases of fraud, criminals are also calling people on phone and requesting for monetary help to treat people infected with coronavirus, a senior official said.

Police should be informed regarding such cases immediately, he said.

Those found posting fake COVID-19 news will be penalised: Mamata

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday warned people against posting or sharing fake information on the COVID-19 pandemic, saying strong action will be taken against those found guilty.

Addressing a press meet at state secretariat Nabanna, Banerjee said a fake post claiming that a doctor treating coronavirus suspects had fallen ill was doing the rounds on social media and investigating agencies are trying to track the source of this "misinformation".

"This is totally false. Please don't play with fire. Our detective department, CID are working round the clock to track those behind such posts. We will take strong action after tracking them down," Banerjee said.

The chief minister also contended that the ones posting fake news on social media are fuelling fear and panic "at this hour of crisis".

"Please refrain from spreading rumours. Those found guilty will be penalised," she said.

Asking police to be more humane while enforcing the lockdown, Banerjee said about seven officers have been stripped of duties and asked to go to police lines for their "high-handedness".

"While I appreciate policemen who are working tirelessly to prevent mass gatherings, I have come to know of about 10-12 cases where people out to buy essentials, health service workers and hawkers were unnecessarily harassed. This is not acceptable," the CM noted.

Banerjee said all international flights to Kolkata will continue to remain suspended till April 14.

She thanked religious leaders in the state for taking steps to avert public gatherings at places of worship and said, "We will hold a meeting on March 31 to review the situation".

All essential services will be available during the lockdown - imposed by the government to contain the spread of the disease - and marketplaces and grocery shops will remain open to cater to everyday needs, she asserted.

"Our task force is meeting three to four times a day to monitor the situation," she said.

Iterating that she has written to her counterparts in 18 states requesting them to ensure that workers from Bengal stuck there due to the lockdown be looked after, she said people from other states can approach her government if they face inconvenience. "We will address their problems," the CM said.

Banerjee asked officials to facilitate the opening of 27 night shelters for the homeless in the city.

The CM, who on Wednesday said those involved in home-delivery business should not be stopped by police, added that "services have resumed...will pick up pace soon".

Asked about the unavailability of bread in grocery stores, she said, "We want bakeries to open, but how can you expect the workers to be on the job, given the present circumstances. If bread is unavailable, people will have to find an alternative."

Expressing her gratitude to those who have donated to the Bengal Emergency Relief Fund set up to combat the pandemic, the CM said donors will be given tax relief.

Later in the day, she distributed food grains among workers of unorganised sectors in Alipore area in the presence of Kolkata Mayor and state minister Firhad Hakim.

Number of coronavirus patients in MP rises to 33

The number of coronavirus cases in Madhya Pradesh increased to 33 on Friday, with seven persons, including a railway guard, testing positive, a health official said.

A 50-year-old man, a railway guard, tested positive at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Bhopal. "He had been referred to the AIIMS by Railway hospital," said a health department official. The man had traveled to Jhansi rencenly, he added.

In Jabalpur, two persons who worked at the shop of a businessman who had returned from Dubai tested positive.

The businessman and his family members were the first coronavirus cases in the state.

Meanwhile, the Bhopal district administration said that area in one-km radius from the residence of coronavirus patients would considered as a "containment area".

All the residents of a containment area would be home quarantined and traffic would be stopped, the order stated.

An additional two-km buffer zone would also be created around such areas.

There are now 16 cases in Indore, eight in Jabalpur, threeeachin Bhopal and Ujjain, two in Shivpuri and one in Gwalior, according to state officials.

Two of the 33 patients died earlier this week, both at a hospital in Indore.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, meanwhile, ordered closure of all liquor shops -- whether selling `foreign' or `country-made -- as such shops attract crowds, official sources said.

329 FIRs registered against lockdown violators in J&K so far: DGP

The Jammu and Kashmir Police has so far registered 329 FIRs against people who violated lockdown orders enforced to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, a senior police officer said.

Thousands of police personnel along with other security forces are on the ground to make sure that the orders are being adhered to by the people, Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbag Singh said. He said 329 FIRs were registered against violators and 600 vehicles and shops were seized and closed for non-compliance of the orders.

The DGP said some persons who were arrested by the police were later released after a detailed briefing about the threat posed by the virus.

The police on Friday registered 30 FIRs across the Union Territory, he said. In the Kashmir zone, 26 FIRs were registered and in the Jammu zone four FIRs, the DGP said.

Singh said that to create awareness about the coronavirus on a large-scale short audio clips in Urdu, Kashmiri and Dogri languages were posted on social media sites.

Loud speakers were used to make the people aware even in the remote areas about the preventive measures and to make them understand that staying at home is the best remedy to tackle this disease, he said.

He said that the messages of social, political and religious leaders were also used to promote preventive measures and social distancing.

Singh said people don't have to panic as thousands of officers and jawans are on the ground and every possible assistance will be provided as and when required.

He said besides fighting the deadly virus all necessary security arrangements are also in place across Jammu and Kashmir.

Police in Nagrota, Jammu, roped in Panchayat Raj Institutions and volunteers to encourage people to voluntarily disclose their travel history. So far, 32 people have been traced, the DGP said.

Delhi: SDMC moves to raise funds; to rope in restaurants to feed poor

A civic body in south Delhi, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), has opened a bank account to raise funds for the poor people affected by the lockdown in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, officials said on Friday.

In order the extend support to the poor and needy people during this lockdown, the SDMC has also decided to rope in owners of big restaurants and eateries to provide free food packets to them, they said.

The SDMC is able to arrange 20,000 food packets in association with hotels, restaurants, mid-day meal kitchens and some NGOs and arranged the distribution to the poor and needy with the help of respective district magistrates across all zones of the corporation.

"A bank account has also been opened where any individual, group or company can contribute fund which will be utilised as per the government rules to take measures to contain spread of coronavirus and also to help the affected persons," the SDMC said in a statement.

And to take care of its field staff, 20,000 Vitamin-C tablets per zone have been distributed to its 20,000 safai karmcharis for their better health and boosting immunity,it said.

The SDMC has also decided to procure more masks, gloves, soaps and hand sanitisers for the safety of their sanitation workers, the statement said.

SDMC has also directed its deputy health officers to use fogging machines to spray mixture of water with sodium hypochloride to disinfectant and sanitise the areas in all four zones.

The lockdown in Delhi was imposed on Monday morning and the city had recorded 40 cases of coronavirus with one death.

Rly urges all staffers to donate one day's salary to PM relief fund for coronavirus

The Railway Board has urged all railway employees to donate one day's salary to the prime ministers relief fund to aid the government's efforts to fight the coronavirus.

The Board has written to all general managers asking them to appeal to employees in their zones to make the donation.

"An appeal should be made to each one of Railway servants to generously contribute to PMNRF by donating at least one day's basic pay towards this cause," the Board said in its letter.

It also said the coronavirus outbreak is one of the worst and most unprecedented disaster faced by the nation.

"In order to facilitate voluntary contribution to PMNRF, it is suggested that one day's basic pay should be deducted from salary of all willing Railway servants except those who give a specific declaration either (a) for non deduction : or (b) for deduction of an amount less than one day's basic pay, on this account," the letter stated.

It also directed the zonal railways and production units to transfer the consolidated amount towards contribution to PMNRF to the Railway Board so that a single cheque on behalf of all emloyees can be handed over to the Prime Minister''s Office.

Maha tally now 159 as six more test positive

With six more persons testing positive for coronavirus in Maharashtra, the total number of such cases in the state has gone up to 159, officials said on Saturday.

Of these six new COVID-19 patients, five are from Mumbai and one from Nagpur, health department officials said.

On Friday, 28 persons were found infected with coronavirus in different parts of the state, they said.

Infosys software engineer sacked for Facebook post on COVID-19

The Insofys software engineer who gave a call to the public to sneeze in public to spread the coronavirus has been sacked, the company said.

The tech giant, which had initially believed that it could be a case of mistaken identity, confirmed later that Mujeeb Mohammad was its employee and stated that he has been terminated from service.

"Infosys has completed its investigation on the social media post by one of its employees and we believe that this is not a case of mistaken identity," the company tweeted late on Saturday night.

The company said the social media post by the employee was against Infosys code of conduct and its commitment to responsible social sharing.

"Infosys has a zero tolerance policy towards such acts and has accordingly, terminated the services of the employee."

Mohammad had posted on Facebook, "Let's join hands, go out and sneeze with open mouth in public. Spread the virus." He was arrested on Friday night.

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Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by Dailyhunt. Publisher: Asiaville English
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