The number of positive cases of coronavirus in India on Wednesday rose to 151, which included 25 foreign nationals and 126 Indians.
Meanwhile, in a written reply in Lok Sabha, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said the total number of Indians infected by coronavirus abroad was 276 — 255 in Iran, 12 in UAE, five in Italy, and one each in Hong Kong, Kuwait, Rwanda, and Sri Lanka.
Giving a state-wise break up of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in India, officials said Delhi has so far reported ten cases which include one foreigner, while Uttar Pradesh has recorded 16 cases, including one foreigner.
Maharashtra has 42 cases, including three foreigners, while Kerala has recorded 27 cases which include two foreign nationals.
Karnataka has 11 coronavirus patients, whereas, the number of cases in Ladakh rose to eight while in Jammu and Kashmir the number of cases was three. Telangana has reported six cases which include two foreigners.
Rajasthan has also reported four cases including that of two foreigners. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Uttarakhand and Punjab have reported one case each.
In Haryana, there are 17 cases, which include fourteen foreigners. According to the ministry’s data, 14 people have been discharged so far, including three patients from Kerala who were discharged last month.
Meanwhile, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has postponed all examinations from 19 March to 31 March. The board also directed the suspension of evaluation work till 31 March.
Swiss firm gets licence to conduct tests
The Swiss firm Roche Diagnostics India received the licence for conducting coronavirus tests after approval from drug regulator DCGI, making it the first private firm to get such permission after the government decided to allow accredited private labs to test for COVID-19, a senior health ministry official said.
According to a senior official, the DCGI is now assessing giving licence to another private diagnostic firm, bioMérieux, which has also sought approval to conduct tests for coronavirus.
The official said two Indian diagnostic companies — Trivitron Healthcare and Mylab Discovery Solution — have also sought approval from the DCGI for the coronavirus testing kits developed by them.
Three more cases reported in Karnataka
In Karnataka, the number of COVID-19 cases reached 14 on Wednesday, with three more people testing positive. With this, the government has extended the lockdown announced last week to 31 March as it stepped up efforts to combat the spread of the disease which has already claimed a life in the state.
Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa convened an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the impact of COVID-19 and further measures to tackle the outbreak. The cabinet decided to earmark Rs 200 crore as “immediate expenses” to contain the spread, and constitute a task force comprising four ministers for monitoring the situation on a daily basis, and review measures.
The state government had announced lockdown of malls, cinema theatres, pubs and night clubs for a week, with effect from last Saturday.
Yediyurappa had also issued instructions to stop all kinds of exhibitions, summer camps, conferences, fairs, marriage, sports and engagement events, and birthday parties state-wide for a week from Saturday. The chief minister on Wednesday said these curbs would continue till 31 March.
Army reports first case
The Indian Army reported its first case of coronavirus after a 34-year-old soldier of Ladakh Scout regiment tested positive, prompting the force to strengthen its check and prevention mechanism and suspend war games and training activities.
The soldier from the Ladakh Scout regiment tested positive for the virus after he came in contact with his father, who had returned from a pilgrimage in Iran by an Air India flight on 20 February and tested positive for COVID-19, army sources said.
A resident of Chuhot village in Leh, the soldier was on leave from 25 February and rejoined duty on 2 March, sources said, adding he was quarantined on 7 March and tested positive on 16 March. The soldier’s brother has also tested positive, sources said.
This prompted the army to further strengthen its check and prevention mechanism by taking additional steps, including checking soldiers for flu symptoms on their return from leave and cancelling non-essential travel and conferences.
Impact on travel
Senior railway officials informed a parliamentary panel that more than 60 percent tickets were cancelled in March so far due to the outbreak while GoAir said it has terminated contracts of expat pilots amid curtailed operations due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways also announced reduction in its flights to India, two days after the government stated that passengers coming from UAE from 18 March onward would be compulsorily quarantined for 14 days.
With a surge in demand for soaps, floor cleaners and thermal scanners, Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the Centre is closely monitoring the prices of these items. Normally, the ministry keeps track of prices of 22 essential commodities but recently, it has included face masks and hand sanitisers under the Essential Commodities Act.
Indians stranded in Iran
Giving the details of Indians in Iran, one of the worst affected countries by the novel coronavirus, V Muraleedharan in his written reply said the nationals include about 1,100 pilgrims mainly from Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir and Maharashtra.
There are also nearly 300 students primarily from Jammu and Kashmir, about 1,000 fishermen, including from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, and others who are on a long-term stay in Iran for pursuing their livelihood and religious studies, he added.
Asked about steps taken by the Centre to help Indians stranded in Iran due to the coronavirus outbreak, Muraleedharan said the government has made focussed efforts for the safe return of Indians from that country.
A team of six Indian health officials has been deputed to Iran in order to set up testing and sampling facilities there, he said.
Muraleedharan said that 1,706 samples have been taken, including from pilgrims, students and other Indians stranded in Iran. These are tested at medical facilities including the National Institute of Virology, Pune, he said.
Iran reports biggest single-day rise in deaths
Iran reported its single biggest jump in deaths from the new coronavirus on Wednesday as another 147 people died, raising the country’s overall toll due to the virus to 1,135.
The nearly 15 percent spike in deaths, amid a total of 17,361 confirmed cases in Iran, marks the biggest 24-hour rise in fatalities since officials first acknowledged cases of the virus in Iran in mid-February.
Still, even as the number of cases continues to grow each day, food markets were still packed with shoppers on Wednesday and highways were crowded with traffic as families traveled between cities ahead of the Persian New Year, Nowruz, on Friday.
Meanwhile, desperate travellers choked European border crossings Wednesday after countries implemented strict controls to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has now infected more than 200,000 people worldwide and killed more than 8,000.
In releasing the new figures, Johns Hopkins University also said more than 82,000 people recovered from the virus, which causes only mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough for most people, although severe illness is more likely in the elderly and those with existing health problems.
Italy has been the second hardest-hit country with more than 31,000 cases, behind more than 81,000 in China.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Mar 18, 2020 23:28:54 IST
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