India's coronavirus infections have jumped to 606, with 10 deaths so far, the Union Ministry said on Wednesday as the country went into a state of complete lockdown---a strategy health experts say would help flatten the curve of the contagion.
The health ministry said in its evening briefing that it had revised down its previous estimate after a second confirmatory test of a person who died in Delhi came back negative.
A look at the home ministry's official website shows that Maharashtra has the highest number of deaths at three. Karnataka, Bihar, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Punjab and Gujarat have all reproted one death each.
Tamil Nadu and Gujarat both recorded one death each on Wednesday, although neither of them has been added to the Health Ministry’s tally of fatalities yet.
Tamil Nadu reported its first coronavirus death on Wednesday, although this has yet to be counted among the official death estimates.
A 54-year-old man infected with the coronavirus died at a hospital here in the early hours of Wednesday, state Health Minister C Vijayabaskar said.
The man had a medical history of prolonged illness with uncontrolled diabetes.
“Despite our best efforts, the COVID19 positive patient at MDU, Rajaji Hospital, passed away... he had medical history of prolonged illness with steroid dependent COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), uncontrolled diabetes with hypertension,” the health minister tweeted.
The minister also cautioned that COVID-19 with co-morbidity is a high risk condition.
“Having known the impact of virus infections, I’ve been telling in my press meets that COVID19 with co-morbidity like uncontrollable diabetes & hypertension, immunosuppression are high risk conditions. If anyone in ur family has such conditions be extra cautious, pls,” he added in another tweet.
In Gujarat, an 85-year-old woman who had been diagnosed with coronavirus died here on Wednesday, the state's health department said.
"One coronavirus positive patient, female, 85 years, died in Ahmedabad today. She had traveled abroad, and after developing symptoms of COVID-19, she was admitted at civil hospital on March 22," the department said in a tweet.
"She was suffering from many complications," it added.
It was the second coronavirus death in the state. On March 22, a 67-year-old coronavirus patient had died in Surat.
The health ministry said a Group of Ministers chaired by health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday reviewed action plan to held manage the coronavirus crisis, the Health Ministry said.
The health ministry said nine private laboratories with over 16,000 sample collection centres have been enlisted so far to help testing for the contagion.
It said that the Ministry of Home Affairs was using a control room to monitor the lockdown in the country.
The central government was trying to ensure that there were enough N-95 masks available for medical professionals who were involved in combating the crisis. The central government had previously appealed to the public to leave the masks, considered the most effective of facemasks, for healthworkers.
The ministry also addressed allegations of a shortage of facemasks in the country for health professionals.
“PPEs, masks have some imported components. There are disruptions with respect to import of certain items. The government addressing the issue,” an official said.
The global figure on the contagion now stands well past 2,00,000, which over 15,000 deaths.
India joins a group of several countries that have gone into a state of complete lockdown.
The website of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare shows Kerala has 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.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission of India allowed use of indelible ink by health authorities to stamp individuals for home quarantine. The development comes in the light of reports of several people fleeing mandatory quaratine.
In India, new cases were reported from Punjab, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, and Gujarat, among other places.
Nine more in Kerala test positive, taking number of people under treatment to 112, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in a statement.
Two more test positive for coronavirus in Chhattisgarh, taking the state's tally to three.
Punjab's count touched 30 on Wednesday, with two more people testing positive, one in Ludhiana and another in Hoshiarpur.
Madhya Pradesh reported six new cases, taking the number in the state to 15.
Five people admitted in different hospitals of Indore, including a woman from neighbouring Ujjain district, tested positive for coronavirus, forcing administrations of the two cities to order curfews.
The sixth case was a relative of a woman who had tested positive in Bhopal earlier. Curfews are also in place in Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Gwalior, Shivpuri, Ujjain and Chhatarpur.
Gujarat reported 39 new cases, with the state government saying that they were tracking over 1 crore people under the state’s surveillance programme.
Under the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme, the state government has so far covered 1,60,62,000 people in urban and rural areas of the state where cases of coronavirus and severe acute respiratory infection have been found, principal secretary (health) Jayanti Ravi told reporters.
Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara reported one new case each on Wednesday, taking the total number of cases in the state to 14.
The state government has also registered FIRs against 147 people for breaking the quarantine protocol.
Maharashtra, one of the country’s worst affected states that has registered three deaths from the virus, said five more cases were reported over night taking the state’s coronavirus count to 116.
Health Minister Rajesh Tope, who made the announcement, said 14 positive were cured and had been released.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced the country was going into a state-enforced lockdown for a period of 21 days to contain transmission of the deadly virus.
Lockdown and panic
Anxious people made a beeline to grocery stores on Wednesday as the 21-day national lockdown kicked in from midnight shortly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced this unprecedented measure as the only way out to break the coronavirus transmission chain.
Prime Minister Modi in a nationwide broadcast on Tuesday night asserted in an emotional appeal "with folded hands" that unless India's 130 crore people practise social distancing, the country will lose the war against coronavirus outbreak and slide back 21 years.
Amid reports of panic purchase of essential commodities, the Union Home Ministry asked state governments to check the spread of rumours about shortage of food items.
In a communication to chief secretaries and DGPs of all states, the ministry asked them to take action to allay apprehensions and maintain peace and tranquillity, and inform people about the availability of food, medicine and other essential commodities.
According to reports from states, roads wore a deserted look but people resorted to panic buying at several markets in violation of the advice of social distancing.
Despite a complete ban on large gatherings, people in some parts of Kolkata were seen jostling in markets to buy essential commodities for the next few days.
People were also seen queuing outside gas agencies to buy additional LPG cylinders in the wake of the lockdown.
In Delhi, several Mother Dairy outlets and local grocery shops witnessed queues to buy groceries.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said authorities will ensure essential services during the lockdown period and requested people not to panic.
"We will issue e-passes to vegetable-sellers, grocers among others to ensure essential supplies during the lockdown," Kejriwal said at a joint press conference with Lt Governor Anil Baijal, amid reports of alleged harassment of vegetable sellers by the police.
Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the government is monitoring the availability of essential commodities in the market.
Paswan warned manufacturers and traders against profiteering during this period.
The Centre is also in touch with the state governments to ensure that there is no shortage of essential commodities, he said.
"In view of situation emerging from the threat of #Covid19India, the government is keeping an eye on availability of all essential commodities in the market," Paswan tweeted.
"I appeal to all manufacturers and traders to avoid profiteering in this situation," Paswan said.
The Centre also banned export of anti-malarial drug hydroxycloroquine with immediate effect to ensure sufficient availability of the medicine in the domestic market.
9:03 pm: Election Commission allows use of indelible ink by health authorities to stamp individuals for home quarantine
7:30 pm: 9 more in Kerala test positive for COVID-19, taking number of people under treatment to 112; 12 discharged after being cured: CM.
7:30 pm: District and Sessions judges directed to permit judges, staff officials to work from home wherever possible.
6:30 pm: Health ministry says infections gone up to 606 with 10 deaths
2:58 pm: The Ordnance Factory Board designates 285 beds for coronavirus cases.
2:53 pm: India may see up to 13 lakh cases of COVID-19 by mid-May, scientists warn.
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