COVID-19 updates (Updated daily): PM to address nation at 10 am tomorrow | Rapid testing kits from China delayed

NOVEL CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK IN INDIA (updated 13th April 2020)

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March 22, 2020 | Number of deaths: 7 | India heads for total lockdown

At 5.47 pm today, the Press-Information Bureau released a list of 75 affected districts which are to be locked down. Meanwhile, the Press Trust of India reported that, “The Centre and state governments have decided to announce a lockdown in 75 districts across the country where coronavirus cases have been reported, officials said on Sunday…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.” 

The report further claimed that state governments will release orders to only allow essential services to operate in these 75 affected districts and that restrictions will be imposed on non-essential passenger transport including inter-state bus services, which will be suspended till March 31st. 

While news channels and social media users have shared this information, the number of districts on the list released by PTI is actually 80, not 75.

Furthermore, a list released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare lists 81 districts which have reported COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases, but does not mention any lockdowns. 

This came in addition to independent orders for total lockdowns by at least 13 State Governments including Maharashtra, Kerala, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Punjab, Delhi, Nagaland and Rajasthan.

Here are the 80 districts where the centre has called for a lockdown:

Rajasthan (4): Bilwara, Jhunjhunu, Sikar and Jaipur

Tamil Nadu (3): Chennai, Erode and Kanchipurum

Telangana (5): Bhadradri Kothagudam, Hyderabad, Medchai, Ranga Reddy and Sanga Reddy

Uttar Pradesh (6): Agra, GB Nagar, Ghaziabad, Varanasi, Lakhimpur Kheri and Lucknow

Uttarakhand (1): Dehradun

West Bengal (2): Kolkata and North 24 Parganas

Karnataka (5): Bangalore, Chikkaballapura, Mysore, Kodagu and Kalaburgi

Kerala (10): Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Idukki, Kannur, Kasargod, Kottayam, Mallapuram, Pathanamthitta, Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur

Ladakh (2): Kargil and Leh

Madhya Pradesh (1): Jabalpur

Maharashtra (10): Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Mumbai, Nagpur, Mumbai Sub-Urb, Pune, Ratnagiri, Raigad, Thane and Yavatmal

Odisha (1): Khurda

Puducherry (1): Mahe

Punjab (3): Hoshiarpur, SAS Nagar and  SBS Nagar​

Andhra Pradesh (3): Prakasam, Vijayawada and Vizag 

Chandigarh (1): Chandigarh

Chhattisgarh (1): Raipur

Delhi (7): Central, East Delhi, North Delhi, North West Delhi, North East Delhi, South Delhi and West Delhi

Gujarat (6): Kutchh, Rajkot, Gandhinagar, Surat, Vadodara, and Ahmedabad

Haryana (5): Faridabad, Sonepat, Panchkula, Panipat and Gurugram

Himachal Pradesh (1): Kangra

Jammu & Kashmir (2): Srinagar and Jammu

Earlier during the day today, the streets of major cities in India found themselves empty, as citizens followed the one-day Janta Curfew, called for by the Prime Minister. With many states scaling back public transport, cancellation of trains and suspension of metro rail services, commute options for the public have been completely removed. The curfew is said to have been called to enforce the idea of practising social distancing to prevent the spread of Covid-19. All non-essential businesses were also shut in most parts.

Meanwhile, in a move to ramp up testing, the government has allowed private labs accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) to carry out testing for COVID-19. A cap has been set on the price at Rs 4500, with the initial screening test at Rs 1500 and the confirmation test at Rs 3000. Strict biosecurity and biosafety guidelines have to be followed by the labs in order to ensure there is no contamination of samples or risk of spread. 

The government has notified that home collection may be preferred for suspected COVID-19 cases. All positive samples must be sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune. 

Maharashtra has seen a huge spike in COVID-19 cases with the latest number at 74. Two deaths have taken place as a result of the pandemic. Mumbai and Pune are the hotspots in the state with the highly populous cities forced into partial shutdown as a result. Officials have also said that there may be a case of limited local transmission taking place in Nagpur based on the tests conducted in the city. 

The state has also hit a hurdle in contact tracing with a COVID-19 positive patient coming from one of the densely populated slums in the city, making it hard to trace all the individuals the person could have potentially spread the virus to.

Community-spread fears also rose with the detection of two positive cases where the patient had no history of foreign travel or known local exposure. One, a 41-year-old woman from Pune and another, a 20-year-old Delhi resident who tested positive in Tamil Nadu. Soon afterward, a 57-year-old man from Dumdum near Kolkata, with no history of foreign travel, also tested positive.

Ajit Chak from Lucknow writes about:

A crooner called Corona Kapoor: A Bollywood singer who returned from London on March 10th, and failed to go into home quarantine as advised, has created a panic situation in the state capital by attending a few parties in Lucknow and Kanpur and then testing positive for coronavirus.

Kanika Kapoor, who lives in a premium apartment complex in Mahanagar area of Lucknow and is being trolled on social media as Corona Kapoor, attended two high profile parties in Lucknow, one in the Taj Hotel and another in the house of  a senior politician where former Rajasthan CM Vijay Raje Scindia and her MP son Dushyant were present. Dushyant had later met the President of India and attended a parliament panel meeting. Both have announced home quarantine.

The contact chain only gets longer, all because Kapoor ignored the basic social distancing rule, creating a genuine fear that Lucknow may witness a major outbreak. The official knew jerk reaction has been to lock down half of Lucknow. A Rs 100 crore proposal to sanitize Noida, Kanpur and Lucknow is doing the rounds alongwith closure of  religious  places like the Gorakhnath temple, of which CM Yogi Adityanath had been a mahant, and Varanasi’s Hanuman temple.

Lucknow’s District Magistrate has lodged an FIR against Kanika Kapoor and it is expected that some action will follow soon. At present she is in quarantine at the city’s KGMU hospital.

In the midst of all this, in KGMU where coronavirus patients are being treated and the city’s only designated testing centre, a young doctor tested positive. But there was also some good news as the first woman who had tested positive for coronavirus in Lucknow has now recovered and tested negative.

Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state with 30 crore people, has only five COVID testing centres, two in Lucknow, and one each in Gorakhpur, Aligharh and Varanasi. When the first suspected cases of Coronavirus came to light in Agra, the samples had to be rushed to Lucknow for testing, where one woman tested positive while her family was put in quarantine.

Though officials claim a committee headed by the health minister has been formed to decide on steps to be taken, if the state has any sort of disaster management plan or an epidemic management plan, no one is aware of it. However, Dr Sudhir Kumar of the KGMU insists that they have COVID under control. “So far, most of the testing has been done in KGMU and it is the nodal hospital dealing with coronavirus,” said Dr. Kumar. “However the government needs to be realistic and admit that more testing kits and centres are urgently needed and the private sector needs to be roped in.”

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