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


21 March, 2020: Number of cases : 271 | Number of deaths : 4

The testing protocol by the Indian Council Of Medical Research and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has now been relaxed to include individuals with symptoms of respiratory illnesses without any travel history or contact with affected persons. The previous testing criteria limited testing to those with travel history or contact with those affected by the virus. 

The Ram Navami event this year is expected to be a low key affair after appeals from the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh to acaledown the nine-day celebration in view of coronavirus spread in the state. The event that sees lakhs gather every year came under fire as social distancing measures are being imposed across the country. The Vishwa HIndu Parishad announced its decision to scale back plans to have a grand celebration in view of the health crisis.

Daily wage workers in UP will be provided an assistance of Rs 1000 during the health crisis that has seen shutdowns across the country. The move will benefit close to 15 lakh workers in the state.

Our Shimla correspondent Ashwani Sharma writes:

Himachal tourism industry bears the worst brunt: As Himachal Pradesh, north India’s most favoured tourist destination, joins the  list of states reporting positive cases, the brunt of social distancing measures announced by the state government is being borne by the state’s tourism and hospitality industry. The state government has imposed a total ban on entry of both domestic and foreign tourists till further notice. Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama too has cancelled all his official  engagements and public appearances.

Tourists already there are not being asked to leave but have been advised to return, while all major tourist spots, including religious places like the popular Jwalamukhi, Chintpurni, Brijeshwari Mata and Chaumanda temples, have been shut under the provisions of Himachal Pradesh Epidemic Disease ( COVID-19) regulations 2020 which was invoked last week.

The crisis is severe, given that 20-25% of the state’s population is totally dependent on the tourism industry for their survival. Many hotels are reporting zero occupancy with cancellations pouring in. Special barriers at all entry points are ensuring that only those residing in the state or with legitimate business are being let through.

“There are 100 percent cancellations till July,” said Mohit Sharma, a Shimla-based travel agent with a world-wide clientele. “I have already returned several lakhs to clients who have cancelled due to corona scare”. Shimla, which gets plenty of walk-ins business during weekends, looks completely deserted. Hotel owners, who voluntarily offered to shut down their hotels at a meeting with the Chief Minister, have sought a relief package.

Buses, private and state transport services, both into and from the state are totally suspended. “We have set-up barrier at Parwanoo,” said Shiva Kumar, additional Superintendent of Police, Solan, the gateway Shimla. Only buses carrying passengers returning to their homes are allowed to enter the state”. The police are also maintaining record of vehicles entering the state alongwith contact details of passengers.

Worse hit are the local traders, taxi operators, porters, vendors, ponywalas and commercial photographers. “Small time earners like me will definitely die of hunger if things don’t change soon,” said a worried Krishan Dass, a photographer at the Ridge.

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The News Desk at Citizen Matters puts out Press Releases, notifications and curated information useful to the urban reader.