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


20 March, 2020 | Number of cases: 231 | Number of deaths : 4

Even as questions persisted about community spread of the virus, fears that the pandemic could reach the highest level of administration gripped the nation. Noted singer Kanika Kapoor who had returned from the UK tested positive for COVID-19. It has emerged that between her arrival and diagnosis, she had attended parties which featured high profile individuals such as Member of Parliament Dushyant Singh, former Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhra Raje and Uttar Pradesh health minister Sidharth Nath Singh.

Over the next few days, the politicians were found to have met high profile members in the central government and the UP state government including the President of India and the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Dushyant Singh also attended Parliament, forcing three  MPs who interacted with him to self-quarantine. 

The Prime Minister held a video conference with the Chief Ministers of various states on preparedness to handle COVID-19.

Metro rail authorities in Delhi and various other cities announced their support for the Janata Curfew by shutting down service for a day. Public transport in various cities are also to be scaled back.

Our Mumbai correspondent Azkeya Tase writes:

Lockdown takes hold in Mumbai: The state hit worst by the Corona virus, Maharashtra, has ordered complete closure of all offices and work places till March 31, except those providing essential services and central government offices. In their effort to contain the spread of the virus, the state government, which had earlier shut public places like malls and cinemas, schools and colleges in its major urban centres like Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur, has so far shied away from extreme measures like shutting down Mumbai’s suburban rail network.

However, according to both central and western railway officials, suburban rail has seen a drastic fall in daily ridership. Both lines have cancelled numerous trains, withdrawn concessions and many taxi drivers have returned to their native places. Even bus ridership is down, according to BEST officials who said passenger numbers have fallen to 24.52 lakh as compared to a daily average of 32 lakh. “People are very anxious about travelling,” said Colaba Resident Andrea Pinto, a digital writer at Conde Nast Traveller.

On the medical front, Kasturba hospital at Chinchpokli is the core centre for treating novel coronavirus in Mumbai. Rajesh Tope, public health minister announced plans to double the capacity of existing testing labs, from 100 samples to 350 samples a day, besides providing other facilities like Wifi to corona patients. Other testing centres being set up are at Haffkine Institute in Mumbai,  JJ Hospital and BJ Medical college in Pune with the capacity to test 250 samples per day. Additional testing labs are being set up at Dhule, Miraj, Aurangabad and Solapur.

For now, the the state has allocated Rs 45 crore as aid for tackling the outbreak—Rs.15 crore for Kokan division which includes Mumbai, Rs.10 crore for Pune and Rs.5 crore each for Aurangabad, Amravati, Nagpur and Nashik. BMC said that over 1000 teams have visited 10,0000 housing societies in Mumbai, door to door to trace  suspected cases. The hands of those under home quarantine will be stamped to keep them from stepping out. The Kalyan-Dombivali Municipal Coorporation too has set up isolation wards and helplines.

The BMC has also written to all licensed hoarding owners to display only coronavirus awareness message about on their advertising boards till March end or face cancellation of their licenses. Those who display the awareness message will be given rebate in licenses fees for the display period. While the city police suspended breathalyser tests for drivers as a precautionary measure. Mumbai based tour operators too have been asked to suspend all tours till March 31.

Misinformation and fear did lead to some bizarre incidents. Like people escaping from quarantine facilities and having to be traced and brought back. And a particular housing society in Ghatkopar facing a social boycott as three from the society tested positive. The first coronavirus death in Kasturba hospital of a 64 year old man was from this housing society.

And while the initial rush of panic buying in supermarkets in different parts of the state has abated somewhat, misinformation on chicken being a cause of the virus continues to hit the poultry industry hard. “I have lost around Rs 25 lakh in the past one month,” said Jagan Meetharam Nipurte, a 51-year-old poultry farmer owner  based in Savroli.

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