Covid-19 in India: MHA allows stranded to return home, hints at lockdown relaxations, tally nears 32,000

With lakhs of migrant workers and students stranded at various places for over a month due to the nationwide lockdown, the government on Wednesday announced plans to allow their movement to help them reach their homes, including by crossing state borders. The Covid-19 tally in India, in the meantime, rose further and fresh indications emerged about the lockdown continuing beyond May 3, at least in some form and in some parts of the country.

In its evening update, the Union Health Ministry said the Covid-19 death toll has risen to 1,008, with a record jump of 71 in the last 24 hours, while the number of confirmed infections has climbed to 31,787 in the country with more than 1,800 cases getting detected since Tuesday evening. Close to 7,800 people have recovered too.

STATES ANNOUNCES EXTENSIONS, RELAXATIONS

Punjab, which has reported 375 cases and 19 deaths, announced the extension of the lockdown in the state by two weeks after May 3, though some relaxations have been given in areas that do not fall under the containment or red zones.

However, containment zones will continue to remain under total lockdown, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said.

In West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said experts and doctors are of the opinion that the restrictions imposed to check the spread of Covid-19 should continue in the state till the end of May. She, however, also announced some relaxations, including the opening of standalone shops in green zones and non-containment zones with all precautionary and social distancing measures.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has already announced the extension of the lockdown in his state till May 7 without any relaxation.

During his last interaction with chief ministers on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told them that the economy would need to be given importance too while fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

GLOBAL EASING OF LOCKDOWNS

Ever since its emergence in China last December, more than 31 lakh have tested positive for the deadly virus infection worldwide while the death toll has topped 2 lakh. Some countries have, however, begun easing the lockdown.

The US, which is among the worst-hit globally, reported that its economy shrank at a 4.8 per cent annual rate in the last quarter, triggering a recession that will end the country’s longest-ever expansion period.

Following guidelines from the Centre, some states in India have also allowed the opening of standalone shops in non-containment zones, while several state governments have been demanding steps to allow movement of migrant workers to help them reach their respective homes. Some states including Uttar Pradesh have already undertaken special initiatives to bring back migrant workers and students.

MHA ALLOWS INTERSTATE MOVEMENT FOR STRANDED

To help these people who have been stuck in various cities for over a month, many of whom have been left jobless and homeless due to the lockdown, the Union Home Ministry has now passed an order to allow their inter-state movement to reach their respective destinations, subject to certain conditions. This will also apply to pilgrims, tourists, students and other people stranded at different places.

In the order, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said buses shall be used for transport of such groups of stranded people and these vehicles will be sanitised and will have to follow safe social distancing norms in seating.

Listing the conditions, the ministry said all states and union territories should designate nodal authorities and develop standard protocols for receiving and sending such stranded persons. In case of movement beyond states or UTs, the sending and receiving states will need to consult each other and mutually agree to the movement by road.

These people would be screened and only those found asymptomatic would be allowed to proceed. On arrival at their destination, they would be assessed by local health authorities and kept in home or institutional quarantine, as required by the assessment, the order said.

MHA HINTS LOCKDOWN WILL BE EXTENDED

The Centre on Wednesday gave clear indications that the ongoing nationwide lockdown will be extended beyond May 3 but with “considerable relaxations” to people and services in “many districts”.

The Ministry of Home Affairs, however, said there was a need to maintain a strict lockdown till May 3 so that the gains are not squandered away.

In a series of tweets, the Union Home Ministry said it has held a comprehensive review meeting on the lockdown situation in the country and has found that there have been tremendous gains and improvement in the Covid-19 situation due to the lockdown till now.

“New guidelines to fight Covid-19 will come into effect from 4th May, which shall give considerable relaxations to many districts. Details regarding this shall be communicated in the days to come,” the home ministry spokesperson tweeted.

NEW COLLEGE SESSIONS FROM SEPT: UGC

The University Grants Commission (UGC), in the meantime, said the new academic session for freshers will begin in universities from September and for already enrolled students in August.

Detailing the guidelines for examinations and academic calendar for the universities in view of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, the commission said the exams for final semester students be conducted in July.

The varsities may decide whether to conduct exams online or offline keeping in view the support system available with them and ensuring a fair opportunity to all students.

It also advised universities to follow a six-day week pattern and devise proforma to record travel or stay history of staff members and students for the lockdown period.

CLASS 10, 12 BOARDS NOT SCRAPPED: CBSE

The board exams for class 10 and 12 pending due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown will be conducted at the first possibility and there is no move to do away with the remaining exams, CBSE officials said on Wednesday.

The board is prepared to conduct the exams for class 10 and 12 for crucial 29 subjects, while the HRD Ministry has directed states to start the evaluation process for the exams already conducted and facilitate the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in the evaluation of answer sheets.

DELHI-HARYANA BORDER SEALED, CHAOS ENSUES

Several people returning to their homes in Faridabad from Delhi were turned back amid chaos and confusion on Wednesday while vegetable supplies to Azadpur mandi were severely disrupted as Haryana sealed all its border points with the national capital citing the emergence of fresh coronavirus cases in its districts adjoining Delhi.

Maintaining that prevention is better than cure, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said tough measures were required at the state’s border points with the national capital. “We will not allow this (coronavirus) infection to enter our state from Delhi”.

In a televised address, Khattar said Covid-19 cases are either linked to those who are employed in Delhi, their family members or their contacts.

“Prevention is better than cure… bitter medicine is important to cure the disease and we will have to stop this cross-border movement.

DELHI, MUMBAI WORK TO SEND PEOPLE HOME

In Maharashtra, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said his government is in talks with chief ministers of other states over facilitating the return of migrant workers to their native places in a planned manner.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he is in touch with other state governments on the Home Ministry order and told migrant workers to stay put till he informs them about the final decision in one or two days.

Mumbai and Delhi are among major urban centres where a large number of workers from other states are stranded and have been demanding transport arrangements be made for them to go back to their native places.

Some states are said to be reluctant in allowing the return of their natives from other places due to fears of the infection.

HOTSPOT DISTRICTS GO FROM 170 TO 129

The number of Covid-19 hotspot districts in India has come down to 129 from 170 a fortnight ago, but in the same period the number of infection-free districts or green zones too decreased from 325 to 307, official sources said on Wednesday.

During this time, the number of non-hotspot districts, also known as orange zones, increased from 207 to 297, they said.

On April 15, the Centre had declared 170 districts across 25 states and Union Territories as coronavirus hotspots or red zones. Of these, 123 were hotspot districts with large outbreaks and 47 with clusters. It had also said 325 districts had not reported any coronavirus case because of actions initiated at field level.

INDIA SEES RECORD 71 DEATHS IN 24 HOURS

According to the latest Health Ministry data, there are close to 23,000 active Covid-19 cases in the country.

According to Health Ministry data, the number of coronavirus cases in the country climbed to 31,787 on Wednesday, while the number of fatalities rose to 1,008, registering a record jump of 71 deaths in 24 hours.

There has been a spike of 1,813 cases since Tuesday evening. The total Covid-19 cases reported so far include 111 foreign nationals.

The number of active Covid-19 cases stands at 22,982, while 7,796 people have recovered and one patient has migrated, the ministry said.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said of the total active Covid-19 cases in the country, only 0.33 per cent patients are on ventilators, 1.5 per cent are on oxygen support and 2.34 per cent are in ICU.

Of the total 1,008 deaths, as per the Ministry figures, Maharashtra tops the tally while it also has the highest number of confirmed cases in the country.

Of the 1,008 deaths, Maharashtra tops the tally with 400 fatalities, followed by Gujarat at 181, Madhya Pradesh at 119, Delhi at 54, Rajasthan at 51, Uttar Pradesh at 36 and Andhra Pradesh at 31.

According to the Health Ministry data updated in the evening, the highest number of confirmed cases in the country are from Maharashtra at 9,318, followed by Gujarat at 3,774, Delhi at 3,314, Madhya Pradesh at 2,561,

In Maharashtra, Mumbai’s Dharavi area reported 14 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, taking the overall tally to 344. Dharavi, considered as the biggest slum in Asia, has so far reported 18 deaths.

In the national capital, the new confirmed cases included 11 family members of an LNJP Hospital dietician, who had earlier tested positive. However, none of the hospital employees, who came in contact with the dietician, have tested positive.

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