India’s Covid-19 tally nears 50,000; Lockdown 3.0 Day 2 sees huge case spike in Maharashtra, Gujarat

The nationwide tally of confirmed Covid-19 cases neared 50,000 on Wednesday with many big urban centres detecting greater spread of the deadly virus infection and many healthcare professionals as well as security personnel testing positive too. Authorities also flagged a high fatality rate in some states including West Bengal, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

While some positive news came from Kerala with no new infection getting detected there despite the state being among the first ones to witness the spread, Maharashtra reported a record daily increase of more than 1,200 in its number of cases.

STATES HIKE FUEL, LIQUOR TAX

The economic cost of the pandemic also began to hit the people with a sharp increase in fuel prices. Looking to shore up their dwindling resources, more states announced higher taxes on liquor sales.

The Uttar Pradesh government on Wednesday hiked petrol and diesel prices and also asked tipplers to shell out more. Petrol will cost Rs 2 more for a litre and diesel Re 1. UPiites will shell out between Rs 5 to Rs 400 more per bottle of liquor, depending on its size and the category of the drink.

Prices of liquor will be raised by a maximum of Rs 20 from May 7 in Tamil Nadu. Karnataka, too, hiked excise duty on liquor by 11 per cent to mop up revenues.

Petrol and diesel prices in Chandigarh will go up by nearly Rs 3 per litre.

Meanwhile, Punjab pegged its overall revenue loss for the month of April at 88 per cent due to all its tax revenues having dried up and only 1.5 per cent the industry being operational.

AHMEDABAD SHUTS DOWN FULLY FOR 1 WEEK

To control the spread of coronavirus in Ahmedabad city, civic authorities on Wednesday ordered the closure of all the shops except those selling milk and medicines for a week.

As per the order, shops will remain closed from May 7 midnight till 6 am on May 15.

While milk outlets and medical stores can remain open, all other shops, including those selling fruits, vegetables and grocery items, will remain closed, the order said.

INDIA REGISTERS NEARLY 50,000 CASES

While the Union Health Ministry stopped giving an evening update of the COVID-19 tally from Wednesday, its morning update showed the death rising to 1,694 and the number of cases climbing to 49,391, registering an increase of 126 deaths and 2,958 cases since Tuesday morning. It also showed more than 15,000 people having recovered, giving a recovery rate of nearly 29 per cent.

While Maharashtra has reported the maximum number of cases and fatalities, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Karnataka and Punjab are among other major states affected badly by the virus.

Kerala also has reported more than 500 confirmed cases so far, but it did not report a single new case on Wednesday and the state government officials said the number of active patients is now only 30 as a big majority of COVID-19 patients have recovered.

PM MODI KEYNOTE SPEAKER AT BUDDHA PURNIMA PROGRAMME

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will participate in a Buddha Purnima programme at 9 am on Thursday to honour frontline workers tackling the novel coronavirus outbreak in India. The programme is being organised by the Ministry of Culture in collaboration with the International Buddhist Confederation.

KARNATAKA STOPS MIGRANTS FROM LEAVING

The exodus of migrant workers triggered by the coronavirus lockdown continued with over 1.35 lakh stranded people in the country ferried from May 1 in more than 140 special trains, while a fresh row erupted after Karnataka government withdrew its request for such trains apparently due to concerns over shortage of labour.

The opposition attacked the BJP government in Karnataka , accusing it of treating migrant workers worse than “bonded labourers”, even as Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa appealed to more than one lakh workers who wished to return to their native states to stay back as construction and industrial activities have begun.

Yediyurappa announced a Rs 1,610-crore relief package for the benefit of those in distress due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown which included compensation of Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 each for workers.

The Principal Secretary in the Revenue Department, N Manjunatha Prasad, who is the nodal officer for migrants, had on Tuesday cancelled the request for 10 Shramik Special trains, apparently, after the builders had apprised Yediyurappa about the shortage of labourers if they were allowed to go back to their home states, said a source privy to the issue.

A section of migrant labourers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal had created a ruckus in Bengaluru on May 4, demanding that they be sent home.

Many desperate workers said they are keen on returning due to difficult survival conditions. They are also concerned about the well-being of their families back home and are apprehensive that they may not be able to return quickly if their kin faced some problems.

HIGH FATALITY RATE IN MAHA, GUJ CAUSE OF CONCERN

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan also expressed concern over the high fatality rate among COVID-19 patients in some districts of Maharashtra and Gujarat and asked the states to focus on early surveillance, aggressive contact tracing and early diagnosis to reduce the number of deaths in the areas.

Maharashtra reported 1,233 new COVID-19 cases — a new single-day high — taking its tally to 16,758, while 34 more deaths raised the toll to 651, a health department official said. Mumbai alone has more than 10,500 cases now.

Gujarat reported 380 new cases and 28 more deaths during the day, taking its total case count to 6,625 and the number of fatalities to 396. This included 291 new cases and 25 more deaths in Ahmedabad alone, where the civic authorities have ordered closure of all shops except those selling milk and medicines for a week.

CENTRE SLAMS BENGAL GOVT FOR MISMANAGEMENT

Separately, the Union Home Ministry wrote to the West Bengal government that the COVID-19 response in the state was characterised by a very low rate of testing and a very high rate of mortality of 13.2 per cent, which it said was by far the highest for any state.

The ministry also flagged instances of overcrowding in markets, free movement of people in large numbers without masks, bathing of people in rivers, people playing cricket and football, serious laxity in enforcing lockdown measures in containment zones, plying of rickshaws without any restriction, saying these were grave violation of lockdown instructions and social distancing norms.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said her government has identified over 92,000 cases of influenza-like illness and 870 people with severe acute respiratory illness across the state, findings that serve as “early warning signals” in the fight against COVID-19.

Banerjee said the results were the outcome of her government’s extensive door-to-door surveillance over the last one month, covering over 5.5 crore households, and the exercise will continue “till the virus is defeated”.
Meanwhile, the number of containment zones in Kolkata has increased from 318 to 334. The city remains the epicentre of Covid-19 outbreak in the state.

INDUSTRY WARY TO REOPEN

Industry sources in various parts of the country said they were wary of opening their plants and offices due to concerns over movement of their staff, suppliers, transporters and vendors till the nationwide lockdown, which has been in force since March 25, gets completely lifted.

While announcing the third phase of the lockdown till May 17, the government had given several relaxations for getting industrial and agricultural activities restarted, but only a few companies, especially in the manufacturing sector, have resumed their operations and that too in a limited way mostly.

The country’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki India on Wednesday said it would resume operations at its Manesar plant in Haryana from May 12.

There are also widespread fears that the virus spread may get worse with the easing of the lockdown measures as yet, as the number of cases have been rising continuously across most of the major urban centres of the country.
Passport services are set to resume in Green and Orange zones from May 7, government officials said.

KERALA GETS READY TO WELCOME EXPATS

As the biggest evacuation exercise to repatriate Indians stranded overseas due to COVID-19 lockdown begins, the Kerala government has put in place all arrangements for receiving the expatriates who will arrive at four airports in the state beginning Thursday.

The international airports at Kannur, Kozhikode, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram will handle the arrivals, a large number of them from the Gulf region, with the first two Air India Express (AIE) flights from Abu Dhabi and Dubai set to land on Thursday night, carrying around 340 passengers totally.

CORONA WARRIORS FALL PREY TO INFECTION

Official sources said around 548 doctors, nurses and paramedics across the country have been found to be positive for the virus infection so far. This includes 69 doctors in the national capital. However, this figure does not include field workers, ward boys, sanitation workers, security guards, lab attendants, peons, laundry and kitchen staff among others and the figures may be much higher after taking these people into account.

Also, at least 154 personnel of the Border Security Force (BSF) have tested positive for coronavirus, including 85 cases that were detected on Wednesday. These include more than 60 deployed for law and order duties in the Jamia and Chandni Mahal area of the national capital and six from the escort team of the inter-ministerial central team (IMCT) that toured West Bengal to check COVID-19 containment measures in the state.

At least 37 infected personnel are from the Tripura frontier of the force.

A 31-year-old Delhi Police constable who died on Tuesday evening after falling sick has tested positive for coronavirus, becoming the city police’s first COVID-19 fatality.

DELHI GOVT RELEASES JAMAATIS IN QUARANTINE

In the meantime, the Delhi government ordered the release of 4,000 Tablighi members who have completed their required quarantine period in centres in the national capital, sources said. A huge congregation of ‘Tablighi Jamaat’ in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area earlier in March was seen as a major hotspot for the virus spread, after which there were also several cases of Muslims getting targeted and blamed by some for the pandemic.

Thousands of the Jamaat members were subsequently traced in various parts of the country and quarantined, including around 4,000 in Delhi itself.

While nearly 900 of those being released from quarantine are from Delhi itself, the rest are from other states and would be sent back to their home states. A majority of them hail from Tamil Nadu and Telangana.

SENSEX SNAPS 2-DAY LOSING STREAK

Markets found firmer ground on Wednesday after two sessions of losses as investors made a cautious return to some recently-battered banking, finance and auto counters.

After swinging over 800 points during the day, the 30-share BSE Sensex closed 232.24 points or 0.74 per cent higher at 31,685.75.

On similar lines, the NSE Nifty rose 65.30 points, or 0.71 per cent, to finish at 9,270.90.

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