India’s Coronavirus Count Crosses 1,000, Death Toll at 27 as Govt Orders Sealing of State and District Borders

Delhi alone reported 23 fresh positive cases, taking its count to 72, while more people tested positive in adjoining Noida as also in Maharashtra and Bihar, among other states.

New Delhi: The nationwide tally of confirmed coronavirus cases crossed the 1,000-mark and the death toll reached 27 on Sunday even as the central government ordered the sealing of all state and district borders to check community transmission of the deadly virus by migrant workers and asked those having already left to be quarantined for 14 days.

Delhi alone reported 23 fresh positive cases, taking its count to 72, while more people tested positive in adjoining Noida as also in Maharashtra and Bihar, among other states.

The new cases included a SpiceJet pilot with no history of international travel as well as a doctor and a junior commissioned officer in the Indian Army. The colonel-rank doctor is serving at the Command Hospital in Kolkata while the JCO is posted at an Army base in Dehradun.

Sources said the Army has traced all those who have come in contact with the two persons and the duo has been quarantined. The two are understood to have visited an Army facility near the national capital earlier this month.

The total number of positive cases has increased by 106 in the last 24 hours to reach 1,024 and eight more persons died in this period to take the nationwide toll to 27, according to the latest official figures released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

As the 21-day lockdown entered its fifth day, the exodus of migrant workers from big cities continued, with people desperate to return to their villages after being left jobless and many of them without food or shelter. Charitable organizations, volunteers, religious institutions and government bodies, including the Railway Protection Force, fed tens of thousands across the nation but many more remained outside the safety net.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio broadcast, sought the nation’s forgiveness for the hardships caused by the lockdown, saying it was necessary because the country was fighting a battle between life and death. However, he expressed confidence that “we will definitely win the battle” against the coronavirus menace and praised the front-line workers as well as countless workers delivering the essential services.

The government announced some more exemptions to the lockdown by allowing movement of all goods, irrespective of those being in essential or non-essential categories.

But a panic-like situation emerged due to the mass exodus of migrant workers from various parts of the country, including Delhi, Maharashtra, and Kerala, where a large number of people came out of relief camps and demanded being allowed to go back to their homes.

A migrant worker reportedly died of a heart attack in Uttar Pradesh after walking more than 200 km on the way to his hometown in Madhya Pradesh from Delhi.

Hundreds of migrant workers also gathered again near the Anand Vihar terminus near the Delhi-UP border, hoping to board buses to their villages but were turned back by police. Large numbers were seeking walking in groups on highways and even on railway tracks.

Government orders directives

Concerned over such movements causing the risk of a community spread, the Centre asked state governments and Union Territory administrations to effectively seal all state and district borders and said those having already left be quarantined for 14 days.

In a video conference with chief secretaries and the director generals of police (DGPs), Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba and Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla directed them to ensure there is no movement of people across cities or on highways.

“There has been a movement of migrant workers in some parts of the country. Directions were issued that district and state borders should be effectively sealed,” an official statement said. Only the movement of goods and of those involved in the delivery of essential services is allowed during the lockdown.

States have been also told to ensure timely payment of wages to laborers at their place of work during the period of lockdown without any cut.

House rent should not be demanded from the laborers for this period. Action should be taken against those who are asking laborers or students to vacate the premises, the government statement said.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Maharashtra’s Uddhav Thackeray, among other state leaders, asked migrant workers in their respective states to stay put and promised them food and other facilities.

The Indian Railways said it will now run special trains of parcel vans to ferry essential commodities.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi wrote to Modi, saying the sudden lockdown has created immense “panic” and “confusion”. He called for steps other than a total lockdown announced by some developed nations to tackle the deadly disease.

The Prime Minister’s Office said Modi is interacting with over 200 people on a daily basis to get first-hand feedback on India’s fight against the coronavirus crisis. These include phone calls to governors, chief ministers, and state health ministers, as also as doctors, nurses, health workers and sanitation staff in various parts of the country.

The PMO also constituted 10 different high-level committees to suggest measures to ramp up healthcare, put the economy back on track and reduce the misery of people as quickly as possible post the 21-day lockdown period.

Infections on the rise

In its latest update on Sunday evening, the Health Ministry said the death toll has risen to 27 and the total number of positive cases has risen to 1,024. The number of active COVID-19 cases in the country was 901, while 95 people were either cured or discharged and one had migrated.

So far, Maharashtra has reported six deaths, Gujarat five, Karnataka three, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, and Jammu and Kashmir two each, and Kerala, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Punjab, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh one each.

The ministry also issued guidelines on the disinfection of public places including offices and the standard operating procedure for transporting suspects and confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Several ministers and various government departments announced donations towards the coronavirus fight, while a number of corporates declared their contributions to relief funds. The government said such contributions by companies would qualify as their statutory Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) spending.

Globally the death toll crossed 31,000 on Sunday, with more than 20,000 deaths in Europe itself, while Spain and Italy have reported more than 800 deaths in a day.

Nearly one-third of the world population is under lockdown to check the spread of this virus with jobs, manufacturing and all economic activities coming to almost a standstill. The confirmed infections worldwide have topped 6,67,000, with the US on top of the list with more than 1,04,000 cases

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