The number of novel coronavirus cases in India rose to 283 on Saturday with 65 persons testing positive as several states went into battle mode to contain the pandemic, imposing restrictions on people’s movement and gatherings besides announcing a slew of precautionary measures.
IMAGE: Health Department officials use infrared thermometers to examine passengers in the wake of coronavirus pandemic at a railway station in Kozhikode. Photograph: PTI Photo
The country is also set to observe a janata curfew from 7 am to 9 pm on Sunday after Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday pitched for social distancing, asking people, barring those in essential services, not to get out of their homes.
The health ministry said the total number of coronavirus positive cases stood at 283, with 65 fresh cases reported, the highest in a day.
The total figure includes four deaths reported from Delhi, Karnataka, Punjab and Maharashtra.
Several states also reported fresh cases though these numbers were not immediately taken into account by the health ministry.
IMAGE: A vendor arranges face masks at his stall to sell in the wake of deadly coronavirus, in Prayagraj. Photograph: PTI Photo
In some good news, Uttar Pradesh Health Minister Jai Pratap Singh, who had attended a party with Bollywood singer Kanika Kapoor days before she tested positive for coronavirus, tested negative for COVID-19 on Saturday.
The 66-year-old minister had gone into self-isolation after undergoing the testing here on Friday. Samples of 28 people who came in contact with him have also tested negative, King George Medical University spokesperson Dr Sudhir Singh said.
The Uttar Pradesh Police have booked Kapoor for negligence and committing acts that are likely to spread disease dangerous to life. She had attended at least three gatherings in Lucknow, including a party where political leaders were present.
Following Kapoor’s announcement, a number of people who came in contact with her directly or indirectly went into self-quarantine. They included Bharatiya Janata Party leader Vasundhara Raje, her MP son Dushyant Singh and parliamentarians Derek O’Brien and Anupriya Patel.
Former Bahujan Samaj Party MP Akbar Ahmad Dumpy, whose high profile party in Lucknow was attended by Kapoor, has decided to stay in isolation as a precautionary measure for 14 days at his farmhouse in Utttarakhand, an official said.
IMAGE: Disaster Response Force worker sprays disinfectant as a precaution against a coronavirus outbreak at public places, in Hyderabad. Photograph: PTI Photo
A number of states and union territories announced measures aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.
The Delhi government said the novel coronavirus was causing terrible financial stress to the poor and announced that those receiving ration from fair-price shops would get 50 per cent extra for next month.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal pension for widows, differently-abled and elderly will be doubled for this month.
Urging people to stay indoors, Kejriwal said the government has not imposed a lockdown in Delhi for now, but would have to do it if the need arises in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.
The Chhattisgarh government ordered closure of all its offices, except those providing essential and emergency services, till March 31.
In Odisha, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced a “near total” shutdown in five districts and eight other prominent towns for a week from Sunday morning.
These districts and towns were identified as over 3,000 residents have returned to these places from abroad in the past few days.
The Goa government imposed section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code across the state to prohibit large gatherings.
Health Minister Vishwajit Rane said the state government has also issued an order banning inter-state transport, except for the supply of essential commodities, from Saturday night onwards.
Goa shares borders with Maharashtra and Karnataka, where several people have tested positive for coronavirus infection.
Private events, including weddings, have also been banned in Goa till further orders.
IMAGE: Professors and non-teaching staff fill bottles with sanitiser after making it in a chemistry laboratory of Surendranath college in Kolkata. Photograph: PTI Photo
The State Election Commission of Arunachal Pradesh announced that municipal and panchayat elections slated to be held in April-May have been temporarily put on hold.
The Nashik administration in Maharashtra banned the sale of liquor from Saturday till further orders in the district invoking the Epidemic Diseases Act and Disaster Management Act.
The order to close bars, including those located in five star hotels and resorts, and liquor shops was issued by Collector Suraj Mandhare.
The Akola district administration ordered a lockdown between March 22 and 24 during which all establishments except those selling essential items will remain closed.
The move is similar to the sectoral shutdown put in place in Maharashtra’s major cities like Mumbai, Pune, Thane and Nagpur.
In West Bengal, the Mamata Banerjee government ordered all restaurants, bars, pubs, nightclubs, amusement parks, museums and zoos to remain shut till March 31.
The order, which aims to prevent all non-essential social gatherings, comes into effect on Sunday morning. The directive also applies to massage parlours and hookah bars, an official said, adding that strict action would be taken in case of any violation.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration said all its employees with foreign travel history along with their relatives would have to go for quarantine before resuming their duties.
Amid increasing cases of people affected by coronavirus, a couple was deboarded from a Delhi-bound Rajdhani train after co-passengers noticed a home quarantine seal on the husband’s hand. The Railways urged people to avoid non-essential travel for the safety of fellow citizens.
At a press conference, the health ministry said it carried out training for critical care management at 1,000 places through video conference and will conduct nationwide mock drill on Sunday for emergency response to handle coronavirus cases cases.
Health ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said guidelines for coronavirus tests have been revised, directing that asymptomatic direct, high-risk contacts of confirmed cases should be tested once between day 5 and day 14 of coming in contact with an infected person.
The government is likely to issue guidelines for private labs for the test later on Saturday, he said, adding that people should not go for coronavirus tests “out of fashion” or as a confidence-building exercise.
Protocols are in place and that will be followed, he said.
He asserted that the government is working to ramp up production of masks and sanitisers with states asked to allow deodorant manufacturers to produce sanitisers, adding there is no shortage of these items and people should not indulge in panic-buying.