COVID-19 cases cross 600; more beds in hospitals as death toll touches 13

The government has formed a help desk, in collaboration with Whatsapp, to seek correct information on COVID-19

COVID-19, coronavirus, Coronavirus outbreak, coronavirus shutdown, lockdown, police, army
A group of students travelling in Delhi metro wearing masks amid coronavirus outbreak. Photo: PTI

As India entered the 21-day countrywide lockdown, the number of confirmed coronavirus touched 650 and the death toll rose to 13, said the health ministry on Thursday (March 26).

Beefing up the preparedness to fight the pandemic, a chain of hospitals of the Army ordnance factories and central paramilitary forces earmarked over 2,000 beds for isolation and treatment of people affected by COVID-19.

New deaths and cases

A 55-year-old man from Madurai succumbed to the deadly virus in the wee hours on Wednesday, while three others dies on late Wednesday, taking the toll in the country to 13 and marking the first coronavirus-linked death in Tamil Nadu. In Madhya Pradesh, a journalist was tested positive with COVID-19, prompting officials to ask the all his counterparts to go into quarantine as the person was present during Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s floor test in the state.

Economic stimulus package

The government is likely to unveil an economic stimulus package of Rs.1.5 lakh crore ($19.6 billion) as the country battles to curb the spread of coronavirus, a source from Finance Ministry said. It was reported that the package would focus on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and daily wage workers besides injecting liquidity in the market.

₹2 and ₹3 for wheat, rice

Union minister Prakash Javadekar announced that the government will give wheat and rice at ₹2 and ₹3 per kg respectively for the next three months to poor families. This will aid 80 crore daily wagers and others who lose their jobs and livelihoods during the lockdown, said the I&B minister.

Pass system amid lockdown

The Bengaluru Police on Wednesday decided to put in place a pass system to regulate the movement of people in the city during the three-week lockdown. City Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao said two types of passes will be issued for the purpose one for persons and another for vehicles.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal took a similar move and said, “To continue the availability of essential services for all, we have decided to give e-pass to all those who are involved in such professions but do not have any ID. You can reach out to us at 1031 to avail the e-pass.”

Use data judiciously

Industry body Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) on Wednesday urged mobile consumers to use data networks responsibly, so that critical services can run smoothly on communications infrastructure. It said data usage has surged nearly 30 per cent over the last few days in the wake of lockdowns, work-from-home and social distancing measures adopted to contain the spread of coronavirus.

New ways or brutality?

With people continuing to wander on the roads for non-essential activities, from making COVIDIOTS (a term coined for those flouting restrictions) squat on the road and do sit-ups, to making them pose with pamphlets admitting their fault, police officials have pulled out all the stops from their kitty of creativity to drive home the message. However, in places like Guntur, Telangana, Sikar (Rajasthan), police was seen beating up those flouting the rules with lathis, even after they showed their id cards, including doctors and those out to buy essential commodities.

E-commerce sites suspend operation

Walmart-owned Flipkart and Amazon India’s Pantry have been suspended temporarily having seen manifold growth in orders on their platforms over the past few weeks as people logged online to stock food and household items as well as office items such as routers and cables (for work from home) on concerns around the spread of COVID-19.

Prince of Wales has COVID-19

Prince Charles on Wednesday tested positive for the novel coronavirus and is working from home, Clarence House announced, adding that the Prince of Wales was “displaying mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual”.

Services exempted

The Central government added ATM operation and cash management agencies to the list of services exempted from the lockdown. This will ensure that ATMs are refilled with cash and do not run out of money leading to inconvenience for consumers.

Other services such as veterinary hospitals, pharmacies including Jan Aushadhi Kendra, IT vendors for banking operations, shops for seeds and pesticides, manufacturing units for drugs, pharmaceuticals, medical devises, their raw materials, packaging material for food items, cross land border movements of LPG, food products and medical supplies were also added to the list of exempted or essential services.

PM’s appeal

Marking the day one of Navratri, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the citizens, whoever has the capability, to pledge to take care of nine families for 21 days and bring out the true essence of the festival. He also appealed for the people to take care of the animals around them who are taking a hit due to the lockdown.

He informed that the government formed a help desk, in collaboration with Whatsapp, to seek correct information on COVID-19. “If you have access to Whatsapp you can use the number 9013151515 for the purpose. If you write ‘Namaste’ on this number, either in English or in Hindi, then you will get an immediate response,” he said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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