As the number of novel coronavirus cases in the country spiked to 107 on Sunday (March 15), states have stepped up measures directed at preventing and mitigating the disease.
To date, the country has recorded two deaths, one each from Delhi and Karnataka, due to coronavirus.
“The government has issued an advisory asking civil hospitals and medical colleges to set up isolation wards. We are trying our best to contain the spread of coronavirus which has spread to 12 states,” said Union Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey on Sunday.
With the World Health Organisation (WHO) categorising India as one of the countries with local transmission of the COVID-19 infection on Friday (March 13), states such as Tamil Nadu, Assam, West Bengal, Odisha, Telangana and Maharashtra have declared schools, colleges and other educational institutions to remain shut until the end of this month.
In a bid to avoid mass gatherings which could increase the risk of contracting the virus, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami directed closure of all kindergarten and primary schools till March 31, while also issuing an order to shut movie theatres and malls in the 16 districts which share borders with other virus-hit states.
So far, the southern state has recorded only one confirmed case which was tested negative during the second sample check and the health minister declared Tamil Nadu to be a virus-free region.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra became the worst coronavirus-affected state after the number of cases reached 31 from Pune, Mumbai, Nagpur, and Yavatmal.
Health minister Rajesh Tope on Saturday evening announced that shopping malls across the state will remain closed till the end of the month. However, grocery stores which sell commodities of daily need will remain open.
The state which is currently in the midst of a political crisis, has also ordered all schools and colleges to be shut till March 31.
The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Kamal Nath on Saturday (March 14) albeit in the absence of state health minister Tulsiram Silawat and school education minister Prabhuram Chaudhari, the two rebel MLAs who were removed from the cabinet on Friday. Nath said the portfolios have been entrusted to other ministers who are taking all necessary steps to combat the pandemic.
In view of the scarcity of masks, the inmates of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Central Jail in Jabalpur, have been asked to supply 2,000 masks to the state health department, Deputy Inspector General of Police (Jails) (Jabalpur range) Gopal Tamrakar told PTI.
“A team of 50 inmates are engaged in making 2,000 masks. These will be supplied by March 16. The cost per piece is ₹7. The cotton cloth used for preparing the masks has been made in the powerlooms installed in the jail itself,” he said, adding that the chief medical and health officer inspected a few mask samples made by the inmates and certified that they conformed to WHO specifications.
The Kerala government on Sunday launched intensified medical check-up at border areas for people entering the state by rail and road.
The government has identified 24 spots in border areas that Kerala shares with Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and multiple teams, each headed by a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP) began the checking of vehicles coming into the state.
With a UK national testing positive on Sunday, the number of COVID-19 cases in the state has risen to 20 and as many as 302 people are in isolation wards of various hospitals across the state.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also took to Twitter expressing, “In light of the shortage, directions were given to engage the prisons in the State in manufacturing masks. It has commenced on a war footing basis. Today, the Prison officials of Thiruvananthapuram Jail have handed over the first batch.”
Elections to rural and urban local bodies in Andhra Pradesh were on Sunday put off indefinitely by the State Election Commission in view of spread of coronavirus.
Elections to gram panchayats have been kept in abeyance for six weeks, State Election Commissioner N Ramesh Kumar said.
As reported by PTI, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) announced that from March 17 devotee protocols for visiting the shrine will be changed to check the spread of COVID-19. Pilgrims need not wait in crowded queues as time-slot tokens would be issued for paying obeisance at the temple.
“Following the call by the Andhra Pradesh government to initiate steps to check the prevalence of coronavirus we’ve contemplated some measures,” TTD executive officer Anil Kumar Singhal said in Tirumala.
The usually bustling Bengaluru city remained silent as malls and public places were declared shut until the end of March on Saturday.
The Karnataka government has also announced postponement of annual examinations for students in Class VII to IX till March 31 as part of measures to prevent spread of coronavirus, which has claimed one life and affected five others in the state.
Revised exam dates will be declared later and the students would have study holidays till then, an education department circular said.
Home Ministry directive
In wake of the coronavirus pandemic, visitor passes to witness Parliament proceedings were suspended till further orders.
“Accordingly, members are requested not to recommend issue of Public Gallery passes and/or tender request(s) for Showground of Parliament House Complex. Kind cooperation of the Members is solicited,” a notification signed by Lok Sabha secretary general Snehlata Shrivastava read.
Meanwhile, the Home Ministry said the pilgrimage and registration for the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan will be suspended beginning Sunday midnight in view of the Coronavirus outbreak.
The government has also suspended movement of all types of passengers through international border points with Pakistan from 00:00 hours of March 16.
(With inputs from agencies)