Fresh outbreaks abroad raise concerns over lockdown easing
New Delhi -The nationwide tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases crossed 62,700 on Saturday and the death toll topped the 2,000 mark after hundreds more tested positive for the deadly virus infection in several states, while worries mounted globally about re-emergence of the outbreak after reopening of locked down economies.
Adding to the concerns, the fresh cases included at least two foreign returnees who had reached Kerala on May 7 in two separate first-day flights — one from Dubai and another from Abu Dhabi — under a massive ongoing evacuation plan of the central government to bring back stranded Indians abroad.
While large numbers of cases continued to get detected in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Delhi, among other places, experts have warned the numbers may rise further in the coming days due to the ongoing movement of lakhs of migrant workers being facilitated by trains and buses to help them reach their native places and because of a large number of Indians stranded abroad, along with expatriates, being brought back in special flights.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the two new cases in his state is a warning for all states to be on an alert to strengthen their “mitigation efforts and preventive measures.” Many more similar flights from abroad are reaching Kerala and several other states over the next few days under what is being called the ‘Vande Bharat’ mission.
In its daily update, the Union Health Ministry said the COVID-19 death toll has risen to 1,981 and the number of cases has climbed to 59,662, registering an increase of 95 deaths and 3,320 cases in 24 hours till Saturday morning.
The number of active COVID-19 cases stood at 39,834, while 17,846 people have recovered and one patient has migrated, it said.
However, a PTI tally of numbers reported by different states and UTs, as of 10.45 PM, showed at least 62,761 confirmed cases across the country, nearly 19,000 recoveries and 2,028 deaths. This showed an increase of over 6,000 confirmed cases since Friday morning.
On Saturday, fresh cases were also reported from Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Punjab, Bihar and Assam, among other places.
The health ministry said it has decided to deploy central teams in 10 states that have witnessed or are witnessing high COVID-19 cases to assist their health departments to facilitate management of the outbreak.
Earlier, 20 central teams of public health experts were earlier sent to highly-affected districts on May 3, while a high-level team was recently deputed in Mumbai to support Maharashtra’s efforts in COVID-19 response and management.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said the testing capacity for COVID-19 has been ramped up to around 95,000 tests per day and a total of over 15 lakh tests have been conducted so far across hundreds of government and private labs.
Globally, nearly 40 lakh people have tested positive for the deadly virus since its emergence in China last December, while approximately 2.75 lakh people have lost their lives. However, nearly 13 lakh people have recovered too, including nearly 2 lakh in the US and over 1.4 lakh in Germany.
Germany and South Korea are among those countries that have been seen as having successfully avoided large number of deaths by their extensive testing and contact tracing measures. But, worries mounted on Saturday about fresh outbreaks in both the countries following various lockdown relaxations, thus raising the risks associated with reopening of economies.
In India also, some relaxations have been given from the nationwide lockdown, which has been in place since March 25 and is scheduled to end on May 17 as of now.
The Goa government may allow holding of music classes and reopening of some state-run libraries in a phased manner on the condition of maintaining strict social distancing norms, the state’s Art and Culture Minister Govind Gawade said on Saturday. Goa is classified as a green zone with no coronavirus positive case as of now.
But the ongoing lockdown is also estimated to have hit the economies hard with several experts forecasting zero to very low GDP growth for the current fiscal, while a few have even forecast a decline in the GDP if the lockdown restrictions continue longer.
While fuel prices have already been hiked, an industry body of real estate developers said cement and steel rates have increased by 40-50 per cent in the last few weeks and alleged price cartelisation and unfair trade practices by their manufacturers.
Some industrial establishments have begun opening their facilities as per the available relaxations. Among other companies, Hyundai Motor India said its Chennai-based manufacturing facility rolled out 200 cars on the first day of resuming production on Friday.
Tamil Nadu reported four more deaths during the day, taking its death toll to 44, while 526 more people tested positive for the virus to take its tally to over 6,500.
In Maharashtra, 1,165 new cases were reported to take the state tally to 20,228, while the death toll rose to 779 after 48 more patients succumbed to COVID-19. Mumbai alone reported 27 more deaths, taking its count of fatalities to 489, while the count of confirmed cases in the country’s financial capital has risen to 12,864.
Gujarat reported 394 new cases, taking its tally to 7,797, while 23 more patients died to take the death toll to 472. Ahmedabad alone reported 280 new cases and 20 more deaths, taking its own case count to 5,540 and fatalities to 363.
In the national capital also, 224 new COVID-19 cases were recorded to take its tally to 6,542.
In Delhi, there was also confusion over the death toll as the data from the four hospitals showed more fatalities than the number reported by the Delhi government, but Delhi’s Health Minister Satyendar Jain said there is no reason to hide anything and not a single case will go unaccounted for.
He said the hospitals have not sent detailed death reports of patients with information such as reason of death, name and age etc, on the basis of which the COVID-19 health bulletin is updated. The health department has asked the hospitals to send the death reports and summaries at the earliest, so that the data can be promptly added to the bulletin.
There has been a mismatch in the numbers of West Bengal also for several days with the state government’s figures being lower than that of the Union Health Ministry.
The country’s largest paramilitary force CRPF also reported 62 fresh coronavirus infections on Saturday from a single Delhi-based unit, officials said.
The total number of active cases in the 3.25 lakh-strong force now stands at 231. While two personnel have recovered, one has succumbed to the infection.
Across all central paramilitary forces, at least 116 fresh coronavirus infections were reported on Saturday, taking the total number of positive personnel in these uniformed organisations to over 650, officials said.
The five Central Armed Police Forces also issued directions for strict physical or social distancing measures, sanitisation and quarantine in their camps and offices after a concerned Union Home Minister Amit Shah reviewed these rising cases on Friday with the force chiefs.
On the outskirts of the national capital, Noida reported its second COVID-19 death while its total cases rose to 216. The overall figure for Uttar Pradesh also rose with at least 163 new cases and eight fresh deaths.
Rajasthan recorded 129 more cases and three more fatalities, while 41 new cases were detected in Karnataka too.
In Bihar, five Bihar Military Police (BMP) personnel tested positive, taking the total number of COVID-19 cases in the state to 579. In Assam, a dental college student’s test came positive.
The Union Health Ministry has also revised its policy for discharge of COVID-19 patients under which only those developing severe illness or having compromised immunity will have to test negative through RT-PCR test before being discharged by a hospital.
Moderate cases of COVID-19 and pre-symptomatic, mild and very mild cases need not undergo tests before being discharged after resolution of their symptoms.
According to the rules till now, a patient was considered fit to be discharged if he or she tested negative on day 14 and then again in a span of 24 hours.
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