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420 deaths recorded; 1,541 patients recover; active cases estimated at 10,824

India registered over 800 COVID-19 positive cases on Thursday, with the tally touching 12,759 cases and 420 deaths. These include over 10,824 active cases. A total of 1,541 people have been cured and discharged and one had migrated. The total number of cases include 76 foreign nationals.

The Health Ministry noted that India’s case fatality rate is 3.3% and percentage of people recovered is 12.02.

According to reports from the State Health Departments, the total number of COVID-19 cases in India are 13,339, of which 11,289 are active ones. A total of 452 people have died of the disease.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has said the rapid testing kit is not for diagnosis but for surveillance, especially in hotspots.

A total of 3,02,956 samples from 2,86,714 individuals have been tested as on Thursday.

‘We are not testing less’

“Working in one shift, more than 42,400 samples can be tested per day; if we work in two shifts, we will be able to test more than 78,200 samples per day,” said ICMR spokesperson R.R. Gangakhedkar.

Refuting allegation that India is not conducting enough coronavirus tests, the ICMR said, “India tests 24 people for one positive case, while Japan tests 11.7, Italy 6.7 and the U.S. tests 5.3. So, one cannot say that India is testing less.”

The spokesperson confirmed that India has on Thursday received 5 lakh rapid test kits for COVID-19 from China. “These have a sensitivity of over 80% and are serology kits which is not to be used for early diagnosis but for surveillance purpose, especially in hotspots,” said Dr. Gangakhedkar.

He added that there was no need to be concerned over the efficacy of the rapid antibody testing kits. “If an antibody test of a person turns out to be positive, one cannot necessarily be sure the person would not get infected ever again. This means, even if antibody is present, that doesn’t mean it will necessarily be effectively able to fight the virus.”

Fatality rate shot up to 12%, the highest in the country

Making amends: Residents of Tatpatti Bakhal in Indore apologising for the attack on health workers recently.PTI

As Indore grapples with a high fatality rate from COVID-19, the city administration is surveying all residents for Influenza-Like Illness and Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARIs) to check the spread of the novel coronavirus. The rate had shot up to 12% recently, the highest in the country.

Of the 28 lakh residents of the largest and most populous city of Madhya Pradesh, health workers have already screened seven lakh. The rest will be surveyed in five days.

With 707 COVID-19 cases as of Thursday, Indore has the third highest number of cases in the country, after Mumbai and New Delhi. With most patients having no contact or travel history, health workers are yet to locate the source of the outbreak.

In the past four days, the number of cases grew by 492. And the city, which has ranked the cleanest in the country thrice consecutively, accounts for more than half of the 1,163 cases in Madhya Pradesh.

So far, 10 nurses and paramedical staff members, and two front-line doctors have contracted the illness in the city. One private practitioner has also died. An official of the Health Department said such cases surfaced when hospitals did not provide personal protective equipment (PPE).

Most of the 39 people who died in the city suffered from bilateral pneumonia, which worsened to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome that caused the death. The novel coronavirus hastened the process. “Most of those who died had not revealed their illnesses before. They reached us very late carrying a heavy viral load, their lungs severely affected,” Chief Medical and Health Officer Pravin Jadia said.

It can be used to save lives of ones who are at higher risk: CM

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday announced that the Delhi government has been given permission by the Centre to start clinical trial of plasma enrichment technique on COVID-19 patients who are critically ill.

Mr. Kejriwal said that the results of these trials would be out in three-four days from now and hoped that the technique would work and that live of critical patients would be saved.

“The condition of several COVID-19 patients, who were admitted to hospitals in the last week of March and the first week of April, is improving now and many of them will be discharged in the next three-four days. It is those who are already suffering from heart or respiratory diseases who continue to be at a higher risk of losing their lives. If plasma technology is used in such cases, it can save lives,” the CM said.

The plasma transfusion technology involves taking the blood of a person who has recovered from COVID-19 that has anti-bodies that helped the person recover in the first place. Plasma is then extracted from the blood, is enriched, and is then injected into an infected person. The antibodies from the recovered person then enter the body of the infected patient and help them recover.

The CM said that the government has marked around 57 areas as containment zones under operation SHIELD to stop the spread of the virus and was ensuring that all essential services were being provided to the residents as people within the containment area cannot leave the area.

“No residents, excluding essential workers, are allowed to enter or exit these areas. Healthcare workers will conduct door-to-door screening of the area’s residents for COVID-19 and only those residents who say that they are suffering from some of the symptoms of the virus during the door-to-door screening will be tested,” the CM said. He added that operation SHIELD has been successful in not letting the virus spread in areas like Dilshad Garden and Vasundra Enclave.

The CM asked for the help of the media and others to highlight issues being faced by people in the city, especially those who are hungry so that the government could reach out and direct them to shelters or centres.

One more death in Bengaluru, Kerala prepares to open two districts for restricted activity, 9 test positive in A.P.

A total of 36 new COVID-19 cases — the biggest jump in a day in Karnataka so far — were reported on Thursday. North Karnataka accounted for 28 of them, and the day’s numbers pushed up the State tally to 315.

One more patient succumbed to COVID-19 taking the toll to 13. The Department of Health and Family Welfare said the 66-year-old man from Bengaluru died on Wednesday. The patient was admitted to Victoria hospital and was on ventilator support since April 10, after being referred from a private hospital.

Spurt in Belagavi

Belagavi district in North Karnataka, with 17 cases, accounted for 47% of the cases reported on Thursday, followed by Vijayapura, with seven cases. Five cases were reported from Bengaluru and three each from Kalaburagi and Mysuru. There was one case from Gadag district.

Primary and Secondary Education Minister S. Suresh Kumar said that the number of positive cases in Belagavi and Vijayapura was on the rise.

Of Thursday’s 36 positives, five of the cases were less than 16 years old and six were senior citizens. While the majority had come into contact with positive patients, some patients with a history of domestic travel also tested positive.

A total of 82 patients had been discharged as on Thursday. The most number of active cases were in Mysuru at 49, followed by 38 in Bengaluru Urban and 35 in Belagavi.

Normalcy in Kottayam

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday said Kottayam and Idukki districts would take their first steps towards restoring normalcy on April 20.

These districts reported no new COVID-19 positive cases. Other epidemiological indicators also qualified the regions for a calibrated return to regular life, he said.

The government would evaluate how Kottayam and Idukki recover. The observations would help the State form a template to help other regions. The district administrations would determine the path ahead.

In contrast, curfew would continue in Kasargode, Malappuram, Kannur, and Kozhikode till May 3.

The government reckoned the areas to be high-risk given the relatively higher number of COVID-19 cases.

The government would barricade epidemic “hotspot” localities and allow only a single entry and exit points for essential supplies, health workers, ambulances, and medicines.

Telangana and A.P.

In Telangana, the total of COVID-19 positive cases stood at 700, and among them, 496 were active. The number of patients discharged was 186 and the death toll was 18. There was no death on Thursday.

Andhra Pradesh reported nine new positive COVID-19 cases as of Thursday morning and the tally went up to 534 cases in 11 districts. Three cases each were reported in Krishna, Kurnool and West Godavari districts.

Although the Department of Health had claimed that it would be testing over 3,000 samples in a day for the first time on Thursday, there was no evening bulletin.

Reports said at least 15 persons including 13 from Kurnool and two from Anantapur had recovered and were discharged.

25 test positive in T.N

In Tamil Nadu, 62 persons who had tested positive for COVID-19 and underwent treatment in various hospitals, were discharged. This took the total number of patients discharged to 180.

Five persons - four residents of Chennai and one from Kancheepuram - were discharged from Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital.

Of the 25 persons who tested positive on Thursday, five (all contacts of COVID-19 patients) were from Namakkal. Three persons each were from Madurai, Ramanathapuram, Vellore and Chennai, two from Salem and one person each from Villupuram, Coimbatore, Tiruppur, Tirunelveli, Tiruvallur and Thanjavur, a bulletin from the Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine said.

Chennai accounted for a total of 217 positive cases, while Coimbatore had 127 cases. Tiruppur had 80 patients, while Erode had 70.

Target of 298.3 million tonnes of foodgrain set after normal monsoon forecast

Staple crops: Both rice and wheat production targets are minimally higher than the previous year. Akhilesh Kumar Akhilesh Kumar

On the back of a normal monsoon forecast, the Agriculture Ministry is targeting a record foodgrain production of 298.3 million tonnes for 2020-21, higher than the 291.95 million tonnes estimated for 2019-20.

According to a presentation made by Agriculture Commissioner Suresh Malhotra at a National Conference on Agriculture-Kharif 2020 Campaign on Thursday, both rice and wheat production targets are minimally higher than the previous year. However, the focus is on driving the growth in pulses, coarse cereals and oilseeds.

Due to the travel restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Agriculture Ministry’s annual meeting to review the ongoing rabi or winter season harvest and layout prospects for the coming kharif or summer cropping season is being held via video conferencing. Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar also interacted with State agriculture departments, briefing them on the measures taken to ensure a smooth and safe rabi harvest in the midst of the lockdown.

Normal rainfall

On Wednesday, the India Meteorological Department issued its first forecast for the monsoon, predicting normal rainfall, with a chance of above normal rain in August and September.

The main kharif season crop is rice, and the Agriculture Ministry is targeting a harvest of 102.6 million tonnes, slightly higher than the last kharif season harvest of 101.95 million tonnes. However, it has lowered its rice production target for the next rabi season to 14.9 million tonnes. This means that the total rice production target for 2020-21 is 117.5 million tonnes, barely higher than the previous year's target of 117.47 million tonnes.

Wheat production is also expected to remain steady, with a 2020-21 target of 106.5 million tonnes, in comparison to the previous year’s estimate of 106.21 million tonnes.

The Agriculture Ministry hopes to ramp up production of coarse cereals this year, but admits that the challenge is how to create demand for nutricereals or millets. It is targeting a harvest of 48.7 million tonnes in comparison to the previous season’s 45.24 million tonnes.

With regard to pulses, the target is 25.3 million tonnes compared to the previous season's estimates of 23 million tonnes, with the entire increase projected to come from the kharif season.

Oilseeds major priority

Oilseeds are a major priority, especially due to the disruption in edible oil imports caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The targeted harvest is 36.64 million tonnes, in comparison to the last season's estimates of 34.19 million tonnes. One challenge could be a shortfall in supply of soyabean seeds to the tune of 3.2 lakh quintals, due to unseasonal rains at the time of harvesting the seed crop.

The Ministry has also created an action plan for oil palm plantation, given the disruptions in imports. It hopes to cover 31,500 hectares with about 45 lakh seedlings this year, with the bulk of the plantation in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Of the 3,336 infected Indians spread across 53 countries, 2,061 are in Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia

Home away: Foreign nationals waiting to be screened for COVID-19 at a hospital in New Delhi on Thursday. PTIPTI

The majority of Indians who tested positive for COVID-19 infection abroad are located in the Gulf countries, a source familiar with the figures said on Thursday.

The official maintained that India had sufficient quarantine facilities to house the affected individuals. However, a decision was taken not to evacuate the affected nationals spread across the world because of the highly contagious nature of the novel coronavirus that causes the infection.

“There is no shortage of quarantine facilities in India. In fact, the nature of the virus is such that it spreads very fast. Therefore it is good that they remain where they are to avoid further spreading the virus, both in their host countries as well as in India,” said the source.

The official said that a total of 3,336 Indians spread across 53 countries have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and 25 Indians have died in the consequent COVID-19 infection. Out of the total, around 2,061 are in Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. On the northern coast of the Gulf, Iran also continues to host around 308 affected Indians, mainly in the cities of Qom and Tehran.

UAE’s offer

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been in frequent contact with the Arab leaders of the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council over the last two months as the cases increased among the blue collar Indian expats. The health related issues of the Indian workers in the region had been taken up most recently by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who wrote to Mr. Modi expressing concern about the “well being of Indian diaspora” in the region, especially in Dubai.

The United Arab Emirates has extended an offer to evacuate all affected Indian nationals following required medical tests, though New Delhi is yet to respond to that gesture. Earlier, on April 13, India sent a Rapid Response Team to Kuwait which held interactions with officials there, as the Gulf monarchy emerged as the largest host of Indians affected by the novel coronavirus abroad. The United Arab Emirates is also among the 54 countries where India is supplying the anti-malarial drug HydroxyChloroquine which is being tried in COVID-19 treatment. Apart from the Gulf nations, Singapore with 634 Indians is the other big hotspot. Italy (91), Malaysia (37), Portugal (36), Ghana (29), U.S. (24), Switzerland (15) and France (13) are some of the other countries on the list.

Ministry’s control room

To deal with the emerging situation, the Ministry of External Affairs set up a COVID-19 Control Room in March to serve as the nodal body for dealing with the Indians and their families living abroad. The official said that around 18,000 emails have been answered by the COVID-19 Control Room in the last few weeks. That apart, 5,000 phone calls and 2,000 public grievances were also addressed regarding the welfare of Indians who are abroad in the current difficult circumstances.

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