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Health Minister puts recovery rate at 21.9%, with 5,913 patients testing negative

The death toll due to COVID-19 continued to rise on Sunday, with the country registering a total of 826 fatalities and 26,917 cases, according to the Union Health Ministry. While the death toll rose by 46, the number of cases spiked by 1,975 since Saturday evening.

The number of active cases stood at 20,177, while 5,913 people have recovered and one patient has migrated, the Ministry said. The total number of cases includes 111 foreign nationals, while 312 cases are being assigned to States for contact tracing.

However, reports from the States put the total number of cases at 27, 579, out of which 20,274 are active. The nationwide death toll stood at 880, while 6,425 people have recovered.

Maharashtra accounts for the highest number of fatalities, followed by Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, and Andhra Pradesh.

“Through a graded, pre-emptive and pro-active approach, the Central government is taking several steps along with the States/Union Territories for prevention, containment and management of COVID-19. These are being regularly reviewed and monitored at the highest level,” said Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday.

‘Situation improving’

Speaking after a visit to the Trauma Centre of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences here to take stock of COVID-19 preparedness, he noted that 5,913 people have recovered, with a recovery rate of 21.9%. “The situation is improving in India as Hotspot Districts are moving towards becoming Non Hotspot Districts,” said the Minister.

Dr. Vardhan said people should observe the lockdown in letter and spirit and treat it as an effective intervention to cut down the spread of COVID-19.

The Minister said the doubling rate had been showing regular improvement and stood at 10.5 days when seen over a period of 3 days, 9.3 days over a period of 7 days and 8.1 days over a period of 14 days. “These indicators may be be taken as positive effects of the lockdown along with the cluster management and containment strategies,” he said.

Dr. Vardhan said, “As on date, 283 districts have not reported any COVID cases till date, 64 districts have not reported a fresh case since the last 7 days, 48 districts have not reported a fresh case since the last 14 days, 33 districts have not reported a fresh case since the last 21 days and 18 districts have not reported a fresh case since the last 28 days.”

Waive permits in non-containment zones, urges CII

Almost half of the industries which have been allowed to reopen still face hurdles in obtaining permits to function and passes for employees, according to a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) survey. Over 60% of surveyed companies also said movement of inputs and finished goods is still disrupted.

The industry group demanded that businesses should be allowed to function without need of permits in non-containment areas, with workers allowed to commute to work in their own vehicles on the basis of a letter issued by the employer without need of a government pass.

The Centre has slowly been easing restrictions, first allowing the reopening of essential sector businesses and then permitted industries located in rural areas, as well as certain sectors including construction, information technology and hardware, to begin work subject to certain restrictions.

180 companies

Nationwide, 180 companies participated in the CII survey, which was conducted on April 23 and 24, a few days after the latest round of relaxations came into effect on April 20.

Asked whether permits to operate were easily available for the sectors which were allowed to function, 19% of companies said permits were not available to them, while 27% said they had faced delays.

CII suggested that permits may be granted on a self-certification basis by State governments, at least in areas which are not hotspots of infection.

Difficulties in transport — of both men and materials — have created a major bottleneck. Workers at functional units require passes from the government to move around. Only 36% of respondents said passes were readily provided, and 67% said the daily commute was problematic.

In fact, the unavailability of workers or their inability to travel to the workplace was the single largest reason that prevented businesses from operating, the survey showed. CII suggested that employees be allowed to use their own private vehicles, and that government passes should be replaced by company letters.

Only 15% of companies said that movement of raw materials and finished goods was taking place smoothly.

Pitch Black 2020, scheduled to be held in July, scrapped in view of COVID crisis

R.K.S. Bhadauria

Australia has informed India that its premier multilateral air combat training exercise — Pitch Black 2020— scheduled from July 27 to August 14 has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation, defence sources said.

This was conveyed by Air Marshal Meg Hupfeld, Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), in a letter to Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria, in mid-April.

“The RAAF Chief informed of his decision to cancel the exercise this year due to the current and anticipated impacts of the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19,” a defence source told The Hindu. He also noted that while the IAF was not participating with aircraft, Ex Pitch Black 2020 would have provided an opportunity for engagement between our personnel, the source said.

Next edition in 2022

The exercise is also an opportunity to interact with forces from across the globe, a second defence source said. The next edition of Pitch Black is scheduled for 2022.

In the last edition of Pitch Black in 2018, the IAF for the first time deployed fighter aircraft which it had said would “provide a unique opportunity for exchange of knowledge and experience with these nations in a dynamic warfare environment”.

The defence and strategic engagement with Australia has steadily gone up in recent years especially on the bilateral front with naval cooperation at the forefront. The bilateral naval exercise AUSINDEX early last year saw participation of the largest Australian contingent ever to India with over 1,000 personnel.

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