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All from UAE, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait to be quarantined; COVID-19 cases touch 114

In a series of temporary preventive measures, the Group of Ministers (GoM) on COVID-19 on Monday banned the entry of travellers from European Union nations, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey and the United Kingdom to India from March 18.

After its seventh meeting on the COVID-19 outbreak, the GoM also called for expanding the compulsory quarantine for a minimum period of 14 days for passengers coming from/transiting through UAE, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait.

Odisha reports first case

The Union Health Ministry update on COVID-19 cases reported four new cases, taking the tally to 114 confirmed cases, including 13 discharges and two deaths, and 5,200 contacts, who are under surveillance. One fresh case each was reported from Odisha, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Kerala, the Ministry said.

Reports from States, however, put the total number of cases, including fatalities, at 123. The highest number of cases at 39, is from Maharashtra, with two more people, including a Philippine national, testing positive, State Health Department officials said. With one more confirmation, Karnataka now has eight cases.

The national capital, which has so far reported seven COVID-19 cases and one death, announced that all gyms, night clubs and spas will remain shut till March 31 and that a gathering with more than 50 persons, excluding weddings, will not be allowed.

A senior Health Ministry official said if an Indian from Europe or U.K. or Turkey travels to another country from which there is no ban, such as the U.S. or Australia, he or she will be “allowed entry and quarantined or advised home quarantine depending on his condition.” He added that this was already being allowed for Indians returning from France or Germany via Dubai in UAE.

Speaking at a press meet, Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry Lav Agarwal, assured that “adequate number of tests are being done to get information about any community transmission”.

“We don’t want to create panic and conduct unnecessary mass testing of people as of now. There is no requirement for it,” he added.

Plea in SC cites possible job losses, NPAs

The SC had asked the firms to pay up within three months.

Nearly five months after winning its legal battle in the Supreme Court against telecom majors, including Vodafone and Bharti Airtel, for payment of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues worth several lakhs of crores of rupees, the Centre did a virtual U-turn on Monday by urging the court to give the companies a 20-year window to pay the money back.

In an application mentioned for urgent hearing in the top court, the government said it has, after “detailed and long-drawn deliberations”, devised a “formula” to soften the blow of the October 24, 2019 judgment directing the companies to cough up the AGR in three months.

Staggered instalments

“All the licensees impacted by the judgment be allowed to pay the unpaid or remaining amount of past DoT assessed/calculated dues in annual instalments over 20 years (or less if they so opt), duly protecting the net present value of the said dues using a discount rate of 8% (based on one year marginal cost of lending rate of SBI which is currently 7.75%),” the application said.

₹110 lakh crore made available to govt.

Om Birla

The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the Appropriation Bill 2020-21 that empowers the government to draw over ₹110 lakh crore from the Consolidated Fund of India for its working, as well as for the implementation of its programmes and schemes.

Now, with only the Finance Bill that pertains to the government’s taxation proposal awaiting passage, questions are being asked if the government would go in for an early adjournment because of the spread of COVID-19.

Both Speaker Om Birla and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi have so far said there is no plan to cut short the session ahead of its scheduled date of April 3.

With the passage of the Appropriation Bill, two-thirds of the exercise for the approval of the 2020-21 Budget has been completed as both Houses had debated Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Budget proposals in the first half of the current session.

The Appropriation Bill, passed by by a voice vote, envisages spending of ₹110.4 lakh crore during the Financial Year 2020-21. Speaker Om Birla applied “guillotine” — the Parliamentary tool to club all other pending subjects for discussion — after the discussion on the demand for grants to the Ministry of Tourism was completed. Earlier, the House had discussed in detail the demands for grants for Railways, and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Participating in the discussion on tourism, the BJP’s Rajiv Pratap Rudy cautioned the government on impact of COVID-19 on the tourism sector and urged the government to offer a relief package as other countries have done.

Initiating the debate, Congress member Vincent Pala said that though there is a huge potential for growth in the sector, there is hardly any coordination between the Tourism Ministry and other Ministries.

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