* Front Page & Nation

Govt. allots ₹15,000 crore to beef up infrastructure for treatment of patients

As the death toll from COVID-19 rose to 10, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced a 21-day lockdown for the entire country, stating that it was the only way for the country to break the chain of infection. The lockdown will be in effect till April 14.

In a nationwide television broadcast, Mr. Modi said the pandemic was a huge challenge to every country and even countries like the U.S. and Italy, considered to have good health infrastructure, were struggling to control the situation.

“In such a situation we have learnt from the experience of the countries that have managed to get some control over the surge in cases, and these show that a lockdown for a sustained period of time is the only way to break the chain of infection,” he said.

India on Tuesday recorded 564 positive cases, with the number of positive patients in Kerala and Maharahstra crossing 100.

Stating that it was the priority of both the Centre and State governments to set up health infrastructure as fast as possible to deal with the pandemic, Mr. Modi said the government had allotted ₹15,000 crore for the purchase of Personnel Protection Equipment for healthcare workers, setting up testing laboratories and quarantine centres.

“Draw a Laxman Rekha outside your house door and do not step outside of it. Stay where you are. This will be the decisive battle against coronavirus,” he said.

Sounding a note of caution, he said: “If we are not able to adhere to this lockdown sincerely for 21 days, believe me, India will go back 21 years.

Most people won’t be able to answer questions about date and place of birth of parents, says Minister

Chief Minister Hemant Soren

The Hemant Soren government in Jharkhand has urged the Centre to conduct the National Population Register (NPR) survey as per the 2010 format and not implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

A three-line resolution in this regard was passed by the State Assembly amidst opposition from the BJP members on Monday.

“In the present format with 15 points, people will be asked about date and place of birth of parents. Most people in Jharkhand will not be able to answer these questions. In Jharkhand, many people don’t even know their own date of birth,” Alamgir Alam, Jharkhand Rural Development Minister and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, told The Hindu.

He said the State government was of the view that the NPR was the first step; it would be followed by the NRC and finally the Citizen (Amendment) Act (CAA).

“People did not want the NPR to be conducted in the present format. People from different sections of society, MLAs and political parties had been demanding the rejection of the NRC and the NPR. So we have passed this resolution,” said the Minister.

“When the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar, in which the BJP is an alliance partner, passed the resolution rejecting the present NPR format, the saffron party remained silent. But, they are making a hue and cry in Jharkhand,” he said.

Recently, Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM), a forum of different civil society organisations, had demanded that the Jharkhand government should stop all NPR-related activities and pass a resolution in the Assembly against the CAA and the NRC.

Stating that the main purpose of the NPR was to lay the ground for the NRC, the JJM had said that the NRC was a “wasteful exercise” that was bound to lead to the exclusion and harassment of a large number of people, especially the poor as had already happened in Assam.

Lockdown in Northeast; Assam MLAs to donate salary for anti-virus fund

A girl buying surgical masks in Imphal. File photo

Assam became the last of the eight northeastern States to go into lockdown mode on Tuesday after a 23-year-old woman from Manipur became the region’s first to test positive for COVID-19 pandemic.

The woman was found infected with the virus on Tuesday morning following a medical examination conducted at a laboratory in Imphal’s Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences. Her parents, both college lecturers, and other family members have been quarantined with the police cordoning off the house.

Officials in Manipur said the woman, a student of biomedicine at Bristol University in United Kingdom, had arrived in Kolkata via Delhi on March 19. Her brother joined her in Kolkata from Atlanta, U.S. Both stayed in a hotel in Kolkata and arrived in Imphal on March 21 by a flight via Agartala, Tripura.

Last week, the Manipur government had made a list of 99 people who had arrived from various COVID-19-hit countries. The woman’s name was not on the list.

Attended a wedding

“She fell sick on Monday and was admitted in the hospital. We have taken away 12 members of her family and others and kept them under close observation,” said K. Rajo, the State’s Director of Health. Reports suggest she had attended a wedding before she tested positive.

Later, Chief Minister N. Biren Singh took to social media requesting the people to shut themselves in for their own good. “I urge those who returned from foreign countries to honestly declare their travel history,” he said.

The authorities in southern Assam’s Hailakandi district filed an FIR against a man who had arrived from abroad on Monday but did not report at the nearest police station or health station as mandated. “Departmental action for immediate suspension is also being drawn against the father, a government employee, for concealing information,” Deputy Commissioner Keerthi Jalli said.

Members of the family had misled the authorities by saying he would arrive after three days but an enquiry revealed he had already reached home.

Officials said 721 people, who had come from abroad and other parts of India, have been home quarantined.

All the 126 legislators in the Assam Assembly on Tuesday pledged a month’s pay for a fund set up by CM Sarbananda Sonowal to combat COVID-19.

The authorities in Meghalaya capital Shillong on Tuesday introduced the odd-even formula for private vehicles to enable people to fetch essentials. Such vehicles bearing even and odd registration numbers would be allowed to move within a limited area on even and odd dates.

The All Manipur Newspaper Distributors and Hawkers Association on Tuesday announced they will stop delivering newspapers to homes and offices till March 31.

Diplomatic missions are dealing with twin challenges of keeping staff safe while ensuring their nationals are able to return, given the ban on commercial flights

Nowhere to go: Planes stationed on the runway at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai after all domestic and international flights were cancelled. Vijay BatePTI

Germany is hoping to fly out the first batch of an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 tourists who have been stuck in India since the government banned commercial flights a week ago to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The special flights, starting on Wednesday and expected to operate all week, are being coordinated by an “embassy crisis centre” being run 24/7 at the Embassy in Delhi, which is registering all German tourists and travellers in India so as to evacuate them.

“As an act of solidarity in these difficult times, we are also taking some European Union citizens with us. We will keep on working to facilitate for all who want to fly back,” Germany’s Ambassador to India Walter Lindner told The Hindu.

Close to airports

In a video broadcast in German on social media on Tuesday, Mr. Lindner also told citizens that they should try and move to hotels near the Delhi airport in preparation for the flights.

Apart from the challenge of dealing with the large numbers of Germans in India, is the fact that many are individual travellers, including some who are travelling in remote mountains, embassy officials explained.

As the lockdown in Delhi over the pandemic continues, several embassies say they are dealing with the twin worries of keeping their own staff safe while ensuring their nationals are able to return.

The government announced on March 17 that it would not allow any nationals from 37 countries to come to India, and has banned all commercial flight operations from March 22. However, the External Affairs Ministry says it will “facilitate requests for special flights by resident missions on a case by case basis.”

The government has also been coordinating with missions so that flights coming in to evacuate foreigners can bring in Indians stranded in their home countries as in the case of a KLM flight from Amsterdam and an Air Asia flight from Kuala Lumpur. The Home Ministry announced last week that it would extend all visas for foreign nationals until April 15.

Another worry a number of embassies say they are facing is the harassment of, and discrimination against, foreign nationals. One European diplomat said their citizens had been denied rooms at hotels when they arrived in Delhi, over fears they might carry the virus. Among the first major cases of the novel coronavirus in India were 16 Italian tourists in Rajasthan, who came into contact with an estimated over 200 Indians during their stay here. Most of them have now been discharged from hospitals in Gurugram.

The Spanish Embassy in Delhi says it estimates more than 400 of their tourists are still in India, and have been negotiating with local hotels to help accommodate them until they are able to get a special flight, or when commercial operations resume.

“While no hotel is throwing guests out, we are having a hard time securing new hotel reservations, as tourists are returning from places such as Pushkar and Rishikesh, and need to stay in Delhi,” said a Spanish Embassy official.

Face stigma

“Many of them say that Europeans are being identified and targeted particularly, taunted by bystanders who call them “corona”. It is very unusual for them, when this is normally such a friendly country,” he added.

The U.S. Embassy in Delhi, which has among the largest citizen populations in India, is also working on ways for Americans to be transported back. “We are working with airline companies and Indian authorities to identify transportation options for U.S. citizens to return,” an embassy spokesperson said.

Pages ( 1 of 4 ): 1 234Next »