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Paytm employee tests positive in Gurugram; all international passengers to be screened

Fighting the virus: A Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation employee spraying disinfectant inside a bus in Bengaluru on Wednesday. K. MURALI_KUMAR

Fifteen Italian tourists, including the wife of an already infected person, and eight Indians tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, taking the total number of cases in the country to 29.

Two cases with a high viral load were also detected in Telangana.

A Paytm employee tested positive in Gurugram. The company said in a statement that the person had a travel history to Italy. The Health Ministry also confirmed the case, which came to light in the evening.

“As a precautionary measure, we have suggested that his team members get health tests done immediately. Our Noida and Gurgaon [Gurugram] offices will be shut for two days. We have also advised all our colleagues to work from home for a couple of days, while we get our offices sanitised. However, there will not be any impact on our daily operations and Paytm services will continue as usual,” the company said.

Giving details of the cases, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said six family members of a 45-year-old Delhi patient had tested positive.

The infection broke out in China’s Wuhan city in December and has spread to over 60 countries, killing more than 3,000 and infecting over 90,000.

“India, with a significant rise in COVID-19 cases, will start universal screening at all international airports and seaports through the use of thermal imagery equipment as well as mandatory filling of declaration forms of places visited by tourists and travellers returning from abroad. All passengers of international flights will now have to undergo screening, and not just from the 12 countries listed earlier,” he said.

‘Cluster approach’

The Minister said the government would adopt a cluster approach to contain the virus. “Health authorities will check and sensitise every household within a 3-km radius of the house of the infected person,” he said.

“Over 5,89,000 people have been screened at airports in two months, over 10 lakh screened on borders with Nepal and around 27,000 are under community surveillance,” he said.

Mr. Vardhan said that of the total cases, “the patient from Delhi has infected six of his relatives in Agra whom he recently visited, and they all are being treated at Safdarjung Hospital. The 24-year-old man from Hyderabad has also tested positive, and has been isolated. Besides, 15 members of a tourist group from Italy and their Indian driver have been found infected with the virus.”

“While an Italian man and his wife are being treated at Jaipur’s SMS Hospital, the other Italians who have tested positive are being treated at designated hospitals and some others are in preventive isolation at a different location. The Italian tourists wanted to go back to their country after the first person in their group tested positive in Jaipur, but the authorities advised them to stay in India. Three persons, infected earlier in Kerala, have already been discharged,” he said.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday set aside an April 6, 2018, circular of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) that prohibited banks and entities regulated by it from providing services in relation to virtual currencies (VCs).

“Till date, RBI has not come out with a stand that any of the entities regulated by it namely, nationalised banks/scheduled commercial banks/cooperative banks/NBFCs, have suffered any loss or adverse effect directly or indirectly, on account of VC exchanges,” a Bench comprising Justices Rohinton Nariman, Aniruddha Bose and V. Ramasubramanian observed in a 180-page judgment.

Justice Ramasubramanian, who authored the ruling, found the RBI circular “disproportionate” with an otherwise consistent stand taken by the central bank that VCs were not prohibited in the country.

Centre tells UN team on Palestine

Cheikh Niang

India has remained “steadfast” in its support for Palestinian rights and has consistently voted in favour of Palestine at the UN on “15 key resolutions”, said members of a key UN body, calling for New Delhi to play an “enhanced” role in the search for a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

A four-member delegation of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable rights of the Palestinian People said that during discussions with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, the government had reiterated its traditional stand on the issue.

“We would like countries like India that have good relations with both Israel and Palestine, and are also attached to multilateral principles, to play a bigger role in the resolution of the issue,” Cheikh Niang, Chairman of the committee, who visited Delhi this week told presspersons. Mr. Niang explained that part of the reason for the first such country visit by the panel was that India was expected to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2021-22.

Asked about India’s recent votes that appeared to support Israel, including one at the UN’s ECOSOC in June 2019 which ended the consultative status for a Palestinian NGO that Israel claimed had terror links, the committee members said those actions were not reflective of India’s stand on the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

They pointed to several other votes by India, including the UN General Assembly vote, that had sharply criticised the United States for recognising Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in December 2017. India had also voted in favour of another UNGA resolution “deploring the use of excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians” in June 2018.

“The best way to test India’s commitment is the way India votes,” Mr. Niang told The Hindu. “India has consistently voted in favour of those resolutions that promote the two-state solution with a Palestinian claim to East Jerusalem. We have not seen any weakening of the position.”

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