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Four security personnel were injured in the operation in Srinagar’s old city

People trying to douse the flames after a house caught fire during the encounter in Srinagar on Tuesday. NISSAR AHMAD

Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TeH) chairman and separatist leader Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai’s son was among the two Hizb-ul Mujahideen militants killed on Tuesday in an 11-hour-long operation in a congested locality of Srinagar’s old city.

Four security personnel were injured, and over 10 houses were damaged.

“Two militants were killed in the operation that was launched late on Monday night in the Nawa Kadal area. Sehrai’s son Junaid Khan, a ‘divisional commander,’ was assigned the task of heading the Central Kashmir areas. The second militant Tariq Ahmed Sheikh was from south Kashmir’s Pulwama,” said J&K Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh.

Two rifles were recovered from the encounter site. Mr. Singh said Junaid had come to the old city “to lure youth into militancy and encourage grenade throwing”.

‘Clean operation’

After establishing contact with the militants around 3 a.m., the security forces decided to hold fire till the morning. They engaged the militants in a gunfight around 9 a.m.

“The operation was a clean one. Only one house caught fire and it was controlled immediately. In the process of evacuating civilians, a policeman and a CRPF jawan were injured. Two more CRPF jawans were injured in the final assault as the remaining militant hurled a grenade. All the injured are stable,” said Mr. Singh.

5,680 fresh cases recorded; no decision yet on dropping HCQ as a prophylactic

The Union Health Ministry announced fresh workplace guidelines on Tuesday.

With the easing of the lockdown measures and with more offices/workplaces starting operations, the Ministry directed that anyone diagnosed as a suspected/confirmed case of COVID-19 should immediately inform the office authorities and isolate themselves.

While there was no need to close the entire office building/halt work if one or two cases were detected, a large outbreak would require that the building be shut down for 48 hours and disinfected, it stated.

The guidelines make it mandatory to maintain a physical distance of at least one metre to be followed at all times along with use of face covers/masks.

ICMR to relook

The Ministry also said that no decision has been taken as yet to replace hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), introduced as a game-changer to arrest the spread of COVID-19, as a prophylactic, with HIV combination drugs, after reports of experts demanding that it be dropped from the safety guideline list of drugs prescribed for high-risk persons, including healthcare workers.

With experts questioning the effectiveness of HCQ, a senior health official said the drug was under review “but no decision has been taken to drop it just yet”.

Since the COVID-19 situation was a dynamic one and now with the lockdown being relaxed, a relook was being done by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

India on Tuesday reported 5,680 new cases, taking the tally to 1,06,425, according to data from the State Health Departments. The number of active cases stood at 60,885, while 42,224 people have recovered. With 158 deaths on Tuesday, the toll rose to 3,316.

“The country is registering a recovery rate of 38.73%,’’ noted a Ministry release. A record number of 1,08,233 samples were tested on Monday, taking the total so far to 24,25,742, it said.

Lack of human presence kept nests along the Odisha coast undisturbed

Baby steps: Newly hatched Olive Ridley turtles make their way to the sea from the Rushikulya rookery in Odisha. Special Arrangement

Mass hatching of the Olive Ridley turtle eggs has ended at the Rushikulya rookery on the Odisha coast.

Lakhs of Olive Ridley hatchlings entered the sea at the beach in Ganjam district. The eggs, buried in nests along the sandy beach, began on May 7. The number of hatchings had reached its peak within a week. At present, hatchings continue to take place at a few stray nests along the coast.

On an average, 80 to 100 hatchlings come out from each nest.

This year, 3,23,063 Olive Ridley turtles had nested at the Rushikulya rookery. Despite the destruction of some nests and eggs by the high tide, a large number of hatchlings entered the sea from here.

According to wildlife experts, approximately one in every 1,000 hatchlings entering the sea survive to reach adulthood.

Following the mass mating that takes place at sea near the coast, male Olive Ridleys begin their return journey to destinations several hundred kilometres away. After the mass nesting, the female turtles do the same.

The eggs, laid in nests dug along the beach, incubate on their own with the help of the heat from the sand. Depending on the temperature of the sand, the eggs hatch in about 45 to 60 days.

Amlan Nayak, Berhampur Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), said the lockdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic reduced human presence during the mass nesting period, the incubation and the mass hatching along the Rushikulya rookery coast.

The mass nesting had begun on the beach in the wee hours of March 21, and continued till March 28.

The lockdown also reduced the inflow of tourists and local movement. Except for Forest officials and a few volunteers, no one was allowed to enter the area. There was also a reduction of waste along the beach, allowing for easier movement of the hatchlings to the sea.

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