Asia - Pacific

COVID-19: India on verge of shutdown

India nears shutdown with coronavirus cases rising to 137, travel bans, proposed social distancing

Cheena Kapoor   | 18.03.2020
COVID-19: India on verge of shutdown


The number of COVID-19 cases spiked from 126 to 137 Tuesday in India, including 14 discharged and three deaths. 

The new figures forced the government to issue an advisory asking businesses to allow employees to work from home.

The country also reported its third death from the virus Tuesday.

The advisory comes one day after the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare announced a temporary travel ban from the EU, U.K., and Turkey, effective Wednesday.
It suspended travel from Afghanistan, the Philippines, and Malaysia, with immediate effect. Airlines have been informed not to board passengers from those countries.
Earlier, the government suspended all existing visas until April 15.
India has been evacuating citizens from affected countries. In a series of tweets, the Minister of External Affairs, Dr. S. Jaishankar, confirmed another batch of evacuations from Iran.

“The fourth batch of 53 Indians - 52 students and a teacher- has arrived from Tehran and Shiraz. With this, a total of 389 Indians have returned to India from Iran. Thanks to the efforts of the Embassy of India in Iran and Iranian authorities,” he wrote. 

Situation so far 

A 64-year-old man, who tested positive for the virus and was hospitalized in Mumbai, died Tuesday, raising the death toll in the country to three, as confirmed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The two previous deaths were a 76-year-old man in Karnataka, who had returned from Saudi Arabia, and a 68-year-old woman in New Delhi.

The cases rose dramatically Tuesday with its epicenter in the western state of Maharashtra.

The surge in cases led to the government deputing new secretaries for effective management. “Government of India deputes 30 Additional Secretaries/Joint Secretaries to assist State Governments ineffective management of COVID-19,” tweeted the press information bureau (PIB), a nodal agency of the government for communicating to media.
As per the official figures, the government has screened 1,354,858 passengers at airports and 11,500 samples have been tested.

On Monday, the ministers of health, civil aviation and external affairs held a meeting to review the current status, and actions for prevention and management of COVID-19.

"After the meeting, the social distancing measures as a preventive strategy have been proposed for implementation. These measures are a preventive step to contain COVID-19 in the country and will in force till March 31," said a document released by the Health Ministry.

Key measures proposed include the closure of all educational institutions- schools, colleges and universities- gyms, museums, cultural and social centers, swimming pools and theaters. All ASI-protected monuments and central museums across the country will also be shut until March 31.

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