India homeless woman lockdown
A homeless woman holding a child waits to receive food during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to slow the spreading of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Kolkata, India, April 3, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: India’s coronavirus tally rose sharply on Friday with 478 cases reported in the last 24 hours, the highest spike so far, taking the total number of people infected with COVID-19 to 2,547. This includes 162 people who have been cured/discharged and 62 deaths, as per the latest data of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

As many as 647 positive coronavirus cases have been reported so far from across 14 states whose links can be traced to the Tablighi Jamaat cluster at Nizamuddin, the government said on Friday. Four Americans, nine British and six Chinese nationals were among the 960 foreign Tablighi Jamaat activists who were blacklisted and whose tourist visas were cancelled by the Union Home Ministry, officials said.

The health ministry also said that the criteria for sample testing may be revised if the need arose.

Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on Indians to hold candles and mobile phones aloft for nine minutes on Sunday to dispel the “darkness and uncertainty” of the coronavirus crisis.

“Friends, amidst the darkness spread by the Corona pandemic, we must continuously progress towards light and hope,” Modi said in an address to the nation on Friday. “We must defeat the deep darkness of the crisis, by spreading the glory of light in all four directions.”

He said people should turn off lights at 9.00pm on Sunday, light candles and earthenware lamps and switch on cellphone flashlights on their doorsteps and balconies for nine minutes.

Sample testing criteria may be revised

The Union Health Ministry on Friday said that there was a possibility of revising sample criteria for testing COVID-19, if the need arose. At a press conference in New Delhi, Joint Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, Lav Agarwal, said: “We are taking samples in hotspot zones and in the areas where we are getting more cases. In addition to it, we are testing cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) and Influenza-like illness (ILI).There is a possibility of revising sample criteria if the need arises, but no such decision has been taken so far.”

■ Maharashtra remains the worst hit state with a total number of positive cases rising to 335, followed by Tamil Nadu which has 309 cases, according to the Health Ministry data. At least 286 people are affected in Kerala, while the total number of cases in Delhi is 219.

■ In West Bengal, the number of active COVID-19 cases went up to 38 in West Bengal on Friday while nine patients fully recovered. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said three people had recovered from the disease earlier and were released from hospital.

■ In Madhya Pradesh there are 121 positive cases, a spike of 21 cases in 24 hours. Indore alone has recorded a total of 89 cases so far, with 14 cases since Thursday.

■ Supreme Court employees have donated their salaries to form a corpus of Rs 1.06 crore to contribute to PM Citizens' Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situation (PM CARES) fund to provide relief to the poor and destitute patients in need of food and shelter, as the country fights the COVID-19 pandemic.

■ To ensure that the learning process is not affected during the 21-day lockdown, the Delhi government has launched the first phase of its online learning activities with children - with one assignment a day for students up to Class 8. The new academic session in Delhi starts from April 1, however, due to the lockdown, the schools are shut.

Dr Manoj Muhekar, of the Indian Council of Medical Research, said 182 labs in the country were providing diagnosis for COVID-19 and 66,000 samples have been tested so far. He also said the ICMR is likely to release guidelines on Saturday on a rapid diagnostic test for coronavirus disease.

Home ministry asks states to get tough with those who attack health workers

The Home Ministry has written to state governments to take strict action when health professionals and frontline workers are attacked and ensure their security.

Coronavirus India helmet Chennai
Police inspector Rajesh Babu (C) wearing coronavirus-themed helmet speaks to a family on a motorbike at a checkpoint during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus in Chennai on March 28, 2020. Image Credit: AFP

Referring to security-related incidents of some health professionals and frontline workers, Joint Secretary (MHA) Punya Salila Srivastava said the Home Ministry has “written to all the states to take strict action against those involved in the attacks.” She said the states have also been directed through video conferencing to take these incidences very seriously and act promptly.

The instructions were given amid reports from various states including Madhya Pradesh and Bihar where health workers and the police officials who went to collect blood samples of suspected COVID-19 patients were allegedly attacked by a mob.

Supreme Court asks Karnataka, Kerala to amicably resolve border issue

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the governments of Karnataka and Kerala to amicably resolve the border issue amid the three-week nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus. The bench said chief secretaries of Kerala and Karnataka should hold a discussion with the Union health secretary and work out a solution amicably to facilitate the movement of people for medical treatment.

- with inputs from agencies