India policemen coronavirus
Indian policemen wearing virus themed helmets ride on motorcycles during an awareness rally aimed at preventing the spread of new coronavirus in Hyderabad, India, Thursday, April 2, 2020. Image Credit: AP

New Delhi: India will pull out of a three-week lockdown in phases, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday, as officials battle to contain the country’s biggest cluster of coronavirus infections in the capital, New Delhi.

The shutdown, which has brought Asia’s third-largest economy to a shuddering halt, is due to end on April 14.

Modi had ordered India’s 1.3 billion people indoors to avert a massive outbreak of coronavirus infections, but the world’s biggest shutdown has left millions without jobs and forced migrant workers to flee to their villages for food and shelter.

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He told state chief ministers that the shutdown had helped limit infections but that the situation remained far from satisfactory around the world and there could be a second wave.

“Prime minister said that it is important to formulate a common exit strategy to ensure staggered re-emergence of the population once lockdown ends,” the government quoted him as saying in a video conference.

India has had 1,965 confirmed infections, of whom 50 have died, low figures by comparison with the United States, China, Italy and Spain.

50 medical professionals infected by coronavirus, says Health Ministry official

Around 50 members of medical staff, including doctors, nurses and paramedics, have tested positive for coronavirus across the country, a Health Ministry official said on Thursday.

There were reports of a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), following which Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday said that PPE kits and N95 masks are available in adequate quantities in the market.

Notably, two doctors of Safdarjung Hospital have tested positive for coronavirus.

Meanwhile, several incidents of health workers and medical professionals being attacked have also surfaced in the past few days amid the ongoing 21-day countrywide lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

■ A 59-year-old woman and her 10-month-old granddaughter tested positive for novel coronavirus in Chandigarh on Thursday. According to the Chandigarh Health Department, they are family contacts of the NRI couple that tested positive for COVID-19 earlier.

■ India has blacklisted 960 foreigners involved in Tablighi Jamaat activities and also cancelled their tourist visas for violating the lockdown measures imposed nationwide to break the chain of novel coronavirus pandemic.

■ India has sent essential medicines and hospital consumables to the Maldives to assist the country in their fight against COVID-19. Indian Air Force (IAF) C-130 aircraft airlifted 6.2 tonnes of essential medicines and hospital consumables to Male in Maldives under Operation Sanjeevani on Wednesday.

■ Food delivery platform Swiggy on Thursday said it has partnered with various commercial kitchens, NGOs and state governments to provide daily meals to thousands of underprivileged, daily wagers and stranded migrant labourers during the 21-day lockdown period.

■ Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday said that there were 21 new coronavirus positive cases taking the total number in the state to 256. "This includes two who had attended Tablighi Jamaat in Delhi. Today there are 165,934 under observation, which includes 643 at various hospitals in the state. Kasargode recorded 8 cases today," Vijayan said.

Some health workers and police officials, who went to collect the blood samples of the suspected COVID-19 patients in Bihar’s Munger were allegedly attacked by a mob on Thursday. A group of ASHA workers was also attacked by locals in Bengaluru on Wednesday.

400 COVID-19 cases with links to Tablighi Jamaat found: Health Ministry

As many as 400 coronavirus patients have been found whose epidemiological linkage can be traced to the Tablighi Jamaat cluster at Nizamuddin, the Centre said on Thursday.

“Through contact tracing in different states, we have found 400 coronavirus cases, whose epidemiological linkage can be traced to the Tablighi Jamaat cluster,” Lav Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, told media here.

“Till now, maximum cases of 173 were found in Tamil Nadu. 11 cases in Rajasthan, 9 cases from Andaman and Nicobar, 47 cases in Delhi, 2 cases in Puducherry, 22 cases in Jammu and Kashmir, 33 cases in Telangana, 67 cases in Andhra and 16 cases in Assam. We are doing additional testing and more cases are likely to emerge,” he added.

The Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi has emerged as a hotspot for COVID-19 after several positive cases across India were linked to the gathering, including deaths in Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Telangana.

- with inputs from agencies