New Delhi: From making masks mandatory to restricting movement of people in areas identified as COVID-19 hotspots, authorities across several states on Thursday beefed up surveillance and enforcement measures to contain the deadly virus outbreak as the nationwide tally of confirmed cases neared 6,000 with 169 deaths.
The Centre also announced a Rs150 billion (Dh7.2 billion) “India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package”, while Odisha became the first state to extend the lockdown further till April 30 and also announced closure of schools till June 17.
Several other states including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh said they will take a final decision in the coming days on whether to extend or not the 21-day nationwide lockdown, which entered its 16th day.
Fresh cases were reported from Gujarat, Bihar, Odisha, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan and West Bengal, among other places, while Maharashtra saw its tally of confirmed infections crossing 1,300 with at least 97 deaths.
A PTI tally of numbers reported by various states and union territories at 9 PM showed as many as 6,624 people having contracted the virus and at least 225 losing their lives so far. Nearly 600 have so far been cured and discharged.
However, the Union Home Ministry’s evening update said 169 people have died across the country with 5,865 total cases so far. The ministry said 591 new cases and 20 deaths have been reported in the last 24 hours.
According to ICMR, nearly 130,000 samples have been tested for coronavirus so far in the country and the rate of those confirming positive has ranged between 3-5 per cent in the last one and half months without showing any substantial increase.
Of the 20 deaths reported in the last 24 hours, in the Health Ministry tally, eight were from Maharashtra, three each from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, two from Jammu and Kashmir and one each from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, as per the Ministry.
Maharashtra has reported the highest number of COVID-19 deaths at 97, followed by 30 in Madhya Pradesh. Gujarat, Delhi and Telangana have so far reported their death tolls in low double digits, while Jharkhand reported its first COVID-19 death on Thursday.
Rational use of masks
The Union Health Ministry also stressed on the rational use of personal protective equipments (PPEs) by healthcare workers treating coronavirus patients amid concerns over their dwindling numbers in the country.
Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said there is no need to panic as India has sufficient stocks of PPEs and the government is making all efforts to augment their supply further.
At his daily briefing on the COVID-19 situation, he said orders for 1.7 crore PPEs have already been placed with domestic manufacturers and supply has already begun. He also said PPEs should be used rationally on the basis of risk profile. Orders for 49,000 ventilators have been placed too, Agarwal said.
High-level teams formed
Speaking about various initiatives taken by the government, Agarwal said the Health Ministry has formed 10 high-level multi-disciplinary central teams and they have been sent to nine states to support them with the containment plans, hospital management and ventilator management. These are Bihar, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telengana and Uttar Pradesh.
According to ICMR, India is also in the final stages of finalising protocol for conducting clinical trial on convalescent plasma therapy -- a process in which blood plasma from a patient who has recovered from COVID-19 is infused into a critically ill patient so that the specific antibodies present in the blood of the recovered person can help fight the infection.
Amid rising numbers across states, authorities announced strict measures to enforce the lockdown and further restrictions including complete sealing of areas identified as hotspots of the virus spread.
After extending the lockdown for two more weeks, Odisha government also promulgated an ordinance with provision of imprisonment up to two years for those who violate the epidemic regulations.
Masks mandatory in Rajasthan
Rajasthan made it mandatory for people to wear masks in urban areas and mandis, while the same was made compulsory for everyone stepping out in Madhya Pradesh as also for people in various cities of Mahrashtra besides Mumbai. Delhi and Uttar Pradesh had announced similar measures on Wednesday.
Also, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh expanded the list of containment zones that would be sealed off completely, after similar steps taken by Delhi and Uttar Pradesh a day before.
The Maharashtra government is also mulling complete shutdown in certain areas, including of markets. The state saw the total number of people having tested positive reach 1,364 -- the highest in the country. Tamil Nadu came a distant second at 834, followed by 720 in Delhi as on Thursday evening. Telangana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have reported over 400 cases each, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh among other states.