Thu, 09 April 2020
Govt exempts duties on ventilators, masks

Timeline  Refresh

23:55   Govt exempts duties on ventilators, masks
The government on Thursday removed customs duty and health cess on ventilators, face and surgical masks, personal protection equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 test kits with a view to boost availability of these products in the country to fight coronavirus pandemic.

'In the context of Covid-19 situation, considering the immediate requirement of ventilators and other items, the Central Government has granted exemption from basic customs duty and health cess, on the import of these goods, with immediate effect,' the department of revenue said in a statement.

These exemptions will also be applicable on inputs used to manufacture these items.

'This basic customs duty exemption shall be available upto the September 30 this year,' it said.   -- PTI
23:15   India slams China over comments on J-K at UN
India on Thursday rejected a reference to Jammu and Kashmir by a spokesperson of China's permanent mission to the United Nations, asserting that the Union Territory 'has been, is and shall continue' to be its integral part.

Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava said India expects China to refrain from commenting on matters internal to India and the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

He said India also expects China to recognise and condemn the scourge of cross-border terrorism that affect the lives of the people of India, including in Jammu and Kashmir.

"We reject the reference to Jammu and Kashmir in a statement made by the spokesperson of the Permanent Mission of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations," he said.

Srivastava was responding to a query on the remarks by the Chinese spokesperson.

"China is well aware of India's consistent position on this issue. The Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir has been, is and shall continue to be an integral part of India. Issues related to J and K are internal matter to India," he said.

"It is, therefore, our expectation that other countries, including China, would refrain from commenting on matters that are internal affairs of India and respect India's sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said.  -- PTI
23:04   Cops thrash 2 doctors in Bhopal; probe ordered
Two junior government doctors,  including a woman, have alleged they were beaten up by policepersonnel who accused them of 'spreading coronavirus', leadingthe authorities to take disciplinary action against aconstable and order a probe into the incident on Thursday.

The doctors suffered injuries in the attack, which they said, took place close to AIIMS Bhopal -- their workplace- when they were on way to home after duty on Wednesday evening.

Taking a serious note of the incident, Bhopal City (South) Superintendent of Police Sai Krishna Thota on Thursday attached a constable to the line (taking him off field duty) and ordered a probe.

We showed them our IDs and also had our aprons on,said the lady doctor, identified only as Ritu, accompanied by the other victim, who had his right hand bandaged.

There were some more colleagues. The policemen were abusive and said we were the ones spreading the viral infection.

"They threw away our belongings and kept hitting us with sticks without any rhyme or reason," she alleged as her male colleague nodded in approval.

She claimed policemen also told them 'you are disgrace to this country'.  

"We first conveyed the matter to our professors and lodged a complaint with the mobile police control room through phone," she said, showing her crape bandage.

The two doctors later received first aid at the AIIMS.

Some of their friends recorded their ordeal and uploaded it on social media.

AIIMS Bhopal Director Dr Sarman Singh told PTI that they don't have any grudge against the police now as officers immediately contacted the hospital after the incident and took action promptly.

Seeking to downplay the incident, he said it was not proper to focus on 'small things' in the midst of a major health crisis.

SP Thota said, Police got a call that some vendors were selling vegetables near AIIMS which they were not supposed to. Two constables rushed to the spot in a four-wheeler to disperse the crowd.

"People out there ran helter-skelter on seeing the police. Near the same place they saw these (two) young doctors in civil dress. It was hard to differentiate them from others in the crowd," he contended.

"These doctors were not buying vegetable... they were purchasing milk," the SP added.

"An altercation took place, but the doctors did not suffer any major injuries or fractures," Thota said.

The SP acknowledged the role of doctors in fighting the coronavirus crisis.

"Doctors and police are on the same page in fighting the virus and we want cordial relations between the two pillars who are actually striving hard to manage the situation," he said.

Meanwhile, former chief minister Kamal Nath termed the incident as shameful.

He tweeted, 'Policemen beating up two PG doctors, including a lady doctor, has come to light.

'This is extremely shameful. We are proud of doctors who are serving people during the pandemic by risking their lives.'

The Congress leader demanded strict action against the guilty to ensure such incidents do not recur.  -- PTI
22:34   After 'go corona' Athawale has another song for the virus
A video clip of Union Minister Ramdas Athawale, whose 'go corona' slogan reverberated across social media, surfaced on Thursday with the politician urging people in his typical way to stay inside their homes to halt the spread of the deadly virus and defeat it.   

In the clip, the RPI-A leader is heard imploring people not get scared of the novel coronavirus and instead "kill" it.   

"Ab aap bilkul mat rona, kuch din ke baad chala jayega corona(virus). Corona ko mat daro na, corona ko abhi abhi marona (now you don't cry, the coronavirus will disappear after a few days. Don't be scared of coronavirus, kill it now). Corona go go go. Go corona, go corona, go corona. No corona, no corona," the minister of state is heard saying in the clip.
Image used for representational purpose
Image used for representational purpose
22:25   Delhi Wakf Board reserves graveyard for coronavirus victims
The Delhi Waqf Board on Thursday designated one of its graveyards specifically to bury those who die from Covid-19, in view of problems being faced by people in performing the last rites of coronavirus victims.   

In a letter to the secretary of Delhi government and health department, the board's chief executive officer SM Ali said it has designated its "Jadeed Qurustaan" graveyard near Millennium Park, for last rites of Covid-19 victims in the city. 

"One of the major problem faced by the public is last rites of Covid-19 victims. It has been reported that due to lack of information, the general public is not allowing the burial of victims of coronavirus in the graveyards of Delhi, which is unfortunate," the letter stated.          

Ali said the Waqf Board has designated its graveyard situated along the Ring Road near Millennium Park as "Covid-19 graveyard".   

"The graveyard may be used for burial of Covid-19 victims," he said.
21:57   SRPF to ensure lockdown discipline in Mumbai
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Thursday said the State Reserve Police Force needs to be deployed in congested areas of Mumbai to ensure strict implementation of the ongoing lockdown and prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Tope said the containment strategy was discussed in the cabinet meeting where ministers stressed the need to deploy SRPF personnel in congested areas of the metropolis as part of measures to halt the march of coronavirus.

"All ministers stressed the need to enforce strict lockdown and deploy SRPF as there is no option. Similarly, surveillance of crowds through drone technology was also necessary apart from installing CCTVs," he said.

He said public toilets in Dharavi, a COVID-19 hotspot, will be sanitised and cleaned every one or two hours as part of efforts to stop the virus spread.

The total number of positive cases in the state stood at 1,346 as of now.

Of these Mumbai has 746 patients, which is 50 per cent of the total, Tope said.

"This is a cause of worry," he added.

The sprawling slum colony of Dharavi has so far reported 17 COVID-19 cases and three deaths.  -- PTI
21:17   MP's COVID-19 death rate double than that of national average
The death rate due to coronavirus in Madhya Pradesh, where the infection has claimed at least 29 lives so far, stands at 7.50 per cent, which is more than double the national COVID-19 fatality rate of 3.25 per cent, according to an analysis of available figures.

Alarmed by the number of deaths in the state, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Wednesday asked officials to provide best medical facilities to COVID-19 patients curb the fatality rate.

According to health officials, 385 people have so far tested coronavirus positive in the state, of whom 29 have succumbed to the infection till Wednesday night.

The fatality rates comes to 7.50 per cent of the total number of patients in the state.

Till Wednesday night, the number of COVID-19 patients in the country, as per PTI, stood at 5,689.

Of them, at least 181 people, which is around 3.18 per cent of the total cases, have died.

This shows that MP's fatality rate was up 4.32 per cent or more than double the national incidence.

A per the figures provided by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Wednesday night, the virus has infected 5,274 people in the country.

Of them, 149 died, it said. The country's fatality rate was 2.8 per cent till Wednesday. The data given by the ICMR also revealed that MP's casualty rate was 4.7 per cent or just double the nation-wide deaths.

Meanwhile, an official of the state's Public Relations Department said Chouhan has taken stock of the coronavirus situation.

"Chouhan held a meeting here on Wednesday to take stock of the measures and directed officials to provide best healthcare facilities to patients to bring down the fatality rate," he said.

"Chouhan told the officials that right now, the death rate is 7 to 7.50 per cent. The patients of coronavirus should be treated as per the guidelines of the Centre," the official said.

Chouhan told the officials to register an FIR against people who hide the fact that they may be carriers of the virus.

They should first be treated and tried later, he told them.

According to the health department officials, 385 people in the state have tested coronavirus positive till Wednesday.

Of them, 213 are from Indore, one of the the worst hit cities in India in terms of the infection.

Currently, 331 patients are being treated in different districts of the state, they added.

The first cases of coronavirus in Madhya Pradesh were reported in Jabalpur city, where four persons, including two women with travel history abroad, tested positive on March 20.

Within three weeks, it spread to most parts of the state.  -- PTI
20:35   9 deaths, 79 new COVID-19 cases in Mumbai
Nine coronavirus patients died in Mumbai on Thursday, taking the death toll due to the deadly infection in the city to 65, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said.

79 persons tested positive for COVID-19 during the day, taking the number of such cases in the country's financial capital to 775, the civic body said.

Six patients were discharged after recovery, it said.

So far 65 coronavirus patients have been discharged from hospitals in the city. The BMC has set up 381 containment zones in the city.  -- PTI
19:49   COVID-19: 591 cases, 20 deaths in last 24 hrs
The death toll due to the novel coronavirus rose to 169 and the number of cases climbed to 5,865 in the country on Thursday, registering an increase of 591 cases and 20 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to the Union Health Ministry.

While the number of active COVID-19 cases is 5,218, as many as 477 people have been cured and discharged and one has migrated, the ministry said.

Of the 20 deaths reported in the last 24 hours, 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.

Maharashtra has reported the highest number of COVID-19 deaths at 72, followed by Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh with each recording 16 deaths and Delhi at nine.

Punjab and Tamil Nadu have reported eight fatalities each while Telangana has recorded seven deaths.

West Bengal and Karnataka have registered five deaths each.

Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh have reported four deaths each, while Haryana and Rajasthan have recorded three deaths each.

Two deaths have been reported from Kerala, while Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Odisha have recorded one fatality each, according to the health ministry data.

The total number of cases (5,865) includes 71 foreign nationals.

The death toll in the country due to COVID-19 was 149 on Wednesday.  -- PTI
19:08   98-yr-old Indian-origin woman beats COVID-19 in UK
A 98-year-old Indian-origin woman has pleasantly surprised her doctors and family after beating COVID-19 to return to her home in Scotland within days of her hospital admission.

Daphne Shah, who turns 99 in July, was taken to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee with a high temperature, persistent cough and breathing difficulties last Thursday.

In hospital, she was diagnosed with COVID-19 but recovered speedily and was back home with her pet dogs by Monday.

My son is looking after me now. I'm feeling reasonably well now, but I don't want to say too well. Having a celebratory party in July sounds like a great idea, Kochi-born Shah told her local Dundee Courier newspaper.

Shah's recovery even found a special mention in the coronavirus update press conference conducted by Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, as an inspiring and very welcome good news story for the week.

"I often, as I have done today, talk about those who have lost their lives from this virus but in these really tough times it is important we don't lose sight of good news so I want today to pass on my very best wishes to Daphne Shah," Sturgeon said.

Daphne is 98 years old and she has been receiving treatment for Covid-19 at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee. Note that I said she has' been receiving treatment.

Daphne has now recovered from this virus and she is back at home.

Sturgeon added that Shah's recovery is a reminder that even in dark times there is always light and hope.

When the ambulance was taking her away from her home near the city of Perth in Scotland, her son Wes feared the worst. But he is now thrilled to have his mother back home after being kept updated on her progress at Ward 11 in Ninewells Hospital with four calls a day.

They are a fantastic outfit and they will do everything they can for you.

It's unbelievable. As soon as this is all over, the first place I will go is to Ward 11 to thank everybody, he said.   -- PTI
18:56   Man thrashed after being accused of conspiracy to spread COVID-19
A man who had returned to his village in Bawana in northwest Delhi after attending a Tablighi Jamaat conference in Bhopal was allegedly thrashed earlier this week after some people accused him of spreading COVID-19, police said.

Three people -- Naveen, Prashant and Promod -- have been arrested for allegedly beating the 22-year-old, who is recovering from his injuries in a hospital, police officials said.

It was earlier erroneously reported by PTI that the man had died after being thrashed.

Mehboob Ali, a resident of Harewali village in Bawana, had gone to Bhopal for a Tablighi Jamaat conference, officials said.

He was there for 45 days and returned to the national capital in a truck carrying vegetables.

He got off at the Azadpur vegetable market on Sunday where a medical examination was conducted to check for symptoms of COVID-19.

He left for his village after that. When he reached there, rumour spread that he had plans to spread COVID-19.

He was thrashed in the fields and later rushed to a hospital, a senior police official said.

He was admitted to the LNJP Hospital in Delhi as a coronavirus suspect.

Ali is stable and doing fine at the isolation centre and there are no coronavirus symptoms till date, police said.

The Tablighi Jamaat's Nizamuddin Markaz has become a hotspots for coronavirus not only in the national capital but also across the country. -- PTI
18:36   IMF warns of worst depression since 1930
The year 2020 could see the worst global economic fallout since the Great Depression in the 1930s with over 170 countries likely to experience negative per capita income growth due to the raging coronavirus pandemic, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Thursday.

Georgieva made the remarks during her address on Confronting the Crisis: Priorities for the Global Economy here ahead of next week's annual Spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

"Today, the world is confronted with a crisis like no other. COVID-19 has disrupted our social and economic order at lightning speed and on a scale that we have not seen in living memory," she said.

The virus is causing a tragic loss of life, and the lockdown needed to fight it has affected billions of people.

What was normal just a few weeks ago going to school, going to work, being with family and friends is now a huge risk, she said. Observing that the world is faced with extraordinary uncertainty about the depth and duration of this crisis, she said that it is already clear, however, that global growth will turn sharply negative in 2020.

In fact, we anticipate the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression, Georgieva said. Just three months ago, we expected positive per capita income growth in over 160 of our member countries in 2020.

Today, that number has been turned on its head: we now project that over 170 countries will experience negative per capita income growth this year, she said.

The Great Depression was the worst worldwide economic downturn that lasted for 10 years from 1929, beginning in the United States when the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street crashed and wiped out millions of investors.

The IMF chief said that given the necessary containment measures to slow the spread of the virus, the world economy is taking a substantial hit.

This is especially true for retail, hospitality, transport, and tourism. In most countries, the majority of workers are either self-employed or employed by small and medium-sized enterprises.

These businesses and workers are especially exposed, she added.

Of the view that emerging markets and low-income nations across Africa, Latin America, and much of Asia are at high risk, Georgieva said with weaker health systems to begin with, many face the dreadful challenge of fighting the virus in densely populated cities and poverty-stricken slums, where social distancing is hardly an option.

With fewer resources to begin with, they are dangerously exposed to the ongoing demand and supply shocks, drastic tightening in financial conditions, and some may face an unsustainable debt burden, she said.

In the last two months, portfolio outflows from emerging markets were about $100 billion, more than three times larger than for the same period of the global financial crisis.

Commodity exporters are taking a double blow from the collapse in commodity prices and remittances, the lifeblood of so many poor people, are expected to dwindle, she said.

The IMF, she said, estimates the gross external financing needs for emerging markets and developing countries to be in the trillions of dollars, and they can cover only a portion of that on their own, leaving residual gaps in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

They urgently need help, she said.

However, encouraging news is that all governments have sprung into action and, indeed, there has been significant coordination.

Countries around the world have taken fiscal actions amounting to about $8 trillion.

In addition, there have been massive monetary measures from the G20 and others, she said.

As such, Georgieva said that there is need to continue with essential containment measures and support for health systems, shield affected people and firms with large, timely, targeted fiscal and financial sector measures, and reduce stress to the financial system and avoid contagion.

Even as we move through this containment phase, we must plan for recovery, she added.

COVID-19, which originated in China, has globally claimed 88,538 lives and infected nearly 1.5 million people.  -- PTI
17:48   Govt may soon allow courier, parcel services
In a relief to businesses, the government may soon allow operations of courier and parcel services in the country so that companies are able to send and receive documents at a time when the country is under coronavirus lockdown, sources said.

They said there must be a huge pile up of business related documents and other things which need to be shipped to different parts of the country.

"A decision on operations of courier and parcels will be taken soon. Document exchange is important for industry. An empowered group has already recommended for the same to the Home Ministry," sources said.

Further, the commerce ministry has recommended to the home ministry to allow operations of factories engaged in export activities with minimum workforce.

The issue was raised by all export promotion councils and the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) in their discussions held through video conferencing with Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal.

The government will decide in the coming days about extending or ending the lockdown, which is concluding on April 14.

The Centre will also discuss the issue with states for allowing partial operation of manufacturing units in the country.

"The government should allow opening up of factories with at least 50 per cent of workforce. We will follow all safety and health related norms. Our exports will be hit severely if we will continue to close our operations," FIEO President S Saraf said.

The government has constituted 11 empowered groups to suggest measures to ramp up healthcare, put the economy back on track and reduce misery of people as quickly as possible post the 21-day lockdown imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic.  -- PTI
17:37   No need to panic over PPE availability: Govt
The Union health ministry on Thursday said there is no need to panic over the availability of COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE), but stressed these should be used rationally.

Joint Secretary at the health ministry Lav Agarwal said at the daily briefing that 20 companies are manufacturing PPE in India and orders for 1.7 crore PPE have already been placed with them.

Since Wednesday, 540 cases of the coronavirus infection and 17 deaths due to it have been reported, he said.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in India is 5,734 and 166 people have died due to the disease, he said.

According to an ICMR official, 1,30,000 samples have been tested for COVID-19 so far in country.

"No need to believe any rumour or have any fear regarding PPE.

"Our guidelines state that not only PPE should be made available, but they should be used rationally," Agarwal said.

"It (PPE) should be used as per requirement, and as I have told you, I can use four N95 masks within a day, or I can use just one within a day. While the central government is augmenting supplies to the states, we are also requesting them to use them rationally," he said.

Orders for 49,000 ventilators have been placed and their supply is underway, Agarwal said and informed that 10 teams of COVID-19 specialists have been sent to nines states.

The official also said that the Indian Railways has produced about 6 lakh reusable face masks and over 4,000 litres of hand sanitiser.

It has also converted 3,250 coaches into COVID-19 isolation units with beds. Total 5,000 coaches are to be converted, Agarwal said.  -- PTI
17:05   DRDO, ITI team up to manufacture portable ventilators
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) are likely to ink a deal soon to produce portable ventilators following the coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak.

"DRDO wants ITI to manufacture portable ventilators and is transferring technology to us. Once we come up with a final product and after due test procedures, we will be able to produce such ventilators," ITI Chairman Shri Rakesh Mohan said on Thursday.

In the wake of the ongoing pandemic, medical experts say that India will require several thousand ventilators and its absence may impair the country's healthcare system to respond to rising epidemic cases. With a population of 133 crore, the country has just 50,000 ventilators.

Agarwal said that ITI is well poised to fast-track the production amid the present COVID-19 situation, and has plans to undertake manufacturing in its Bengaluru facility.

ITI is a state-owned electronics product manufacturer under the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) that produces radio modems, optical networks, smart metres and Wi-Fi access points with the defence sector contributing to a third or nearly 35 per cent of its overall revenue. -- ANI

Image: AgVa Healthcare in Noida ramps up production of ventilators With support from Maruti Suzuki. Pic: ANI
16:56   Maha mulls complete shutdown in COVID-19 areas
The Maharashtra cabinet on Thursday expressed concern over crowding in markets despite the lockdown enforced to facilitate social distancing and halt the spread of coronavirus, and mulled if these places can be completely shut for sometime in certain areas. In the cabinet meeting chaired by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, ministers discussed how people were still crowding markets despite repeated requests from the administration not to do so. 

The cabinet, which met for a second time this week, discussed the prevailing coronavirus situation in the state and steps being taken by the government to halt its spread. The ministers discussed if markets can be shut completely for a specific period to strictly implement social distancing. Asked about it, revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat told reporters that a complete lockdownfor some period of time is extremely necessary to contain the spread of the viral infection. 

"Crowds in markets need to be avoided. If a decision to shut markets is taken, such areas need to be finalised and crowds need to be stopped completely. "More cause of concern is places having high population density like Mumbai. The discussion pertained to Mumbai and its neighbouring areas," he said. 

Currently, people are allowed to step out of their homes to buy essential commodities and medicines. Minority affairs minister Nawab Malik said the cabinet decided that ministers and political party leaders will not speak on boom (mics) of news television channels as a precaution to avoid the spread of the disease. It was decided that sound bytes will be given through mobile phone videos, he said.

With 1,297 COVID-19 cases so far, Maharashtra leads in the number of coronavirus patients in the country. PTI 
16:51   SpiceJet to bring critical medical equipment from Singapore
SpiceJet is operating its first cargo freighter on the Chennai-Singapore-Chennai route on Thursday carrying critical medical equipment and COVID-19 related medical supplies. The Boeing 737 freighter aircraft is scheduled to arrive in Chennai at 5.30 pm. SpiceJet said it has transported over 1,500 tonnes of cargo carrying essential supplies since the nation-wide lockdown began and has been extending all possible support to the government, medical and pharma companies, and international retailers to fight this war against the global pandemic.

The airline will operate a second freighter flight on Friday carrying medical supplies from Singapore to Bengaluru. "SpiceJet's freighters have been flying non-stop carrying vital supplies to and from Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and host of other places including Southeast Asia," said Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Singh.

The carrier operated the country's first cargo-on-seat flight carrying vital supplies in the passenger cabin on April 7. Since then, the airline has been regularly using its Boeing 737 aircraft to carry cargo in the passenger cabin. SpiceXpress, SpiceJet's dedicated cargo arm, has been regularly transporting surgical supplies, sanitisers and face masks, and providing doorstep deliveries of essential supplies, medicines and medical equipment in Bengaluru, Patna, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Raipur, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Visakhapatnam, Srinagar, Thiruvananthapuram, Vadodara, Kochi, Guwahati, Jammu, Lucknow among other cities. -- ANI

Image: SpiceJet operated India's first cargo-on-seat flight, carrying 11 tons of vital supplies in passenger cabin and belly space from Delhi to Chennai on April 7.
16:45   BMC to act against NSCI's Shah for 'risking lives'
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation on Thursday said it has decided to take police action against senior committee member of the National Sports Club of India (NSCI), Viren Shah, for entering the "high risk zone" quarantine facility created for COVID-19 patients in the city. The BMC has turned the NSCI stadium in Worli into a quarantine facility for about 500 people, who might have come in contact with coronavirus patients. 

In a statement, a BMC spokesperson alleged that Shah gave interviews to media persons after entering the zone created to quarantine high-risk contacts of COVID-19 patients at the stadium. 

 "It is a serious issue as Viren Shah is risking not only his own life, but also the lives of media persons," BMC spokesperson Vijay Khabale said. "Therefore, the civic body has decided to take police action against Shah," he added. 

The Sardar Vallabhai Patel stadium at the NSCI complex is close to Worli Koliwada, one of the coronavirus hotspots in the city. The NSCI is a popular multi-sports venue. -- PTI
16:42   Covid-19 pandemic to hit MSME exporters more
Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) exporters will be impacted more by the current lockdown on account of Covid-19 pandemic as the sector accounts for over 45 per cent in the country's total outbound shipments, according to trade experts. They said that the magnitude of the impact on MSME exporters can be gauged from the statement of the World Trade Organisation which has projected that global trade in goods is set to decline steeply between 13 per cent and 32 per cent in 2020 as countries across the world are battling with the Covid-19 pandemic. The sector also contributes about 25 per cent to the country's GDP (gross domestic product) from service activities and over 33 per cent to the manufacturing output of India. 

Biswajit Dhar, a professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said the government should immediately come out with an incentive package for exporters as the current crisis will severely hit the MSME sector. "India will suffer very badly as the biggest impact will be on the MSME exporters. They will also face issues in calling back their workers as several of them have migrated to their villages and towns," he said. 

Expressing concern, he said several countries including the US, Japan and Germany have announced incentive packages but India has yet to roll out support measures for exporters. "Incentives will help exporters to resume work immediately after things start getting normal, otherwise they will not be able to restore their global buyers," Dhar said.  -- PTI
16:34   Rs 1200-cr worth shrimps ready for export market in AP amid lockdown
The ongoing lockdown on account of COVID-19 could not have come at a worse time for the aquaculture sector that earns million of dollars through export of shrimp. At the peak of the season, the lockdown has pushed the sector into jeopardy, with farmers, industrialists and exporters each facing their set of problems and an uncertain future as shrimp is seen as a luxury product. 

Ready-to-harvest shrimp worth over Rs 1,200 crore is now lying in the ponds predominantly in East and West Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh. 

The shrimp processing units in the state are not functioning to their capacity due to acute shortage of manpower even as the Marine Products Export Development Authority said it would invoke Clause 43 of the MPEDA Rules, 1972, and de-register the licences if processing of the produce was not done. 

Exporters are advised to remain supportive to the farmers in these difficult times so that they continue to engage in shrimp farming, which is the principal commodity of marine products exported from the country in terms of value, MPEDA secretary B Sreekumar told the processors and exporters. In the absence of export orders and little scope for processing, farmers fear their produce would only perish. 

Though China, one of the major markets for Indian shrimp, relaxed the restrictions for import, the exporters are unable to take full advantage of it as the processing is not happening adequately. In the last one week, close to 3,000 tonne of shrimp was shipped to China. Andhra Pradesh has a 50.41 per cent share in the country in shrimp production and earns close to 53 per cent of the overall revenue. -- PTI
16:20   1.7 cr PPEs, 49,000 ventilators ordered: Centre
Union Health Ministry briefs the media in Delhi on the Coronavirus pandemic: 

-- 473 people recovered and discharged from the hospital so far. Total 5734 confirmed cases reported in the country till date, 549 new cases in the last 24 hours. 166 deaths have been reported till date, 17 deaths since yesterday, says Lav Agrawal, Joint Secy, Ministry of Health.

-- Under 'Adopt a Family' campaign in Karnal (Haryana), 13000 needy families are being given help of Rs 64 lakh.

-- Supplies of PPEs, masks, and ventilators have now begun. 20 domestic manufacturers in India have been developed for PPEs, orders for 1.7 crore PPEs have been placed and the supplies have begun. 49,000 ventilators have been ordered.

-- Railways have deployed more than 2,500 doctors and 35,000 paramedic staff. Their chain of 586 health units, 45 sub divisional hospitals, 56 divisional hospitals, 8 production unit hospitals and 16 zonal hospitals are dedicating their significant facilities to fight COVID19.

Image: Nuns stitch face masks for the poor and needy in Patna. Pic: ANI 
15:48   BMC to get 1 lakh rapid test kits from S Korea
This is what Mumbai's civic body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is doing to secure its citizens. 
-- The BMC will procure one lakh rapid test kits for COVID-19 from South Korea.
-- The BMC makes it mandatory for people to wear maskis in public places. -- It has declared 381 areas as containment zones to prevent COVID-19 transmission. 
-- It has ordered a ban on all vegetable, fruit markets, hawkers and sellers in containment area/buffer zone in Dharavi.
-- The civic body has confirmed that door-to-door supply of essentials in the area will be done by later today or tomorrow.

The total number of positive cases in Maharashtra reached 1,297 on Thursday. -- ANI

Image: Homeless people at Versova's Model Town ground. Pic: ANI 
15:34   News updates
-- Maharashtra Cabinet has approved a proposal for 30% salary cut for all state legislators for a year starting from this month (April). 

--  Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh blames the Delhi police for the spread of the coronavirus. "A programme like the one at Delhi's Nizamuddin Markaz was scheduled to be held near Mumbai in Vasai on 15-16 March but was not allowed by us. Why didn't Delhi Police stop this programme like us? Because of this, COVID-19 cases have increased. The whole state machinery is trying its best to contain this pandemic. This new problem surfaced in Maharashtra and other states because of the Delhi Police, who is responsible for this?"
15:28   Thank you! says Akshay
Akshay Kumar sends out a cheery thanks for all the covid warriors working silently to protect the city and its people. He tweeted this image saying, 
Name: Akshay Kumar 
City: Mumbai 
Mere aur mere parivaar ki taraf se... Police, Nagar Nigam ke workers, doctors, nurses, NGOs, volunteers, government officials, vendors, building ke guards ko #DilSeThankYou.
15:23   That's Yeddy's menu to increase immunity
A quarantine centre in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, is serving fruits, dry fruits, and eggs in a bid to boost the immune system of the occupants. All relief centers across the states have also been asked to follow the 'Goru Mudda' menu by Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy.
15:15   Pakistan Army says it shot down small Indian surveillance drone
Pakistan on Thursday claimed that it shot down a small Indian surveillance drone for allegedly violating airspace along the Line of Control. According to a statement by the Pakistan Army, the Indian Quadcopter in a "provocative act' intruded 600 meters inside across the LoC on the Pakistani side in Sankh sector for surveillance. "This blatant act was aggressively responded to by Pakistan Army troops shooting down Indian quadcopter," according to the Pakistan Army. Such unwarranted acts by the Indian Army were a clear violation of established norms, existing air agreement between two countries, it said. The intrusion reflects the Indian Army's consistent disregard to the ceasefire understanding of 2003, it said. Pakistan has previously claimed to have shot down Indian drones. Pakistan in March last year claimed to have shot down an Indian spy drone long the Line of Control. -- PTI
15:10   Every quarantine centre in Delhi to have ACP
The Delhi government has said that one Assistant Commissioner of Police in every quarantine centre, will be deployed in a shift to ensure that COVID-19 affected individuals remain in these centres.

"The ACP will maintain law and order and ensure that COVID-19 affected persons remain in quarantine centres," the Delhi Chief Secretary said on Wednesday. Earlier, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Wednesday said that 20 hotspots have been identified in Delhi in the battle to contain coronavirus and nobody will be allowed to enter or exit from these areas.

He also said that the government has made wearing face masks compulsory and anyone stepping out will need to wear it or face action. -- PTI

Image: Varun Vihar Enclave in Sector-28 is sealed after District Administration identified it as a COVID-19 hotspot. Doctors who live here say they need to go to work, but are not being allowed to go out of the society. Pic: ANI
15:03   COVID-19 vaccine inching towards clinical trials
Just three months after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, several biotech companies in the United States have ramped up their efforts to fight the disease with accelerated schedules for creating new vaccines and beginning clinical trials for potential treatments.

In normal circumstances, vaccine development would take around 10 years. But the pharmaceutical industry is racing to compress this timeline with the support of non-profit organisations, government agencies and regulatory authorities.

In just a few months, more than two dozen companies have announced promising vaccine programmes, speeding through the early stages of testing unlike ever before, The Strait Times reported.

On Wednesday, Novavax, a Maryland-based biotech company, said its vaccine candidate had stimulated a powerful immune response in lab and animal experiments, producing antibodies that could fight off the coronavirus. The vaccine is set to begin human trials in Australia in mid-May.

While a final product that would be widely available is still a year or more away, the Novavax effort is one of many ready to be tested on people.

A vaccine made by biotech company Moderna is already in a clinical trial, which started March 15.Another one, developed by Inovio Pharmaceuticals, was injected into the first adult volunteers on Monday.

Health care giant Johnson and Johnson expects to start clinical trials in September and has received a nearly US$500 million partnership via a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition, experimental vaccines developed by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Baylor College of Medicine are also waiting for permission from the Food and Drug Administration to begin testing in people."We're all trying to do something which we have almost no precedents for, which is accelerating a vaccine in the middle of a pandemic," said Peter Hotez, co-director of the Texas Children's Hospital Centre for Vaccine Development at Baylor College of Medicine.

There is no proven treatment or vaccine yet against Covid-19, which has already affected more than one million people around the world so far.A vaccine would be the best way to stop further spread of the coronavirus because it enhances the immune system's natural defences. -- ANI
15:02   No labourers to help farmers harvest crops
Farmers in Patna are harvesting their crops along with family members, due to he lack of labourers amid the COVID- 19 lockdown. Upender, a farmer says, "Even elder members are helping us. Most of our crops were destroyed due to bad weather this year, so we must save what is left."
14:46   Maha: Cong sets up COVID-19 task force to help state govt
The Maharashtra unit of the Congress party on Thursday set up a COVID-19 task force under the leadership of former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to assist the state government in tackling the coronavirus outbreak. The task force comprises various sub-committees, which will study different aspects of the impact that the pandemic caused. State Congress president and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat said the task force will work under former CM and MLA Prithviraj Chavan and will have 18 other members with former MP Bhalchandra Mungekar as the coordinator. Rajya Sabha MP Rajiv Satav, Mumbai Congress president Eknath Gaikwad, former state unit President Manikrao Thakre, MPCC working president Basavraj Patil, Muzzafar Hussain, former minister Naseem Khan, former union minister Vilas Muttemwar, former president of the state women's commission Sushiben Shah, former minister Chandrakant Handore, MLA Sangram Thopte and former minister Ranjeet Kamble, former MLA Kalyan Kale, MPCC general secretary Ganesh Patil and others are members of this task force. The national co-ordinator of the AICC research wing, Amol Deshmukh, is the secretary of the task force. -- PTI

14:45   DD highest-watched channel in India during week ended Apr 3: BARC
Getting back classic programmes like Ramayan to keep locked down people entertained has catapulted Doordarshan (DD) to be the highest watched channel in India for week ended April 3, BARC said on Thursday. The national broadcaster could achieve the feat, which involves a nearly 40,000 per cent jump in viewership in the evening and morning bands, despite a surge reported by the private broadcasters who are also experiencing higher viewership, the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) said. 

Starting with the Hindu mythology series Ramayan, DD has got back other classics like Mahabharat, Shaktiman and Buniyaad to serve the audiences during the three-week lockdown. Most of these were produced when DD monopolised TV broadcasting in the country. BARC attributed the telecast of Ramayan and Mahabharat for DD's emergence to the top, while the other programmes also helped improve its position in select time slots. -- PTI
14:33   Petrol, diesel demand slump 66%, LPG sales up
India's fuel consumption slumped by over 66 per cent in April as a nationwide lockdown halted economic activity and travel, which eviscerated demand. Petrol and diesel demand is down 66 per cent in April, while aviation turbine fuel consumption has collapsed by 90 per cent as most airlines have stopped flying, industry officials said. India had consumed 2.4 million tonnes of petrol and 7.3 million tonnes of diesel in April 2019. As much as 6,45,000 tonnes of ATF was used in that month last year. The collapse of demand in the world's third-biggest consumer during April comes on the back of worst fuel sales in more than a decade recorded in March 2020. The country's petroleum product consumption fell 17.79 per cent to 16.08 million tonnes in March as diesel, petrol and ATF demand fell, according to official data released here. 

Diesel, the most consumed fuel in the country, saw demand contract by 24.23 per cent to 5.65 million tonnes. This is the biggest fall in diesel consumption the country has recorded as most trucks went off-road and railways stopped plying trains. Petrol sales dropped 16.37 per cent to 2.15 million tonnes in March as the 21-day nationwide lockdown enforced to prevent the spread of COVID-19 took most cars and two-wheelers off the road. 

With flights grounded since mid-March, ATF consumption fell 32.4 per cent to 4,84,000 tonnes. 

The only fuel that showed growth was LPG as households rushed to book refills for stocking during the three-week lockdown period. LPG sales rose 1.9 per cent to 2.3 million tonnes in March. This is the first estimate of total petroleum product consumption in the country. This includes sales by both public and private sector companies. -- PTI
14:02   Vegetable farmers claim exploitation by middlemen
The COVID-19 lockdown may have inflated the price of vegetables for the average Mumbaikar, but without access to large markets, vegetable farmers in neighbouring Thane district are forced to sell their produce at throwaway prices to agents and middlemen. 

Murbad tehsil, located around 60 km from Mumbai, is among the major producers of export-quality okra, with 90 per cent of farmers in 35 villages involved in cultivating the vegetable. However, in villages of Borgaon (Shindipada), Manivali, Khodpe, Bhadane, Koltan, Wadavali, cultivators are unable to sell the produce at town markets because of lack of transportation due to the lockdown. Farmers are forced to sell theirs crops at throwaway prices to middlemen, who make 10 times more money by supplying the vegetable to the APMC market in Navi Mumbai or to markets in Mumbai and Thane. While rice is cultivated in the monsoon season, vegetables such as okra, chillies and cucumber are grown in summers in the region. "I am fed up of the lockdown. After all my hard work, I had to sell my crop at Rs 5 per kg to an agent," said 42- year-old Hemant Kharik, one of the many okra cultivators in the area.

"I spent Rs 60,000 to cultivate the crop and I sold the crop for Rs 65,000 and I only made a profit of Rs 5,000. This is a price I get for working hard since December," he said. Amid the lockdown, farmers have no other option but to depend on agents and middle men, who have access to big markets in the present situation, he claimed, adding that okra was being sold in city markets at an inflated price of Rs 50 per kg. -- PTI
13:40   UK PM making 'steady progress' in ICU
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spent a third night in the intensive care unit of a London hospital with coronavirus and is making steady progress, Downing Street has said. The 55-year-old was shifted to the ICU of St. Thomas' Hospital in London on Monday night as his condition worsened over 10 days after he had tested positive for coronavirus and went into self-isolation. 

He has since received "standard oxygen treatment" but has not been diagnosed with pneumonia or required a ventilator to aid his breathing. 

"The prime minister continues to make steady progress. He remains in intensive care,' a Downing Street spokesperson said in the latest health update on Wednesday night. "He's stable, improving, sat up and engaged with medical staff. I've known the Prime Minister for a long time and I wish him well in this difficult time and I think things are getting better for him," added UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden on Thursday morning. 

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for the UK prime minister while he continues treatment for Covid-19, will chair a virtual Cobra emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss a review of the UK's coronavirus lockdown to consider whether the strict social distancing measures should be extended beyond the 21-day period initially announced by Johnson on March 23. -- PTI
13:23   'Use BCG vaccine immediately. No time to waste'
"We are already vaccinated and we have tolerated it. So, we do not need any more testing as the phase 1 safety part is already done, and there is no time also. We can directly go for vaccination," Dr Gobardhan Das, the well-known immunologist and professor at the Special Centre of Molecular Medicine at Jawaharlal Nehru University, tells's Shobha Warrier. Read the interview here 
13:12   2 attendees of Tablighi Jamaat meet in Delhi booked for concealing travel history
Two persons who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi's Nizamuddin were booked for allegedly concealing travel history in Jammu and Kashmir's Udhampur district, officials said Thursday. Upon receiving information from the medical authority, Ramnagar, that two persons have concealed their travel history in order to evade necessary quarantine process, FIRs has been registered against them, they said. 

The duo had recently returned to Ramanagar with a travel history of Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, before attending the event at Nizammudin, the officials said. Both of them will be quarantined and further action shall be initiated after their quarantine period is over, they said. -- PTI
13:05   Odisha extends lockdown to April 30
Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik has announced that the state will extend the lockdown till April 30; schools will remain closed till June 17. The state has reported 42 coronavirus cases so far. It became the first state to announce an extension. 

Yesterday, PM Narendra Modi indicated to legislature party leaders that the lockdown may have to stay in place beyond April 14 given the state of the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic in the country. 

Modi told the floor leaders of political parties in Parliament that several state governments, district administrations and experts have asked for an extension of the lockdown, likening the situation to a national and social emergency. The three-week lockdown is scheduled to end on April 14. 
12:30   Man commits suicide as he missed wife in lockdown
Lockdown taking a toll on mental health: A man allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself from the ceiling of his room as he was missing his wife who was stuck at her parents' place due to the lockdown, police said. The incident took place in Radha Kund locality of Gonda, UP, on Wednesday, they said, adding the deceased has been identified as Rakesh Soni, 32.  -- PTI

12:29   PPE for sanitation workers in quarantined areas in Delhi
Sanitation workers of North Delhi Municipal Corporation were seen wearing a personal protective gear for the collection of garbage from the houses of the quarantined in the Paharganj area on Thursday, for prevention of COVID-19 transmission.

Speaking to ANI, Sandeep, a sanitisation who driving the vehicle carrying garbage said, "We have been provided with these kits as we have to go and collect the garbage from the houses where people have been kept under quarantine. We get new kits everyday and the old ones are burnt and disposed of. We are scared for our families but we are taking every possible preventive measure to stay safe."

The sanitisation workers here were seen wearing a fully covered suit and masks.

"We have been getting these protective gear since the coronavirus started spreading. We change these suits daily," said another sanitisation worker. -- PTI
12:18   669 COVID-19 cases in Delhi, over 50% via Markaz
Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain on Thursday said there are 669 cases of coronavirus in the national capital at present, including 426 from the Tablighi Jamaat event that took place in Nizamuddin Markaz last month.

"Till now, there are 669 COVID-19 positive cases including 426 cases from Markaz, in Delhi," Jain told ANI.

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

Jain also informed that rapid testing for COVID-19 will be started as soon as the testing kits arrive. "Testing will be first done in the COVID-19 hotspots in the city. We have demanded the rapid testing kits from the Centre and have given orders to companies as well," he said.

The Delhi government on Wednesday sealed 20 'hotspots' of the highly contagious virus in a bid to curb its spread. "The areas that are sealed are small and home delivery will be provided there. If people do not follow lockdown then there will be more difficulties in the future," the Delhi Minister said.

When asked about two women resident doctors of Safdarjung Hospital who were allegedly assaulted, Jain said, "If this has happened then there will be legal action against the culprit. There should be no discrimination against doctors, paramedics and against those are providing essential services in these times."

A 44-year-old man was arrested late on Wednesday for allegedly assaulting two women resident doctors of Safdarjung Hospital after accusing them of "spreading coronavirus," said Delhi Police. -- ANI

Image: Cops check a vehicle at the Delhi-Noida border. Pic: ANI
11:49   55 new coronavirus cases reported in Guj; state tally 241
The total number of coronavirus cases in Gujarat has risen to 241 with 55 new cases being found in the last 12 hours, an official said on Thursday. The sudden spike in the number of new cases is due to the intensive surveillance in areas which have been declared as 'hotspots' in Ahmedabad and other major cities of Gujarat, principal secretary (health) Jayanti Ravi said.

Out of the 55 new cases, 50 are from Ahmedabad, two from Surat, and one each from Dahod, Anand and Chhotaudepur district, she said. Ahmedabad has so far reported 133 cases out of the total 241. PTI

Image: A medic conducts thermal screening in Ahmedabad. Pic: ANI
11:46   162 new coronavirus cases in Maha; tally 1297
Maharashtra reported 162 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, taking the state tally to 1,297, a health official said. This is the highest rise so far in the number of coronavirus patients in a single day he said. "Out of the 162 new cases, 143 have been reported from Mumbai," the official said. 

The other cities where people have tested positive are: Kalyan-Dombivli-four, Pune and Aurangabad-three each, Pimpri Chinchwad and Navi Mumbai-two each, and Yavatmal, Thane city, Mira Bhayandar, Vasai-Virar and Sindhudurg- one each, he said. Till Wednesday, the state reported 72 deaths due to the disease. -- PTI

Image: Nanavati Hospital staff board on a bus to Vasai-Virar from Vile Parle. Pic: ANI 
11:37   TN, U'khand emerging as hotspots for pangolin trafficking
As pangolins come under the scanner as potential intermediate hosts of the novel coronavirus transferred from bats to humans, Indian wildlife conservationists warn that the states of Tamilnadu and Uttarakhand are emerging as the hotspots for the poaching of the endangered scaly anteater mammal. A recent study, published in the journal Cell, had placed pangolins as a natural reservoir of coronaviruses similar to SARS-CoV-2, the one behind the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Another recent study had identified the presence of SARS-CoV-2 like viruses in Malayan pangolins smuggled into China to be sold in wet markets. In these markets, pangolins find demand both in food and traditional medicine, making them the most-commonly trafficked mammal. 

"The discovery of multiple lineages of pangolin coronavirus and their similarity to SARS-CoV-2 suggests that pangolins should be considered as possible hosts in the emergence of novel coronaviruses and should be removed from wet markets to prevent zoonotic transmission," said Ved Kumar, a former wildlife conservationist with Wildlife Institute of India (WII), and founder of Maaty Biodiversity Conservation & Societal Research Organization in Uttarakhand. 

Kumar told PTI that over the last decade, the demand for pangolin biological parts in China and other Southern Asian markets has increased due to their perceived medicinal properties, and value as a delicacy. 

"So the poaching graph of this species continuously increases," he said. In their study, published in the journal Forensic Science International: Reports, Kumar and his team described the hotspots for pangolin trafficking in India. Based on their research, Kumar said between 2003 and 2014, states in Northeast India like Assam, Manipur, and Meghalaya were the hotspots for pangolin poaching in the country, adding that trafficking of the animals is also increasing in other places. "Now the trends change as poachers move towards Southern and Northern India. In the current scenario, Tamilnadu and Uttarakhand are the hotspots of poaching," he said, adding that dense forests with open boundaries and low forest staffs are factors linked to increased poaching in a region. Based on earlier studies from 2011 to 2013, analysing 51 pangolin seizures reported all over India, the scientists said 42 of them were made from the North-eastern states of India. Assessing another report of more than 91 pangolin seizures, reported between 2009-2017, they said the states of Manipur and Tamilnadu have had the highest number of documented confiscations. 

The latest study by Kumar and his team indicated that between 2014 and 2018 most of the cases were reported from central, northern, and eastern Indian states where Maharashtra and Uttarakhand report the second highest position with 12 per cent of overall seizures. -- PTI

Image: A man holds a pangolin at a wild animal rescue center in Cuc Phuong, outside Hanoi, Vietnam. Pic: Reuters. 
11:33   30 more COVID-19 cases in Rajasthan, state count reaches 413
At least 30 more cases of COVID-19 have been reported from Rajasthan, taking the total number of coronavirus cases in the state to 413, state health department informed.

According to the official data, Jhunjhunu, Jhalawar and Tonk have recorded seven cases of COVID-19 each. While Jodhpur and Barmer districts have recorded one case each in the morning today.

A total of five cases were reported from the district of Jaisalmer while two were reported from Banswara today.Two people who have tested positive for the virus have a history of attending the Tablighi Jamaat event at Markaz, Nizamuddin in New Delhi.

With an increase of 540 COVID-19 cases reported in the last 24 hours, India's tally of coronavirus cases has risen to 5,734, said the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Thursday.

Out of the 5,734 cases; 5,095 are active COVID-19 cases and 472 cases have recovered or discharged, while one case has migrated.The death toll has also risen to 166 after 17 new deaths were reported in the last 24 hours. -- PTI
11:19   'Americans should never shake hands again'
US' top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci has said that Americans should never shake hands again, underlining that the practise would not only prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus but also decrease instances of influenza dramatically in the country. Fauci, who is the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a lead member of the White House Task Force on Coronavirus said that washing hands should be a must in people's daily routine.

"I don't think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you,' Fauci told The wall Street Journal in a podcast interview. "Not only would it be good to prevent coronavirus disease, it probably would decrease instances of influenza dramatically in this country," he said. 

Over the past several weeks, Fauci has emerged as a key figure in the war against coronavirus and has been the most vocal against hand shakes. "As a society, just forget about shaking hands. We don't need to shake hands. We've got to break that custom," he told Sinclair Broadcast Group in another interview on Tuesday. "Because as a matter of fact, that is one of the major ways you can transmit a respiratory-borne illness," he said. 

Responding to a question on the possible measures to be taken to contain the spread of the virus, he said, "When you gradually come back, you don't jump into it with both feet. You say, what are the things you could still do and still approach normal? One of them is absolute compulsive hand-washing. The other is you don't ever shake anybody's hands." 

In recent weeks, President Donald Trump too has been talking about doing away with the hand shake, which is a part and parcel of the American culture. "And, frankly, much of the guidelines like shaking hands -- maybe people aren't going to be shaking hands anymore. You know, Tony had mentioned to me, Tony Fauci, the other day that -- I don't think he would be too upset with the concept of not shaking hands," Trump told reporters during a White House news conference last month. "He was saying that the flu would cut down, the regular flu would be cut down by quite a bit if we didn't do that, if we didn't shake hands," he said. 

The Harvard Medical Gazette recently said that some have begun to wonder if the universal form of greeting, acknowledgement or sealing a deal may become a thing of the past. -- PTI

Image: US President Donald Trump and Ireland's Prime Minister Taoiseach Leo Varadkar greet each other with a 'namaste in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, last month. 
11:06   K'taka to finalise lockdown exit by April 13
The Karnataka government is currently engaged in discussions with experts, specialists and other stakeholders to decide on its lockdown exit strategy and would take a final view by April 13, a key Minister said on Thursday. "Day after tomorrow we have a VC (videoconference) with the Prime Minister," Medical Education Minister Sudhakar K, who is in-charge of all matters related to COVID-19, noted when asked about the States strategy. He said a task force of specialist doctors on Wednesday submitted its report to the government, giving its recommendations. 

"We are meeting lot of stakeholders of the society taking their views," the Minister said, adding, the Cabinet would also hold discussions. "Finally, day after tomorrow, after discussing with the Prime Minister during the VC, the government will take a view on this by April 13 or so. As of now, we have not taken any view on it. We are studying all the reports," Sudhakar told PTI. 

The Minister observed that the COVID-19 cases were slowly spiking in India but not multiplying the way they have in some other countries like Italy, Spain and the United States as the government had declared 21-day national lockdown early and taken other strict measures. 

"Let's see for one week and see. We need to fight this out collectively and by strictly following the quarantine methods and social distancing," Sudhakar stressed. The Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa had on Wednesday said his government was in favour of lifting lock-down in districts which remained free from COVID-19 after April 14 subject to approval from the Centre. --PTI

Image: Volunteers of an NGO pack essential groceries and vegetables for distribution throughout Karnataka. Pic: ANI
10:41   We shall win this together: PM tells Trump
PM Narendra Modi reacts to US President Donald Trump's fulsome praise for India's help in fighting the pandemic. The PM tweeted, "Fully agree with you President @realDonaldTrump. Times like these bring friends closer. The India-US partnership is stronger than ever. India shall do everything possible to help humanity's fight against COVID-19. We shall win this together."

The US President had tweeted, "Extraordinary times require even closer cooperation between friends. Thank you India and the Indian people for the decision on HCQ. Will not be forgotten! Thank you Prime Minister @NarendraModi for your strong leadership in helping not just India, but humanity, in this fight!"

Amid the medical fraternity racing against time for a panacea for COVID-19, which has infected a whopping 4.3 lakh Americans and claimed over 14,600 lives, United States President Donald Trump on Wednesday thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for allowing export of Hydroxychloroquine, deemed a possible cure against the disease.    
"I want to thank Prime Minister Modi of India for allowing us to have what we requested for the problem arose and he was terrific. We will remember it," Trump told reporters at his daily White House news conference on coronavirus.
10:28   Trump attacks WHO again for politicising pandemic
US President Donald Trump has fired a fresh salvo at the World Health Organization, accusing its chief of siding with China and "politicising" the coronavirus pandemic while repeating his threat to freeze the UN agency's funding. Trump's allegation comes a day after the US President threatened to put a "very powerful" hold on US funding to the World Health Organization and criticised it for having "missed the call" in its response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Trump slammed the Geneva-based global health agency for its early guidance aimed at countering the international spread of the coronavirus.

The president's fresh allegation comes after WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned against politicisation of COVID-19 and said that such a move will only result in "many more body bags". "If you want to be exploited and if you want to have many more body bags, then you [politicize the virus]. If you don't want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it," Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday. Hours later at the White House conference, Trump agreed that the COVID-19 should not be politicised, but alleged that the WHO chief was doing exactly that and was siding with China. 

"When he (Ghebreyesus) says politicizing, he's politicizing. That shouldn't be. We spend USD 450 million last year, hundreds of millions in previous years. And they got to do better than that. They got to do better. When you talk about politics, I can't believe he's talking about politics look at the relationship they have to China," Trump said in response to a question.

"China spends USD 42 million. We spend USD 450 million and everything seems to be China's way. That's not right. It's not fair to us. And honestly, it's not fair to the world," he said. 

The United States is reevaluating its funding with respect to the WHO, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters at the White House. "This is very consistent with what President Trump said since the beginning of his campaign. Organizations have to work," he added. "They have to deliver the outcomes for which they were intended and we need to make sure that only the WHO but every international organization that we take taxpayer money and give it to them for the benefit of America we need to make sure it is delivering on this taxpayer dollars. The WHO is no different in that respect," the top American diplomat said. Trump asserted that the WHO had to get its priority right. 

"I think they have to get their priorities right and their priorities are that everybody has to be treated properly, every country. And it doesn't seem that way,' he said. "It doesn't seem that way so we are going to do study investigation and we are going to make a determination as to what we are doing. In the meantime, we are holding back, we are going very unfair to the United States USD 452 million compared to USD 42 million that is to the World Health Organization. That is not good, that is not good, not fair," he said. 

"Not fair at all and other countries as you know also gave very substantially less than the United States and the world WHO got it wrong. I mean they got it very wrong, in many ways they were wrong. They also minimised the threat very strongly and not good," Trump said. -- PTI
10:19   Pope Francis says pandemic can be a place of conversion
In an exclusive interview recorded for The Tablet -- his first for a UK publication -- Pope Francis says that this extraordinary Lent and Eastertide could be a moment of creativity and conversion for the Church, for the world, and for the whole of creation. Read the interview here. 
A woman buys groceries amid the lockdown
A woman buys groceries amid the lockdown
10:17   High-level meeting of GoM on COVID-19 to be held today
A high-level meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM) on COVID-19 will be held at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Thursday.With an increase of 540 positive COVID-19 cases reported in the last 24 hours, India's tally of coronavirus cases rose to 5,734, said the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Thursday. Out of the 5,734 cases, 5,095 are active COVID-19 cases and 472 patients have been recovered/discharged and one migrated. The death toll has also risen to 166 after 17 new deaths were reported in the last 24 hours. -- ANI
10:04   Sensex rises as pandemic approaches peak
Equity benchmark Sensex soared over 900 points in opening trade on Thursday led by gains in financial, IT and FMCG stocks following rise in global equities on hopes of the COVID-19 pandemic approaching its peak. After hitting a high of 30,847.10, the 30-share BSE barometer was trading 925.67 points or 3.10 per cent higher at 30,819.63. 

Similarly, the NSE Nifty was quoting 270.05 points, or 3.09 per cent, up at 9,018.80. HDFC was the top gainer in the Sensex pack, surging up to 5 per cent, followed by Maruti, Bharti Airtel, Bajaj Finance, Tata Steel, Hero MotoCorp and ICICI Bank. On the other hand, HUL was the sole laggard. In the previous session, the BSE barometer closed 173.25 points or 0.58 per cent lower at 29,893.96, and the Nifty settled 43.45 points, or 0.49 per cent, down at 8,748.75. 

The death toll due to the novel coronavirus in India rose to 166 and the number of cases to 5,734, according to the Union Health Ministry. Global tally of the infections has crossed 14.8 lakh, with over 88,000 deaths.
10:02   The NSCI Dome quarantine facility
Maharashtra Tourism and Environment minister Aaditya Thackeray shares this image of the NSCI Dome qurantine facitlity. "The NSCI Dome being transformed into a huge quarantine centre as we step up our contact tracing and testing in @mybmcWardGS . Till now, our contact tracing has been highest and testing too. Ensuring that carriers are isolated for their own safety and for that of others."
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar
09:37   After US, Sri Lanka, India to help Spain in COVID-19 war
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday held a telephonic conversation with his Spanish counterpart Arancha Gonzalez over COVID-19.During the conversation, Jaishankar said that India has responded positively to Spain's urgent pharmaceutical requirement. "Had a telephonic conversation with Spanish FM @AranchaGlezLaya. We agreed that effective #COVID response requires global cooperation. India has responded positively to urgent pharmaceutical requirement of Spain," Jaishankar said in a tweet. Spain is one of the worst affected countries by the coronavirus, which has infected more than one million people worldwide. The number of coronavirus cases in Spain is close to 1,50,000, while the death toll has surged past 14,000. -- ANI
09:35   Banking on safeguards
Here's how you do it when you go to a bank. Social distancing is being maintained at a Jammu & Kashmir bank branch in Poonch. 
District Deputy Commissioner Sharath B
District Deputy Commissioner Sharath B
09:31   k'taka hospital hides COVID-19 patient details
An FIR has been lodged against the management and staff of Bahamani Super Speciality Hospital in Kalaburagi, Karnataka, allegedly for not following procedures meant to deal with COVID-19 and hiding details of patients with coronavirus symptoms, said District Deputy Commissioner Sharath B on Wednesday. The district family welfare department official and nodal officer of KPME Kalaburagi took cognisance of the reports that the private hospitals in the district are not informing the government about patients having COVID-19 symptoms and they are only reporting about such cases at the last moment.

"It has come to our light that some private hospitals in Kalaburagi city are hiding information about the patients who are having COVID-19 like symptoms and these cases are not being reported on time to us," said the District Deputy Commissioner. "We verified the records of these hospitals and it is clear now that they are revealing the serious cases in the last moment when the treatment has not given any help to patients. Only then such cases are bringing to ESI hospital in Kalaburagi. We have taken steps to quarantine the entire staff member of Bahamani hospital. We have taken legal steps against them for non-compliance of the orders issued to them and for not reporting this matter to us at the earliest stage," he said.

A case has been registered under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 column 51, 58 and sections 269 and 188 of the Indian Penal Code.

He further said that two new cases were reported positive on April 8 and one person has succumbed to the infection because he was having a severe respiratory infection.

He appealed to everyone to strictly follow lockdown restrictions and not violate Section 144 at any cost. Speaking about the attacks on Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) and Anganwadi workers, who were given a task to collect travel details of locals in view of coronavirus crisis, Sharath said: "Some of the health workers, ASHA and Anganwadi workers, who have been given a task to going from door to door to verify health status were troubled unnecessarily, saying that they have come to collect data for NRC and NPR."

"They are doing a survey on behalf of the district administration as they have to gather travelling information so that a person can be quarantined to contain COVID-19 spread. There has been an attack, a case has been registered in this regard," he said. -- ANI
09:24   Good news from Kerala
Something to chew on this morning: Kerala finance minister Thomas Isaac tweets: "International norm for Covid spread is 2.6 per 1 Covid patient. Total number of primary Covid infected who arrived in Kerala from abroad is 254. The secondary spread has been limited to 91. The international mortality rate is 5.75. With just 2 deaths, rate in Kerala is 0.58."
09:11   China's recent COVID-19 cases rise to 1,100 with 63 new infections
China has reported 63 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, including 61 imported ones, raising concern of a second wave of infections as the country on Wednesday lifted the 76-day lockdown of Wuhan, the origin point and epicentre for the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials said on Thursday. 

The Chinese health authority said on Thursday that two deaths were also reported taking the total death toll in the country to 3,335. The overall coronavirus cases have reached 81,865 in the country. 

China's National Health Commission said on Thursday it received reports of 63 new confirmed coronavirus cases on the Chinese mainland on Wednesday, of which 61 were imported, taking the total tally to 1,104. After nearly three months of grim battle against the coronavirus since January, China is fast returning to normalcy with factories and business humming back to activity amid concerns of a rebound due to steady rise of new infections especially coming from thousands of Chinese returning from abroad. 

The 76-day lockdown of Wuhan was lifted by the authorities on Wednesday. Tens of thousands of people in Wuhan, the origin point and epicentre for the coronavirus pandemic, began travelling out of the sprawling city. -- PTI
09:08   Consignment of medicines arrives in Sri Lanka from India
A consignment of medicines arrived in Sri Lanka from India on Wednesday, as South Asia battles with the coronavirus outbreak. "Another gift consignment of medicines arrives from #India to #SriLanka. Cooperation in these difficult times is a mark of a strong friendship! And a big thank you to @airindiain for undertaking this amazing task," High Commission of India in Colombo said in a tweet. More than 150 cases of coronavirus have been reported from Sri Lanka. Globally, the virus has infected more than a million people. During a video conference, Prime Minister Narendra Modi with leaders from SAARC countries last month had proposed the creation of COVID-19 Emergency Fund based on voluntary contributions from all the countries, with India making an initial offer of USD 10 million for the fund.The fund can be used by any of the partner countries to meet the cost of immediate actions. 

The Prime Minister had informed that India is assembling a Rapid Response Team of doctors and specialists, along with testing kits and other equipment, which will be on stand-by, to be placed at the disposal of the countries, if required. -- ANI
09:03   177 Tablighi Jamaatis quarantined in WB, says Mamata
As many as 177 people, including 108 from various countries, who attended the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi, have been quarantined in West Bengal, said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday."108 of those who were at the event (at Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi) from various countries, we have kept them in quarantine, and 69 people who had attended it from Bengal, they are also in quarantine. The state health ministry is directly monitoring the situation," the Chief Minister said.According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, there 103 COVID-19 cases in West Bengal, including 16 cured/discharged/migrated and five deaths. -- ANI
09:00   Anti-COVID strategy working: Trump
Amid a coronavirus-stung United States mourning thousands of its dead countrymen, President Donald Trump on Wednesday sought to reassure the country, saying there are signs that the aggressive strategy to slow the spread is working and the number of new cases is stabilizing.
"The numbers are changing and they are changing rapidly and soon we will be over that curve. We will be over the top and we will be headed in the right direction. I feel strongly about that," Trump told reporters during his daily White House news conference on coronavirus.
By Wednesday more than 4.3 lakh Americans had tested positive with coronavirus and the fatalities soared to over 14,760, with more than 1900 deaths reported in just one day. 

New York with nearly 1.5 lakh confirmed cases and 6,200 deaths has emerged as the epicentre of COVID-19 in the US.
"As we mourn the terrible loss of life for this grave pandemic, we are seeing signs that our aggressive strategy to slow the spread is working. The number of new cases is stabilizing. The number of beds necessary in so many locations -- I was watching this morning New York, I was watching Louisiana -- you see what is going on," Trump told reporters at the White House.
At the same time, Trump said some "terrible days" are ahead but will also soon have wonderful days ahead. 
"We are going to get this behind us, this terrible thing behind us. Some people will never be able to forget if they had a loved one, if they had a great friend or a friend, but we are going to get it behind us," he said.
"This is a tribute to the discipline and the devotion of the American people what we have accomplished, if every American continues to strictly adhere to social distancing guidelines, we can defeat the invisible enemy and save countless lives and we can do it much more quickly," Trump said.
"We are hopefully heading toward a final stretch -- the light at the end of the tunnel as I was saying -- as we continue to wage all out medical war to defeat the virus, we are also finding an economic war to ensure we can quickly turn to full financial strength," said the US President. -- PTI
08:57   2 women resident doctors assaulted by man for 'spreading' COVID-19
A 42-year-old man was arrested late Wednesday evening for allegedly assaulting two women resident doctors of Safdarjung Hospital after accusing them of "spreading" COVID-19 in Gautam Nagar area, said police.
The police swung into action and managed to arrest the accused on the complaint of 29-year-old resident doctor, a Gautam Nagar area resident, who had stepped out with her sister to buy fruits and vegetables in her neighbourhood market, said an official of the Hauz Khas police station, where the case was registered.
"We have registered a case and arrested the accused in connection with the incident," Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) Atul Kumar Thakur said.
Earlier Safdarjung Resident Doctors' Association president Manish said the incident happened around 9.30 pm when the two had stepped out of their house to buy fruits in the area.
The two doctors of the central government hospital are not on COVID-19 duty, he said.
"A local resident, who was in the vicinity, asked them to stay away from the fruit stall, saying you doctors bring infection from the hospital and spread it here," Manish told PTI.
When the doctors sought to reason with him, the man allegedly twisted their hands and pushed them back and fled, he said, adding they "approached police in this regard"
Corroborating RDA president's version, police said, the incident occurred in Gulmohar Enclave area, where the two women had gone to buy fruits.
On seeing them, the man began making remarks on the need of social distancing, accusing doctors like them of are spreading infection in residential areas.
As the two women retorted that they knew well the importance of social distancing and sought to reason with them, the man got aggressive and abusive, saying he would get a case registered against them. 
When the two women were about to leave following the spat, the man assaulted them and even touched the 29-year-old woman her inappropriately, said police, adding the man left the place after that.
Both the victims were medically examined, said police. -- PTI
08:53   Mumbai: NSCI stadium to be used as observation facility
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation would be using the NSCI stadium in Worli as an observation facility for people who may have come into contact with coronavirus patients, officials said on Wednesday.
The Sardar Vallabhai Patel stadium at the National Sports Club of India complex is close to Worli Koliwada, one of the coronavirus hotspots in the city.
The stadium usually holds badminton league matches, kabaddi matches, comedy gigs and also weddings.
"We have converted the venue into a special observation zone for individuals who are believed to have come in contact with COVID-19 patients," said Mazhar Nadiadwala, Managing Director of Dome Entertainment which runs the stadium.
The company has set up 300 beds with standardised facilities in line with BMC guidelines and also offered adjacent rooms to the civic body, he said.
Last week, municipal commissioner Praveen Pardeshi had given powers to ward officers to acquire unused properties including stadia, gyms, unsold inventory of realty players and also vacant flats for quarantine or treatment facilities. -- PTI
08:43   COVID-19 cases in India rise to 5734; 166 deaths
The total number of coronavirus cases in the country rose to 5734 on Thursday, registering an increase of 540 cases in the last 24 hours, while the death toll stood at 166, the Union health ministry said.

The number of active COVID-19 cases is 5095 and as many as 473 people were cured and discharged and one had migrated, it said.

The total number of cases include 71 foreign nationals.

Image: A member of Srinagar Municipal Corporation special team sprays disinfectant in a locality after a positive case of coronavirus was reported in the area. Photograph: S Irfan/PTI Photo
08:28   11 Indians die of coronavirus in US
At least 11 Indians have died of COVID-19 in the United States with another 16 testing positive for the infection which has claimed more than 14,000 lives and afflicted more than four lakh people in the US.
All Indian citizens who have succumbed to the deadly infection in the US are male, with ten of them from New York and New Jersey area. 

Four of the victims are said to be taxi drivers in New York City.
New York City has emerged as the US epicentre for COVID-19 spurt, accounting for more than 6,000 deaths and over 1,38,000 cases of infections. 

New Jersey accounts for 1,500 fatalities and nearly 48,000 infections.
One Indian national reportedly died in Florida because of coronavirus. 

Authorities are also ascertaining the nationality of some other Indian origin people in the States of California and Texas.
All 16 Indians, including four females, who have tested positive for coronavirus are in self-quarantine. 

Coming from diverse background, eight of them are from New York, three from New Jersey and rest from other states like Texas and California. 

They hail from Indian states like Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.
Indian embassy and consulates across the United States are working closely with local authorities and Indian-American organizations to provide necessary assistance to Indian nationals and students affected with COVID-19.
Because of the strict travel restrictions and regulations to prevent the spread of the deadly virus, local city officials have been performing the last rites of the deceased and in many cases are not allowing even their immediate family members to attend their cremations, officials said. -- PTI
08:23   Won't forget India's help with medicine: Trump
Amid the medical fraternity racing against time for a panacea for COVID-19, which has infected a whopping 4.3 lakh Americans and claimed over 14,600 lives, United States President Donald Trump on Wednesday thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for allowing export of Hydroxychloroquine, deemed a possible cure against the disease.   
"I want to thank Prime Minister Modi of India for allowing us to have what we requested for the problem arose and he was terrific. We will remember it," Trump told reporters at his daily White House news conference on coronavirus.
In a tweet, hours earlier, Trump praised Modi for his strong leadership and said that India's help during this crisis will not be forgotten.
"Extraordinary times require even closer cooperation between friends. Thank you India and the Indian people for the decision on HCQ. Will not be forgotten!" he said.
"Thank you, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi for your strong leadership in helping not just India, but humanity, in this fight!" Trump said in a tweet that son went viral. 

It was retweeted more than 60,000 times and liked by over two lakhs Twitterati. 
By Wednesday night, more than 14,600 Americans had lost their lives due to coronavirus and over 4.3 lakhs have tested positive for the dreaded disease.

Scientists and the medical fraternity are racing against time to find a vaccine and a therapeutic solution to it.
Hydroxychloroquine has been identified by the US Food and Drug Administration as a possible treatment for the COVID-19 and it is being tested on more than 1,500 coronavirus patients in New York. 

Anticipating that it will work, given initial positive results, Trump has bought more than 30 million doses of Hydroxychloroquine for potential treatment of COVID-19 patients. -- PTI
01:29   Delhi head constable tests +ive for COVID-19
A 44-year-old Delhi Police head constable tested positive for coronavirus in Rohini area on Wednesday, officials said.

According to police, they received information around 3.40 pm that one head constable in Rohini's Sector-16 has tested positive for COVID-19.

He was posted in the Foreign Regional Registration Office at the Indira Gandhi International Airport's Terminal 3.

His test was conducted on Saturday at Baba Sahib Ambedkar Medical College and Hospital and reports came on Wednesday, a senior police officer said.

The head constable was informed by the hospital that he was tested positive, following which he informed police.

Later, the ambulance came at 7 pm and took him to LNJP Hospital, the officer said. His family has been placed under quarantine, police added. -- PTI