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Fri, 27 March 2020
PM praises Mamata for fight against COVID-19

Timeline  Refresh

23:49   PM praises Mamata for fight against COVID-19
Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday evening and appreciated the steps taken by the state government to prevent the spread of COVID-19, sources close to the CM said.
  
During the call, Modi also took stock of the current situation in the state in the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak, they said.

Modi also praised the measures taken by her government to help citizens during the lockdown, the sources said.

The conversation between the two leaders lasted for nearly 10 minutes, they said. 

After the prime minister, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also called up Banerjee and took stock of the situation in the state, the sources said.  

-- PTI
23:26   Pak reports over 1300 positive COVID-19 cases
More than 1,300 positive cases of novel coronavirus have been reported from Pakistan till now, with Sindh trailing behind the Punjab province in tally.

Twenty-nine new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Punjab on Friday, taking the tally to 448 in the province, according to a spokesperson for the Punjab health department, DAWN reported. Punjab now has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the country, overtaking Sindh's total of 440.

Four people have died from the virus in the province so far -- one in Rawalpindi and three in Lahore.

Four new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir/Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, according to a situation report released by the KP health department.

This takes the total number of cases detected in the province to 180. Of these, Mardan has reported the highest number of cases at 79.

-- ANI
23:12   IMF chief: Clear we have entered recession
The coronavirus pandemic has driven the global economy into a downturn that will require massive funding to help developing nations, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said Friday.
  
"It is clear that we have entered a recession" that will be worse than in 2009 following the global financial crisis, she said in an online press briefing.

With the worldwide economic "sudden stop," Georgieva said the fund's estimate "for the overall financial needs of emerging markets is $2.5 trillion." 

But she warned that estimate "is on the lower end." Governments in emerging markets, which have suffered an exodus of capital of more than $83 billion in recent weeks, can cover much of that, but "clearly the domestic resources are insufficient" and many already have high debt loads.

Over 80 countries, mostly of low incomes, have already have requested emergency aid from the International Monetary Fund, she said.

"We do know that their own reserves and domestic resources will not be sufficient," Georgieva said, adding that the fund is aiming to beef up its response "to do more, do it better, do it faster than ever before."
22:44   Italy records almost 1,000 virus deaths in one-day record
Italy recorded a shocking spike in coronavirus deaths Friday with 969 new victims, the worst daily record for any country since the pandemic began.
  
The infection rate however continued its downward trend, with the civil protection agency reporting nearly 86,500 confirmed cases in Italy -- a 7.4 per cent increase, down from around 8.0 percent in previous days. 
22:07   Priyanka urges govt to help migrants reach home

Amid reports of migrant workers walking down to their villages due to a lockdown in the country, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Friday urged the government to help them reach their homes.

In a video message, she said she was pained at seeing them walk for many kilometres in their bid to reach their homes and be with their families.

"I am pained at seeing thousands of migrant labourers walk down towards Uttar Pradesh from the Delhi border. They are poor people and is it not our duty to help them," she asked.

"When so many people were stranded abroad, we sent aircraft to get them back. Everyone wants to stay with their families during such times of crisis. We must help them and I urge the government to help them. We all political parties must unite in helping such people in distress. UP Congress has formed a highway task force to help such people," she said in her video message.

She also tweeted, "A tragic situation has arisen on the border of Delhi, with thousands of people leaving for their homes on foot. No means, no food."

"Corona's terror, unemployment and fear of hunger are pushing their feet home towards their villages. I pray to the government, please help them," she said in a tweet in Hindi.

Congress leader Ahmed Patel said, "We are concerned about migrant workers walking on empty highways. The Central Govt must issue a directive to enable one time train/bus service so these people can reach home. If we can evacuate Indians stranded in foreign soil why not assist those stranded on domestic soil?"

Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill tweeted, "Appeal to Central Govt -Deploy Special Buses for stranded labourers and those walking home.

"If Air India can be used to bring Indians trapped abroad, then the government should also do something for the labourers trying to reach their homes on foot in the country," he said.

Shergill said the government must support poor people in distress as it was their duty to do so.

-- PTI
22:05   England's chief medical officer says he has coronavirus symptoms
England's Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty has coronavirus symptoms and is self-isolating at home, he tweeted on Friday.

"After experiencing symptoms compatible with COVID-19 last night, in line with the guidance, I will be self-isolating at home for the next seven days. I will be continuing to advise the Government on the medical response to Coronavirus, supported by my deputies," Whitty tweeted.
21:56   UK coronavirus deaths rise to 759
A total of 759 people have now died of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom, while 14,579 have tested positive.

The death toll jumped by 181 on Friday - a rise of 31 per cent - making it the biggest rise in deaths that the country has seen so far, surpassing yesterdays record of 115.

In England, patients were aged between 29 and 98 years old.

All but four patients, aged between 82 and 91 years old, had underlying health conditions, health officials said.

The UK has the seventh highest number of recorded deaths in the world after Italy, Spain, China, Iran, France and the US.
20:57   SP founding member Beni Prasad Verma passes away
Beni Prasad Verma, a founding member of the Samajwadi Party and former Union minister who was considered close to party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, passed away on Friday. He was 80.
  
The Rajya Sabha MP was not well for past few days. He was admitted to a private hospital in Lucknow, where he died around 7 pm, his son Rakesh Verma said.
Verma was the telecom minister between 1996-1998 in then prime minister H D Deve Gowda's cabinet and was the steel minister in the Congress-led UPA government.
After his death, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav reached the hospital and condoled his death. Verma is survived by three sons and two daughters.
The iconic Matterhorn mountain is illuminated by Swiss light artist Gerry Hofstetter aiming to send messages of hope, support and solidarity to the ones sufferings from the global coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic in the alpine resort of Zermatt, Switzerland
20:45   Global virus toll tops 25,000, most in Europe
The coronavirus pandemic has killed 25,066 people, with Europe accounting for most of the deaths.
  
Europe was the worst-hit continent with 17,314 fatalities. Italy had the highest numbers of deaths in the world at 8,165, followed by Spain (4,858) and China (3,292).

At least 547,034 coronavirus cases have been registered around the world since December.
20:38   9 new coronavirus positive cases in Mumbai
As nine fresh cases of COVID-19 disease were reported from Mumbai and one in Vashi, the total number of coronavirus patients in the state has risen to 153.

With nine new coronavirus positive cases in Mumbai and one in Vashi, the total number of positive cases in Maharashtra has risen to 153, the Health Department of the Government of Maharashtra said on Friday. 

The total number of coronavirus-positive cases in Mumbai now stands at 86.

Four deaths have occurred in Maharashtra due to COVID-19.

A total of 724 positive cases of COVID-19 have been found in India, including 47 foreign nationals, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Friday.

17 persons have lost their lives due to this disease in the country.

-- ANI
20:22   Ten-month-old baby tests positive for COVID-19

A 10-month-old baby from a  village in Dakshina Kannada district has tested positive for COVID-19, health officials said.
    
The baby was admitted to a private hospital at Derlakatte in Mangaluru on March 23 with high fever and acute respiratory illness.
    
The throat swab was sent to the lab for testing the nextmday and it tested positive, a release from district healthmofficer Ramachandra Bayari said here on Friday.
    
The baby is now in stable condition, it said
    
Sajipanadu village in Bantwal taluk has been quarantined as a precautionary measure and no one is allowed to enter or go out of the village.

-- PTI
20:01   IAS officer suspended for fleeing Kerala while under quarantine
The Kerala Government on Friday suspended IAS officer Anupam Mishra, who left the state violating instructions to remain under home quarantine after his trip abroad.
  
An FIR had been registered against Mishra, the Kollam Sub-Collector, who hails from Uttar Pradesh, on the basis of a report from the health department about the violation.
  
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told repoters that the officer had left without taking permission from the authorities.
  
"That is not a right act. We have requested those under observation to strictly follow quarantine instructions. But when a responsible officer like the sub collector fled Kerla, it has broght disgrace to the state, Vijayan said.
   
Hence, "We have decided to suspend him", he said.
    
The young IAS officer had returned to the state on March 19 from his honeymoon abroad and had been asked to remain under observation.

However, he left for his brother's place in Bengaluru without informing anyone.

-- PTI
19:39   Scientists get image of virus causing COVID-19
The first images from India of the coronavirus causing the Covid-19 disease have been caught by scientists in Pune, using transmission electron microscope imaging. They were published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research.

The images of Sars-Cov-2, the virus that Causes Covid-19, are from the throat swab of the first laboratory-confirmed case in India on January 30, 2020. The woman, among three students studying medicine in Wuhan, was diagnosed with Covid-19 after returning home.

Covid-19 has infected at least 540,000 people and killed close to 25,000 since the first cluster of cases were detected in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

The images of the virus from the Covid-19 cases from Kerala show that the Sars-Cov-2 virus closely resembles the Mers-Cov virus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus in 2012, and the 2002 Sars-CoV virus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus.

The 'Flying Sikh' called upon people to stay indoors during the lockdown
19:10   COVID-19 pandemic: Milkha Singh's family to donate Rs 2 lakh
Legendary athlete Milkha Singh on Friday said his family will donate Rs 2 lakh to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
The 'Flying Sikh' called upon people to stay indoors during the lockdown period to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The 91-year-old legend said he and his golfer son Jeev Milkha Singh will be donating the money to fight the pandemic.
His family will be giving a cheque to Punjab Governor and Chandigarh Administrator V P Singh Badnore in this regard.
"More and more people should come forward and donate. We have to fight this pandemic collectively," Milkha Singh said.
He said people should pay heed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal and stay at home during the lockdown period.

"Staying indoors, following social distancing, maintaining hygiene are some of the things we need to follow strictly," Milkha Singh said.
"This is the least we can do on our part as doctors, nurses, police and media personnel are out there risking their lives as the nation is fighting COVID-19," he said.

-- PTI
18:59   Shah talks to CMs on exodus of migrant workers
Union Home Minister Amit Shah has spoken to some of the chief ministers and asked them to look into the issue of mass exodus of migrant workers from different parts of the country after the announcement of the 21-day lockdown.

Joint Secretary in the ministry of home affairs Punya Salila Srivastava said Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla has also asked the state governments and Union Territory administrations to provide food and shelter to the migrant workers so that they remain at the place where they are.

"The home minister has spoken to some of the chief ministers and asked them to look into the matter," she told a press conference.

There have been reports of a large number of migrant workers leaving their work places in different parts of the country and walking down to their native places, hundreds of kilometres away facing hardships on the way.

The migrant workers are left with no option but to walk as there is no transport available after the announcement of the nationwide lockdown by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.

Srivastava said the home ministry has asked the states and union territories to prevent large-scale movement of migrants during lockdown.

"Lockdown means be where you are," she said.

The home secretary has written a letter to state chief secretaries to provide the migrant workers food and shelter.
-- PTI
18:46   You're a fighter: Modi to UK PM who's COVID-19+
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday described British premier Boris Johnson as a "fighter" and hoped he recovers from coronavirus infection.
 
"Dear PM @BorisJohnson, you're a fighter and you will overcome this challenge as well," Modi tweeted.

He said he prays for his good health and extends best wishes in ensuring a healthy UK.
Johnson said on Friday that he has tested positive for coronavirus after experiencing mild symptoms and is now self-isolating at 10 Downing Street in line with the medical advice.
"I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government's response via video-conference as we fight this virus," he said.

-- PTI
18:10   Kanika Kapoor tests COVID-19+ in 3rd test
Bollywood singer Kanika Kapoor has tested positive in her third coronavirus test, authorities at the Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow confirmed. 

Kanika has been kept in isolation in a private room with facilities like a toilet, patient-bed, a television, and a Gluten-free diet.

Kapoor had attended a house warming party of her maternal uncle on March 13, in Kanpur. After the samples were collected, Kanikas uncle and his family are a part of the 11 people who have tested negative for Covid-19.
PM Modi announcing the lockdown in his nationwide address on Tuesday
17:59   Lockdown address on Mar 24 Modi's best in terms of TV ratings
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address announcing the 21-day lockdown got more viewership than his previous televised addresses, including the demonetisation speech in 2016, according to BARC India ratings.

A whopping 19.7 crore people watched Modi's address on television on Tuesday when he had announced a complete lockdown across the country for 21 days, asserting that social distancing was the only way out for India in its decisive battle against the coronavirus.
Television rating agency Broadcast Audience Research Council's ratings indicate that the telecast was watched by more viewers, compared to Modi's previous speeches announcing demonetisation or the "janta curfew".

"According to data shared by @BARCIndia the speech by PM @narendramodi on Total Lockdown on 24th March had highest TV viewership (unique viewers greater than IPL Finals) with more than 201 channels carrying it," Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar said in a tweet.

The final match of the Indian Premier League had a viewership of 13.3 crore people, while 19.7 crore people watched Modi's address on television.

The prime minister's address to the nation on March 19, announcing a 14-hour "janata curfew", garnered a viewership of 8.30 crore people across 191 television channels, according to the BARC ratings.

Modi's address on abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution on August 8 last year had a viewership of 6.5 crore people across 163 channels, while his address on November 8, 2016 announcing demonetisation was viewed by 5.7 crore people on 114 channels.
The speech announcing the lockdown was watched for a record 3891 million minutes by viewers, while the March 19 speech announcing the Janata Curfew was watched for 1275 million minutes by viewers, it said.

The November 8, 2016 address by Modi on demonetisation was viewed for 842 million minutes while the August 8th, 2019 address  on Kashmir, was seen for 934 million minutes, it added.

-- PTI
17:42   Sonia offers MPLADS funds to deal with coronavirus
Congress President Sonia Gandhi has written to District Magistrate, Rae Bareli, authorising the local administration to withdraw as much money as is needed from MPLADS fund to help people in her parliamentary constituency during the crisis created by a coronavirus.

In a letter to the District Magistrate on Friday, Gandhi said that the number of people affected by coronavirus in the country was increasing and the global pandemic has impacted a large number of countries.

She urged people of Rae Bareli to take all precautions. "Follow strictly the instructions by the Health Department and the administration. Precaution and awareness is the only option to deal with the virus," she said.

She urged the district administration to distribute products like sanitisers, masks and soap. "Special care should be taken of daily-wagers, labourers and the elderly. No destitute should be allowed to sleep hungry," she said.

Gandhi said she is prepared to extend all possible cooperation as MP of Rae Bareli.

"To help the people of Rae Bareli during the coronavirus crisis, you can take as many funds as are required from my MPLADS fund. I give permission for it," she said.

Under Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) scheme, each MP can take up works to the tune of Rs 5 crore per annum in his/her constituency. -- ANI
17:39   COVID-19: 764 dead in Spain in 24 hours
The death toll in Spain soared over 4,800 Friday after 769 people died in 24 hours, in what was a record one-day figure for fatalities in the country, reports said. Spain has the world's second-highest death toll after Italy, and has so far suffered 4,858 deaths, while the number of cases jumped to 64,059.  Spain has moved to dramatically increase its rate of testing, ordering millions of new kits from around the world. 

Image: A commuter leans on the door of a subway car at the almost empty Atocha train station at rush hour during the partial lockdown in Spain. Pic: Reuters. 
17:31   Indians stuck in Iran: SC asks Centre to respond
The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the Central government asking for its response on a petition seeking to immediately evacuate and provide all possible medical help to the Indian pilgrims stranded in Iran's Qom.

A bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Dr DY Chandrachud and also comprising Justice Suryakant issued the notice after hearing the matter and arguments through videoconferencing.

The petition was filed by one Mustafa MH, through senior advocate Sanjay Hegde.

This comes as all international passenger flight operations are closed till April 14 in the wake of the three-week nationwide lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country.

The petition stated that these citizens are pilgrims, most of whom are from poor financial backgrounds, and had travelled to Iran and were scheduled to return weeks ago.

However, in view of the aggravating CoVID-19 situation there, they are stranded in Qom, Iran without any health/medical facilities and food supplies, the plea said.

It said that these Indian citizens stranded in Iran have been accommodated in hotel rooms in groups of four or five. It is important to note that the situation of the spread of COVID-19 is extremely critical in Iran. In fact, there may be as many as 250 people within the group of the aforesaid pilgrims who could be positive for Corona, the petition said. -- ANI


Image: The fourth batch of evacuees from Iran board a flight for India. Pic: ANI
17:31   Indians stuck in Iran: SC asks Centre to respond
The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the Central government asking for its response on a petition seeking to immediately evacuate and provide all possible medical help to the Indian pilgrims stranded in Iran's Qom.

A bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Dr DY Chandrachud and also comprising Justice Suryakant issued the notice after hearing the matter and arguments through videoconferencing.

The petition was filed by one Mustafa MH, through senior advocate Sanjay Hegde.

This comes as all international passenger flight operations are closed till April 14 in the wake of the three-week nationwide lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country.

The petition stated that these citizens are pilgrims, most of whom are from poor financial backgrounds, and had travelled to Iran and were scheduled to return weeks ago.

However, in view of the aggravating CoVID-19 situation there, they are stranded in Qom, Iran without any health/medical facilities and food supplies, the plea said.

It said that these Indian citizens stranded in Iran have been accommodated in hotel rooms in groups of four or five. It is important to note that the situation of the spread of COVID-19 is extremely critical in Iran. In fact, there may be as many as 250 people within the group of the aforesaid pilgrims who could be positive for Corona, the petition said. -- ANI


Image: The fourth batch of evacuees from Iran board a flight for India. Pic: ANI
17:26   Himachal govt tightens curfew timings
Himachal Pradesh government cuts the curfew relaxation from six hours to three hours daily: State Public Relations Department quotes Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur.
17:21   Nadda distributes food to police
BJP national president Jagat Prakash Nadda distributes food among police personnel. The party has announced that its party workers will distribute food among over 5 crore poor people amid the lockdown. 
17:17   Political leaders, royalty who tested +ve for COVID-19
Prince Charles, the next in line for the British throne, tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, March 25, sending shockwaves through the Royal Family.


Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro denied reports he tested positive for the coronavirus but has refused to publish his medical results.

Sophie Grgoire Trudeau, the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, tested positive for the coronavirus on March 13 after returning from London. 

Nicola Zingaretti, the leader of the Democratic Party in Italy, visited Milan on February 27, with a group of students, encouraging people to go out as a sign of strength against the coronavirus threat. He tested positive with the coronavirus nine days later.


The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, tested positive.
17:11   Scotland Yard appeals retired officers to return to work
While on UK, Scotland Yard, the UK's largest police service, on Friday appealed to the retired officers to consider returning to the force and those nearing retirement to postpone those plans to help cope with the massive workload due to the coronavirus pandemic. -- PTI
17:06   UK PM Boris Johnson tests +ve for coronavirus
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus and is experiencing mild symptoms, says No 10.  

The Guardian reports that in a video posted on Twitter, Johnson, confirmed he had developed mild symptoms -- 'a temperature and persistent cough' -- over the last 24 hours and, on the advice of the chief medical officer, he took a test which returned positive for coronavirus.Johnson said he was now self-isolating and working from home. He said thanks to "the wizardry of modern technology' he would continue to lead the national fightback against the virus.
17:01   Maha govt asks pvt doctors' clinics to function
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Friday asked all private clinics and hospitals to remain open amid the countrywide lockdown imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

He said that there will be an increase in the number of coronavirus patients who will be discharged from the hospitals. "We have noticed that some private clinics have closed down due to fear of coronavirus. This is not right in the present situation. If doctors run away from responsibility, who will the common people look up to?" Tope said.

"I assure that the police will cooperate. Apart from COVID-19, there are usual illnesses that need to be treated. I urge doctors to keep their clinics and hospitals open," he added.


He stated that 4,228 COVID-19 tests have been conducted in the state out of which 4,017 people tested negative for coronavirus and 135 people tested positive for the disease. Till now, 19 coronavirus patients have been discharged. 

According to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the total number of positive coronavirus cases in India rose to 724 on Friday, after 30 new cases were reported in the country since Thursday night.

Till now, 66 people have been either cured or discharged, while there are 640 active COVID-19 cases in the country. The total number of deaths reported from the disease are 17. -- ANI
Cops offer a flower to a doctor in Puducherry
16:43   Govt orders 40000 ventilators, COVD-19 toll 17
Lav Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, Union Health Ministry & Family Welfare briefs the media on the COVID-19 situation.  

-- Till now 724 COVID19 cases have been confirmed.

-- Total deaths stand at 17. 

-- In the last 24 hours, 75 new positive cases and 4 deaths have been reported.

-- We have given an order to a PSU, Bharat Electronics Limited, to provide 10,000 ventilators. BEL has also been requested to purchase 30,000 additional ventilators in 1-2 months. 

-- States and UTs have been requested to make arrangements for food, water & sanitation for the migrant labourers. 

-- Hotels and rented accommodation should stay open and functional, while taking all the COVID19 precautions: Punya Salila Srivastava, Joint Secretary, MHA, said. 

-- Around 1.4 lakh companies have asked their employees to work from home on our appeal. 

-- We have issued guidelines for tele-medicine facility, urge patients to take advantage of them.  
PNB offered mobile ATM service in Delhi
16:24   GDP may grow just 2% in 2020-21: Rating agency
Despite the Reserve Bank of India's massive actions to spur the economy, India's gross domestic product is likely to contract by 4.5 per cent in the April-June 2020 quarter and will rise by only 2 per cent in 2020-21 on the coronavirus impact, according to domestic rating agency Icra. 

The Indian economy was already supposed to clock a decadal low growth of 5 per cent in 2019-20, according to official estimates, and the coronavirus-related worries have only compounded the problems. "Regardless of the measures announced now by the RBI, we are lowering our base case scenario for GDP growth to (-)4.5 per cent for Q1 FY2021 and to 2 per cent for FY21," Icra said in a note on Friday. 

They said the estimate is guided by the rapidly growing uncertainties over the duration of the impact of coronavirus on economic activity in India and the rest of the world. The RBI's policy measures got welcomed as a set of "comprehensive announcements" by the agency. 

"The combination of moratoriums, liquidity enhancing measures and the sharper-than-hoped-for repo rate cut will help to assuage the markets in these increasingly unsettled times, and offer some protection against widespread defaults, even though the actual impact on boosting economic activity may be limited," it said. 

A slew of analysts have been downwardly revising their growth estimates following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in India and also a host of developed countries. India has been placed under a three-week lockdown till mid-April, which has chilled virtually all the economic activity. PTI AA
16:11   Coronavirus 'very grave' in Singapore: PM Lee
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has described the coronavirus outbreak in Singapore as "very grave', saying that his government will do whatever it takes to stabilise the country's economy even if nobody can tell what lies ahead. 

Speaking to reporters after the government unveiled a supplementary budget of 48.4 billion Singapore dollars in Parliament on Thursday to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, Lee assured that he will do everything possible to stabilise the city state's economy, preserve jobs and help companies stay afloat. 


"Whatever it takes to do that, we will do them," Lee said. "We want to see people through this; we are under no illusions that this is the end of the story because nobody can tell what lies ahead," he added. 


The city-state has reported 683 virus infections and two deaths, but has won praise for its approach and has so far avoided going into a total lockdown. Lee gave a sense of the fast-changing situation, pointing out that his government had thought the measures contained in the Budget presented on February 18 would buy a few months of time for it to assess the situation and put together a second package.

"But we did not expect within one month, the picture was totally changed, the health picture was totally changed, the economic picture was totally changed,' conceded Lee. "This is why the Government also completely changed its policy response and set aside a further 48.4 billion Singapore dollars to support businesses, workers and families, he said. It was a Supplementary Budget nearly seven times the initial 6.4 billion Singapore dollars worth of measures in the February Budget to cushion the COVID-19 fallout. The combined 55 billion Singapore dollar budget to combat the coronavirus is intended to see the country until the end of the year.  
16:02   COVID-19 updates at this hour
Restrictions on domestic flights extended till April 14, 2020: Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

12 more people (contacts of earlier positive cases) test positive for Coronavirus in Sangli; Till now, there are 147 positive cases in Maharashtra: PRO, Maharashtra Health Department.

A 10-month-old baby in Sajipanadu of Dakshina Kannada district has been tested positive for COVID-19: Sindu B Rupesh, Deputy Commissioner of Dakshina Kannada, Karnataka.


Image:  Homeless people stand in a queue as they receive tea and breakfast from good Samaritans in New Delhi, Friday. Pic: ANI
15:56   Veggie prices rise in Delhi, lockdown hits supply
Vegetable prices have gone up noticeably in the national capital after their supply dwindled in the last few days owing to the nationwide lockdown.

The vegetable sellers at Azadpur Mandi said the prices have increased due to low supply."I used to sell potatoes at Rs 15 to Rs 17 per kg and now the same potatoes are being sold at Rs 20 to Rs 25. Prices have increased due to the low supply of vegetables. In some markets, potatoes are being sold at Rs 40 and tomatoes at Rs 50 per kg," said Aakash, a vegetable seller.


However, the chairman of Azadpur Mandi, Adil Ahmad Khan, assured a continuous supply of vegetables and urged people not to engage in panic-buying.

"The people of Delhi need not panic as there is sufficient amount of vegetables reaching the national capital. The supply of vegetables in Delhi has come down by 50-60 per cent due to the lockdown, but despite this, there will be no shortage for people in Delhi," Khan said.


"I appeal to the people of Delhi not to store/hoard as fruits and vegetables are available in adequate quantities. It is our responsibility to see that everyone gets vegetables and fruits, and no one will have to face any problem," he added.


Khan said that vegetable rates have increased by 25 to 30 per cent but soon they will come down. He added that if anyone tries to engage in black-marketing at the wholesale market that person's licence will be cancelled. -- ANI
15:48   God's own angels
A family in Mumbai prepares food and distributes it to needy. Ibrahim Motiwala says, "Many labourers are stranded here without food so if Allah has made us capable enough to help such people then we should. We prepare food for around 800 people at a time" 
The empty dining hall at the Saibaba temple
15:45   Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust donates Rs 51 cr to combat COVID-19
The Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust on Friday donated Rs 51 crore to the Maharashtra Chief Minister's Relief Fund to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.

"The Central and state governments are fully prepared to fight the coronavirus which has caused havoc all over the world. The ad hoc committee of the Trust has decided to pay Rs. 51 crore to the Chief Minister's Relief Fund," Arun Dongre, Chief Executive Officer of Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust said.


Dongre said the Trust has always helped the country when it is in need.


"The Trust has helped during the natural calamities and when the country is in need. We contributed Rs. 5 crores, for the people of the state, Rs. 12 crores for martyred soldiers in Pulwama," he added.


The number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus rose to 724 on Friday, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. -- ANI
15:42   Ready to fly migrant workers from Delhi, Mumbai to Patna during lockdown: SpiceJet CMD
SpiceJet has offered services of its aircraft and crew members to the government for any humanitarian mission during the 21-day lockdown and the airline is ready to operate some flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Patna to alleviate the suffering of migrant workers, especially those from Bihar, its CMD Ajay Singh said on Friday. 

While domestic and international passenger flights have been banned till April 14 midnight, IndiGo and GoAir have also offered their aircraft and crew and staff members to the government for any mission required to contain the spread of coronavirus. 

"We have offered our aircraft and crew for any humanitarian mission that the government needs us to fly. We are already flying food, medicines and medical equipment for government every day (on our freighter aircraft)," Singh told PTI. 

"We would like to alleviate the suffering of the migrant workers, especially those from Bihar, by flying some flights between Delhi/Mumbai and Patna," he added. India has imposed a 21-day lockdown, which came into force on Wednesday, to check the spread of the virus which has claimed 17 lives and infected over 700 people so far. PTI 
15:29   Srinagar closes down mosques
Mosques in Srinagar are closed in the light of the 21-day lockdown. Clerics have also made an appeal to all people to offer prayers at their houses. 
15:24   There's a gap: Cabinet Secy red flags monitoring
Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba has told state governments that more than 15 lakh international travellers came to India over the last two months but there appears to be a gap between the actual monitoring for COVID-19 and the total arrivals. In a letter to chief secretaries of all states and Union territories, Gauba said such a gap in monitoring of international passengers may seriously jeopardise the efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, given that many amongst the persons who have tested positive for the virus so far in India have a history of international travel. -- PTI
15:16   No new coronavirus case in Guj in last 12 hours
No new case of coronavirus has been reported from Gujarat in the last 12 hours, state health secretary Jayanti Ravi said on Friday. In Gujarat so far, there are a total of 43 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, according to the data compiled by the Union Health Ministry. There have been 3 deaths linked to COVID-19 reported from the state so far.

As per data shared by the state health department Ahmedabad has reported 15 cases, Surat has 7, Rajkot 4, Vadodara 8, Gandhinagar 7, Bhavnagar 1 and Kutch 1.

Image: The lucky ones: Migrant labourers loading their belongings on a truck as they leave for their villages on the second day of the lockdown announced for the entire country in Surat on Thursday. Most labourers have to undertake a gruelling walk, often 400+ kilometres, to their villages. 
15:10   Delhi police help the helpless
The humane face of the Delhi police after the beating its image took in the wake of the riots in the city last month. Police, along with locals, distribute freshly-cooked food among the needy in Sadar Bazaar area, amid the nationwide lockdown. Pic: ANI
15:07   14 Japanese from Rishikesh detained in Delhi
A bus carrying 14 Japanese nationals was stopped by police at the Delhi-Ghaziabad border today. Devendar Negi, the bus driver says, "I picked them up from a yoga centre in Rishikesh and was asked to drop them in Paharganj. I don't know if they have been tested for COVID-19."
15:04   Empty streets in Jammu
Streets in Jammu deserted and shops closed amid the nationwide lockdown. Pic: ANI
15:01   Trucks delivering goods stopped
Truck drivers who had come to deliver goods in Maharashtra from Gujarat say they are stuck in Nagpur. "We're stuck since 19th March. Price of everything has risen. We're eating 'khichdi' & 'namak-roti'." 

Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray had announced that essential services will continue to be available and people should not have any misunderstanding or confusion regarding this. Clearly the directive has not penetrated to the boots on the ground and the common man continues to suffer. 
14:53   Reduce salt to up immunity
At a time when people with compromised immunity corresponds with a higher risk, a high-salt diet may not only be bad for one's blood pressure, but also for the immune system, a study has revealed. Researchers from the University Hospital Bonn in Germany found that mice fed a high-salt diet suffered from much more severe bacterial infections. 

Human volunteers who consumed an additional six grams of salt per day also showed pronounced immune deficiencies, according to the study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. 

This amount corresponds to the salt content of two fast food meals, the researchers said. Five grams a day is the maximum amount of salt that adults should consume according to the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO). 

It corresponds approximately to one level teaspoon, the researchers said. Sodium chloride, which is the chemical name of salt, raises blood pressure and thereby increases the risk of heart attack or stroke, they said. "We have now been able to prove for the first time that excessive salt intake also significantly weakens an important arm of the immune system," said Christian Kurts from the University of Bonn. -- PTI
14:50   Safe distancing rules kick in in Singapore
From today, people in Singapore who intentionally sit down less than 1m away from another person in a public place or on a fixed seat marked as not to be occupied, or who stand in a queue less than 1m away from another person, will be guilty of an offence. They can be fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to six months, or face both penalties upon conviction under updates to the Infectious Diseases Act made by the Ministry of Health and published in the Government Gazette on Thursday (March 26) night. Read the report here
Migrant workers walked hundreds of kilometres to reach villages
14:47   Maha: 40 workers trying to flee to UP in truck caught, booked
Around 40 migrant labourers working in Mumbai were caught here on Friday morning for allegedly trying to escape to Uttar Pradesh in a truck amid the ongoing nationwide lockdown imposed for curbing the spread of coronavirus, police said. 

The driver of the truck had told the police that he was carrying vegetables in the vehicle, an official said. "The 40 migrant labourers work in Mumbai. Due to the coronavirus scare, they were trying to go to their native places in Uttar Pradesh in the truck. They had reached Nashik, where the police caught them and asked them to return to Mumbai in the same vehicle," inspector (crime) D Gawde of Kopri Police Station said. 


"Scared of the action, the driver started driving back to Mumbai. When the truck reached Anand Nagar check-post in Thane, the police checked the vehicle and found the labourers travelling in it," he added. When asked why they were going to UP, the labourers told the police that they were concerned about the spread of coronavirus in Mumbai and hence wanted to return to their native places, Gawde added. 


They have been booked under IPC section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant).  -- PTI
14:42   Kolkata reserves crematorium for COVID-19 victims
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation has reserved two burial grounds and a crematorium for last rites of coronavirus victims in the city, days after a controversy erupted over the cremation of West Bengal's first COVID-19 casualty. 


According to the mayor in council, health, Atin Ghosh, KMC has designated a two-furnace cremation centre at Dhapa grounds, a burial ground at Baghmari for Muslims and another at Topsia for Hindus. 


"We have taken this decision so that there is no repetition of the incident that took place on Monday. These burial grounds and cremation centres have been reserved so that there is no confusion and commotion," Ghosh told PTI. 


Of the 10 afflicted with COVID-19 in the state, one has died. The last rites of an elderly man, who became the first casualty of the novel coronavirus in Bengal, was considerably delayed on Monday as wary locals put up a road blockade in the city's Nimtala area to stop government officials from cremating him, saying it could lead to virus transmission. -- PTI
Movement of private vehicles restricted near Delhi-UP border
14:01   Rail platform in Goa to be made homeless shelter
Goa's disaster management authority to take over platforms of Madgaon railway station to provide shelter to homeless people, the state government said. 

The Goa government on Thursday announced that shops providing essential items like groceries, milk and vegetables would be kept open round-the-clock in the state during the lockdown period. 

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said though the government was not in favour of taking such a step, it had to take the decision due to pressure from social media users and other quarters.  -- PTI
13:42   Pass on interest rate cut to people: FM to banks
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday asked banks for "quick transmission" of slashed interest rate as the RBI cut the key lending rate sharply by 75 basis points to boost liquidity in financial system to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. In a tweet, the Finance Minister also welcomed RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das' statement that the macro economic fundamentals of the Indian economy are sound, and in fact stronger than what they were in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008-09. "Appreciate @RBI @DasShaktikanta's reassuring words on financial stability," she said. The three-month moratorium on payments of term loan instalments (EMI) and interest on working capital give much-desired relief, she added. "...Slashed interest rate needs quick transmission," the Finance Minister said in another tweet.


Image: People in Panaji practice social distancing while standing in a long queue outside a grocery shop. Pic: ANI 
A family eats at a night shelter for homeless in New Delhi
13:24   Delhi govt prepared for 100 new cases per day: CM
Arrangements were in place to deal with the situation if the number of coronavirus cases went up to even 100 per day in the national capital, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Friday. He also informed that a five-member panel of doctors, headed by Dr SK Sareen, had submitted its report, prescribing the standard operating procedure for dealing with the situation involving 100, 500 and up to 1,000 new coronavirus patients per day.

"We are removing the shortcomings and making preparations to deal with a situation of up to 1,000 coronavirus cases per day. I, however, hope that the number of cases will come down in the coming days," Kejriwal told a press conference. 

He asserted that his government was fully prepared to tackle the situation if the number of coronavirus cases increased. The chief minister said so far, 39 COVID-19 cases were reported in the national capital. 


He said food was being provided to nearly two lakh poor people in the city and the number will be doubled to four lakh from Saturday. Besides 224 night-shelters, 325 government schools will also distribute food, including lunch and dinner, among the poor and homeless people, Kejriwal said. 


He added that the Delhi government will also take care of the people from other states living in Delhi, citing appeals by the chief ministers of several states, including Jharkhand and West Bengal. -- PTI
13:13   Self-quarantine luxury we can't afford: Homeless
"Self-quarantining ourselves is a luxury homeless like us cannot afford," believes 68-year-old Rupa who has been living on the streets of Delhi-NCR for as long as she can remember. 

Rupa, currently living near a Noida metro station, says she does not understand everything happening around her -- whether it is empty roads or closure of most shops -- but what she does realise is that there is a disease which has forced people to stay indoors. 

"But self-quarantining ourselves is a luxury homeless like us cannot afford," she said. Asked if she worries about being infected with the virus, Rupa casually replies that she has seen worse and for her it is nothing more than a flu. 

"Getting food is a major concern for me not this (coronavirus)," she said. "I went to a shelter home but I got scared that I will catch some other disease there," said Rupa who refused to give details of the shelter home where she was taken. 

At some distance, Ghanshyam, another homeless in his late 40s, explains how procuring food has been the biggest challenge for him in the past few days. "My worry is not that of the disease but of getting food. All the hotels and restaurants from where I used to eat have been shut. I used to beg but now there is no one to give me alms too," he said. 


India is under the biggest lockdown in its history with all 1.3 billion people asked to stay home for three weeks in view of the coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed 17 lives and infected over 700 people around the country. 


Ghanshyam said he has been surviving by eating food from the garbage since the lockdown was announced and is worried that if the situation persists this source too would deplete. The Uttar Pradesh government on Thursday directed officials to start community kitchens to provide food to the poor and migrant labourers amid the lockdown imposed to check the spread of coronavirus but daily wager Ramesh has his doubts over its effective implementation. "How do we reach these kitchens, if we walk we will be stopped and questioned by the police. How do we reach there?" asked Ramesh who used to work as a daily wage worker at a construction factory but lost his job ever since the lockdown and has been living on the streets since last then. 


According to the 2011 census, India is home to 17 lakh homeless people who also happen to be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 because of their exposure. -- PTI


Image: A homeless woman cooks food on the road during the lockdown in Chennai. Photograph: R Senthil Kumar/PTI Photo
13:00   RBI announcements to safeguard economy: PM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said the Reserve Bank of India had taken giant steps to safeguard the economy from the impact of the coronavirus. The RBI cut the benchmark interest rate by 75 basis points to 4.4 per cent on Friday to deal with the hardship caused due to the outbreak of COVID-19. "The announcements will improve liquidity, reduce cost of funds, help middle class and businesses," Modi wrote on Twitter. PTI
12:42   Those offering namaz in mosques will be sent to jail: Waqf Board chief
Shia Central Waqf Board chairman Syed Waseem Rizvi on Friday said that those found offering namaz in mosques of Shia Waqf during the COVID-19 lockdown will be sent to jail and a case will be filed against the mutawalli (caretaker) and Maulana.

"If anyone offers namaz in any mosque of Shia Waqf during the lock down, then they will be sent to jail after filing a case against Mutawalli (caretaker of masjid) and Maulana," said Shia Central Waqf Board chairman in a statement.


Rizvi was on Wednesday tested for coronavirus after he was admitted to a hospital with severe breathing trouble.The results of the tests are awaited.


At least 41 people in the Uttar Pradesh, including one foreign national, have been infected by the virus, according to official data by the Union health ministry.11 people have been treated and discharged from the hospitals and no casualties have been reported in the state. -- ANI
12:26   Pawar goes live on FB urging people to stay home
Terming the coronavirus outbreak a grave crisis, NCP president Sharad Pawar on Friday urged the people to follow the government's directives to contain its spread. He said if people do not follow the government orders, then everybody will have to face serious consequences. Pawar said this during a live interaction with people on Facebook. He said he has seen several calamities like earthquakes, floods and droughts in the past, but the present crisis is "very serious". 

During the interaction, Pawar's daughter and NCP MP Supriya Sule read out some of the queries and appeals addressed to him. It included an appeal made by state Health Minister Rajesh Tope, who was viewing the live interaction, in which he requested Pawar to urge the people to stay indoors. 

In his response, Pawar said, "It is our duty to support your and your team's efforts...I am staying indoors and will not venture out. The former Union minister welcomed the Central government's economic package and RBI's decisions to tide over the crisis. He, however, said, "The package for agriculture sector is not enough. It is impossible to repay the crop loan. Some steps should be taken for the horticulture sector as well."  -- PTI
RBI announced a three-month moratorium on EMI payments
12:20   RBI asks lending firms to allow 3-month moratorium on EMI payments
Amid layoffs and salary cuts, a key takeaway from the Reserve Bank of India's presser today is that it has asked all lending institutions to allow a three-month moratorium on EMI payments in order to infuse liquidity into the system as the economy grapples with COVID-19 challenges. It has also allowed banks for deferment of interest on working capital loans for the next three months - until June 2020. 

RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das in a press conference said these are extraordinary circumstances, and unprecedented measures are required to support the sagging economy as all the economic activities have come to a halt. 

The liquidity measures announced by the RBI will make available a total Rs 3,74,000 crore to the country's financial system. Das said that the deferment on loan and interest repayments will not be classified as defaults and will not impact credit history of borrowers. PTI
12:14   China to reopen over 200 movie theaters in Shanghai
Chinese authorities announced that more than 200 cinemas in Shanghai will resume operation on Saturday after nearly two months of an enforced shutdown to stop the spread of coronavirus.


China is expected to have 700 to 800 movie theatres up and running. The theatres will be rebooting under robust health guidelines including leaving an empty seat between patrons in every direction. "To lower the risk of infection, cinemas should strictly implement epidemic prevention measures, and audiences are required to have their body temperature tested and present their health codes at the entrance and wear masks during the showtime," Yin Xin, spokeswoman for the Shanghai municipal government, told the state-backed news service Xinhua. -- ANI
12:03   Face masks worth Rs 4.30 lakh seized in Pune, 2 arrested
With the demand for protective face masks surging to an all-time high due to the coronavirus outbreak, Pune police on Friday said they have arrested two people with 1,7805 face masks kept for black marketing.

The masks worth Rs 4.30 lakh were seized on Thursday, said Bachchan Singh, Deputy Commissioner of Police Crime Branch.


"On Thursday night, Unit 1 of Pune Crime Branch conducted a raid at a godown in Narpatgiri Chowk. During the raid two people were arrested for black marketing face masks and selling them at a much higher price," said Singh.

"About 1,7805 face masks worth Rs 4.30 lakh were seized," he said.


DCP added that the two accused have been registered at Samarth police station, Pune.Maharashtra is one of the worst-hit in the country with 127 COVID-19 cases, while the national tally of active cases is 640, according to the Health Ministry.
11:59   453 people arrested for violating lockdown
Streets in Kolkata wear a deserted look as the 21-day nationwide lockdown enters Day 3. Despite this, as many as 453 people have been arrested between March 25 and March 26 by the Kolkata Police for violating the lockdown which has been implemented to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus.
IIT has collaborated with AIIMS for a pilot run of the product
11:55   IIT-Delhi develops infection-proof fabric to prevent hospital-acquired infections
The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi has developed an "infection-proof fabric" to be used at hospitals to prevent hospital-acquired infections (HAIs). The development by "Fabiosys Innovations", a start-up incubated at IIT-Delhi, comes at a time when the world is dealing with the deadly coronavirus outbreak. However, the team has been working on the project for over a year with support from the government's Department of Science and Technology. 


According to official statistics from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, for every 100 hospitalised patients in developing countries, 10 acquire HAIs and the risk is even higher at the time of a coronavirus outbreak. The team claims to have developed an affordable, novel textile-processing technology, which converts regular cotton fabric into infection-proof fabric.


"We take rolls of cotton fabric and treat it with a set of proprietary-developed chemicals under a set of particular reaction conditions, using the machinery already commonly available in textile industries. The fabric, after undergoing these processes, gains the powerful antimicrobial functionality," Samrat Mukhopadhyay, a professor at the Department of Textile and Fibre Engineering in IIT-Delhi, said. 


"What is interesting about the Fabiosys' fabric is that even after washing multiple times, it does not lose its functionality. This fabric can be stitched into various articles such as bedsheets, the uniforms for patients, doctors and nurses and even curtains. The fabric satisfies the Indian washing standards in terms of number of washing. It is also completely non-toxic and affordable," he added. IIT has collaborated with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences for a pilot run of the product. -- PTI
IIT has collaborated with AIIMS for a pilot run of the product
11:54   IIT-Delhi develops infection-proof fabric to prevent hospital-acquired infections
The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi has developed an "infection-proof fabric" to be used at hospitals to prevent hospital-acquired infections (HAIs). The development by "Fabiosys Innovations", a start-up incubated at IIT-Delhi, comes at a time when the world is dealing with the deadly coronavirus outbreak. However, the team has been working on the project for over a year with support from the government's Department of Science and Technology. 


According to official statistics from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, for every 100 hospitalised patients in developing countries, 10 acquire HAIs and the risk is even higher at the time of a coronavirus outbreak. The team claims to have developed an affordable, novel textile-processing technology, which converts regular cotton fabric into infection-proof fabric.


"We take rolls of cotton fabric and treat it with a set of proprietary-developed chemicals under a set of particular reaction conditions, using the machinery already commonly available in textile industries. The fabric, after undergoing these processes, gains the powerful antimicrobial functionality," Samrat Mukhopadhyay, a professor at the Department of Textile and Fibre Engineering in IIT-Delhi, said. 


"What is interesting about the Fabiosys' fabric is that even after washing multiple times, it does not lose its functionality. This fabric can be stitched into various articles such as bedsheets, the uniforms for patients, doctors and nurses and even curtains. The fabric satisfies the Indian washing standards in terms of number of washing. It is also completely non-toxic and affordable," he added. IIT has collaborated with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences for a pilot run of the product. -- PTI
11:50   K'taka cabinet meets to discuss coronavirus
Karnataka cabinet meeting underway at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru. Several issues, including that of COVID-19, are being taken up in the meeting.
People queue up to collect LPG cylinders in Navi Mumbai
11:45   COVID-19 tally in Maharashtra rises to 135
With five more persons testing positive for coronavirus infection in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, the total number of COVID-19 patients in the state went up to 135 on Friday, officials said. On Thursday, eight persons had tested positive in the state, taking the count to 130, they said. As five more persons tested positive for the infection- four in Nagpur city and another one in Gondia district- the number has now climbed to 135, they said. -- PTI


Image: An aerial view of the ground where people queued up to collect LPG cylinders during the nationwide lockdown amid coronavirus pandemic, in Navi Mumbai on Thursday. Pic: ANI
11:31   Your govt is 'humanity personified': Chandrababu Naidu to PM
TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu on Friday appreciated Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the 'timely package' of Rs 1.75 crore to frontline warriors, farmers and the poor to combat the unprecedented situation arising out of COVID-19 outbreak and said that his government is 'humanity personified'.


In his letter to the Prime Minister, the TDP chief hailed Modi for his clarion call for Janata Curfew on March 22, and said: "India, with its huge diversity and large population is on the edge of COVID-19 threat. However, we are confident that India under your able leadership would effectively retaliate the threat of corona virus by setting an example to the rest of the world."

"Rs 1,75,000 crore package to support various sections of the society is highly lauded. In this context, Rs 50 lakh insurance cover introduced for frontline warriors (doctors and other health workers fighting COVID-19) comes at a right time as tribute to their sacrifice," he said.


Naidu also praised the Centre for rendering financial package to farmers, ex-gratia to poor women and free gas cylinders to poor families. 


"Support to low wage earners in organised sector and senior citizens are right steps towards protecting them from the ill-effects of COVID-19 lock down. Efforts to ensure that no Indian goes to bed on empty stomach is a proof that your government is 'humanity personified'," he said. -- ANI
11:29   150 RBI staffers quarantined
RBI  has quarantined 150 members of its staff and service providers together with IT facilitators as a part of its business continuity plan: RBI Governor
11:14   Sensex still in the red despite RBI rate cut
Indian equity markets pared their morning gains and slipped into the red territory even after the RBI's Monetary Policy Commitee reduced the policy repo rate by 75 basis points to 4.4 per cent to help arrest the economic slowdown in the wake of the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. The BSE Sensex was down 387 points at 29,529 levels and the Nifty50 index slipped below the 9,000-mark, to hover around 8,586 levels. 
11:11   RBI: Three month moratorium for payment of loans
All commercial banks including regional rural banks, cooperative banks, NBFCs (including housing finance companies) and lending institutions are being permitted to allow a moratorium of three months on payment of installments in respect of all term loans outstanding as on March 1, RBI Guv said. "It would be fallacious to link share prices to the safety of deposits. Depositors of commercial banks including private sector banks need not worry on the safety of their funds," he warned. 
Masks and sanitisers out of stock in Nagpur, a pharmacist says
11:07   Sidbi to provide loans up to Rs 50 lakh to MSEs manufacturing medical supplies
Small Industries Development Bank of India (Sidbi) on Friday said it will provide loans up to Rs 50 lakh to micro and small enterprises that are manufacturing medical supplies for fighting the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). 


The Sidbi Assistance to Facilitate Emergency (SAFE) response against coronavirus scheme will offer loans to MSEs at a fixed interest rate of 5 per cent and with a maximum loan repayment tenure of five years. MSEs engaged in manufacturing of hand sanitizers, masks, gloves, head gear, body suits, shoe-covers, ventilators, goggles and testing labs are eligible for loans under this scheme.  -- PTI
11:02   Fundamentals stronger now than 2008 crisis: RBI
The banking system in India is safe; deposits are safe in private bank; public should not resort to panic withdrawal. Macroeconomic fundamental stronger than those in aftermath of 2008 financial market crisis, RBI governor Shaktikanta Das said.


To bring you up to speed, the Reserve Bank of India on Friday cut benchmark interest rate by 75 basis points to 4.4 per cent to deal with the hardship caused due to the outbreak of COVID-19. 


The central bank also reduced the cash reserve ratio of all banks by 100 basis points to 3 per cent with effect from March 28 for 1 year. RBI will maintain accommodative stance, while announcing decisions of Monetary Policy Committee. MPC voted for sizeable reduction in interest rate," he said.
10:40   CRR reduced by 100 basis points
RBI governor Shaktikanta Das: India has locked down economic activity and financial markets are under severe stress. Finance is the lifeline of the economy, keeping it following is the paramount objective of the Reserve Bank of India at this point of time

It has been decided to reduce the Cash Reserve Ratio of all banks by 100 basis points to 3% of Net Demand and Time Liabilities with effect from the fortnight beginning March 28 for a period of 1 year.
10:36   RBI cuts repo rate to 4.4%
RBI: Monetary policy committee voted 4:2 majority to cut repo rate by 75 basis points to 4.4%.
-- RBI is at work; calibrating action to meet any liquidity mode. 
-- We are living in an extraordinary situation; war-like effort needs to be mounted against coronavirus using conventional, unconventional tools. 
-- Outlook highly uncertain and negative in view of outbreak of Covid-19.
-- Financial markets are under stress; require steps by central bank for market stability and revival of economic growth.
-- Monetary policy committee refrains from giving out growth, inflation outlook for coming fiscal on uncertain outlook.
-- Global slowdown can deepen with adverse implication for India; crude oil slump upside for India
10:23   Long walk home continues
Ghaziabad: A group of migrant labourers from Rajasthan's Dausa have started walking to return to their hometown in Dausa. One of them, Ramlal says, "We are daily wage earners. There's no arrangement for food. We used to live in a park. It will take us 3 days to reach Dausa."
10:19  
Repo rate reduced by 75 basis points to 4.4.%. Reverse repo-rate reduced by 90 basis points to 4%: RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das
10:19   COVID-19: Hydroxychloroquine brought under Schedule H1 by Health Ministry
In the wake of coronavirus outbreak, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Friday issued a directive stating that the sale of any preparation containing the drug Hydroxychloroquine needs to be in accordance with the conditions for the sale of drugs as mentioned in Schedule H1 to the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.


"Whereas the Central Government is satisfied that the drug 'Hydroxychloroquine' is essential to meet the requirements of emergency arising due to pandemic COVID-19 and in the public interest, it is necessary and expedient to regulate and restrict the sale and distributions of the drug and preparation based thereon for preventing their misuse," read the order issued by the Health Ministry.


"The Central government hereby directs that sale by retail of any preparation containing the drug Hydroxychloroquine shall be in accordance with the conditions for the sale of drugs specified in Schedule H1 to the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945," the order further read. -- ANI
Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thakeray distances himself
10:15   724 COVID-19 cases in India, death toll 17
The death toll due to COVID-19 rose to 17 in the country on Friday and the number of coronavirus cases climbed to 724, according to the Health Ministry. In its updated figures at 9.15 am, the ministry stated the following death toll in states:
Maharashtra: 4 
Gujarat: 3
Karnataka: 2
Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Punjab, Delhi, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh: one death each.   

According to the data, the number of active COVID-19 cases in the country stood at 640, while 66 people were either cured or discharged and one had migrated. The total number of 724 cases included 47 foreign nationals, the ministry said. PTI

Image: Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thakeray maintains physical distance while holding a meeting at his official residence Varsha, yesterday, along with other ministers. Pic: ANI
A sanitation work in Delhi
10:07   Delhi conservancy workers find it tough getting to work
In Delhi, sanitation workers of the New Delhi Municipal Council say that they are carrying out their duties just like any other time. "We have been provided masks and gloves by the NDMC. We are only facing a little trouble while commuting to and from work."
Bharti Airtel, HCL Tech, TCS were the top losers.
10:03   Sensex rallies over 1100 pts on COVID-19 pkg
Equity benchmark Sensex surged over 1,100 points in opening session on Friday led by gains in banking stocks ahead of Reserve Bank Governor Shaktikanta Das' address. Positive cues from the global markets too enthused investor sentiment here. The 30-share BSE barometer was trading 1,140.10 points or 3.81 per cent higher at 31,086.87. 


Similarly, the NSE Nifty zoomed 367.10 points, or 4.25 per cent, to 9,008.55. IndusInd Bank was the top gainer in the Sensex pack, rallying up to 20 per cent, followed by Axis Bank, SBI, Bajaj Finance, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and M&M. 


On the other hand, Bharti Airtel, HCL Tech, TCS and Bajaj Auto were the top losers. In the previous session, equity benchmarks surged for the third straight session, logging their best three-day gains in years, after the government's much awaited stimulus measures for coronavirus lockdown-hit segments lifted sentiments. 


The BSE gauge surged 1,410.99 points or 4.94 per cent to settle at 29,946.77; while the Nifty shot up 323.60 points or 3.89 per cent to 8,641.45. -- PTI
09:55   Indian embassy in US offers free online yoga classes
The Indian Embassy here has announced free online yoga classes for the millions of Americans to keep them "healthy" and "cheerful" while they are forced to stay indoors and work from home due to the fast spreading novel coronavirus that has taken the lives of more than 1,100 people. 


The free yoga class would be imparted daily from Monday to Friday at 5 pm. It would be streamed live through the Facebook page of the Indian Embassy. 


"We are happy to announce the online Yoga classes during weekdays @ 5 PM EST, starting from Monday, March 30, 2020. The classes will be live streamed through the Embassy's Facebook page," the embassy tweeted.  The total number of deaths in the US are 1300. According to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker, there are 531,860 confirmed cases across the world and 24,057 deaths. PTI 
09:53   Moody's slashes India GDP growth in 2020 to 2.5%
Moody's Investors Service on Friday slashed its estimate of India's GDP growth during 2020 calendar year to 2.5 per cent from an earlier estimate of 5.3 per cent, on account of the rising economic cost of the coronavirus pandemic.

This compares to 5 per cent growth in 2019. Moody's said, at the 2020 estimated growth rate, a sharp fall in incomes in India is likely, further weighing on domestic demand and the pace of recovery in 2021. 

 "In India, credit flow to the economy already remains severely hampered because of severe liquidity constraints in the bank and non-bank financial sectors," it said. PTI
09:47   People going to Bihar will be taken care of: Yogi assures Sushil Modi
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Thursday said that he held talks with Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi, assuring him that all persons going to Bihar due to the nationwide lockdown will be safely sent to their destinations.


"I held talks with Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi, and assured him that all people going to Bihar will be taken care of and will be sent safely to their destinations," Adityanath said.


The Chief Minister has also issued orders for making special arrangements on humanitarian grounds for migrant workers of Bihar and other States who are arriving at the border areas of Uttar Pradesh from Delhi and NCR regions.


The Chief Minister's Office had put out a tweet mentioning, "All Uttarkhand residents, and workers going to Bihar will be taken proper care of and these persons will be safely sent to their destinations."


Migrant workers are going back to their native States across the country despite the Centre and State governments' repeated assurances that special arrangements will be made for them during the 21-day lockdown.


Hundreds were seen on foot on the Agra-Lucknow Expressway on Thursday returning to their native villages from various cities.
09:39   Painter, sculptor Satish Gujral passes away
Acclaimed painter and sculptor Satish Gujral has passed away. He was 94 years old. The artist, who was former Prime Minister Indra Kumar Gujral's brother, was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award in the country in 1999. 

He designed the Belgium Embassy in New Delhi that was selected by the international forum of architects as one of the thousand best-built buildings in the 20th century around the world, according to Gujral's website. He was also a sculptor and a muralist, and had designed the alphabet mural of the Delhi High Court. Some of his most famous paintings include Days of Glory and Mourning en mass. 
09:24   India proposes online platform for SAARC to jointly combat coronavirus
India has proposed setting up of a common electronic platform for all SAARC nations to share expertise and best practices in jointly combatting the coronavirus pandemic. 


India made the proposal at a video-conference of senior health officials of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation countries on Thursday. 


The SAARC is a regional grouping comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. At an India-initiated video-conference of SAARC leaders on March 15, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had suggested that health professionals of the member nations could come together to jointly fight against the coronavirus pandemic. 


"India proposed a shared electronic platform for all SAARC nations to share and exchange information, knowledge, expertise and best practices for jointly combatting the coronavirus epidemic," the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement. 


It was informed that considerable work had already gone into the creation of the platform, which could also serve as a multipurpose vehicle to further discuss and conduct activities such as online training for emergency response personnel, the MEA said. 
08:52   COVID-19: RBI governor to address media at 10 am
A day after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced relief package amid India enforced lockdown, Reserve Bank of India governor Shaktikanta Das will address the media on Friday at 10 am.
08:37   Israel thanks Air India for rescuing its stranded nationals
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, An Air India special flight carrying 314 Israelis back to their country landed safely Tel Aviv on Thursday evening with many passengers carrying Indian and Israeli flags while deplaning.
   
The Israeli embassy had put up a request with the ministry of external affairs, which, in turn, asked Air India to operate such a flight.
 
The national carrier had earlier organised rescue flights for Indians stuck in China, Italy, Iran and Spain.
 
According to a senior official of the airline, the Boeing 777 aircraft had departed from Delhi around 4 pm.
 
Israel's Ambassador in New Delhi, Ron Malka, came to the airport to see off the passengers and thanked Air India for the selfless service.
 
"I thank and appreciate the @airindiain flight staff who are responsibly and selflessly ensuring that Israelis get home safe. Dhanyavad from the bottom of our (heart in emoji)", Malka tweeted before the flight took off from India.
 
Air India's country manager in Tel Aviv, Pankaj Tiwari, praised the entire team of "Ground Staff, Engineering personnel, Catering Staff and the Crew of the flight who in such difficult circumstances rose to the occasion keeping aside their personal interests to make this flight a reality".
 
"Whenever such call of service is made, Air India will always be in the forefront and do their best to safely unite the passengers to their families", Tiwari told PTI.
 
India is on lockdown from March 25 to April 15 to curb the spread of the virus. 

Consequently, domestic and international flights have been suspended too. 

However, cargo flights, special flights conducted with the approval of aviation regulator DGCA, offshore helicopter operations and medical evacuation flight operations have been exempted from the flight ban imposed in India.
 
Air India used a Boeing 777 jet instead of the regular dreamliner that operates on this route, in view of more than 300 passengers. 

The jet went back empty without any passengers as it had come on a "rescue" mission.
 
Israel's national carrier, El Al, had earlier organised two flights from Mumbai to bring back several hundred Israelis.
 
There was a festive spirit among returning passengers both at the airport in Delhi while boarding and at the Ben-Gurion airport in Tel Aviv after deplaning.
 
Israel is under total lockdown with people not allowed to even walk beyond 100 metres from their homes and have been generally advised to go out only to stock up food.
 
The returning passengers went through check ups at the airport and would be in self quarantine or special supervision depending on their condition.
 
The number of people infected by coronavirus in Israel went up to 2666, with 8 casualties so far, official sources said. -- PTI
08:10   US tops world in coronavirus cases
Over 16,000 confirmed cases were reported in a single day in the United States on Thursday as the total number of COVID-19 patients soared to 85,088, the highest for any country, according to data compiled by Worldometer.
 The United States surpassed China (81,285) and Italy (80,589) in terms of number of people infected with the novel coronavirus.
 
According to Worldometers, the website that records confirmed cases of infection and deaths globally, the US by Thursday night had 85,088 individuals infected with coronavirus, of which 16,877 were added just in a single day.

A week ago, the number of confirmed cases were 8,000. 

It has dangerously surged 10 times in the span of a week.
 
With at least 263 deaths, the US also reported most number of fatalities due to the contagion on a single day on Thursday. 

At least 1,290 Americans have died due to coronavirus so far. 

Over 2,000 coronavirus cases were reportedly in a serious condition. 

The number of confirmed cases as well as the deaths due to COVID-19 are likely to increase substantially in the coming days.
 
In China, from where it all originated, 3,287 people have died due to coronavirus pandemic while Italy has recorded 8,215 such deaths.
 
US President Donald Trump attributed the spike in the confirmed cases of coronavirus to the large-scale testing of the deadly disease.
 
"I think it's a tribute to our testing," he said, adding "no one knows what the numbers are in China".
 
Vice President Mike Pence said it is important for hospitals and labs testing the samples to report back to the Centre for Disease Control and Federal Emergency Management Agency so that the government has full visibility to provide the President with the best counsel.
 
The Abbott Laboratory, he said, submitted to Food and Drug Administration a national request for approval of a point-of-care test. 

This would be the kind of test where one could go to a doctor and get the test done and have the results in no more than 15 minutes.
 
According to Dr Deborah Brix, coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, 55 per cent of all new cases continue out of the New York -- New York Metro area. 

This includes New Jersey as well, she said and expressed concern over the coronavirus spread.
 
"At the same time, 19 of the 50 states that had early cases, but have persistently low level of cases and at this point have less than 200 cases," she said. -- PTI
00:10   Railways offers institute as quarantine centre
The Indian Railways has identified the new hostel building of Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail project training institute in Vadodara for creating a backup quarantine centre, the national transporter said on Thursday.

It includes 168 rooms having 334 beds and 12 big common rooms, which can be turned into quarantine centres for suspected coronavirus cases.

A total of 134 quarantine facilities with a capacity of 6,700 beds are available across Gujarat at present.

As per the state health department records, 11,108 are under quarantine with more than 200 persons staying at the government quarantine facilities while over 10,500 are under home quarantine.

'The Indian Railways has identified the new hostel building of Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail project training institute in Vadodara for creating a backup quarantine centre.

'It includes 168 rooms having 334 beds and 12 big common rooms,' the railways tweeted.

The High Speed Rail Training Institute will be the training ground for all future high-speed rail workforce in India. It will train approximately 3,500 staff in various disciplines, including rolling stock, civil and track maintenance, electrical, signal and telecommunication station and train crew.

The state-of-the-art institute will be the most modern high-speed rail training institute equipped with 12 classrooms, three multipurpose rooms, six practice rooms, two large storage rooms, 250-seat auditorium and other most modern construction features.

This is the latest in a series of efforts by the railways to contribute to the efforts to fight the pandemic, which has so far claimed 16 lives.

Earlier, the Railway Board had issued instructions to all its production units to access feasibility of manufacturing items like simple hospital beds, medical trolleys for hospitals and quarantine facilities, and IV stands to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 outbreak.  -- PTI

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