Fri, 01 May 2020
PM applauds Armed Forces' move for COVID heroes

Timeline  Refresh

23:46   PM applauds Armed Forces' move for COVID heroes
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday welcomed Indian Armed Forces' initiative to undertake various activities on May 3 as a mark of gratitude towards Covid-19 warriors.

"I welcome the announcements by the Chief of Defence Staff today. India has waged a strong fight against COVID-19 due to courageous frontline warriors who have cared and cured many. They are spectacular. India applauds them and their families," read a tweet by the prime minister. 

"Our Armed Forces have always kept the nation safe. Even in times of disasters, they are out there helping people. Now, our Forces are, in a unique way, saying a big thank you to our frontline COVID-19 warriors for their endeavour towards making India COVID-19 free," the PM added.

Addressing a press conference along with three service chiefs on Friday, the Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, had said that some activities shall be undertaken by the Armed Forces on 3 May to show the solidarity of the frontline soldiers with the COVID-19 warriors.

-- ANI
23:29   Newspaper industry could face losses of up to Rs 15,000 cr if relief not provided: INS to govt
The Indian Newspaper Society has urged the government to provide a strong stimulus package to the newspaper industry which it said has lost over Rs 4,000 crore and is likely to suffer further losses of up to Rs 15,000 crore in the next six to seven months, if relief is not provided.
In a letter to the Information and Broadcasting Secretary, the INS said the newspaper industry is among the worst affected in India with hardly any revenues coming in from either advertising or circulation amid the nationwide lockdown in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The newspaper industry has already lost Rs 4000-4500 crore in the last two months. Since economic activity has nearly collapsed and there is no likelihood of advertising from private sector, the losses are expected to continue at the same rate for the next 6-7 months (implying an additional loss of Rs 12,000 - 15,000 crore over the next 6-7 months)" unless a strong stimulus is implemented by the government at the earliest, the letter signed by INS president Shailesh Gupta said.

INS also urged the government to withdraw five per cent customs duty on newsprint.

The losses already incurred have had very severe repercussions for the 30 lakh workers and staff who are directly and indirectly involved in the newspaper industry -- journalists, printers, delivery vendors and many others, said INS, which represents over 800 newspapers.

According to INS estimates, newspapers provide direct and indirect employment to almost nine to 10 lakh people and over 18-20 lakh people respectively.
-- PTI
23:00   Covid-19 still public health emergency: WHO
The World Health Organization said it still considers the coronavirus pandemic a public health emergency of international concern, WHO's highest level of alarm for the world.

"Covid-19 pandemic is not finished," committee member Dr Didier Houssin said during a media briefing on Friday. 

Houssin added that there is still much to learn about the transmission of the coronavirus. Currently, there is no vaccine nor licensed therapeutics for the treatment of Covid-19.

On Thursday, WHO reconvened the committee of independent international experts to assess the state of the coronavirus pandemic and review WHO's recommendations on how to respond.

Officials said the committee would meet again in 90 days, or sooner, if needed.

Additionally, earlier today, WHO confirmed to CNN that it has not been involved in China's investigations of the origins of the novel coronavirus but it "would be keen" to participate in such studies.
22:50   NY schools to remain closed for academic year
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says all schools in the state are to remain closed for the rest of the academic year.

In his daily briefing, he said officials did not have enough time to figure out how to implement social distancing policies at schools, where 4.2 million pupils study each day.

"How do you tell a 10-year-old to socially distance?" he asked reporters. "Kids will be kids."

Cuomo added that a decision about summer school programmes would be made before the end of the month.

New York saw 289 deaths on Thursday, down from 306 on Wednesday.

Cuomo also reported that domestic violence was up 15 per cent in March - when lockdown orders took effect - and 30 per cent in April.
22:38   ICSE schools may give provisional admission to class 10 students into class 11:
The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination on Friday said that schools may give provisional admission to the class 10 students of Indian Certificate of Secondary Education into class 11, subject to Board results.

In a press statement, CISCE said that the schools may also begin or continue online classes for them while awaiting the conduct of remaining papers. The revised dates for board examinations of remaining subjects will be conducted within a period of six to eight days that includes Saturday and Sunday and will be announced depending on the directives of central government on lockdown.

"It shall announce the revised schedule of the examination eight days prior to the commencement of the examination," CISCE said.

The dates for the rescheduled papers will be communicated to the head of the schools via email and through CISCE portal.

ICSE has six remaining subjects whereas Indian School Certificate has eight which was suspended following the lockdown announcement by the central government.

For board-level exams schools have been requested to continue teaching as per the syllabus.
This period may also be utilised to clear doubts of the students by the teachers for which exams are yet to be conducted.

After the conduct of the remaining examination, the CISCE shall declare the results within a period of six to eight weeks.

It also stressed that in the online module for class one to eight the curriculum may be transacted using fun and creative lessons. 

-- ANI
22:11   No COVID-19 case in IAF
The Indian Air Force has not reported any COVID-19 case so far, informed Air Force Chief RKS Bhadauria on Friday.

He also ensured that the IAF will not lower its guard against the coronavirus. "We have enforced all the precautions and so far there is no COVID19 case in the Air Force. But we will not lower our guard," said Bhadauria during a joint press conference held by CDS General Bipin Rawat and the three service chiefs.

General Rawat along with the three services chief also expressed gratitude towards doctors, nurses, sanitation workers, police, home guards, delivery boys and media for continuing to serve the country amid COVID-19 crisis.

"On behalf of armed forces, we want to thank all COVID-19 warriors. Doctors, nurses, sanitation workers, police, home guards, delivery boys and media which has been reaching out with the message of government on how to carry on with lives in difficult times," said General Rawat during the interaction.

-- ANI
21:46   UK hits its testing target
The United Kingdom carried out 1,22,000 coronavirus tests on the last day of April, passing the government's target of 100,000.

The UK health secretary Matt Hancock thanked the teams involved. Hancock said, "Everybody worked together with grit and determination to reach a shared goal. When things went wrong, which they did every single day, believe me, we didn't ask who we could blame but how we could fix it."
21:35   751 new cases in Mumbai, highest 24 hr record
Mumbai on Friday recorded 751 new COVID-19 cases, the highest in a day, taking the number of
coronavirus positive cases in the city to 7625, civic officials said.

Five COVID-19 patients died on Friday, taking the number of COVID-19 deaths in the megapolis to 295, they said.

In the 24 hours, 95 patients were discharged from hospitals after recovery, the officials said. During the same period, 484 suspected coronavirus patients were admitted in hospitals, they added.

Of the 751 new cases, 399 had tested positive at private labs recently, the officials said.

-- PTI

21:23   Highest one-day spike in coronavirus numbers in Maharashtra
Maharashtra on Friday saw a big jump in the number of coronavirus cases with 1,008 persons testing positive, the highest in one day so far, taking the tally of cases to 11,506.

While 106 patients were discharged on Friday upon recovery, 26 COVID-19 patients died, the state health department said.

The death toll in the state thus reached 485 and number of discharged patients reached 1,879.

Ten deaths were recorded in Pune city, five in Mumbai, three is Jalgaon district and one each Pune district, Sindhudurg, Bhiwandi, Thane, Nanded, Aurangabad and Parbhani during the day.

Besides, a resident of Uttar Pradesh died in Mumbai during treatment for virus infection.

15 of 26 patients who died had high-risk comorbidities (existing health issues), the statement said.

-- PTI
21:00   Railways cancel train services till May 17
In light of the national lockdown being extended by two week, as per the order issued by the ministry of home affairs, all passenger train services have been cancelled till May 17. 

Migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and other persons stranded at different places can avail of the services by the Shramik special trains. 

In a statement, the ministry of railways added that freight and parcel train operations shall continue
20:33   Survey finds majority support for 2-week extension of lockdown to contain coronavirus
Majority of respondents favoured continuation of the lockdown for another two weeks to fight coronavirus, according to a survey by think-tank National Council of Applied Economic Research.
The government on Friday extended the lockdown for another two weeks from May 4. It had imposed a 21-day nationwide lockdown on March 25 and extended it further till May 3 to contain the spread of deadly coronavirus. 
The second round of Delhi National Capital Region Coronavirus Telephone Survey (DCVTS), conducted during April 23-26 by the NCAER, is based on responses from 1,800 adults.
In the survey, respondents were asked whether they would support continuing the lockdown for an additional two weeks. 
In Round 2 (April 23- 26), about 88 per cent of respondents expressed some degree of support for continuing the lockdown for an additional two weeks, compared to 86 per cent in Round 1 (April 3-6).

-- PTI
20:17   AAP Karol Bagh MLA tests positive for COVID-19
Aam Aadmi Party MLA from Karol Bagh Vishesh Ravi on Friday said he has tested positive for coronavirus. 

My brother has also tested positive for the disease, Ravi said.  

"I am currently in home quarantine. I do not have any symptoms of the disease but I have tested positive for it," he said.
19:45   RBI Governor to hold meeting with bank chiefs on Saturday
Reserve Bank Governor Shaktikanta Das has called a meeting with bank chiefs on Saturday to take stock of the financial sector and deliberate on steps to be taken to boost industry amid the COVID-19 crisis, sources said. 
The meeting will take stock of implementation of several steps announced by the RBI, including moderation in interest rate and its transmission, as well as liquidity infusion measures to support the industry. 
Besides, various facilities provided to help the stressed MSME industry and rural sector would also be reviewed. 
It would also provide a platform for bankers to give their suggestions for further action required to ease stress in the economy, the sources said. 
Meanwhile, the government on Friday further extended the lockdown for two more weeks beginning May 4 but with eased restrictions for green zones -- districts where there are nil COVID-19 cases. 
-- PTI
19:27   83% COVID-19 patients in Maha are asymptomatic
As much as 83 per cent of coronavirus patients in Maharashtra are asymptomatic, and 20
per cent ofthem have recovered, Health Ninister Rajesh Tope said on Friday.

The mortality rate of the epidemic has come down to 3.5 per cent in the state, while the doubling rate of patients is more than the national average, he said in a press release.

Of the 36 districts of Maharashtra,14 are in red zone (signifying high rate of spread of infection), 16 in the orange and six in the green zone, he told reporters in Jalna.

In Mumbai, a special 2,000-beds facility has been created where senior citizens with co-morbidities (existing health conditions) living in densely populated areas could be
quarantined after screening, if needed, Tope said.

The state has 733 containment zones at present, he said.

The number of coronavirus cases in Maharashtra has risen to more than 10,000.

-- PTI
18:53   India reported 77 COVID-19 deaths in 24 hrs
India on Friday reported the maximum number of 77 deaths due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours as compared to 67 deaths on Thursday.

As many as 1,755 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the last 24 hours taking the total number of cases to 35,365, said the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Friday. The total cases are inclusive of 9,064 cured and discharged patients, one is migrated, and 1,152 deaths. At present, there are 25,148 active COVID-19 cases in the country.

Addressing a press conference, Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry, said that everyone must follow the norms of social distancing, should wear masks.

"Whoever wears masks must not be seen as someone who is ill but as someone who understands his responsibility towards society," added Agarwal. 

-- ANI
18:31   MHA extends national lockdown for 2 more weeks
The home ministry has announced an extension of the nationwide lockdown for two more weeks. 

The home ministry has also issued new guidelines (see image) to regulate different activities in this period, based on the risk profiling of the districts of the country into red (hotspot), green and orange zones.

There will be considerable relaxations in the districts falling in the Green and Orange Zones, the government said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on April 14 extended the national lockdown till May 3 to battle the coronavirus pandemic. 
18:23   Thank you, Corona warriors, says CDS Rawat
Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, in the presence of the three armed forces chief, today carried out a press interaction during which he thanked the Coronavirus warriors on behalf of the entire forces. 

Rawat in his remarks said that the Armed forces will conduct fly pasts, shower petals on hospitals, light up ships to thank COVID-19 warriors on Sunday. 

He added that the Indian Army on its part will conduct mountain band displays along some of the COVID hospitals in almost every district of our country. 

The armed forces will also lay wreaths at the police memorial on May 3 in support of our police forces. While the navy on its part will have its warships deployed in formations in coastal areas in the evening on May 3. Navy warships would also be lit up and their choppers would be used for showering petals on hospitals
18:06   Why Alia was Facetiming at Rishi Kapoor's funeral
Alia  Bhatt was seen with a phone in her hand during Rishi Kapoors last rites on Thursday afternoon.

This was enough provocation for the trolls  to get into action. They labeled Alia insensitive, among other things, when in fact she was only doing what Neetu Kapoor urged her to.

A source very close to the Kapoor family informs me, Rishis daughter Ridhima , who drove all  the  way from Delhi to Mumbai, couldnt make it in time for the last rites. Hence, Neetuji asked Alia to let Riddhima see her fathers last rites on Face Time. There  was  nothing rude or  insensitive about this.

-- Subhash  K Jha reports
17:48   Work from home, leave for Mumbai civic body staff above 55
The civic body in Mumbai has asked its staff above the age of 55 years to work from home or abstain from field duties, while those with comorbidities have been given leave for two weeks in view of the coronavirus outbreak, officials said on Friday. 

This includes emergency staff like doctors, nurses and paramedics, a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation official said.
17:26   COVID-19 pandemic likely to last 2 yrs: Report
The coronavirus pandemic is likely to last as long as two years and wont be controlled until about two-thirds of the worlds population is immune, a group of experts said in a report.

Because of its ability to spread from people who dont appear to be ill, the virus may be harder to control than influenza, the cause of most pandemics in recent history, according to the report from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. 

People may actually be at their most infectious before symptoms appear, according to the report.

After locking down billions of people around the world to minimize its spread through countries, governments are now cautiously allowing businesses and public places to reopen. Yet the coronavirus pandemic is likely to continue in waves that could last beyond 2022, the authors said.

After locking down billions of people around the world to minimize its spread through countries, governments are now cautiously allowing businesses and public places to reopen. Yet the coronavirus pandemic is likely to continue in waves that could last beyond 2022, the authors said.

The report was written by CIDRAP director Michael Osterholm and medical director Kristen Moore, Tulane University public health historian John Barry, and Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health.
17:14   Wearing masks at public places compulsory in Bengaluru
Amid the nationwide lockdown in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike has made the wearing of face masks compulsory at public places and those who will violate the norm will have to pay a fine.

"Wearing the facial mask to cover mouth and nose is compulsory at public places and in any working space with more than five people," said BH Anil Kumar, Commissioner, BBMP. "Facial masks and gloves used by any of the households and commercial establishments should be properly handed over to waste collectors in covers or closed bags as part of sanitary waste," added Kumar.

Kumar further said that "spitting, urinating, littering and any kind of related public nuisance is banned and will be considered as a public offence."

"Those violating the order will have to pay Rs 1,000 on the first time and Rs 2,000 on the second and subsequent violation," he added.

The order has come into effect from April 30 midnight and will continue to remain in force until further orders. 

-- ANI
16:50   CDS Rawat, 3 chiefs to brief media at 6 pm
Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and the three service chiefs will hold a press conference on important issues at 6 pm today.

Earlier, CDS Rawat said that coronavirus has affected the three services in very limited numbers and the discipline and patience of the armed forces' personnel have helped in preventing its spread there. 

He had also said that armed forces' personnel understand that they will have to remain uninfected by the virus to be able to support people and government as the country battles coronavirus.

-- ANI
The MHA order
The MHA order
16:32   Special trains will ferry stranded migrants: MHA
The Ministry of Home Affairs has has today allowed the movement of stranded students, migrant workers, tourists, pilgrims, etc. via special trains. States and Railway Board will make necessary arrangements, a statement said. The MHA reiterated to all States that no separate passes are required for through traffic of trucks and goods carriers, including empty trucks etc. 

The union health ministry in its briefing today said, "There is a total demand of 75,000 ventilators. A total of 19,398 ventilators re available and 60,884 ventilators have been ordered."

The health ministry also said that State and district administration must ensure through focused efforts that 'Red' and 'Orange' zone districts, break the chain of transmission through effective and stringent containment measure.

Dr Rajesh Chandran, Sr Divisional Commercial Manager,Southern Railways,Trivandrum said yesterday the railways was informed it will be the prime mode of transport for taking migrants back to their states. A train is starting from Aluva to Bhubaneswar today, with a capacity of 1140 passengers, he said. 
Workers at Delhi's Azadpur Mandi
Workers at Delhi's Azadpur Mandi
16:11   Don't want to die alone, say stranded labourers
Mukeshwar Yadav, one of the hundreds of labourers who form the backbone of the daily operations in Azadpur Mandi, Asia's largest wholesale market of vegetables and fruits, hasn't seen his employer since the countrywide lockdown began on March 25. Hailing from Bihar's Darbhanga district, he has been living away from home for 10 years, but never felt so lonely. 

Sitting atop sacks of onions, covering his face with a cotton towel "to keep coronavirus at bay", Yadav says the government has "left people like him to die and rot here". "I have lived my last 10 years among these onion sacks. It did not feel haunting earlier, but now it does," he said, swatting a fly with his towel. Yadav, who used to earn around Rs 8,000 a month, has been living on the money he saved before the lockdown as income has dwindled with work drying up. 

"We have got vegetables here, but there is no rice, flour or oil... No one has come forward to help us," he laments. 

Across the street, three shops have been sealed by the administration after coronavirus cases were detected there. Between April 20 and 29, as many as 15 people in the mandi have been diagnosed with COVID-19, turning it into a hotspot. Earlier this month, a trader in the market died of the respiratory infection, spreading panic among the labourers. 

According to Azadpur Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) chairman Adil Ahmed Khan, 13 shops have so far been sealed and 43 people placed in quarantine. Surendra Yadav, 34, from Bihar's Muzaffarpur district, says there has been very little work since the lockdown began. His earning has come down from Rs 300-400 daily to Rs 50 now. 

"Sometimes, even Rs 50 is hard to come by. Today seems to be one such day... nothing so far." Most of the porters have been living on their savings, he said and fears what if the savings get exhausted before the restrictions are eased. 

Surendra is surprised when told that the Delhi government is distributing free ration to migrant workers, the needy, elderly and homeless people. "No one has offered us help. We are on our own. Our employers have remained absent and no help has come from them," he said, rebutting all claims of aid by the marketing committee.  

"I tried to go home but didn't get a ride, nor there was any bus for Bihar from Anand Vihar," Mukeshwar Yadav said, criticising the Nitish Kumar government for not taking care of its people like Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Another porter, 40-year-old Anil Raj, interjects, "The UP government operated special buses to bring back their people stuck in Delhi and other states, Nitish babu is not so benevolent." Raj, who is also from Darbhanga, doesn't know the name of the disease or the virus. "I just know that you don't get an inkling of the disease by the time you know it, you are dead.  

Another porter, Madan (35) from Patna says his landlord in nearby Bharola area forced him out earlier this month because he could not pay the rent. Since then, he has been living in the mandi "among the mosquitoes", surviving on khichdi twice a day. Asked about his family in Bihar, he says, "I don't know what will become of us if I contract the disease. My kids, my wife and parents are waiting for me. I want to be with them when I die. I don't want to die alone." PTI
15:59   5 ITBP personnel test positive for COVID; at least 90 quarantined
Five personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and at least 90 have been quarantined over the last few days, officials said on Friday. These are the first cases of the viral infection in the border-guarding force, which is trained in mountain warfare. Three personnel, involved in essential services at a base of the paramilitary force in the Tigri area of the national capital, have tested positive for coronavirus and have been isolated at a facility in Delhi, the officials said. In another case, an infected sub-inspector and a head constable-rank official of the 50th battalion of the force were sent to the AIIMS in Jhajjar (Haryana) for isolation two days ago.

The 50th battalion was deployed in Delhi for rendering law-and-order duties alongside the Delhi Police, the officials said. The entire company of at least 90 personnel has been quarantined, they added. The ITBP is a 90,000-personnel-strong force that is primarily tasked with guarding the Line of Actual Control with China, apart from rendering other internal security duties in the country. -- PTI
15:44   Work from home, leave for BMC staff above 55
The civic body in Mumbai has asked its staff above the age of 55 years to work from home or abstain from field duties, while those with comorbidities have been given leave for two weeks in view of the coronavirus outbreak, officials said on Friday. This includes emergency staff like doctors, nurses and paramedics, a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation official said. 

"Emergency staff above the age of 55 with cormorbidities like hypertension, diabetes, heart and kidney ailments among others have been asked to stay at home for two weeks," said a BMC spokesperson. However, attendance is absolutely compulsory for all other staff employed in office and on field assignments, officials added. 

The Maharashtra police has also asked cops above 55 years to stay home. 
15:42   Maharashtra legislative council polls on May 21: EC
Paving the way for Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to enter the state legislature as a member, the Election Commission on Friday announced holding polls to nine seats of the state legislative council on May 21. The polls were deferred on April 3 due to the coronavirus outbreak. Thackeray, who was sworn in on November 28 last year, has time till May 27 to get elected to the state legislature, failing which he will have to step down. Maharashtra Governor B S Koshyari had requested the Election Commission on Thursday to declare polls for nine vacant seats to the state Legislative Council. These seats fell vacant on April 24. The decision to hold the polls on May 21 was taken by the "full Commission" with Election Commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra in Delhi being joined by Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora over video from the US.
15:31   FM loves her elegant new masks
Nirmala Sitharaman tweets this image of face masks gifted to her from Khadi & Village Industries Commission. "Thanks @ChairmanKvic for the breathable and elegant masks which are convenient to use. Hope they are widely available for all."
A stay home, stay safe message in Delhi
A stay home, stay safe message in Delhi
15:11   Delhi HC won't use centralised AC over COVID fears
The Delhi High Court on Friday decided not to use air conditioners in the High Court building and said that there is no "mathematical solution" to the problems in the use of air conditioning as far as the spread of COVID-19 is concerned.

In the meantime, normal fans, ventilation, and other measures for proper ventilation will be used in Delhi High Court, a bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar said.A special committee of judges examined the issues and showed serious concerns for use of ACs and said that it would further consider permanent solution and other necessary equipment as may be required.

The High Court passed the directions while disposing of a petition, filed by Bar Council of Delhi Chairman advocate KC Mittal, which raised concerns over the spread of COVID-19 in buildings which were centrally air-conditioned, including Delhi High court building and other subordinate court buildings.

The Central Public Works Department also filed a status report on the petition and mentioned that the Central government has already issued guidelines for the use of ACs."CPWD Directorate had examined the COVID-19 guidance document for air conditioning and ventilation and decided to use it for the guidance of field formations of CPWD throughout the country," the status report said. -- ANI
15:04   Prices of LPG cylinders slashed
Price of non-subsidised LPG cylinders has been reduced by Rs 162.50 per unit in Delhi, Rs 190 in Kolkata, Rs 135.5 in Mumbai, Rs 192 in Chennai.
15:02   Over 32,000 Indians in UAE register to return home
More than 32,000 Indians in the UAE, who wish to return home amidst the coronavirus lockdown, have registered with the Indian missions in Abu Dhabi on day one of the opening of the online registration process, according to a media report. On Wednesday night, the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi announced the details of data collection through the website of the Indian Consulate in Dubai. 

 Within minutes, the site faced technical issues, prompting the missions to delete the tweet about it and repost it hours later. In a tweet posted in the wee hours of Thursday, the Indian Consulate asked applicants "to bear with it if it takes time for the page to load due to high traffic. As of 5pm on Thursday, we received more than 32,000 registrations," Consul General of India in Dubai Vipul told the Gulf News. 

Vipul said the technical issues took place because of the huge rush of people trying to access the webpage on the Consulate's site for registration. Though the mission is yet to analyse the data to know the "compelling reasons' for the applicants to travel home, Vipul said the applications comprise various emergency cases including that of pregnant women. 

"We understand that people want to go home for various reasons. People should be ready for travel by keeping in mind the overall restrictions on travel given the pandemic situation. Those who wish to go urgently should keep trying to register on the website in the next few days," he said. 

He said the registration would be open for some days and the data collected by the Indian missions in various countries would be provided to Indian states for making preparations for their travel. The Consul General reiterated that the registration in the databank does not guarantee a seat on the initial flights that would be arranged to repatriate the most deserving categories of people. 

"Workers in acute distress, medical cases, pregnant women, the elderly and the group of Indians stranded in Dubai Airport," are likely to get first priority when the government resumes services for repatriation, he said. 

Since there is no guidance from the Indian government on the conditions for travelling, he said, it is not yet clear how the COVID-19 status of an applicant would impact the journey. When asked about media reports that said 500 Air India flights and three warships of the Indian Navy are on standby for evacuating stranded Indians abroad, Vipul said he had no knowledge about warships being readied for the process. "I am sure Air India will be involved. I have no information about the warships," he said. Meanwhile, the government of Kerala on Thursday said the total number of registrations it received from Malayalis living in 201 countries has reached 3,53,468.
A facemask is put on a mermaid at Marine Drive
A facemask is put on a mermaid at Marine Drive
14:38   Will relax lockdown after May 3: Uddhav
"We will go ahead with patience and caution," said Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Friday asserting that the state government will give relaxations in lockdown after May 3 seeing the condition of specific areas. 

"We will surely give relaxations after May 3 seeing the condition of specific areas but be cautious and co-operate, else whatever we have achieved in the past few days will be lost. So, we will go ahead with patience and caution," Thackeray said.

"I want people to not panic about COVID-19. It's only about starting the treatment on time. From few days old babies to 83 years old people have recovered and gone home. People on ventilators have also recovered well," he said.

The ongoing lockdown, which was imposed to contain coronavirus is scheduled to end on May 3. Maharashtra as the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country and the state's tally stands at 10,498.

The Chief Minister said that lockdown is working as a "circuit breaker".

"Yes cases are rising but most of the cases are of the contacts. And most are already in quarantine. And fortunately, 75-80 per cent people are asymptomatic of the disease so we are putting them in quarantine," he said.

The Chief Minister also wished the people of the state on the occasion of Maharashtra Foundation Day and Labour Day.

"I remember what my father and grandfather told me about the struggle of getting Mumbai in Maharashtra. I visited Jitata Chowk today and it was a unique experience as I visited it for the first time as the Chief Minister of the state for which martyrs had sacrificed their lives," he said.

"My father, grandfather and uncle were part of that Maharashtra andolan (movement). I remembered everyone who contributed for the formation of this state. I pay my respects to all of them before speaking to you," he said.

"We had decided that this foundation day will be celebrated with great enthusiasm at the time when our government was formed. But we are helpless. Even I had to go there with masks on my face," he added.

"I remember 2010 when we celebrated 50th Anniversary of Maharashtra state. I remember everyone's presence. Especially, I remember Lata tai's performance when she sang a historical song. Many people came and go but Maharashtra is as it was," he added."Even Aurangzeb had to accept that Maharashtra will not bow before him, he tried for 27 years. I am Chief Minister of such state and I am proud of it," he said. -- ANI
An illuminated Mantralaya on the occasion of Maharashtra Day
An illuminated Mantralaya on the occasion of Maharashtra Day
14:13   583 new COVID cases, 27 more deaths in Maha
583 new cases and 27 deaths were reported in Maharashtra today. "A total of 10,498 positive COVID-19 cases and 459 deaths have been reported in the state till date. The mortality rate stands at 4.37 per cent," Maharashtra Health Department said today.

A total of 35,043 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in India. 8,889 persons have recovered or migrated, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Friday.There are 25,007 active cases of COVID-19 in the country at present.1,147 people have lost their lives due to the coronavirus in the country to date. -- ANI
14:00   COVID-19: Pak Speaker Asad Qaiser tests positive
Pakistan's National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser has become the latest top politician to be tested positive for the coronavirus on a day when authorities announced a record 990 new COVID-19 cases in the country. The Ministry of National Health Services on Friday said that 24 people have died in the last 24 hours, taking the death toll in the country to 385. 

A record 990 new infections were reported during the period, taking the country's tally to 16,817, it said. Qaiser is the second high-profile politician and a member of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party to be infected with the virus. Earlier, Governor of Sindh Imran Ismail tested positive for the deadly disease.
13:20   Brazilian Court gives Bolsonaro 48 hours to release his COVID results
A court in Brazil has ordered President Jair Bolsonaro to release the results of his coronavirus tests within two days, Brazilian media reported on Friday. According to the G1 broadcaster, federal judge Ana Lucia Petri Betto has requested "results of all tests that the president has undergone.

"The results have to be provided within 48 hours, with each day beyond the deadline punishable with a fine of 5,000 reais ($911).The ruling reportedly came in response to a petition published in the Sao Paulo official bulletin.In March, Bolsonaro traveled to the United States with a delegation of which 20 members later tested positive for COVID-19. 

The Brazilian president himself has undergone several tests, but has consistently rejected testing positive.Should the court order reveal that he, in fact, was infected and concealed it, the president, who so far felt free to breach social distancing and actively communicated with people on public, can be held liable to the point of impeachment.

More than 85,000 cases of coronavirus infection and close to 6,000 related death have been confirmed in Brazil as of Friday. 
13:18   Initial results of plasma therapy good: Kejriwal
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday said plasma therapy was administered to a few COVID-19 patients and the initial results have been good. "We were permitted by Centre for the trial of plasma therapy at LNJP hospital. We administered it to a few patients. The first one among them was discharged after he made recovery. He was critical and in ICU but was discharged on Thursday. Initial results of the therapy are good," Kejriwal said.

He further stated that trails of plasma therapy are going on in Delhi."I feel happy that around 1,100 people who have recovered in Delhi, we are getting in touch with them. Almost all of them are ready to donate plasma. I thank all those who have recovered and donating their plasma," he stated.

Meanwhile, Kejriwal also stated that around 40 buses are leaving from Delhi to Kota, Rajasthan to bring back the students who are stranded there due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

"Today, around 40 buses from Delhi are leaving for Kota, Rajasthan. I am hoping that by tomorrow these buses will come back," Kejriwal said.

Kejriwal also urged the Aam Aadmi Party workers to help the needy people in their respective areas. -- ANI
13:17   No petrol, ration in Goa to those not wearing masks
The Goa government has decided that people not wearing masks will not be given fuel at petrol pumps or ration at fair price shops in the state. The decision was taken during a meeting of the State Executive Committee chaired by Chief Secretary Parimal Rai on Thursday. The SEC decided that the use of masks or face cover needs to be implemented strictly in view of the coronavirus pandemic. No petrol pump will fill fuel in a vehicle or no ration or other grocery items would be sold in fair price shops if a customer does not wear a mask, it said in a statement. -- PTI
12:51   1st special train for migrants leaves Telangana
Railways on Friday ran its first special train to ferry 1,200 stranded migrants from Lingampally in Telangana to Hatia in Jharkhand since its services were suspended due to the coronavirus lockdown, RPF DG Arun Kumar said. Thousands of migrants were stranded in places across the country since the lockdown was enforced on March 25, many even attempting to walk home. 

On Wednesday, the ministry of home affairs allowed states to ferry their migrants back in buses, even as many state chief ministers requested that special trains be allowed to run for the movement of migrants. 

"The 24 coach train started at 4.50 am today (Friday). 1,200 migrants are on board," RPF DG Arun Kumar told PTI. It's the only train to be deployed so far, he added.

"Today (Friday) morning a one-off special train was run from Lingampalli to Hatia on request of the state government of Telangana and as per the directions of ministry of railways. All necessary precautions such as prior screening of passengers, maintaining social distancing at station and in the train were followed," railways said in a statement. 

A spokesperson for the South Central Railway which is running the train service said that all passengers were thermal screened at the station, masks were mandatory and food has been provided on board as the train will have no halts. 

For social distancing measures, it has allowed only 54 passengers per coach which has a capacity of 72. In coupes, six passengers have been allowed instead of eight, the spokesperson said. The train will reach Hatia at 11 pm tonight and the migrants on board are expected to be taken to quarantine facilities. 

In Delhi, railways clarified that this service was only a "one-off special train" and any further trains shall be planned only as per the directions of railways ministry and on request from both the originating and destination state governments. 

States like Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Bihar, Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Telangana have requested special trains to ferry migrant workers back to their home states. 

Sources said that a list has already been prepared by railways on the request of chief ministers for special trains and starting Friday, these trains will be run consistently to ferry migrants. -- PTI
12:15   Why you should not donate to the PM-CARES fund
"These days, you could give the money to your maid or the person who comes to collect your garbage or your watchman; they are struggling to make ends meet.
''You could help a friend whose business is at risk due to the lockdown and the struggling economy.
''Even if you lend money to someone in this crisis, it will be more useful to the economy than parking your money in some government fund," says Praful Nikam. Read the column here
Sutapa Sikdar with Irrfan
Sutapa Sikdar with Irrfan
12:12   My only grudge is Irrfan spoiled me for life: Wife
As our thoughts lie with the families and relatives of Irrfan Khan who left us on Wednesday after bravely battling cancer for two-and-a-half years, his wife Sutapa Sikdar released a statement talking about their lives together, their shared battles, joys and laughter and coming to terms with her loss. Their sons Babil and Aayan also have a message for readers and fans, who shared their own memories of Irrfan and how he touched their lives in so many ways. This is what Sutapa writes:

"How can I write this as a family statement when the whole world is taking it as a personal loss? How can I begin to feel alone when millions are grieving with us at the moment? I want to assure everyone that this is not a loss, it is a gain. Its a gain of the things he taught us, and now we shall finally begin to truly implement it and evolve. Yet I want to try to fill in the things that people dont already know.

"Its unbelievable for us but I would put it in Irrfans words, its magical whether he is there or not there, and thats what he loved, he never loved one dimensional reality. 

"The only thing I have a grudge against him is; he has spoiled me for life. His strive for perfection doesnt let me settle for ordinary in any thing. There was a rhythm which he always saw in everything, even in cacophony and chaos, so I have learnt to sing and dance to the music of that rhythm, even with my tone-deaf voice and two left feet. 

"Funnily, our life was a masterclass in acting, so when the dramatic entry of the uninvited guests happened, I had by then learnt, to see a harmony in the  cacophony. The doctors reports were like scripts which I wanted to perfect, so I never miss any detail that he sought for in his performance. We met some amazing people in this journey and the list is endless, but there are some whom I have to mention, our oncologist Dr. Nitesh Rohtogi (Max hospital Saket) who held our hand in the beginning, Dr. Dan Krell (UK), Dr. Shidravi (UK), my heartbeat and my lantern in the dark Dr. Sevanti Limaye (Kokilaben hospital). Its difficult to explain what a wondrous, beautiful, overwhelming, painful and exciting this journey has been. 

"I find this 2 and 1/2 years to have been an interlude, which had its own beginning, middle and culmination with Irrfan helming the role of the orchestra conductor, separate from the 35 years of our companionship, ours was not a marriage, it was a union. I see my little family, in a boat, with both my sons Babil and Ayaan, paddling it forward, with Irrfan guiding them wahan nahi, yahan se modo but since life is not cinema and there are no retakes, I sincerely wish my children sail this boat safely with their fathers guidance in mind and rockabye through the storm. I asked my children, if possible, they could sum up a lesson taught by their father that has been important to them; 

Babil: Learn to surrender to the dance of uncertainty and trust your faith in the universe 

Ayaan: Learn to control your mind and to not let it control you. 

Tears will flow as we will plant a raat ki rani tree, his favourite, to the place where you have put him to rest after a victorious journey. It takes time but it will bloom and the fragrance will spread and touch all the souls whom I wont call them fans  but family for years to come.  "
11:51   12 Tablighi Jamaat members sent to temporary jail after quarantine
Twelve Tablighi Jamaat members, including nine from Thailand, were sent to a temporary jail in Uttar Pradesh's Shahjahanpur district after they completed their quarantine, police said on Friday. The 12 people, including nine from Thailand and two from Tamil Nadu, were held on April 2 from a mosque where they were hiding. 

Their samples and that of a local were sent for testing, an officer said. One of the persons from Thailand tested positive and was referred to Bareilly. He was later brought here after his report was negative, Superintendent of Police (City) Dinesh Tripathi told PTI. 

After they completed 28 days in quarantine, they were sent to a temporary jail on Thursday. The passports of the foreigners were already seized and the Ministry of External Affairs has been informed, the officer added. -- PTI
11:44   Rishi must have gone with a gentle smile: Bachchan
Legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan on Thursday dedicated his latest blog post to his late long-time friend and co-star, Rishi Kapoor. It was the veteran actor who announced the news of the demise of his '102 Not Out' co-star.

In memory of the late icon, Bachchan shared a few lines from the post on Instagram late on Thursday. The 77-year-old actor, alongside the note, shared an illustration of Kapoor playing 'Dafli'. The picture is a reference to the late icon's famous song 'Dafli Wale Dafli Baja' from the film 'Sargam.'

Sharing a few lines from his blog post as the caption, Bachchan wrote: "In Memoriam ...I had seen him at his home Deonar Cottage, Chembur, a young energetic, bubbly, mischief in his eyes Chintu, on those rare moments when I was privileged to have been invited to an evening at Raj ji's house .."

He recalled the 'confident and determined' walk Kapoor had, which Bachchan never found in anyone else.

"When he spoke his lines, you believed every word of it .. there was never an alternative .. its genuineness was beyond question ..," the lines further read.

He also wrote about how the late star during the time of his diagnosis and treatment would take it lightly and say: 'see you soon, just a routine visit to the hospital .. I'll be back shortly."

As he wrapped the post, Bachchan also revealed why he 'never' visited him in hospital.

"I never wanted to see distress on his smiling cherubic face...But I am certain .. when he went, he must have gone with a gentle smile ...," he concluded the post.

The two stalwarts had shared screen space several times, giving many blockbusters to Indian cinema like the iconic 'Amar Akbar Anthony' and Kabhie Kabhie. Veteran actor Rishi Kapoor was 67. -- ANI
11:24   Maha legislative council polls before May 27: EC
Election Commission of India grants permission for holding elections to the Legislative Council in Maharashtra before May 27. The necessary guidelines will need to be ensured for safety against COVID19 during the elections.

This morning, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray paid a courtesy visit to Raj Bhavan on the occasion of Maharashtra Day and met Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari. Their meeting lasted for around 20 minutes.

The move comes at a time when the Election Commission of India is scheduled to hold a meeting over elections to the Legislative Council in Maharashtra. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9.30 am today.Every year, Governor and Chief Minister meet on Maharashtra Day in a traditional parade at Shivaji Park but this year the celebrations are curtailed due to COVID-19. 

So, the Chief Minister went to Raj Bhavan to call on the Governor, a CMO official said.

Earlier, Governor Koshyari had requested the ECI for the election to nine seats of the Legislative Council in the state.

The Governor has made the request in a letter to the Election Commission, to fill the 9 seats in the legislative council, that has been lying vacant from April 24, "with a view to ending the current uncertainty in the state."He has stated that the Central government has announced many relaxation measures regarding the enforcement of lockdown in the country. As such the elections to the council seats can be held with certain guidelines, said Koshyari.

"Since Chief Minister of Maharashtra Uddhav Thackeray is not a member of either house of the State Legislature, he needs to get elected to the Council before May 27," he added.

Earlier, the Election Commission had withheld the election process for these 9 seats in view of the COVID-19 situation in the country. 
11:05   Govt puts all metro cities in Red Zone
Union Health Ministry has released a list of districts across the country categorised as Red, Orange and Green Zones. The health ministry has decided to put all metro cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, in the Red Zone. 

The Red Zone cities also include Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad. The demarcation will help the government to finalise the lockdown exit plan following May 3 and whether it will be extended in some areas or the blanket ban on activities will continue.

The districts have been divided into three categories Red Zone, Orange Zone and Green Zone.As per the new classification, a district will be considered a Green Zone if there are no confirmed cases so far or no reported case in the last 21 days (instead of 28 days).

With Maharashtra crossing 10,000 coronavirus cases, the highest in the country, 14 districts have been named as red zones. In Delhi 11 districts, 12 districts in Tamil Nadu, 19 districts in Uttar Pradesh, 10 districts in West Bengal, 9 each in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh and 8 districts in Rajasthan have been declared red zones.
10:58   Ramayana most watched show in the world
Rebroadcast of Ramayana on Doordarshan smashes viewership records worldwide, the show becomes most watched entertainment show in the world with 7.7 crore viewers on 16th of April, claims Doordarshan.
10:36   New secretary for Dept of Economic Affairs
Tarun Bajaj takes over as the new Secretary, Dept of Economic Affairs, after superannuation of Atanu Chakraborty on 30 April. Tarun Bajaj, Indian Administrative Service officer of Haryana Cadre, previously held charge as Additional Secy in PM's Office: Ministry of Finance.
10:33   Cross-border transit into Gurugram prohibited from 10 am today
Cross border transit into Gurugram has been prohibited from 10 am today. Vehicles were seen lining up on the Delhi-Gurugram border this morning before the prohibition is enforced. The Gurugram administration issued an order on April 29 which reads that based on the revised guidelines of Union Ministry of Home Affairs, which allow certain additional activities to be opened in the country, the movement for any additional purposes (not already allowed under exemptions) shall not take place without specific exemptions granted by the DM's office, which shall be determined on the basis of objectives of essential nature of the activity, the mitigation of hardship to the public and ensuring continuity of government business.

"The list of consolidated exemptions include authorised government officers/staff of government offices, those specially issued a restricted movement pass by authorised officers of Central government/Haryana government in this behalf, ambulances, ATM cash vans, LPG, oil containers/tankers, vehicles supplying essential items like PPEs, sanitisers, fruits, vegetable, etc," reads the district administration order. -- ANI
10:25   China's asymptomatic cases climb to over 980
Speaking of China, the country's asymptomatic coronavirus cases have increased to 981, including 631 in Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, the epicentre of the deadly virus outbreak, while the government has stepped up vigil to contain the spread of the infection during the 5-day May Day holidays. 

While the confirmed cases were steadily on the decline in China, including in Wuhan, prompting the government to resume normal operations all over the country, the steady rise in asymptomatic cases continued to be a cause of concern. 

Asymptomatic cases refer to people who tested positive for the coronavirus but develop no symptoms such as fever, cough or sore throat. They are infectious and pose a risk of spreading to others. 

China's National Health Commission on Friday said 25 new asymptomatic cases were reported in the country, taking the total tally to 981, including 115 from abroad, who were still under medical observation. 

The health commission of Hubei province said no new confirmed cases of the COVID-19 were reported for 27 consecutive days. But the province and its capital Wuhan reported 631 people with asymptomatic infections who are under medical observation. 

A total of 282,482 close contacts of COVID-19 patients in the province had been tracked by Thursday, 1,434 of whom were still under medical observation, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Hubei has so far reported 68,128 confirmed COVID-19 cases in total, including 50,333 in Wuhan. 

The NHC in its Friday report said 12 new confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported in the country on Thursday, of which six were imported. The other six new cases were domestically transmitted, including five in Heilongjiang Province and one in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The death toll in the country remained at 4,633 as no new fatalities were reported on Thursday, it said. 

As of Thursday, the overall confirmed cases in China had reached 82,874, including 599 patients who were still being treated and 77,642 people discharged after recovery, it said. Also, China has a total of 1,670 imported cases of which 505 were being treated with seven in severe conditions, the NHC said. -- PTI
10:22   US mulls stripping China of sovereign immunity
Officials in the United States, across multiple government agencies, are expected to meet on Thursday (local times) to chalk out a strategy for seeking retaliatory measures against China for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Washington Post reported citing officials.

This comes against the background of US President Donald Trump's continuous attack against China, blaming it for withholding information about the virus and allowing it to spread around the world.

According to the Washington Post, US officials are discussing the possibility of stripping China of its "sovereign immunity," aiming to enable the US government or victims to sue China for damages.

George Sorial, who formerly served as a top executive at the Trump Organisation and is involved in a class-action lawsuit against China, told The Washington Post he and senior White House officials have discussed limiting China's sovereign immunity.

Trump has also indicated that he is thinking about "levying extreme penalties" on China.When asked about it on Thursday, Trump said: "You start playing those games and that's tough." 

He said cancelling interest payments to China could undermine the "sanctity of the dollar," but he added that there were other ways to levy extreme penalties on China, such as raising USD 1 trillion by imposing tariffs on Chinese imports.Coronavirus which first emerged in China has so far has infected more than 3.2 million people and killed at least 233,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

The US has emerged as the worst-hit country in the world with 1 million Covid-19 cases and at least 63,000 deaths.Administration officials have signalled that many of the discussions are preliminary and that little formal work has begun on turning these initial ideas into reality.

Other officials have warned Trump against the push to punish China, saying the country is sending supplies to help the American response."Now is just not the right time," one senior administration official involved in the talks said. 

"There will be a time to do it. Punishing China is definitely where the President's head is at right now," one senior adviser said.

On Monday, Trump said that the US will be going to seek hundreds of billions of dollars in damages from China, adding that he is considering additional measures to punish Beijing.

"We can do something much easier than that," Trump said in response to a question about demanding financial compensation from Beijing. 

"We have ways of doing things a lot easier than that."

In retaliation to this, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, told reporters that the US should know that their enemy is a virus and such rhetoric has no legal basis.

"The U.S. should know that their enemy is the virus, not China. They should focus on containment at home and international cooperation, instead of smearing China and shifting the blame onto China," Geng said

"As for punishment or accountability, as I have repeatedly stated, such rhetoric has no legal basis, and there's no international precedent. At this time, undermining others' efforts will end up undermining oneself," he added. -- ANI
Goa CM Pramod Sawant
Goa CM Pramod Sawant
09:41   Goans to get free quarantine when they return: CM
Residents of Goa, who are currently stranded in different parts of the country due to the lockdown, will be quarantined for free by the government once they return to the state, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has announced. He made the announcement through a tweet posted on Thursday. "I wish to inform that all Goans who are currently stranded in various parts of the country would be quarantined at Govt facility without any fees/charges upon their arrival in Goa. Further, they would be shifted to home quarantine as soon as their #COVID19 test proves negative," Sawant tweeted. 

As per the guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, the Goa government has already begun the process of bringing back the people from the state, who are stranded in parts of the country. 

Goa is one of the few COVID-free states in India. 
09:35   Uddhav meets guv on Maharashtra Day
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray paid a courtesy visit to Raj Bhavan on the occasion of 'Maharashtra Day' today and met Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari for around 20 minutes. On Wednesday, Thackeray spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on attempts to create political instability in the state. 

Following the call, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Thursday requested the Election Commission to declare elections to the nine vacant seats of the state's Legislative Council.
09:22   Modi wishes Russian PM speedy recovery from COVID-19
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday hoped that Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin recovered soon from the novel coronavirus. "My best wishes to Russian PM Mishustin for early recovery and good health," Modi tweeted in Russian and English. "We stand with our close friend Russia in efforts to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic." Mishustin had said on Thursday that he tested positive for COVID-19 and he would will self-isolate.
A HCQ consignment from India reaches US
A HCQ consignment from India reaches US
09:15   India has stepped up as a leader in fight against coronavirus: US
India has stepped up as a leader in the fight against coronavirus, an influential American lawmaker has said, applauding New Delhi for providing the US with vital supplies such as mass quantities of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. 

"The Republic of India is one of America's closest and most important allies, and our relationship has always enjoyed bipartisan support in Washington... I am thankful that India has stepped up as a leader in the fight against coronavirus, and am glad that our special partnership remains strong during this pandemic," congressman George Holding, the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, said. 

In a statement, the influential Republican lawmaker from North Carolina also appreciated the role being played by Indian-American non-profit organisations and community organizations in the pandemic relied work in the US. 

"On the US soil, Sewa International (an India-based service organisation) has been working tirelessly to donate masks, provide meals to first responders, and ensure vulnerable populations have access to food and medicine throughout the country," Holding said. 

Sewa has also provided support systems by hosting informative conference calls, while Indo-American hoteliers have stepped up and donated temporary housing to Indian international students in the United States, he added. 

Holding said the Indian government has been hard at work both in their country and in the United States to help the international community fight COVID-19. "It's amazing to see how one of our closest and most important partners can have such an impact in our country from nearly ten thousand miles away," he said. 

Together, the Indian and US governments have been able to identify measures necessary to propel us forward in the fight against this pandemic, Holding said. 
09:07   Cong MLA's ingenious idea to open booze shops
Bharat Singh Kundanpur, Congress MLA from Sangod has written to Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot for opening liquor shops in the state. The letter reads, "When coronavirus can be removed by washing hands with alcohol, then drinking alcohol will surely remove virus from the throat."
09:06   India records 35,043 Covid cases, 1147 deaths
And India's numbers show no sign of decline. The total number of COVID19 cases in India rise to 35,043 (including 25,007 active cases, 1147 deaths, 8889 cured/discharged/migrated): Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said. 73 deaths and 1993 new cases have been reported in the last 24 hours in the country. 

The United States on Thursday recorded 29,625 new coronavirus cases, and 2,035 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to the Johns Hopkins University. 

The total number of coronavirus cases has reached 10,69,534 and the death toll stands at 63,001, CNN reported. The novel coronavirus has infected more than 3.2 million people and killed at least 2,33,000 globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. 
08:40   Maha's 1st COVID patient on plasma therapy dies
A 53-year-old male patient, the first to undergo plasma therapy in Maharashtra passed away on 29th April, Dr Ravishankar, CEO Lilavati Hospital, Mumbai says.

The Union health ministry has maintained that plasma therapy for treatment of coronavirus patients is at an experimental stage and it has the potential to cause life-threatening complications.

The comments by the ministry came in the midst of hope that plasma therapy could provide a possible cure from the coronavirus infection.

The ministry said the therapy is at an experimental stage and that there is no evidence yet to support that it can be used as treatment for COVID-19.

It is not immediately clear what prompted the government to strongly recommend against plasma therapy for the COVID-19 patients.

On Sunday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal spoke about the success of Delhi's first case of plasma therapy and appealed to all people who have recovered from COVID-19 to come forward and donate plasma for the virus-infected patients.

Following the appeal, a number of people who contracted the virus during the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in the capital and recovered from it pledged to donate plasma for the treatment of other patients.

Till the effectiveness of this mode of treatment is scientifically proven, its application except for research and clinical trial is illegal, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health Lav Agarwal said at a media briefing.
08:18   Coronavirus originated from Wuhan lab: Trump
The novel coronavirus, that has killed over 230,000 people globally so far and has shattered economies, emerged from a virology lab in the Wuhan city of China, United States President Donald Trump claimed Thursday with a high degree of confidence.
"Yes, I have. Yes, I have," Trump told reporters at the East Room of the White House when asked if he has seen anything at this point that gives him a high degree of confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology is where the virus originated.
The president, however, refuse to provide any details, except for saying that investigations are on and it would be out soon.
Asked what gave him a high degree of confidence that the virus originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, he said, "I can't tell you that. I'm not allowed to tell you that."
The president, however, did not hold his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping responsible for this. "I don't want to say that, I don't want to say that, but certainly it could have been stopped. It came out of China and it could have been stopped and I wish they had stopped it and so does the whole world wish they had stopped it."
Reiterating that this is something that could have been contained at Wuhan ground zero, he said that China could have contained it. "They were either unable to, or they chose not to. And the world has suffered greatly."
One of two things happened, he reasoned. "They either didn't do it and you know they couldn't do it from a competent standpoint or they let it spread and I would say probably it got out of control."
"But there's another case that how come they stopped all of the planes and all of the traffic from going into China, but they didn't stop the planes and the traffic from coming into the United States and from coming into all over Europe," he said, citing the example of Italy, the hardest-hit European country.
"This country (the US) is very lucky and I'm very lucky that I put the ban on China, as you know, very early on. In January, we put the ban on China and that was a very early day. That wasn't a late day, that was an early day. Then, we later put the ban on in Europe," he said.
Before holding them accountable, Trump said he wants to find out what happened. "I think we'll be able to get a very good -- a very powerful definition of exactly what happened. We're working on it strongly now and I think it's going to be very powerful," he said.
"But they could have stopped it. They are a very brilliant nation, scientifically and otherwise. It got loose, let's say, and they could have capped it. They could have stopped it, but they didn't. And they stopped the planes from going to China, but they didn't stop them from going to the rest of the world. What was that all about? he asked.
"We should have the answer to that in the not-too-distant future and that will determine a lot how I feel about China," Trump said.
When asked if President Xi misled him, Trump said, "Something happened. I don't say misleading or not. I'll let you know that. I mean, I'll be able to give you that answer at some point in the hopefully not-too-distant future." 
The entire world has suffered as a result of this, he said.
"We have had tremendous death and tremendous sorrow, sadness, and nobody's ever seen anything like it. So, have most of the countries of the world. They've suffered tremendously. It's something that is going to have to be dealt with. We'll have to see," said the president. -- PTI 
08:12   WHO is like a PR agency for China: Trump
United States President Donald Trump Thursday said the World Health Organization should be "ashamed of" itself, as he likened it to a public relations agency for China.
The Trump Administration has launched a probe into the role of the WHO on coronavirus, and has temporarily suspended the US' financial assistance to it. 
"I think that the World Health Organization should be ashamed of themselves because they are like the public relations agency for China," Trump told reporters in the East Room of the White House.
The United States, he reiterated, pays the WHO almost USD500 million a year and China pays them USD38 million a year. "Whether it's a lot more, it doesn't matter. They shouldn't be making excuses when people make horrible mistakes, especially mistakes that are causing hundreds of thousands of people around the world to die."
"I think the World Health Organization should be ashamed of themselves, said the President.           
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alleged the WHO failed to deliver and misled the world on coronavirus. "The World Health Organization simply failed to respond in this case," he told Scott Sands of The Scott Sands Show in an interview.
"With respect to the WHO, we know that they had one job, right?  A single mission:  To prevent the spread of a pandemic. We know that the leader of that organization travelled to China and then declined to declare it a pandemic until everyone in the world knew that was already true," Pompeo told Fox news in another interview.
"It's unfortunate, but this is not the first time there has been a virus go around the world from inside of China, and it's not the first time the WHO has failed in its mission. We have an obligation to the American people to do our best to make sure that we fix that, that we prevent those things from ever happening again," he said.
Meanwhile, several Republican lawmakers demanding a Congressional hearing alleged that the WHO parroted the Chinese regime's "disinformation" on multiple occasions, including denying human-to-human transmission of the virus.
They alleged the WHO prolonged declaring COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, chastised efforts to restrict travel, and continued to praise China as a global leader in public health despite mounting evidence to the contrary. -- PTI
01:18   Will defeat Covid in coming weeks: Vardhan
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday said India is doing better compared to other countries on all parameters in its fight against COVID-19 and should be able to win this decisive war in the coming few weeks.

While virtually interacting with civil society organisations (CSOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on COVID-19 issues at an event organised by Niti Aayog, Vardhan said such organisations have been working tirelessly to ensure essential resources reach the last mile.

Talking about India's preparations and their results, the minister said, "We have gone quite ahead towards winning this war against COVID-19."   

Elaborating further, he said the country has done better on 'all our parameters compared to the rest of the world. And I am sure in the coming few weeks, we should be be able win decisive war against COVID-19'.

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the   Department of Biotechnology are doing genetic sequencing of coronavirus at 1,000 places, he said, adding that 'we have half a dozen vaccine candidates, four of them are in significantly advanced stage'.

The health minister also informed that everyday the country is manufacturing 1.5 lakh personal protective equipment in the country.

He said that in May, 'we will have good indigenous production of good quality anti-body test kits and also kits for detection of coronavirus'.

About challenges ahead as the Centre relaxes curbs on movement of stranded migrant workers, he said there will be requirements of lots of help from NGOs to reorganise migrant labourers again in their home towns as there could be some resistance in the society when they go back.

Vardhan also pointed out that India took immediate proactive steps within days of knowing about the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China.

"The central government immediately issued advisories to the states, undertook rigorous community health surveillance and started thermal screening at airports, borders as well as seaports," he said.

The health minister also spoke on the issue of stigmatisation of COVID-19 patients and frontline workers who are engaged in battling this war.

The government has recently amended the Epidemic Diseases Act to protect healthcare workers against violence during health crises such as COVID-19.

However, he said, not everything can be solved with the help of law and sought the assistance of NGOs and CSOs to battle the menace of stigmatisation in the society.

Until now, nine lakh people are under community surveillance, the minister said adding that it was a huge operation undertaken in the last three months.

Meanwhile, in its latest update, the Union Health Ministry said 1,075 people have died due to COVID-19 so far across the country.

The number of cases has increased to 33,610, including 1,823 new cases detected in the last 24 hours.

All NGOs registered on Niti Aayog's Darpan Portal became part of the interaction -- Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, represented by Hari Menon; HelpAge India, represented by Mathew Cherian; Tata Trusts, represented by HSD Srinivas, among others.

The NGOs/CSOs mentioned a number of issues including combating stigma and discrimination against COVID-19 patients and frontline workers, flagging shortage of medicines in rural areas, seeking help for e-passes, provision of more PPEs and N95 masks and seeking a data-driven response to the crisis.   -- PTI