India on high alert, first coronavirus death in Karnataka


NATIONAL | MARCH 13, 2020:

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging Indians not to panic, but stay vigilant to keep the coronavirus at bay, Thursday saw India withdrawing into a shell and fortifying its walls against the virus. It also witnessed first coronavirus death in Karnataka.

A 76-year-old man, who had returned to Karnataka from Saudi Arabia about 10 days ago and died in a Hyderabad hospital on Tuesday, has become India's first coronavirus fatality as his test proved positive for the disease.

The Prime Minister also tweeted that no Minister would travel aboard in the coming days. Soon after the Prime Minister's tweet, the Delhi government declared coronavirus an epidemic and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced closure till March 31 of all cinema halls and education institutions, where no examination is underway, in the national capital.

After a meeting Delhi Lt-Governor Anil Baijal, Kejriwal said there were sufficient number of beds for quarantine facilities. "Unoccupied flats of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) and under-construction hospitals will be readied for the purpose," he said.

During the day, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba wrote to the Secretaries of all ministries on dealing with the situation. According to the Health Ministry, the Prime Minister is regularly reviewing the situation with the top officials since the first case was declared on December 31, 2019 in Wuhan, China.

The Group of Ministers (GoM), set up to monitor the preparedness against coronavirus, had met six times, it said.

Haryana also declared a coronavirus epidemic and appealed people who had travelled abroad in the last 14 days to self-isolate themselves for at least two weeks.

State Health Minister Anil Vij said a campaign had been launched to identify such persons across educational institutions, nursing homes and hospitals. All Haryana hospitals have been asked to maintain data on all suspected cases and of those who came in contact with such people.

In Maharashtra, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray conducted a review meeting with the Divisional Commissioners through video link on the prevailing situation in their respective jurisdictions.

All state or public functions have been cancelled to avoid overcrowding and to arrest the spread of the disease. "Coronavirus arrived in the state through visitors to infected foreign locations," said Thackeray.

Air India has decided to immediately suspend its flights to Italy and South Korea, the two worst affected countries. According to sources, Air India's Delhi-Seoul, Delhi-Rome and -Milan flights stand suspended till March 25 and 28, respectively.

Last month it extended the suspension of Delhi-Shanghai and Delhi-Hong Kong services till June 30. The flights to Shanghai had been cancelled from January 31 to February 14, and to Hong Kong from February 7 until March 28.

On the markets front, the Indian bourses formally entered the bear zone with the BSE Sensex registering its biggest single-day fall of over 2,900 points. The Sensex closed at 32,778.14, lower 2,919.26 points or 8.18 per cent from its previous close of 35,697.40. The Nifty50 closed down 868.25 points (8.30 per cent) at 9,590.15.

There has been 76 confirmed cases of coronavirus in India. Even a three-year-old has tested positive in Kerala, who had a travel history to Italy with parents.

The coronavirus outbreak was first reported in December last year in Wuhan city of China. The disease has affected more than 100 countries and has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization.