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Coronavirus: Big Bazaar delivery services to remain open during 21-day lockdown

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Big Bazaar has initiated doorstep delivery services in Mumbai amid the lockdown. B

Mumbai, however, is not the only city where Big Bazaar will provide doorstep delivery services. These services will also be offered in Ranchi, Uttarakhand, Noida, Ghaziabad, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, Punjab, Haryana, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

According to the official lockdown notification, "Shops including ration shops (under PDS), dealing with food, groceries, fruits and vegetables, dairy and milk booths, meat and fish, animal fodder" can remain open. The notification also states, "District authorities may encourage and facilitate home delivery to minimise the movement of individuals outside their homes."

In his address to the nation on Tuesday, Prime Minister Modi announced a 21 day lockdown across the country effective from March 25 midnight to combat COVID-19 spread. Modi also said that social distancing is the only way out to deal with the disease.  The Prime Minister also appealed to people to not panic as essential commodities and medicines would be available. PM Modi assured that central and state governments would work in close coordination to ensure the availability of essential commodities and medicines.  In another tweet, the Prime Minister urged the citizens to not indulge in panic buying.

India's 8th COVID-19 Death In Bengal, Man Had No Travel History

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The eighth coronavirus-linked death in the country took place in Kolkata today. The patient, a 57-year-old, had no history of foreign travel, said sources in the private hospital where he was admitted - injecting concern about the chain of transmission. Inability to trace the chain of transmission indicates that the virus has entered the third stage. 

This was the seventh case of COVID-19 in the state, where the virus made a late appearance last week.

The first patient detected in Bengal was a student who returned from UK. The young man was out and about and even visited a mall before he tested positive for the virus.

About the latest case, the hospital said the 57-year-old was a resident of Dum Dum, an area near the airport. He was admitted on March 16, with complaints of fever and a dry cough. His symptoms intensified since March 19, with acute respiratory distress syndrome and he was put on ventilator.

His samples were sent to both NICED and the city's premier SSKM hospital, one of which came positive. Another sample sent on March 21 also turned out to be positive. He did at 3.35 pm after a heart attack.

Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had strong words for people breaking quarantine and indulging in risky behaviour, has declared a lockdown in all the urban areas of the state. 

Earlier today - before the Centre decided ground all domestic flights -- the Chief Minister wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking that all incoming flights to the state be stopped.

Ms Banerjee, who also converted an indoor stadium in Kolkata to a makeshift hospital as part of preparations for coronavirus, has said the state is not receiving enough help from the Centre to tackle the disease that has killed more than 11,000 people worldwide.

Coronavirus: Supreme Court orders release of prisoners to decongest jails

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The Supreme Court has ordered all states to consider releasing some prisoners on parole to reduce overcrowding in prisons. Each state has been ordered to constitute a high powered committee which will decide on the matter.

"Each state shall constitute a high powered committee, it will determine which class of prisoners can be released on parole or interim bail for such period as may be appropriate," said the order by Chief Justice of India S.A Bobde. The High-level committee will work in consultation with the State Legal Service Authority for deciding on the release of prisoners.

According to the order, prisoners convicted or charged with offenses having jail term of up to seven years can be given parole. The apex court's order was clear that the prisoners are being released in an attempt to avoid overcrowding in jails during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had asked chief secretaries of all states to respond by March 20 with measures that need to be taken to curb overcrowding in jails amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. The SC was expected to hear on the matter today.

The Maharastra government last week had submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court seeking the release of over 5,000 prisoners on bail or medical furlough from all jails in the state. The state government had done this to decongest its already overcrowded prions.

According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country were 415 as of 9:00 am on March 23. Globally, the number has climbed to over  3,30,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including around 14,000 deaths.

Coronavirus Cases In India See Biggest Jump In A Day

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The number of COVID-19 positive cases in the country has risen to 223, including 32 foreign nationals, it was revealed today. At least 50 fresh cases were reported today, making it the largest single-day jump since the outbreak began weeks ago. At least four deaths have been linked to the virus. This evening the Health Ministry urged people to follow Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call for a "janata" curfew on Sunday, saying "a day's cooperation will help break the chain of transmission". The ministry also said people could call on 1075 - a toll free number - if they had questions about the outbreak. In a televised address on Thursday night, the Prime Minister called for a "janata" (public) curfew from 7 am to 9 pm. The centre has shut borders to international flights and suspended incoming visas, while states have closed public spaces and asked people to work from home.

Here are the top 10 points in this big story:

1. In today's press briefing Health Ministry officials said there was no shortage of essential goods and urged people not to panic. Senior ministry official Lav Agarwal also said people had been advised to stay away from large religious gatherings and such festivals had been requested to be postponed. The ministry's comment came hours after a Ram festival in Uttar Pradesh's Ayodhya was "suspended".

2. The Health Ministry also responded to concerns over suspected COVID-19 patients jumping quarantine and spreading the infection. "States have the power to take action against those who jump quarantine. We have asked states to implement all such steps. We are dealing with a very infectious disease," Mr Agarwal said.

3. India is still only testing at 10 per cent of its capacity, Dr Raman Gangakedhkar of the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) said in the briefing. Medical experts have expressed worry over the low rate of testing in the country, suggesting mass-level aggressive testing, like that by South Korea, could be key to containing the virus. On Wednesday the ICMR said private labs could be roped in to increase testing facilities.

4. India is still in Stage 2 of the outbreak, as per the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR). This means transmission is via local means - through individuals who have travelled abroad or their family members or acquaintances, which can be traced. Stage 3 involves community transmission and an exponential growth in the number of cases.

5. "Under this janata (public) curfew, no one should leave their homes or gather in their neighbourhoods. Only those related to essential services should go out," Prime Minister said in his televised address last night. The Prime Minister also said the one-day curfew would help people get used to self-isolation, in an indication that restrictions of longer periods could be announced soon.

6. In his address, PM Modi also urged senior citizens (those over 65) to stay at home. The Prime Minister's warning comes as medical experts say that peopled over 65 years of age (and those under 10 years) are most susceptible to infection. All four deaths in India linked to COVID-19 are of senior citizens.

7. Educational institutions and other public spaces in several states have been shut down. Earlier today Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said shopping malls in the national capital would also be closed. Punjab has shut down all public transportation. Malls and cinemas have also been shut down in Kerala, Maharashtra (which has reported the maximum number of cases at 48), Odisha, Bengal and a number of other states.

8. In a notification issued Thursday evening, the centre asked its employees to work from home in a phased manner. As per the notification, 50 per cent of Group B and C employees will work from home, while the rest will attend office during staggered working hours. Government offices had already discontinued biometric attendance systems.

9. A special task force, headed by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, has been set up to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Indian economy. The task force comes amid warnings by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi that the outbreak will have "devastating" economic consequences. Indian stock markets, and indeed those abroad too, have reached sharply and nervously, with millions in investor wealth being wiped out.

10. The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country has extended to religious centres as well. This morning a member of the organising committee of the "Ram Kot Parikrama", which marks the start of Ram Navami festivities in Uttar Pradesh's Aydohya next week, told NDTV the event had been suspended. In Andhra Pradesh the Tirupati board has shut down the iconic temple over virus fears. The famous Siddhivinayak Temple in Mumbai has already been shut down. Sporting events have been affected too, with the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament postponed and the India-South Africa series called off.

10 questions on coronavirus India expects PM Modi to answer tonight

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As the fear and panic around coronavirus intensifies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to address the nation at 8 pm tonight. Indians would be expecting PM Modi to talk about the situation and how the government plans to prevent the situation from deteriorating.

Here are a few questions PM Modi might answer in his address to the nation tonight:

How fast is the virus spreading?

If the global scenario is taken into consideration then it is evident that the virus spreads rather fast. The incubation period ranges from 2 to 14 days. In countries such as China, Italy and Iran, hundreds of new cases were reported in a single day. So far in India, the spread has been contained. However, it must be pointed out that India, with such a massive population, has also carried out significantly fewer tests, with most focussed at airports and hospitals.  

Will India announce relief package to fight coronavirus?

While other countries have announced funding, India is yet to jump into the bandwagon. Dr Arun Singh, chief economist, Dun and Bradstreet India said, "At this point of time we are more worried about the controlling perspective of the epidemic. I expect, in a week or two, there will be an advisory by the Finance Ministry or the PMO on the economic action that they will be taking to keep the economy floating."

Will markets be shut? Should people stock up? For how long?

Panic buying is already taking place in India over fears that the government is going to announce a lockdown. On the back of such fears, offline stores are staring at empty shelves as essential items such as rice, flour, oil, sanitisers, cleaning products are being hoarded by customers. Online stores such as Bigbasket and Grofers are witnessing a sharp increase in orders.

Will there be a lockdown?

While India is not likely to undergo an official lockdown, the government has asked people to stay indoors for as long as possible. Most schools, colleges, institutions, companies, malls, theatres, restaurants will be shut till March 31. Meanwhile, Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar tweeted, "Some media outlets are speculating that PM Modi will announce a lock down in his address. This information is incorrect. It will also create unnecessary panic in minds of people, which is the last thing we need in times like this."

What is the government's plan to fight coronavirus?

The government aims to minimise social gathering and crowding at public places for now. It is also trying to increase testing centres and isolation wards. Most importantly, the government would want to contain the panic.

What has the government done so far?

The Indian government has taken a slew of measures to combat coronavirus. For starters it has banned the entry of any foreign national to the country. International flights have been suspended. Borders with neighbouring countries have also been closed.

Domestically, the state governments and the Centre have urged people to avoid non-essential travel. Schools, colleges, theatres, restaurants, and malls have been ordered to close till at least March 31. Events and tournaments have been cancelled or postponed, CBSE and ICSE exams have been cancelled till the end of the month. In some cities such as Gurugram, the government has also announced MNCs to let their employees work from home.

Why is the government not roping in the private sector?

So far, all the tests and treatments are being carried out by the Centre and under the government's supervision. It is to be seen if the private sector is roped in as and if cases increase.

Are states cooperating?

All the states in India have different governments, including from parties other than the ruling BJP. However, both the Centre and state governments are cooperating so far to curb the spread.

Will India declare an emergency?

This is something everyone has been wondering. Many other countries have declared health emergencies. However, it remains to be seen how India goes about it.

How is the government spreading awareness?

The government is trying to spread awareness through the internet, media as well as print. For instance, the Indian Railways has printed pamphlets and distributed them among its passengers. The government is also playing a pre-recorded message as a caller tune every time an individual places a call. Ministers and celebrities are also doing their bit to spread awareness through the internet with videos and posts.


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