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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.

167 People Suspected To Have Coronavirus Missing In Ludhiana

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At least 167 people suspected of having coronavirus have been missing in Ludhiana, Punjab, while only 29 have been traced, said Dr Rajesh Bagga, the city's civil surgeon.

Medical officials in Punjab had received a list of people who have recently returned to India and have been tracking down people on the list to ascertain infections, if any.

"Two teams have been tasked to find people coming from abroad, in which police have been given responsibility for finding 119 people. They have found 12 people so far and the other team is from the health department, in which they were given the responsibility to find 77 people," Mr Bagga said.

"17 people have been traced by the health department team. The rest of 167 people are still missing in Ludhiana," he added.

An official said that the main reason is they are not able to trace all of them is due to either wrong address in the passport and telephone number.

"The main reason behind this issue is that these people do not have the correct addresses and telephone numbers. It seems that the address and telephone numbers have changed," he said.

"Our teams are active and searching for them. They will be traced soon," he added.

Sanitisation measures have been taken at Ludhiana Railway Station as a precautionary step to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Andhra Pradesh government has constituted the Inter-Departmental Coordination Committee with the Secretaries of Line Departments for concerted measurements to containment and surveillance of COVID-19.

The committee comprises Principal Secretary of Finance Department, Special Chief Secretary of Health Medical and Family Welfare Department and Principal Secretary, Secretary of Home Department.

Coronavirus: Karnataka govt pledges Rs 200 crore to fight COVID-19

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The Karnataka cabinet has decided to earmark Rs 200 crore to combat the spread of coronavirus in the state, Chief Minister Yediyurappa said on Wednesday.

The restrictions that have been imposed in the state for a week from March 14 have been extended till March 31, he announced in the Legislative Assembly after a special cabinet meeting to discuss the impact of COVID-19.

The cabinet also decided to constitute a taskforce consisting of Medical Education Minister Sudhakar K, Deputy Chief Minister Ashwath Narayan C N, Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai, and Health Minister B Sriramulu.

Chief Secretary T M Vijay Bhaskar would serve as a member of the taskforce, which would be headed by Sriramulu.

Officials said the taskforce would meet daily, review reports on the outbreak and the measures to contain the spread of the virus.

"For immediate expenses (to contain the spread of the virus), about Rs 200 crore will be earmarked," Yediyurappa said.

The Chief Minister said all passengers coming by international flights would be tested and placed under quarantine for 15-16 days.

Stating that strict measures will be taken not to allow members of the public to the Vidhana Soudha and Vikasa Soudha, the seat of state legislature and secretariat, he said "public events and programmes should not be held, fairs, marriages and other events should be limited, no large-scale events should be held."

It has also been decided to take special measures to contain the spread of bird flu, swine flu and monkey fever in parts of the State.

Third Coronavirus-Linked Death In India, 137 People Infected

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A 64-year-old man died in Mumbai today, taking the number of coronavirus-linked deaths in the country to three. As the total number of infected people reached 137, the government has stopped incoming travel from a number of nations, including the European Union, Malaysia, Philippines and Afghanistan. As the questions over the lack of mass testing grows louder, the Indian Council of Medical Research said they are working on the inclusion of private laboratories in the testing process and considering the possibility of testing people who have no travel history.

Here are the top 10 developments in this big story:

1. Among the patients who are currently positive, are 22 foreigners in Haryana. Maharashtra is still the state which has the highest number of patients - the figure is still 39.

2. The man who died in Mumbai today came back from Dubai on March 5. He did not disclose his travel history and went to a private hospital, where he was tested for respiratory problems, the authorities said, adding that the cause of his death is still being ascertained. The man's wife has also been found COVID-19 positive but is stable.

3. Two more people, residents of Noida near Delhi, tested positive for the disease.  In Ladakh, three more people have tested positive for COVID-19, taking the total number of cases to six, Ladakh Commissioner Secretary Rigzin Sampheal was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

4. Dr Balram Bhargava, Director General of ICMR told NDTV that they are working on the inclusion of private laboratories in the testing process and considering the possibility of testing cases of people who do not have a travel history. 

5. Currently, possible patients who do not have a travel history but are showing symptoms of the disease are not being tested, in view of the limited facilities. But such testing is essential to figure out the level of the contagion and the next step to control it. Aggressive mass testing is how South Korea had controlled the spread of the disease.

6. "We are not averse to private labs. Discussions are on regarding the safeguards. Once it is done, we will get into action," ICMR Director, Dr Raman R Gangakhedkar, has told reporters.

7. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi today warned of an "economic devastation" in the next six months, saying "people of the country are going to go through unimaginable pain" if India doesn't prepare itself amid coronavirus outbreak.

8. In a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus or COVID-19 virus across the state, the Kerala government has launched a mass hand washing campaign named ''break the chain''. The campaign aims to educate people about the importance of public and personal hygiene. On Monday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the media that three new cases of coronavirus had been reported in the state, taking the total to 24.

9. The World Health Organisation has praised India's commitment to combat the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 168,000 people and killed over 6,600 across the world.

10. "I think the commitment of the Indian government from the top level -- the Prime Minister's office himself -- has been enormous, very impressive. This is one of the reasons why India is doing very well," said Henk Bekedam, the WHO Representative to India.

Mumbai's Siddhivinayak Temple To Close Over Coronavirus Outbreak

latest news update

Mumbai:

1. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said "No religious, social, cultural and political gatherings comprising more than 50 people will be allowed till March 31, and clarified that the restriction is "applicable to protests too".

2. Arvind Kejriwal has also stopped the thrice-a-week grievance-redressal public meetings at his home. All autos and taxis will be disinfected for free, the Chief Minister said, adding that hand sanitisers would be placed at maximum places in the city, including shopping malls.

3. At least 25 doctors are among the 75 employees of a premier health institute in Ketrala's Thiruvananthapuram, who have been kept in isolation after a doctor who returned from Spain tested positive for coronavirus.

4. The Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh, facing a collapse, has adjourned the state assembly for 10 days to stave off a trust vote. The government said the long break was to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

5. Amid a global economic plunge over corionavirus, Reserve Bank Governor Shaktikanta Das said, "Covid-19 outbreak, now a pandemic, is evolving into a human tragedy. Human activity disrupted in nations. Financial conditions have tightened".

6. "Policy authorities have responded with emergency measures and more recently, advanced economies have coordinate large policy rate reductions," Mr Das said.

7. Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has announced that all schools and colleges will be shut and a Rs 200 crore fund will be created in the state to tackle coronavirus.

8. Amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, Apple has announced that only developers from "recognised entities" such as government organisations, health-focussed NGOs, and healthcare companies were allowed to submit their apps related to COVID-19.

9. Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien, who gave a demonstration today in parliament with "locked hands",  made some strong remarks on coronavirus and said: "There comes a time in the life of a nation when we have to rise above our party flags".

10. Two people have died and 116 people are infected due to coronavirus or COVID-19, the highly contagious disease that originated in China's Wuhan city. Last week, the WHO declared it a pandemic after it spread to more than 100 countries.

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