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Coronavirus update: India reports 1,684 new cases in last 24 hours, recovery rate improves to 20.57%

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India reported sharp rise in coronavirus positive cases with 1,684 new patients in the last 24 hours, according to the latest Ministry of Health and Family Welfare data. The total number of cases jumped to 23,077, while death toll spiked to 718, the data showed. The confirmed coronavirus cases include 17,610 active cases, 4,748 cured/discharged, 1 migrated, and 718 deaths.

Maharashtra remained the worst-hit state with 6,430 registered COVID-19 cases and 283 deaths, followed by Gujarat, with 2,624 cases and 112 deaths. Delhi remained on third spot with 2,376 positive patients and 50 deaths.

While addressing a press conference on April 24 amid coronavirus pandemic, the Joint Secretary of Union Health Ministry, Lav Agarwal said, "In last 24 hours, 1684 COVID-19 positive cases have been reported which takes our total confirmed case to 23,077."

As of now, 4,748 people have been cured with a recovery rate of 20.57 per cent. "Our recovery rate is 20.57 per cent," Agarwal said.

"In the last 28 days, 15 districts have had no new case. Till date, there are 80 districts in the country that have reported no new cases in last 14 days," he added.

India is under complete lockdown, which has been extended till May 3. During the 31 days of lockdown, the government has taken several measures to cut transmission, minimise spread and ramp up testing.

As on March 23, nearly 15,000 tests were done across the country and by April 22 more than 5 lakh tests were conducted, which is about "33 times in 30 days", as per the government data.

In a bid to mitigate the economic impact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today to decide the second stimulus package. The meeting follows a series of measures to bring back the economy on the track. The upcoming relief could be roughly similar in size to the Rs 1.7 lakh crore-package announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in late March.

UP To Bring Back Migrant Workers From Other States In Phases

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The Uttar Pradesh government will bring back migrant workers stranded in other states amid the nationwide coronavirus lockdown, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said today. The migrants will be brought back in phases after having completed the mandatory 14-day quarantine at the places in which they had been staying, the Chief Minister added.

Officials have been directed to work out a plan and prepare a list of all migrant workers from the state who will be brought back from the state's border on government buses.

"The Chief Minister has asked for a plan to bring back migrants who have completed 14 days' quarantine in other states. Officers have been directed to prepare a list and check whether such workers have been tested," Awanish Awasthi, UP Additional Chief Secretary, said, adding, "We have also been asked to check how they will brought to state borders and how they will be kept in quarantine".

Officials have also been asked to come up with a plan to sanitise the required number of shelter homes and arrange for food and water for the migrant workers.

Lakhs of migrants across the country were left stranded - without jobs, money, food or shelter - by the lockdown meant to break the chain of transmission of the coronavirus.

Left with little option but walk hundreds, often thousands, of kilometres to return to their home states, the migrant exodus triggered a massive humanitarian crisis for the centre, with several deaths reported during the punishing treks.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who has urged the UP government to act to help migrants from the state, repeated her appeal this week.

"These workers are our own. It is the responsibility of all of us to help them. We cannot leave them like this. We have to find a way out," she said.

In addition to migrant workers, the UP government had also arranged for buses to bring back students from the state stranded in Rajasthan's Kota - a popular coaching hub for competitive exams.

Last week around 100 buses carrying the students returned to UP's Jhansi; the students were screened before being allowed to return home. The government had also sent around 200 buses from Agra to bring back students.

Last month the UP government arranged for 1,000 buses to ferry migrants stranded at border districts to places in the interior of the state. That crisis followed distressing scenes at Delhi's Anand Vihar Interstate Bus Terminal, where thousands of men, women and children were desperately trying to find a way home to hometowns and villages in UP.

Criticised for poor implementation of the lockdown, the centre last month asked states to encourage migrants to stay where they were by offering them food and shelter.

Earlier the chief ministers of three states - Bengal, Bihar and Odisha - which send the maximum number of labourers across the country, called on their counterparts to ensure the safety of people from their respective states. The three chief ministers said their governments would foot the bill arising from this.

"Zero Tolerance": Centre Brings Tough Law On Attacks On Health Workers

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Attacks on healthcare workers will carry stringent punishment -- jail term of up to seven years and a hefty fine -- the government said today as instances of such attacks spiraled across the country. In an executive order passed urgently this afternoon, hours after Union minister Amit Shah declared the safety of medical personnel as "non-negotiable", the government also made it a non-bailable offence.

The government has also made the Epidemic Act a concurrent act so it can make decisions and take action during an epidemic for to control road, rail, marine and air traffic.

"While people across the nation salute the health workers and those in the field helping battle COVID-19, there are few who are attacking them, thinking they are spreading the virus," Union minister Prakash Javadekar said after the cabinet meeting this afternoon.

"We have zero tolerance and will not allow this in a civilised society," he added.

"Any attack on doctors or health workers will be liable to a penalty of anywhere between Rs 50,000 and Rs 2 lakh in non-serious cases and Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh for serious offences, where there are reports of serious injury," the minister said.

"In addition to this, there will also be a jail term -- a minimum of 6 months and up to 5 years for non-serious offences and up to 7 years for serious cases. This will be a non-bailable offence," he added.

The amended Epidemic Act -- a 120-year-old law -- will protect doctors, nurses, health workers, attendants and also Aasha workers, Mr Javadekar said. "Healthcare professionals will also be extended insurance cover," he said.

Medical personnel have been playing a frontline role in the battle against coronavirus, the government has underscored repeatedly. But it has not stemmed the tide of attacks against doctors, nurses or paramedical workers, who were planning a symbolic protest on April 23.

The protest was called off after Mr Shah reached out to the Indian Medical Association, the nodal body of doctors in the country today, and assured that the government will do everything possible to protect them, sources said.

"Safety and dignity of our doctors at their work place is non-negotiable. It is our collective responsibility to ensure conducive atmosphere for them at all times. I have assured doctors that Modi govt is committed to their cause and appealed to reconsider their proposed protest," Mr Shah tweeted after the meeting.

Vijay Mallya loses UK High Court appeal against extradition to India

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Business tycoon Vijay Mallya on Monday lost his High Court appeal in London against a 2018 decision to extradite him to India to face fraud charges resulting from the collapse of his defunct company Kingfisher Airlines. The case will now go to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel for a final call.

The dismissal effectively clears the way for Vijay Mallya's extradition to India to face the charges in the Indian courts, with 14 days for him to apply for permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court.

If he does apply, the UK Home Office would wait for the outcome of that appeal. But if he does not, under the India-UK Extradition Treaty, it would then be expected to formally certify the court order for Mallya to be extradited to India within 28 days.

The 64-year-old, whose business interests have ranged from aviation to liquor, is wanted in India over Rs 9,000 crore in loans Kingfisher took out from banks which the authorities argue he had no intention of repaying. Vijay Mallya denies the charges against him and is currently on bail.

His lawyer, Clare Montgomery, in a hearing in February said that the 2018 extradition ruling by Judge Emma Arbuthnot had "multiple errors" because she did not take into account all the evidence about the financial status of Kingfisher Airlines.

On Monday, Lord Justice Stephen Irwin and Justice Elisabeth Laing, the two-member bench at the Royal Courts of Justice in London presiding over the appeal, dismissed the appeal in a judgment handed down remotely due to the current coronavirus lockdown.

"We have held there is a prima facie case both of misrepresentation and of conspiracy, and thus there is also a prima facie case of money laundering," the High Court concluded," the judges ruled.

According to sources in Indian agencies investigating the case, Vijay Mallya can appeal against the High Court order in the Supreme Court within 14 days, failing which India will start the extradition process.

"UK Extradition Act permits appeal before Supreme Court only if there is a "significant point of law" to be settled... that too within 14 days period. Even if he chooses for an appeal, it's unlikely to be permitted as there is no significant point of law to be settled in this case. Mallya's extradition is confirmed and sealed," an official said.

Vijay Mallya has repeatedly said that Indian banks can take back 100 per cent of the principal amount owed to them.

"I am saying, please banks take your money. The ED is saying no, we have a claim over these assets. So, the ED on the one side and the banks on the other are fighting over the same assets... What all they are doing to me for the last four years is totally unreasonable," he said in February.

Vijay Mallya's extradition would be a huge win for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has faced pressure from the opposition to bring to justice several people who have fled India in recent years to escape prosecution, many for loan defaults.

Coronavirus Doubling Rate Slows To 6.2 Days From 3 Days Before Lockdown, Says Govt

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The doubling rate of COVID-19 cases in India has dropped to 6.2 days over the past week, as compared to three days before the lockdown was imposed last month, the government said today, adding that there had been a 40 per cent decline in the growth of new cases. The decline is the result of increased testing, including that of patients suffering from SARI (severe acute respiratory illness) and ILI (influenza-like illness), the government added.

The doubling rate of COVID-19 cases in India has dropped to 6.2 days over the past week, as compared to three days before the lockdown was imposed last month, the government said today, adding that there had been a 40 per cent decline in the growth of new cases.

"Before the lockdown, doubling rate of COVID19 cases was about three days, but according to data in the past seven days, the doubling rate of cases now stands at 6.2 days," Lav Aggarwal, a senior Health Ministry official, told reporters during a daily briefing.

Mr Aggarwal also said the rate - the days it takes for the number of novel coronavirus cases to double - in 19 states and union territories was even lower than the national average. These include Kerala (which made the case for an extended isolation period) Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and UP, which are among the worst-hit states in the country.

"We have been witnessing average growth factor at 1.2 since April 1. (This) stood at 2.1 (average) between March 15 - March 31. Therefore, there is a 40 per cent decline in average growth factor even as we increased COVID-19 testing," Mr Aggarawal said.

The government also said recovery rates had improved. The ratio between recovered COVID-19 patients and deaths stands at 80:20, which is higher than several other countries, health ministry officials added.

"A total of 1,749 people (or 13.06 per cent) have been cured. With 1,007 fresh cases reported in the last 24 hours, the total number of cases in the country has reached 13,387. A total of 23 new deaths recorded in the last 24 hours," Mr Aggarwal added.

Internal government assessments had suggested the number of COVID-19 cases in the country could peak in the first week of May, after which it will decline. Sources told NDTV the next week could be crucial, a point highlighted by an increase in testing.

This increased testing will include SARI patients, a senior officer told NDTV; last week the ICMR (Indian Council for Medical Research, the government's nodal body in this crisis) conducted random coronavirus tests on SARI patients and found that more and more people, with no travel or contact history, are testing positive for COVID-19.

The emphasis on increased testing for coronavirus patients comes amid criticism by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who yesterday cautioned the government that a lockdown alone couldn't stop the virus from spreading and aggressive testing was needed.

"In no way does a lockdown defeat the virus. It helps only to stop it for a short while. The only way to do this is to increase testing," he said, adding that testing levels were "too low".

ICMR scientist Dr Raman R Gangakhedkar hit back, pointing out that countries with higher testing rates had significantly smaller population sizes and India was, at present, conducting 24 tests from which one returned positive.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's lockdown - initiated last month and extended to May 3 this week - has also been credited with cutting down the cases. The centre had earlier said that had it not been enforced 8.2 lakh people could have been infected by April 15.

India has reported over 13,000 novel coronavirus cases so far, with 437 deaths linked to the virus. Worldwide COVID-19 has infected over 21.5 lakh and killed 1.44 more.

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