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Mumbai May Have Escaped Worst Of Cyclone Nisarga, Wind Speed Slows Down

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Severe cyclonic storm Nisarga - the second to strike India in two weeks - made landfall on the Maharashtra coast near Alibaugh at around 1 pm. The storm is expected to weaken into a cyclone in a few hours. With wind speeds slowing down, coronavirus-hit Mumbai may have escaped the worst of the tropical storm. No damage has been reported from the financial capital where movement of people is restricted in public places like beaches, parks and promenades along the coastline till tomorrow afternoon. Flight operations have been suspended at the city's Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport till 7 pm. Besides Maharashtra, Gujarat, Daman and Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli were put on high alert due to the cyclone that developed over a low pressure area over the Arabian Sea.

Here are top 10 developments on Cyclone Nisarga:

1. Tropical storm Nisarga made landfall this afternoon near Alibaug, a popular getaway about 100 km from Mumbai, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) chief SN Pradhan tweeted, along with some dramatic clips that show trees swaying, electricity poles toppling amid strong winds and heavy rain. Very strong winds uprooted trees near the beach, blocking roads.

2. An important setting in colonial history, Alibaug reported wind speed of 93 km per hour this afternoon. The tropical storm - likely to weaken into a cyclone in the next six hours - crossed the coast with wind speeds of 100-110 km per hour, gusting up to 120 km per hour, the weather department said.

3. Forty-three teams of National Disaster Response Force or NDRF have been deployed in areas expected to be affected along Maharashtra and Gujarat coasts. One NDRF team consists of 45 personnel. "The evacuation is nearly complete. Those in shelters are being trained for life skills and social distancing is being ensured. All preparations are in order. Let's hope we safely ride through the cyclone," NDRF chief SN Pradhan said in a video message this afternoon.

4. In Maharashtra, more than 40,000 people have been moved to safety, news agency PTI reported. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday appealed to the people of the state to "stay indoors" for two days. "The cyclone could be more severe than the ones the state has faced till now," Mr Thackeray said. With over 70,000 COVID-19 cases, the state is the worst-hit in the country by the pandemic.

5. Mumbai's civic body Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has put out a list of dos and don'ts for citizens, urging them to stay away from windows, check for gas leaks and keep mobile phones charged. "Dial 1916 and Press 4 for any cyclone-related questions. Ignore rumours, stay calm, don't panic," the BMC said. The Banda-Worli sea link in the city has been closed for traffic and rescue teams are on standy near coasts.

6. A storm surge - as high as two metres (three to 6.5 feet) above the astronomical tide - was predicted by the IMD. The weather department predicted heavy rain and flooding in Mumbai, Thane, Pune and Palghar.

7. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's Office (CMO) on Tuesday listed some of the measures that were being taken. These included evacuating those staying in thatched huts. Non-COVID-19 hospitals have been instructed to prepare for any medical emergencies. The state is also taking measures in case of breaks in electricity supply and to secure the nuclear power plant in Palghar district.

8. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday tweeted: "Took stock of the situation in the wake of cyclone conditions in parts of India's western coast. Praying for everyone's well-being. I urge people to take all possible precautions and safety measures (sic)". In a tweet, his office later said that PM Modi spoke to Maharashtra Chief Minster Uddhav Thackeray, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, assuring all possible help from the centre.

9. The civil aviation regulator - Directorate General of Civil Aviation or DGCA - on Tuesday cautioned airlines about the dangers of operating during monsoon and stormy conditions. Air and rail traffic has been disrupted due to the storm.

10. Cyclone Nisarga is the second to strike India's coasts in nearly two weeks. Last month Cyclone Amphan, one of the worst storms to have formed over the Bay of Bengal in recent years, struck Bengal and parts of Odisha, killing nearly 100 people and affecting lakhs. Bengal Chief Minister estimated the damage done at ?1 lakh crore.

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Coronavirus crisis: Delhi govt releases app to track empty hospital beds, ventilators

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Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal launched an app on Tuesday that would help people find how many beds are vacant in which hospital. Kejriwal while addressing a press conference said that the Delhi government has made adequate arrangements for coronavirus patients in terms of facilities and equipment available. "We have been telling you that the Delhi government has made adequate arrangements for COVID-19 patients - in terms of the number of hospitals, beds in there, the ICU facility in those hospitals and how many ventilators are there," he said.

The Chief Minister acknowledged that there is an information gap. People have told the government that they could not find any bed in the hospitals, he said. "This app will fill that gap," said Kejriwal, adding that it will furnish information on beds in both private and government hospitals. There are still beds vacant, he added.

One can also check the number of ventilators. "Total 302 ventilators are available in Delhi, of which 210 are vacant. All this information will be updated on this app twice a day, 10 am and 6 pm," said the CM.

CM Kejriwal said that the app can be accessed on the internet as well.  One can also call on helpline number 1031 for information on hospitals and beds. "They will send you an SMS with the status of bed availability in Delhi hospitals," he said.

The Chief Minister said that in case the app shows vacancy in a hospital but they refuse to admit the patient, then one can call on 1031. He said that the Special Secretary would then get in touch with the hospital and help in availing a bed.

"Number of cases in Delhi are increasing, but there's no need to worry about medical care for coronavirus patients as we have made sufficient arrangements. If any member of your family tests positive, then they'll get the required medical services," said Kejriwal.

CM Kejriwal however urged people to not opt for hospitalisation if the doctor has asked them to rest at home.

Delhi eased the restrictions on Monday following the new guidelines by MHA even as cases are on the rise in the national capital. The Delhi government allowed shops, markets and salons to open but sealed inter-state borders for a week. According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Delhi has 20,834 cases with 523 deaths and 11,565 active cases. A total of 8,746 people have been discharged.

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Himachal Pradesh Extends Lockdown Till June 30

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The Himachal Pradesh government has extended the lockdown to control coronavirus in the state for another five weeks. An order from the BJP government led by Jai Ram Thakur, said the lockdown will continue till June 30 in all 12 districts of the state.

The hill state has so far recorded 214 cases of coronavirus, of which 63 patients recovered and five died. The district of Hamirpur has over one-fourth of the total cases in Himachal Pradesh.

While Hamirpur has reported 63 cases so far, Solan has 21.

The lockdown extension in the state comes as the rest of the country eased lockdown restrictions and the Centre re-started air travel.

So far, only Maharashtra -- which has the highest number of cases in the country -- has spoken of extending the lockdown.

The deadline for the countrywide lockdown is May 31. The government has extended it thrice since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the countrywide lockdown on March 25.

In April, the Chief Minister had supported the extension of the countrywide lockdown. He had made his views known during to the Prime Minister during his video call with the Chief Ministers.

But he had also supported the re-opening of economic activities in the state, especially in the green zones, which has no or minimum cases of coronavirus.

The state has implemented a programme for aggressive testing of influenza like diseases, which leave its patients vulnerable to the coronavirus.

The Active Case Finding or ACF campaign -- which helped screen the entire population of the state for any influenza like illness (ILI) symptoms -- was even lauded by PM Modi.

The state had also tested all ILI patients for coronavirus, pressing in a huge team of 16,000 officials and healthcare workers for a door-to-door campaign.

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States Planning For Lockdown 4, Starting Monday: 10 Points

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Allowing public transportation, including metro services and flights, and restarting economic activity in non-containment zones were among the proposals sent by states to the Prime Minister's Office, as the centre draws up plans for a phased exit from the nationwide lockdown. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a six-hour video call with several chief ministers and asked for states' input on this matter. Lockdown 4.0 will seek to project "normalcy on the ground". The current lockdown - the third since it was enforced on March 25 - is scheduled to end on Sunday. It will be extended again, given the steep rise in the number of cases, but, with red flags over the condition of the economy, further relaxations in economic activity are likely. Across India coronavirus cases jumped by 3,976 in the past 24 hours, with 100 deaths reported in that time. The total number of cases in the country has crossed 81,000, with 2,649 deaths linked to the virus.

Here are the top 10 points in this big story:

1. A number of states, including Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat and national capital Delhi, have suggested reopening large swathes of the economy and society closed during earlier lockdown phases. Andhra, for example, has proposed resuming all economic and public activities in non-containment areas. The southern state has 2,137 COVID-19 cases according to Home Ministry data and 11,422 people in quarantine.

2. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, addressing the media on Thursday after receiving feedback from residents, said some economic activities should be allowed in Delhi except in containment zones. He called for the lifting of more curbs in Delhi - all of which has been designated a "red zone" to suggest a high-concentration of cases.

3. Kerala - a state that relies heavily on tourism for revenue - wants metro services, local trains, domestic flights, restaurants and hotels to be re-opened. The state, which reported India's first three coronavirus cases, has made remarkable strides in flattening the infection curve - of 560 reported cases, nearly 500 have been cured and only four deaths have been reported. This makes the state's request feasible, an official said.

4. Karnataka, which has also done well to contain the viral outbreak, has asked the centre for permission to re-open restaurants, hotels and gymnasiums - public spaces closed weeks ago to encourage social distancing and check the virus' spread. Karnataka has 959 active coronavirus cases, per Home Ministry data, with a further 1,518 in isolation. Last week it allowed pubs and bars to sell liquor, on takeaway basis "till May 17".

5. Tamil Nadu has also asked for economic activity to be re-started except in containment zones. The request is likely to be viewed with caution, given the state has registered a massive surge in COVID-19 cases over the past few days. A vegetable market in state capital Chennai has been linked to more than 2,600 cases. The ruling AIADMK has, however, said it has managed to identify zones where the virus is spreading rapidly. 4,623 people are in quarantine in the state that, from Monday, announced major relaxations, including extension of working hours for shops and private establishments.

6. Gujarat, which has 9,591 cases and has reported 586 deaths, wants to resume all economic activity in all major urban centres. This comes despite a heavy caseload in cities like Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara, with three accounting for 80 per cent of the state's cases; Ahmedabad alone accounts for 70 per cent of that figure, according to Home Ministry data. Sources say the centre is worried about the situation in Gujarat, where as many as 2,08,537 people are still in quarantine

7. Maharashtra - the state most badly affected - is reluctant to open up too much of the economy or too many offices. With nearly 30,000 cases and over 1,000 deaths, the state government today announced an extension of the lockdown in Mumbai and other parts; Mumbai, widely regarded as India's financial capital, has nearly 16,000 cases on its own. The ruling Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government, however, has announced major sops for industries. With 1,289 and counting, the state also has the maximum number of containment zones of any other. It also has close to three lakh people in quarantine, raising fears over already-stressed healthcare infrastructure.

8. Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha have gone the other way, with all three states asking for the strict lockdown to continue. COVID-19 case numbers in these states are climbing, and are set to climb even further, with the return of migrants stranded across the country. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has made it clear the lockdown in his state will be extended to May 31. He also said relaxation of guidelines should be left to district administrations. Bihar has 994 cases and seven deaths, Jharkhand has 197 cases and three deaths and Odisha has 611 cases and three deaths.

9. Uttar Pradesh is also likely to present a big challenge for the centre, with the populous state reporting 3,902 positive cases and 88 deaths, so far. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's government also has 2.3 lakh people in quarantine or isolation. Punjab's COVID-19 numbers have also swollen in recent days, with 1,935 reported cases, 32 deaths and nearly 40,000 in quarantine. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is among those who asked for an extension of the lockdown, stating during the meeting with PM Modi that "we must have strong lockdown. I will ensure a curfew".

10. Assam has also called for an extension of the lockdown. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who also indicated that it was up to the centre to take a decision on this matter, was quoted by news agency ANI: "Let Government of India take a view because it is not a single step... many steps have to be considered".

Will Lockdown 4.0 be last?

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Don't Have Enough Forces To Control Violence: Delhi Cops To Home Ministry

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Delhi Police today told the Union Home Ministry - to whom it reports - that it does not have adequate forces to control the horrific violence that has hit parts of northeast Delhi and claimed the lives of at least nine people, including a policeman.

This is in direct contradiction to the ministry's position that the numbers of on-ground forces are adequate and additional deployment, including that of the army, is not needed.

"The non-availability of adequate forces was conveyed by Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik in this meeting with the top brass," a senior cop told today, adding that this had led to escalation of violence in areas like Maujpur, Jaffrabad, Chandbagh, Bhajanpura and Gokulpuri, where Head Constable Ratan Lal was shot dead on yesterday.

Delhi Police also told the Home Ministry they had deployed one battalion (containing around 1,000 personnel) of armed police in violence-hit areas.

A second official said police had also been provided with a total of 35 companies of paramilitary forces, but 20 of these had been given in the last 72 hours with a view to enhance security for US President Donald Trump's visit.

Responding to the violence, Amit Shah and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal met Monday night. According to Mr Kejriwal, the minister assured police support to end the violence.

The Home Ministry praised cops for showing "maximum restraint" and said borders were being monitored to prevent the entry of "outsiders". Appealing for calm, the ministry also said "peace committees" would be formed and senior police officers would monitor from control rooms.

The situation is under control, the Home Ministry said.

Horrific and unrelenting violence consumed northeast Delhi on Monday, leaving at least seven people dead and over a 100 injured. Shops were burnt and goons and miscreants armed with sticks and rods rampaged through the streets of the Bhajanpura, Chandbagh and Karawal Nagar areas, among others.

Government sources have said the violence appeared to have been "orchestrated" by some for publicity as it comes at a time when US President Donald Trump is visiting the country.

Mr Trump, who is making his first official visit to India, is expected to raise the issue of religious freedom in the country during his talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi today.

Fresh violence hit the affected areas this morning.

In Maujpur, where more stone throwing has been reported, a group of people travelling in an e-rickshaw were thrashed and looted of their valuables. Stone-throwing has also been reported from the Kardampuri area, where, according to news agency IANS, locals said four bullets were fired by an unidentified person.

"The situation is very tense. We are continuously receiving calls related to incidents of violence from northeast Delhi," Delhi Police said in a statement.

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