NEWS
19/03/2020 8:19 AM IST | Updated 19/03/2020 8:32 PM IST

AS IT HAPPENED: Prime Minister Modi Speaks On Coronavirus, Calls For 'Janta Curfew'

The Indian government is setting up a COVID-19 economic taskforce. Follow today's latest updates here:

Reuters
Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday night addressed the nation for the time on the coronavirus outbreak and India’s efforts to contain it. He has called on Indians to observe a self-imposed curfew on Sunday, March 22.

A man who had tested positive for the coronavirus died in Punjab on Thursday. He reportedly had a travel history to Italy. This was India’s fourth coronavirus fatality. Earlier this week a 64-year-old man died in Mumbai. 

So far, India has reported 173 cases of COVID-19 — of these, 149 are active, 19 have recovered, 1 has migrated and four have died.

The CBSE and ICSE have postponed class 10 and 12 board exams and said the examination will be rescheduled after March 31. The HRD Ministry’s National Testing Agency (NTA) has postponed the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE-Main) for admission to IITs and engineering colleges.

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Here are the day’s updates:

8 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Speaks On Coronavirus

In his first public remarks on the pandemic, Modi outlined the dangers of the disease, and reminded Indians that no vaccine has yet been developed for it. He elaborated on the importance of social isolation and called for Indians to observe ‘janta curfew’ (people’s curfew) on Sunday, March 22. The Indian government has set up a COVID-19 economic taskforce headed by the finance minister to look into the economic effects of the pandemic. The Prime Minister also appealed to people not to hoard essential items out of panic, and that the government would ensure that these items remained in stock.

5:55 pm: States Being Requested To Enforce Work From Home In Private Sector

5:38 pm: No International Flights Will Land In India From 22 March

NDTV reported that no international commercial flight will be allowed to land in India from March 22 for a week.

 

5.11 pm: Coronavirus Patient Dies In Punjab

A coronavirus patient has died in Punjab taking the death toll in the country to 4. The man reportedly had a travel history to Italy. The last death was a 64-year-old man from Mumbai. 

4.02 pm: Twitter will ban tweets that spread misinformation about coronavirus

Twitter has said it will take renewed action to clamp down on misinformation on the site, requiring people to remove tweets that deny health recommendations or promote ineffective or misleading health claims. 

“As the entire world faces an unprecedented public health emergency, we want to be open about the challenges we are facing and the contingency measures we’re putting in place to serve the public conversation at this critical time,” the company wrote in an updated safety policy. Read more

3.50 pm: More details on HCL Tech employee who tested positive

The employee is currently in an isolation ward, HCL Tech said in a statement quoted by PTI.

“Unfortunately, one employee from our Noida office has been tested positive for the Novel Coronavirus while he was in self-isolation after his return from international travel and hence our office is following all government and heath advisory protocols,” HCL Tech said.

“All other employees are in good health and are being monitored continuously. We have invoked our COVID-19 Contingency Plan in all geographies which aims at maximising Work from Home to aid social distancing and also issued a travel advisory across the company, taking full precautionary measures and suspending all non-essential travel until further notice.“

3.47 pm: Puri temple closed to visitors till March 31

The Shree Jagannath Temple in Puri will be closed for visitors till March 31 with effect from Friday, in view of the coronavirus scare, its chief administrator Krishan Kumar said.

Servitors, however, will be allowed to perform rituals inside the shrine, he told PTI.

3.44 pm: Restrictions on movement, public transport ban in Srinagar

On Thursday, restrictions were imposed on movement of people in several parts of Kashmir Vally and all public transport was banned in Srinagar city.

The area within 300 metres radius of the house of the 67-year-old COVID-19 patient in Khanyar locality has been sealed off and officials of the Health Department are going house to house to check if any of her neighbours have symptoms of the disease, officials told PTI.

3.29 pm: IndiGo CEO announces pay cuts for employees

IndiGo CEO Ronojoy Dutta announced pay cuts for most employees, saying he will himself take a 25% cut in salary.

Dutta said: “With precipitous drop in revenues, the very survival of airline industry now at stake.”

Senior vice presidents and above  are taking a 20% pay cut, while vice presidents and cockpit crew will take a 15% pay cut. 

Meanwhile, SpiceJet says it’s forced to temporarily suspend a majority of its international flights from March 21-April 30. 

3.27 pm: Maharashtra to file case against those who violate home quarantine

Maharashtra home minister has ordered the police to lodge cases against those who violate mandatory home quarantine, PTI reports.

3.25 pm: HCL Tech employee in Noida office tests positive 

HCL Tech says one employee from its Noida office has tested positive for coronavirus, PTI reports.

3.22 pm: Brazil belatedly takes action 

HuffPost Brazil leads on the extraordinary picture of President Jair Bolsonaro and key ministers in masks addressing the media on Wednesday to reveal measures to tackle coronavirus. It comes just days after an unprotected Bolsonaro was pictured giving high-fives and taking selfies with supporters at a demonstration, despite the president being exposed to aides who had tested positive. A joint report with our Brazilian edition reveals the country of 210 million people is repeating the United States’ worst mistakes in dealing with coronavirus. The number of cases in Brazil has passed 100 with the country recording its first death on Wednesday. — James Martin

3.09 pm: Central govt asks 50% staff to work from home

The central government has asked 50% of its staff to work from home and the remaining to attend office, the Personnel Ministry said.

Centre has also ordered staggered working hours for all its employees who attend office.

2.55 pm: Tamil Nadu allows private hospitals and labs to treat and test Coronavirus

Tamil Nadu’s Department of Medical and Rural Health Services’s March 17 circular allows private hospitals in the state to set up isolation wards and treat people suspected to have COVID-19 after proper intimation to the Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine.

Private establishments can request testing of coronavirus serology from accredited testing centres.

2.51 pm: Shut down all towns and cities for 2-4 weeks, says Chidambaram

1.49 pm: Hospitalisation due to coronavirus covered under health insurance, says IRDAI

 Times of India reporter Sushil Rao shared health insurance guidelines released by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India.

1.44 pm: Kejriwal tells Delhi people to work from home 

 

1.21 pm: Punjab to shut down public transport from midnight tomorrow

Indian Express reports that Punjab government has decided to ban public transport in the state including buses, auto-rickshaws and tempos from midnight tomorrow.

The government has also decided to limit public gathering even further from 50 people to 20. 

1.09 pm: Delhi govt announces schools closed till March 31

All schools in Delhi to be closed till March 31 for teaching, non-teaching staff : Delhi govt.

Teachers to do evaluation work for annual exams from home; board exams’ evaluation suspended: Delhi govt

1.06 pm: Mumbai’s Dabbawalas suspend delivery

Dabbawalas in Mumbai have suspended tiffin delivery services till March 31, PTI reports.

1.01pm: Lucknow reports two more cases 

12.57pm: UGC tells universities to postpone exams

The University Grants Commission has told universities to postpone all exams and suspend evaluation work till March 31, PTI reported

12.47 pm: 168 people confirmed coronavirus positive in India, says ICMR

A total of 168 individuals have been confirmed positive among suspected cases and contacts of known positive cases, ICMR said on Thursday.

A total of 13,316 samples from 12,426 individuals have been tested for SARS-CoV2 as of 10 am on March 19, 2020, it said. 

Meanwhile, ICMR chief told NDTV there was no evidence of community transmission in India.

 

12.42 pm : People should stay home, says Uddhav Thackeray

Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray said people shouldn’t step out of their homes and that he had spoke to PM Modi, who assured all help to Maharashtra.

Thackeray spoke on during brief televised address.

 

12.21 pm: ‘Game of Thrones’ star Indira Verma tests positive

Game of Thrones star Indira Varma has revealed that she has tested positive for coronavirus. Her diagnosis comes two days after fellow “Game of Thrones” actor Kristofer Hivju also said that he tested positive for the COVID-19 infection.

Varma, who played the role of Ellaria Sand in the epic HBO series, took to Instagram on Wednesday to share the news.

 

12.18 pm: Laundry staff at Maharashtra hospital refuses to wash clothes from isolation ward

Laundry service staff at a government medical college in Yavatmal refused to wash clothes from the isolation ward which has three Covid-19 patients and another four under observation, PTI reported

The ward staff on Monday gave the isolation ward clothes like bedsheets, curtains etc for cleaning to the ‘dhobi’, who also washes clothes of other wards.

However, people responsible for cleaning the clothes refused to wash the clothes belonging to isolation ward fearing infection from them.

12.16 pm: Another patient in Karnataka, total 15 in state

 A fresh novel coronavirus case was reported in Karnataka on Thursday, taking the total number of infections to 15 in the State, Health Minister B Sriramulu said.

This is the first COVID-19 infection confirmed in Kodagu, he said.

“This person had returned from Saudi Arabia after a trip. He has been admitted in a designated isolated hospital for treatment and observation,” the Minister tweeted.

12.11 pm: Chhattisgarh reports first case 

12.05 pm: Karnataka will stamp passengers to identify people to be quarantined

 Indian Express reporter Ralph Alec Arakal says:

11.53 am:  Religious leaders cooperating in controlling crowd, says Kerala CM

Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan said that the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council has issued a circular to control crowd in churches while the Kozhikode Pattalam mosque committee had said that Jumuah prayers in the mosque will be temporarily stopped.

Religious organisations in Pathanamthitta have decided no more than ten people will be allowed to enter any worship centre while Kodungallur temple authorities said they would take steps to reduce crowds at the temple’s Bharani festival, Mathrubhumi reported.

11.49 am: 25 million jobs could be lost worldwide, says UN agency

Nearly 25 million jobs could be lost worldwide due to the coronavirus pandemic, but an internationally coordinated policy response can help lower the impact on global unemployment, according to a UN agency.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has called for urgent, large-scale and coordinated measures across three pillars - protecting workers in the workplace, stimulating the economy and employment, and supporting jobs and incomes. The ILO said these measures include extending social protection, supporting employment retention (i.e short-time work, paid leave, other subsidies), and financial and tax relief, including for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

11.25 am: Swiggy and Zomato begin contactless delivery

Food delivery services Swiggy and Zomato have started contactless delivery on online orders in which delivery partners will the food outside the door on a clean surface.

 

11.01 am: Case against two Maharashtra doctors for claiming to cure coronavirus

10.53 am: No positive results among 826 samples tested for far, says ICMR

ICMR says it has been testing random samples to rule out community transmission in India. Of 826 samples tested so far, none are positive, the council told ANI.

Yogesh Jain, co-founder of Jan Swasthya Sahyog, wrote in The Caravan that the ICMR had not disclosed crucial information about these samples “without which it is difficult to accept its conclusion at face value.”

“For instance, there is no clarity on the nature of these samples taken by the ICMR. It is unclear whether they represent an adequate sampling of cases that were likely to be the COVID disease. Similarly, it is also unclear whether the samples comprise an adequate sample size,” he says.

10.49 am: ICSE class 10 and 12 exams postponed

The ICSE board has postponed class 10 and 12 examinations due to the novel coronavirus threat, Chief Executive Gerry Arathoon said on Thursday.

10.32 am: Chandigarh reports its first Coronavirus case

The Chandigarh health department confirmed the city’s first positive case of coronavirus on Wednesday night, Indian Express reported. The patient, a 23-year-old woman who returned from England on Sunday, has been admitted to the isolation ward at the Government Medical College and Hospital in Sector 32. 

10.18 am: Two more patients in Mumbai, total 47 in Maharashtra 

9.59 am: Total 155 trains cancelled by Railways

Railways has cancelled 84 more trains taking total number to 155, officials told PTI. The trains will remain cancelled from March 20-31 in view of coronavirus outbreak.

All passengers having tickets in cancelled trains are being informed about it individually, railway officials said.

9.44 am: Tamil Nadu launches portal for self-reporting

The Tamil Nadu Health Department has launched a web portal http://stopcoronatn.in for all information on COVID-19 in the state. The website also has a tab for people to self report.

According to The NewsMinute, people with travel history or symptoms of COVID-19 can use the portal to inform authorities about their condition and a 24x7 control room will get in touch with them.

9.40 am: Kashmir Valley records first case

The Kashmir Valley has recorded its first case of covid-19 in Srinagar, mayor of Srinagar Municipal Corporation Junaid Azim Mattu said.

9.32 am: Amazon confirms first known coronavirus case in U.S. warehouse

A worker at an Amazon warehouse in Queens, New York, has tested positive for COVID-19, The Atlantic reported on Wednesday. It’s believed to be the first confirmed coronavirus case in an Amazon warehouse in the U.S.  

Earlier, two office workers at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters tested positive for the disease.

As The Atlantic noted, the new warehouse case is the “realisation of a major threat to Amazon’s operations. Millions of people across the nation are cloistered inside their homes, many of them relying on the company to provide basic goods. Amazon is already struggling to meet demand, and some employees feel they’re being unfairly endangered by working in warehouses filled with other workers.” — Dominique Mosbergen

9.17 am: 166 patients in India, says health ministry’s latest update

Health ministry
Coronavirus patients in India

 

9.06 am: Tamil Nadu’s 2nd coronavirus patient has no history of travel abroad

NDTV reports that the man who tested in Chennai, the second patient in Tamil Nadu, does not have history of travel abroad.

The man had, however, travelled to Delhi.

A senior officer from the Department of Public Health and Medicine told NDTV, “In Delhi, this man had come in contact with a person with foreign travel history. Only when many such people report we can call it community transmission.” 

8.53am: Bengal BJP defends local member as volunteer falls ill after drinking cow urine at his programme

Narayan Chatterjee, a BJP worker in North Kolkata, was arrested on Tuesday night after a volunteer who consumed cow urine at his cow worship programme fell ill, PTI reported.

The volunteer had lodged a complaint with the police against Chatterjee who had claimed cow urine would protect people from coronavirus or cure those already infected.

Defending Chatterjee, state BJP General Secretary Sayantan Basu said: “Chatterjee had distributed cow urine, but he didn’t fool people in consuming it. When he distributed it he clearly said it was cow urine, he didn’t force anyone to drink it. It has not been proved whether it is harmful or not.

“So how can just police arrest him without any reason. This is completely undemocratic,” state BJP General Secretary Sayantan Basu said.

West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh has said there is no harm in drinking cow urine and he has no qualms in admitting he consumes it. 

8.39 am: ICSE exams not postponed

The ICSE board exams for classes 10 and 12 have not been postponed and will be held as per schedule, board chief executive and secretary Gerry Arathoon told PTI.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on Wednesday postponed ongoing class 10, 12 examinations till March 31. The Ministry of Human Resource Development had directed all educational institutions in the country to do the same.

8.34 am: Two US Congressman test positive

Two US lawmakers were confirmed positive of the coronavirus as the number of deaths due to the deadly virus crossed 150 in America, while about 10,000 people have been infected.

Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart from Florida became the first American lawmaker to have tested positive for the coronavirus, PTI reported.

Democratic Congressman Ben McAdams said he developed mild cold-like symptoms last Saturday and he has now tested positive for the virus.

8.27 am: Modi chairs meet to review efforts against coronavirus

Modi chaired a high-level meeting to review the ongoing efforts to contain COVID-19.  

‪According to PIB’s press release, Modi emphasised on actively engaging with individuals, local communities and organisations in chalking our mechanisms to fight the COVID-19 menace. He also urged officials and technical experts to deliberate on the steps to be taken next. ‬

8.11 am: No new domestic cases in China

China on Thursday reported no new domestic cases of the coronavirus for the first time since it started recording them in January, but recorded a spike in infections imported from abroad.

There were 34 cases that were brought in from abroad, the biggest daily increase in two weeks, according to the National Health Commission, AFP reported.

8.03 am: 8 new cases in Telangana

The number of coronavirus cases in Telangana reached 13 with a group of seven Indonesians and a youth, who returned from Scotland, testing positive for the virus on Wednesday.

A special media bulletin on COVID-19 issued by the state government late Wednesday night stated that seven Indonesians, who came for religious activity, tested positive.

The Indonesians have been kept in isolation since March 16, the bulletin said. The Indonesians visited Karimnagar in the state and the administration has initiated measures to identify those who came in contact with them.

7.53 am: India’s travel ban

The Home Ministry on Wednesday said India has temporarily banned entry of passengers from 36 countries while people travelling from 11 countries will be mandatorily quarantined in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The government on Tuesday had banned the entry of passengers from Afghanistan, Philippines and Malaysia to India with immediate effect, according to an additional travel advisory.

This instruction is a temporary measure and shall be in force till March 31 and will be reviewed subsequently.

The government has also banned the entry of passengers from the European Union countries, Turkey and the UK from March 18 till March 31.

7.49 am: Anti-viral drugs used for 3 Maharashtra patients

At least in three cases of Covid-19 in Maharashtra, two anti-HIV drugs were given to the coronavirus-affected patients, said a health official on Wednesday.

“The treatment is based on the seriousness of the patient. Out of 42 positive cases, in three cases, these two drugs, lopinavir and ritonavir, have been used,” Archana Patil, Directorate of Health Services said

7.42 am: Italy death toll spikes

Italy on Wednesday reported 475 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, the highest one-day official toll of any nation since the first case was detected in China late last year.

Total deaths in Italy have reached 2,978, more than half of all the cases recorded outside China, while the number of infections stood at 35,713. The previous record high of 368 deaths was also recorded in Italy, on Sunday.

The country has now recorded 34.2% of all the deaths officially attributed to COVID-19 across the world, according to AFP.

Worldwide fatalities topped 8,000 and more deaths have now been recorded in Europe, the new virus epicentre, than in Asia since the outbreak first emerged in China in December.