Virus death toll nears 200, positive cases swell to about 6,500

Authorities beef up surveillance and enforcement measures to contain spread of virus; States to take a final decision on extension of lockdown

New Delhi: From making masks mandatory to restricting movement of people in areas identified as COVID-19 hotspots, authorities across several States on Thursday beefed up surveillance and enforcement measures to contain the deadly virus outbreak as the nationwide tally of confirmed cases neared 6,500 with at least 196 dead.The Centre also announced a Rs 15,000 crore “India Covid-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package”, while Odisha became the first State to extend the lockdown further till April 30 and also announced closure of schools till June 17.Several other States including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh said they will take a final decision in the coming days on whether to extend or not the 21-day nationwide lockdown, which entered its 16th day.Fresh cases were reported from Gujarat, Bihar, Odisha, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan and West Bengal, among other places, while Maharashtra saw its tally of confirmed infections nearing 1,300 with at least 72 deaths.
Nearly 600 have so far been cured and discharged.However, the Union Home Ministry’s evening update said at least 169 people have died across the country with 5,865 total cases so far. The Ministry said 591 new cases and 20 deaths have been reported in the last 24 hours. Of the 20 deaths reported in the last 24 hours, eight were from Maharashtra, three each from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, two from Jammu & Kashmir and one each from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, as per the Ministry.Maharashtra has reported the highest number of COVID-19 deaths at 72, followed by Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh with each recording 16 deaths and Delhi at nine. Punjab and Tamil Nadu have reported eight fatalities each while Telangana has recorded seven deaths.According to ICMR, India is also in the final stages of finalising protocol for conducting clinical trial on convalescent plasma therapy — a process in which blood plasma from a patient who has recovered from COVID-19 is infused into a critically ill patient so that the specific antibodies present in the blood of the recovered person can help fight the infection.Amid rising numbers across States, authorities announced strict measures to enforce the lockdown and further restrictions including complete sealing of areas identified as hotspots of the virus spread.After extending the lockdown for two more weeks, Odisha government also promulgated an ordinance with provision of imprisonment up to two years for those who violate the epidemic regulations.Rajasthan also made it mandatory for people to wear masks in urban areas and mandis, while the same was made compulsory in various cities of Maharashtra besides Mumbai. Delhi and Uttar Pradesh had announced similar measures on Wednesday.Also, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh expanded the list of containment zones that would be sealed off completely, after similar steps taken by Delhi and Uttar Pradesh a day before.The Maharashtra government is also mulling complete shutdown in certain areas, including of markets.In Karnataka, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa said all his Cabinet colleagues are of unanimous opinion to extend the lockdown for about 15 days after April 14, and a final decision in this regard will be taken after consulting the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to interact with all Chief Ministers on Saturday to discuss the way forward in the Covid-19 fight, including the lockdown.

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