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Home Minister Amit Shah met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday, a day after he spoke to various Chief Ministers and asked for feedback on the nationwide lockdown, which is now in its fourth phase. Sources said the PM and Mr Shah spoke about possibly extending the shutdown beyond Sunday and how to restart economic activity amid a steady spurt in virus cases.
The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the Railways to provide "shramik" special trains for migrants as and when state governments ask for one. The court also said stranded migrants should not be asked to pay fares and that they must be give food and water as long as they were on board. The court's intervention came amid a huge political battle between the centre and a few opposition-ruled states over the plight of migrant labourers left stranded by the lockdown.
Data from the Johns Hopkins University in the United States on Thursday showed India is now the ninth most-affected country by the coronavirus pandemic, crossing Turkey which has reported 1,60,979 cases. According to the data, India has also surpassed China in number of deaths; China has reported 4,638 dead as of Friday morning.
Maharashtra remains the worst-affected state in the country with nearly 60,000 cases and 1,982 deaths so far. State capital Mumbai, regarded as the financial capital of India, is the worst-affected metro with over 35,000 confirmed cases. Lockdown relaxation measures are expected to be announced over the next few days, but these are unlikely to include Mumbai, where 1,467 new cases and 38 deaths were reported on Thursday.
Tamil Nadu, the second most-affected state, reported 827 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, a second consecutive day of record spike in numbers. Overall, the state has 19,372 COVID-19 cases and has reported 145 deaths. Of the new cases reported on Thursday, 559 were from state capital Chennai and 117 were people returning from other states, including Maharashtra. Also among the new cases are five who flew by a private airline from Chennai to Salem on Wednesday; 51 people have been quarantined as a result, authorities said. This comes days after domestic air travel was re-started.
Deaths linked to the novel coronavirus in Delhi are set to surge after the Safdarjung Hospital reported 99 more fatalities. The hospital had reported only four deaths till May 26, the Delhi government said. Doctors said the fresh figures included deaths from co-morbidities. The under-reporting came to light after cremation grounds in the national capital sent a list of 426 COVID-19 deaths to the state government, according to whom, the official number is only 316.
Meanwhile, Haryana will "completely seal" all borders with Delhi except for essential services, state Home Minister Anil Vij said Thursday, amid concerns of the COVID-19 virus spreading as people travel from the capital. The order comes two weeks after the Delhi High Court directed the state government to allow those involved in essential services to travel freely; the court had been told the borders had been shut even to doctors and health workers.
Over 45,000 Indians stranded abroad after international flights were grounded have been brought back home under the "Vande Bharat Mission". A further 100,000 are expected to be repatriated till June 13, the Ministry of External Affairs said in an online briefing Thursday. Two phases of the repatriation mission have been conducted so far - the first was from May 7 to 15 and the second was from May 16 to 22. More than three lakh Indians have registered for repatriation.
The number of COVID-19 deaths in the US has crossed the 1 lakh-mark, news agency AFP said, quoting figures by Johns Hopkins. The total cases in the worst-affected country have crossed 17 lakh, the report added. Meanwhile, as Europe limps back to a measure of normalcy, Brazil recorded most daily deaths in the world for a fifth straight day on Wednesday, pushing its total to 24,512 and number of cases to nearly four lakh.
A coronavirus vaccine is possible by December or January 2021, Anthony Fauci, Director of the US' National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was quoted in a report by news agency Reuters. "If all the cards fall into the right place and all the stars are aligned, you definitely could get a vaccine by December or January," he said.
With input from PTI, AFP, Reuters