Coronavirus originated in China, has spread to over 140 countries across the globe in two months.
India has reported a sharp increase in total number of coronavirus or COVID-19 cases, which crossed the 200-mark this morning with nearly 30 fresh cases. Four people from Delhi, Karnataka, Punjab and Maharashtra have died in the last two weeks. The spread of the highly infectious disease has prompted the centre to escalate measures to fight COVID-19 - declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation - which originated in China and has claimed around 10,000 lives across the globe. The number of coronavirus cases in the country includes more than 30 foreign nationals, including 17 from Italy, three from the Philippines, two from the UK, one each from Canada, Indonesia and Singapore.
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Across the country, schools, colleges, theatres, malls and shopping areas have been shut down in large parts. In Delhi, schools, malls have been temporarily shut, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has said. The national capital has so far reported 18 cases. All offices in Mumbai and a few other cities in Maharashtra - that has reported maximum COVID-19 cases in India (48 - will be closed till March 31.
In a televised address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi last night called for social distancing, urging people to avoid stepping out of their homes "unless absolutely necessary". He also appealed to citizens to observe a "Janata curfew" this Sunday as a test run for social distancing over the next few days.
The government on Thursday advised citizens above 65 to stay at home unless they are public representatives or doctors or government employees. People have been advised to keep children below 10 at home. No international flights will be allowed to land in India from Sunday for a week, the centre said.
A special task force will be formed by the government to analyse the effects of the global pandemic coronavirus on the nation's economy and advise on steps to reduce the financial strain, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, he said, would lead the Covid-19 Economic Response Task Force. Indian shares gave up early gains on Friday to fall for a fifth straight session, as the pandemic shuts down much of the world and policymakers across the globe launched fresh efforts to stem the economic fallout of the outbreak.
India reported its fourth death linked to COVID-19 on Thursday. A 70-year-old man, who had travelled to Germany, died in Punjab. The other deaths were reported from Delhi, Karnataka and Maharashtra. All four of them were above 60.
Indian Railways has taken several steps to curb spread of novel coronavirus. The measures include raising platform ticket prices, cancelling non-essential trains and apprising passengers on public address systems about ways to avoid the viral infection.
In Andhra Pradesh, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam Board has decided to close the famous Lord Venkateswara Swamy or Balaji to devotees temple as a precautionary measure to control the spread of coronavirus. This comes days after Maharashtra government announced shutting down of Mumbai's famous Siddhivinayak Temple amid virus scare.
India on Thursday evacuated over 90 citizens stranded at Singapore's Changi Airport due to the travel restrictions imposed by the government back home in response to the fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic. Thousands of citizens are stranded abroad in countries affected by the pandemic.
India remains at Stage 2 of the outbreak, which means the spread is through local transmission, which can be traced. The health ministry said there is no evidence of community transmission yet, in which it is hard to tell how the patient contracted the virus.
Millions of people could die from the new coronavirus, particularly in poor countries, if it is allowed to spread unchecked, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Thursday, appealing for a coordinated global response to the pandemic. "If we let the virus spread like wildfire -- especially in the most vulnerable regions of the world -- it would kill millions of people," Mr Guterres said.