Biggest daily jump in cases as coronavirus spread worry intensifies
The cases of the new coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in India rose to 107, with 23 more people testing positive for the infection on Sunday as the country recorded its highest single-day jump from a day before, while the central and state governments ramped up measures to avoid community transmission of the outbreak.
At least four other people — two in Maharashtra, and one each in Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh — were diagnosed with the illness in preliminary tests, which, if confirmed, will take the total infections to 111 in the country.
Experts have previously warned that the number of cases in the country is likely to surge as authorities keep a close watch on at least 4,000 people who came in contact with those infected. About 45,000 more are under community surveillance and the figure is expected to rise as more patients are confirmed.
Experts say that if a more stringent pre-emptive lockdown is not enforced across the country, the public health system could struggle with an exponential spike in the number of patients. Among other measures, they have called for an aggressive ramping up of testing to stave off the deadly infection, pointing out that the current capacity to screen people may prove to be inadequate in case of a sudden surge in infections, even as “self distancing” remained key.
“Social distancing is one of the best-known measures to reduce virus transmission. The virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets... By maintaining a distance, we can reduce the virus transmission,” the World Health Organization (WHO)’s South East Asia Region director Poonam Khetrapal Singh told Hindustan Times.
Maharashtra, which reported 17 new infections on Sunday, now has the most number of Covid-19 cases in the country at 31. It is followed by Kerala, which recorded three new cases on Sunday, taking its total to 22. The remaining new Covid-19 cases were reported in Telangana (2) and Rajasthan (1).
Special secretary at the Union ministry of health Sanjeeva Kumar said: “Twenty-three new cases have been detected since the last update... there are now 107 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country.”
India saw a sharp rise in infections in the first two weeks of this month, an over 35-fold increase from March 1, when there were just three confirmed cases in the country. The developments prompted the Union government to declare Covid-19 a “notified disaster” on Saturday to free up resources and funds to tackle the contagion that has been termed a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The outbreak, which has infected over 160,000 people and killed at least 6,000 globally, originated in China late last year but rapidly spread to at least 142 countries and territories. The epicentre of the contagion has since shifted to Europe, with Italy bearing the brunt of the virus’s spread and recording the second-highest number of deaths (at least 1,800) and cases (more than 21,000) after China. Iran and South Korea are the other worst-affected countries.
Though most patients in India appear to have contracted the disease in foreign countries, authorities are working on a war footing to avoid community transmission of Covid-19, which was among the primary reasons for the rapid spread of the illness in Italy, Iran and South Korea. On Sunday, India’s apex biomedical research body, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), began its second batch of random testing of samples to keep a track of the outbreak in the country.
The confirmed 107 cases in India include 17 foreigners — 16 Italian tourists and a Canadian national — and the two deaths in Delhi and Karnataka.
In Maharashtra, 15 people in Pune were diagnosed with the disease, five in the country’s financial capital Mumbai, four in Nagpur, two in Yavatmal and one each in Thane, Kalyan, Kamothe, Navi Mumbai and Ahmednagar. Two other cases — in Pune and Aurangabad — were yet to be confirmed, according to state officials.
With the state activating laws that give it special powers to quarantine and impose a lockdown among other measures, the Mumbai Police on Sunday invoked Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code to prohibit tour operators from organising any gatherings till March 31. Pune, too, is considering similar measures to limit the spread of the virus.
More states, including Assam, Uttarakhand and Tamil Nadu, on Sunday ordered the closure of schools and public areas such as cinema halls and malls.
India has already suspended most visas to the country and shut many land borders with neighbouring countries in a wide-reaching attempt to tackle the outbreak.
Extending the restrictions, the Centre suspended travel through the Kartarpur Corridor for pilgrimage to the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan from Sunday midnight. It further barred movement of all passengers to the neighbouring country through international border points.
On Sunday, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan reviewed containment measures taken by states and Union territories and directed officials to scale up the capacity of round-the-clock helpline to address people’s queries, according to a statement.
The government has also asked Indian nationals to avoid all non-essential travel abroad and advised all incoming international passengers to monitor their health and consider self-isolation as a precaution.
Several countries have imposed bans on mass gatherings, cancelled or delayed sporting events as medical experts across the world have urged people to practice “social distancing”. France and Spain on Sunday joined Italy in imposing lockdowns on tens of millions of people, Australia ordered self-isolation of arriving foreigners and other countries extended entry bans as the world sought to contain the spreading virus.