India fights coronavirus on war footing as it records second death

The latest victim was identified as a 68-year-old woman who is believed to have been infected by the coronavirus (Sars-Cov-2) after being in close contact with her son, who had travelled to Switzerland and Italy last month.
Workers clean entry gates at Rajeev Chowk metro station in the wake of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.(PTI Photo)
Workers clean entry gates at Rajeev Chowk metro station in the wake of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.(PTI Photo)
Updated on Mar 14, 2020 01:00 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByHT Correspondents

India recorded its second coronavirus disease (Covid-19) fatality on Friday as the pandemic continued to spread in the country, sickening seven more people and forcing more states to order restrictions on businesses, educational institutions and public gathering even as authorities faced new challenges in keeping people from potentially infecting others.

The latest victim was identified as a 68-year-old woman who is believed to have been infected by the coronavirus (Sars-Cov-2) after being in close contact with her son, who had travelled to Switzerland and Italy last month. The two were hospitalised at Ram Manohar Lohia on March 7.

“She was a known case of diabetes and hypertension. Her condition worsened on March 9, 2020 with development of pneumonia and she was shifted to intensive care unit. Due to comorbid conditions, she died on March 13 at RML Hospital,” said a statement by the Union health ministry.

On Thursday, a 76-year-old man from Kalburgi, Karnataka, was confirmed as the first Covid-19 fatality. Both victims fit trends in other parts of the world that suggest the disease is most dangerous for people who are above the age of 60 or suffer from existing diseases.

The second death took place on a day when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Europe as the new epicentre of the pandemic, confirming the hotbed had shifted from China where the virus is believed to have originated late last year. The total number of fatalities worldwide crossed the 5,000-mark with nearly 140,000 people sickened across 117 countries.

In India, at least four more states ordered schools and colleges to shut, cinemas halls closed and large public gatherings banned as the total number of cases rose to 82. New cases were reported from Maharashtra (3), Kerala (2), Karnataka (1) and Delhi (1).

These measures are in addition to an unprecedented embargo on the entry of foreign tourists announced earlier this month and officials believe more steps, which could disrupt how people live, work and commute, are in the offing.

In what could undermine some of these efforts, hundreds of “high-risk” individuals suspected to have been infected have defied officials’ directions to admit themselves in the hospital or remain isolated in their homes.

“There are around 420 people in Delhi who were categorised as high-risk and were advised to get tested and remain in hospital isolation and refused to do so. Most agreed to stay in home-quarantine, but there too they put other members of the family at risk. The state Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) has now prepared a list of these uncooperative people and shared it with the respective district deputy commissioners. They can now take action under the epidemic act,” said an officer from Delhi’s integrated disease surveillance programme (IDSP) cell.

The Union government and several states have invoked the epidemic diseases act, which gives authorities the legal right to forcibly put someone in quarantine.

In at least three more states – Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Punjab – officials have sounded an alert for multiple high-risk patients who have gone missing from hospitals.

Till Thursday, close to 35,000 people across the country were under surveillance for being in contact with an infected person and, thus, at the risk of being infected.

The second fatality, for instance, was connected to man who is believed to have had 1,500 close contacts while he continued to attend work at a factory in Noida. His commute was through the Delhi Metro network.

Cases of the infection have been reported from at least 11 states and territories, including Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Kerala, where three patients were discharged last month after they recovered.

Karnataka ordered some of the most stringent curbs on Friday, closing malls, pubs and nightclubs in addition to schools and cinema halls.

Addressing reporters, health ministry officials earlier on Friday said the outbreak was not a health emergency and there is no need to panic.

Taking stock of the situation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed a video conference of SAARC leaders to chalk out a joint strategy and set an example for the world.

“Our planet is battling the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus. At various levels, governments and people are trying their best to combat it,” Modi said on Twitter.

South Asia, which is home to a significant number of the global population, should leave no stone unturned to ensure that the people are healthy, he said.

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Thursday, June 30, 2022