Prime Minister Narendra Modi held his fifth consultation with chief ministers today. The plan of action post-May 17, when the third phase of the national lockdown end will end, was the main agenda. Modi said that while his government had made efforts to keep everyone where they were in the fight against the coronavirus, certain decisions had to be changed because it was ‘human nature’ to want to go home.
“The whole world feels India has been able to successfully protect itself from Covid-19. The States have played a major role in this. Wherever we have not followed social distancing, our problems have increased. Our biggest challenge will be to ensure Covid-19 doesn’t spread to villages in spite of relaxations,” the PM said, according to a PTI report.
The States have demanded more autonomy in deciding the areas where restrictions can be eased, in case the red, orange and green zoning system continues to be in place.
Tamil Nadu lately seen a big spike in Covid-19 cases, urged the Prime Minister not to resume flights and trains this month. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy, meanwhile, urged a return to normalcy to revive the economy and said it was important to reopen agricultural markets, public transport, and shopping malls, with some rules.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the Centre was playing politics over the crisis. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that since the challenges faced by each State are different, they should have the freedom to make the necessary changes in the lockdown-related guidelines. He wanted States, for instance, to have the leeway to assess the situation in each district and accordingly allow autorickshaws to operate with a limited number of passengers.
The coronavirus tally in India 70,765 and the death toll is 2,294 and global confirmed cases have reached 4,153,871 and the number of deaths has reached 284,628. Maximum deaths have taken place in the United States-79,935.
India has seen its largest single day spike, with 1,847 cases being recorded over the past 24 hours, though the Health Ministry has also said that India’s recovery rate has improved to 31 percent.
Meanwhile, train services are set to start from tomorrow for limited operations, as announced by the Railways on Sunday. New guidelines have been issued for those who will be travelling. No linen will be provided, only packaged food and hand-sanitisers will be made available, and travelers are required to reach stations at least 90 minutes before departure. All passengers must wear face masks during the journey.
In addition, the Railways said tickets cannot be cancelled at less than 24 hours’ notice and the cancellation charge will be half the fare. Passengers will be required to install the Covid-19 tracker app Aarogya Setu on their mobile phones. Passengers have also been asked to travel with light luggage. The Ministry of Home Affairs has issued a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the movement of people by trains, and made it clear that only asymptomatic and confirmed e-ticket holders will be allowed to travel.
Online booking for passengers has begun from Monday evening. The Railways, which has so far run about 468 Shramik Special trains, has now decided to run such trains with three stops in the destination State. Currently, these trains run from point to point without any stops en route. Additionally, these trains will now have an increased carrying capacity of 1,700 passengers in each train, as opposed to 1,200 passengers at present, a Railways spokesperson confirmed.
The WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan has commended India for keeping coronavirus cases and deaths very low and said the country will play an important role in the development of a vaccine for Covid-19. She said the whole world has to be prepared for a continuous spread of the infection for “many, many months and perhaps for years to come”.
The Pune based National Institute of Virology (NIV) has developed an immunological assay-enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)- to detect to detect antibodies that the body develops in response to infection by the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus. The Hindu reports.
Cover photo: Reuters