India will have to build a large number of makeshift COVID-19 hospitals in the near future to contain the rise of the novel coronavirus in the country, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare told the Supreme Court as it released SOPs to be followed at malls, offices and religious places and the country registered over 9,000 new cases on Thursday.
According to the health ministry’s 8 am update, 9,304 new patients have tested positive in 24 hours across the country, taking the nationwide tally to 2,16,919, while the toll from the deadly virus increased to 6,075 with 260 more fatalities in this period.
Based on the government data, India is now the seventh worst-hit nation after the US, Brazil, Russia, the UK, Spain, and Italy, whereas it is ranked 12th at present in terms of fatalities. India is among the top five countries in terms of active cases, as also for the number of tests conducted so far.
The number of active COVID-19 cases, in the meantime, now stands at 1,06,737, while the count of recoveries has risen to 1,04,107 with 3,804 patients recovering in the last 24 hours, the ministry said. India is placed eighth in terms of recoveries.
The COVID-19 figures, however, have risen since the 8 am update. A PTI tally of figures announced by different states and union territories, as of 9.50 pm, showed a higher number of confirmed cases across the country at 2,17,389 and the death toll at 6,233. It also showed more than 1.07 lakh COVID-19 patients having recovered so far.
Maharashtra cases cross 77,000; Tami Nadu reports 1,384 infections
As per figures released by states, Maharashtra remains the worst-affected state in India with 2,933 COVID-19 new cases on Thursday, taking its tally of confirmed infections to 77,793, while its toll rose to 2,710 after 123 fresh fatalities.
The number of discharged patients in the state also rose to 33,681. Of the 123 deaths, 68 were reported in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).
In West Bengal, the COVID-19 death toll rose to 283 with 10 more fatalities, while the state’s case count rose by 368 to 6,876.
Tamil Nadu also reported its highest single-day spike of 1,384 cases to take its tally to 27,256, while its death toll rose to 220.
In Andhra Pradesh, the state government secretariat appeared turning into a hotspot for the novel coronavirus infection with one more employee there testing positive. The state reported 141 new cases in the last 24 hours, taking its tally to 4,112. The death toll has risen to 71 there.
Kerala, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Assam, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim, among other parts of the country, also reported new cases.
Low testing levels in Delhi worrisome, says Harsh Vardhan
Meanwhile, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said the rising number of COVID cases, a high positivity rate, and low testing level in parts of Delhi was worrisome.
He stressed on a need for ramping up testing, coupled with aggressive surveillance, contact tracing and stringent containment and perimeter control measures.
Chairing a high-level meeting through video-conference to review the preparedness for prevention and control of the novel coronavirus infection in Delhi, Vardhan expressed concern over all districts of the National Capital being affected by COVID-19, and high positivity rates and low testing levels in many districts.
Delhi, which figures among the worst-hit states and Union Territories, recorded 1,359 fresh coronavirus cases on Thursday, which took the city’s COVID-19 tally to 25,004, and the toll due to the disease mounted to 650, authorities said.
On Wednesday, the National Capital had recorded the highest single-day spike of 1,513 cases.
Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said his government’s entire focus is on saving people’s lives and ensuring adequate facilities for COVID-19 patients who need hospital care, without getting entangled in data or any competition with other states.
He said COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Delhi and the government has started focusing on ensuring that those who need hospitalisation get beds and proper treatment facilities.
Meanwhile, the Delhi government also warned that private hospitals which do not comply with its direction to reserve 20 percent beds for coronavirus patients by Friday will be converted into dedicated COVID-19 facilities.
Centre issues SOPs for malls, religious places
Amid the rising cases in the country, the Centre on Thursday released standard operating procedures for reopening offices, hotels, shopping malls, restaurants, and religious places.
Some of them have already re-opened in parts of the country and few others are scheduled to re-start in the next phase of unlocking from next Monday.
According to the SOPs for commercial establishments, the ministry said that hand hygiene (sanitizer dispenser) and thermal screening provisions should be in place mandatorily at the entrance and only asymptomatic customers and visitors will be allowed.
Face cover or mask will be mandatory, it said.
Visitor entry to shopping malls should be allowed in a staggered manner and adequate manpower be deployed by mall management for ensuring social distancing norms, the SOPs mentioned.
Gaming arcades, children play areas and cinema halls inside shopping malls shall remain closed.
The ministry sought contactless mode of ordering and digital mode of payment (using e-wallets) to be encouraged.
The ministry said that religious places inside containment zones shall remain closed for the public while those outside will be allowed to open.
“No physical offerings like prasad/distribution or sprinkling of holy water, etc, should be allowed inside the religious place,” the ministry said, underlining that community kitchens, langars, ‘ann-daan‘ etc at religious places should follow physical distancing norms while preparing and distributing food.
According to the SOPs, all religious places should ensure hand hygiene (sanitizer dispenser) and make thermal screening provisions at the entrance mandatorily.
They should allow only asymptomatic persons in the premises and allowing those using face cover or masks.
Experts raise concerns over fiscal deficit, state of economy
A nationwide lockdown came into effect on 25 March, which was initially announced for 21 days, but was extended thrice and the last fourth phase ended on 31 May.
A graded exit from the lockdown began on 1 June and the next phase, beginning 8 June, would see the reopening of malls, hotels, and restaurants, among other places, followed by further easing of the lockdown curbs through the remaining weeks of June and then in July.
But even as some business activities are set to resume from 8 June, experts expressed concerns over the fiscal deficit and the impact of the lockdown on the economy.
Leading industry body CII, cautioned against increasing fiscal deficit to spur the coronavirus-hit economy, while rating agency ICRA said that banks’ gross non-performing assets may worsen due to disruptions caused by the pandemic.
Industrialist Rajiv Bajaj said a “draconian” but porous lockdown to stem the spread of COVID-19 has ended up “flattening the wrong curve” by decimating India’s economy and leaving it with the “worst of both worlds”.
During a video interaction with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Bajaj also said that opening up the economy would be a Herculean task and asserted that none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi should purge the people’s mind of fear through a “very clear and aligned narrative”.
The BJP, however, downplayed Bajaj’s remarks, saying Gandhi used the businessman as a “bouncing wall” for his ideas during the conversation in which the opposition leader did “most” of the talking. The party also said Bajaj was not an expert on COVID-19 and how to deal with it.
Opposition to ending 14-day quarantine for doctors ‘presumptuous’
The health ministry’s remark that India may soon have to build makeshift hospitals had come while the Centre filed an affidavit in response to a petition filed in the Supreme Court challenging its 15 May order ending a mandatory 14-day quarantine for healthcare workers on COVID-19 duty after a seven/14-day roster.
The pandemic has seen a large number of health workers, including doctors and nurses, also contracting the dreaded virus infection, due to which the 15-May order of the health ministry has faced a lot of criticism from the healthcare workers.
While responding to the PIL, the Centre said that mandatory quarantine for 14 days after rostering duty of health care workers of 7/14 days is not justified and warranted.
The affidavit was filed before a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MR Shah which was hearing the plea.
The ministry also told the Supreme Court that hospitals are mainly responsible for implementing the infection prevention and control activities, but the final responsibility lies with the health care workers themselves to protect themselves from COVID-19.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare told the apex court that it is the responsibility of health care workers to adequately train themselves and take all possible measures for preventing the infection.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Jun 05, 2020 01:19:56 IST