COVID-19: Govt allows migrants to go home; Positive cases near 32,000

COVID-19: Govt allows migrants to go home; Positive cases near 32,000
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New Delhi, Apr 29 () With lakhs of migrant workers and students stranded at various places for over a month due to the nationwide lockdown, the government on Wednesday announced plans to allow their movement to help them reach their homes, including by crossing state borders. The COVID-19 tally, in the meantime, rose further and fresh indications emerged about the lockdown continuing beyond May 3, at least in some form and in some parts of the country.

In its evening update, the Union Health Ministry said the COVID-19 death toll has risen to 1,008, with a record jump of 71 in the last 24 hours, while the number of confirmed infections has climbed to 31,787 in the country with more than 1,800 cases getting detected since Tuesday evening. Close to 7,800 people have recovered too.

Punjab, which has reported 375 cases and 19 deaths, announced extension of the lockdown in the state by two weeks after May 3, though some relaxations have been given in areas that do not fall under the containment or red zones.
However, containment zones will continue to remain under total lockdown, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said.

In West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said experts and doctors are of the opinion that the restrictions imposed to check the spread of COVID-19 should continue in the state till the end of May. She, however, also announced some relaxations, including opening of standalone shops in green zones and non-containment zones with all precautionary and social distancing measures.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has already announced extension of the lockdown in his state till May 7 without any relaxation.

During his last interaction with chief ministers on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told them that the economy would need to be given importance too while fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ever since its emergence in China last December, more than 31 lakh have tested positive for the deadly virus infection worldwide while the death toll has topped 2 lakh. Some countries have, however, begun easing the lockdown. The US, which is among the worst hit globally, reported that its economy shrank at a 4.8 per cent annual rate in the last quarter, triggering a recession that will end the country's longest ever expansion period.

Following guidelines from the Centre, some states in India have also allowed opening of standalone shops in non-containment zones, while several state governments have been demanding steps to allow movement of migrant workers to help them reach their respective homes. Some states including Uttar Pradesh have already undertaken special initiatives to bring back migrant workers and students.

To help these people who have been stuck in various cities for over a month, many of whom have been left jobless and homeless due to the lockdown, the Union Home Ministry has now passed an order to allow their inter-state movement to reach their respective destinations, subject to certain conditions. This will also apply to pilgrims, tourists, students and other people stranded at different places.

In the order, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said buses shall be used for transport of such groups of stranded people and these vehicles will be sanitised and will have to follow safe social distancing norms in seating.

Listing the conditions, the ministry said all states and union territories should designate nodal authorities and develop standard protocols for receiving and sending such stranded persons. In case of movement beyond states or UTs, the sending and receiving states will need to consult each other and mutually agree to the movement by road.

These people would be screened and only those found asymptomatic would be allowed to proceed. On arrival at their destination, they would be assessed by local health authorities and kept in home or institutional quarantine, as required by the assessment, the order said.

In Maharashtra, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said his government is in talks with chief ministers of other states over facilitating return of migrant workers to their native places in a planned manner.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he is in touch with other state governments on the Home Ministry order and told migrant workers to stay put till he informs them about the final decision in one or two days.

Mumbai and Delhi are among major urban centres where a large number of workers from other states are stranded and have been demanding transport arrangements be made for them to go back to their native places.

Some states are said to be reluctant in allowing return of their natives from other places due to fears of the infection.

The University Grants Commission (UGC), in the meantime, said the new academic session for freshers will begin in universities from September and for already enrolled students in August.

It also advised universities to follow a six-day week pattern and devise proforma to record travel or stay history of staff members and students for the lockdown period. The central government also asked its 48.34 lakh employees to download 'Aarogya Setu' mobile app immediately and report to office only when it shows "safe" status for commuting. The app, developed by the government, helps people assess themselves on the risk of them contracting the coronavirus infection.

According to the latest Health Ministry data, there are close to 23,000 active COVID-19 cases in the country.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said of the total active COVID-19 cases in the country, only 0.33 per cent patients are on ventilators, 1.5 per cent are on oxygen support and 2.34 per cent are in ICU.

Of the total 1,008 deaths, as per the Ministry figures, Maharashtra tops the tally while it also has the highest number of confirmed cases in the country.

In Maharashtra, Mumbai's Dharavi area reported 14 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, taking the overall tally to 344. Dharavi, considered as the biggest slum in Asia, has so far reported 18 deaths.

In the national capital, the new confirmed cases included 11 family members of an LNJP Hospital dietician, who had earlier tested positive. However, none of the hospital employees, who came in contact with the dietician, have tested positive.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami said the spread of COVID-19 in the state is largely under control, but the contagion is "easily" spreading in Chennai due to its large population.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot told in an interview that the state's count of more than 2,000 COVID-19 cases is not a cause of worry because his government's objective is to ensure not a single case goes undetected. ACB PLB AKV NSK SLB SA PNT ENM BJBJ

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