At least 19 deaths – linked to COVID-19 – have been reported in India so far.
- 149 people have tested positive for coronavirus in last 24 hours
- Vaccine is still at least 12 to 18 months away: World Health Organization
- Ban on domestic flight operations extended till April 14 from March 31
India saw the highest jump in coronavirus or COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours with 149 patients testing positive for the highly contagious illness in different parts of the country. The total is now 873, which includes 19 deaths, according to the Union Health Ministry. A vaccine is still at least 12 to 18 months away, the World Health Organization has said, urging the countries to “unite to fight the pandemic together”. The global economy has plunged into a downturn that will require massive funding to help developing nations, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said on Friday. “It is clear that we have entered a recession that will be worse than in 2009 following the global financial crisis,” she said in an online press briefing.
Coronavirus Cases India: Here is your ten-point cheat sheet on this big story:
Four days into 21-day “total lockdown” across India – announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday to contain the COVID-19 outbreak – thousands of migrant labourers are walking long distances back to their home villages after all transport was stopped except for essential services. On Friday, the central government asked the states to take steps and prevent the mass exodus, news agency PTI reported.
Reserve Bank Governor Shaktikanta Das on Friday announced several measures to mitigate the negative impact of coronavirus on the economy. About Rs 3.74 lakh crore liquidity on aggregate basis will be infused into the financial system to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. Financial markets are under stress and require steps by the central bank for market stability and revival of economic growth, the RBI chief said.
He also announced a cut of 75 basis points in the repo rate to 4.4 per cent. Repo rate is the key interest rate at which the RBI lends short-term funds to commercial banks. The central bank also permitted commercial banks and other financial lenders to allow borrowers to delay their loan repayments by a period of three months
The RBI chief’s announcement came a day after Finance Minister Nirmala Sithraman declared a Rs 1.75-lakh-crore scheme – dubbed as the “Prime Minister Gareeb Kalyan scheme” – to help the economically weaker sections survive the loss of jobs and income that would be the inevitable fallout of the coronavirus outbreak. “No one will go hungry,” she assured, adding that “the poor and the needy will get 5 kg extra wheat or rice free for the next three months”. This is over and above what they already receive under the National Food Security Act.
The ban on domestic flight operations across India has been extended till April 14 from March 31 as the country steps up efforts to fight COVID-19, the aviation regulator DGCA said on Friday. International flights in and out of India were already stopped till April 15.
With domestic flights grounded, SpiceJet has offered services of its aircraft and crew members to the government for any humanitarian mission during the 21-day lockdown and the airline is ready to operate some flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Patna to alleviate the suffering of migrant workers, especially those from Bihar, its CMD Ajay Singh said on Friday
The lockdown has disrupted supply chains of e-tailers like Flipkart, including those who sell groceries like Big Basket. State governments across the country are stepping up measures to ensure uninterrupted supply of essentials.
Worldwide, over half a million have contracted infection according to WHO; more than 20,000 deaths have been reported. Among those infected are UK royal Prince Charles – heir to Queen Elizabeth – and British PM Boris Johnson. On Friday, PM Modi wished his UK counterpart a speedy recovery. “Dear PM @BorisJohnson You’re a fighter and you will overcome this challenge as well. Prayers for your good health and best wishes in ensuring a healthy UK,” PM Modi tweeted.
The United States – which is now the epicentre- has more than 100,000 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, according to a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The biggest cluster by far is in New York, home to almost half the cases, overwhelming the hospital system.
Technically called the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 or SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus causes the COVID-19 disease, which originated in China’s Wuhan city. A novel virus is one that has not been previously identified in humans. Italy, Spain, Iran and the United States have been worst hit by the pandemic apart from China. Italy on Friday recorded 1,000 deaths, highest in a day.