New Delhi: India’s bid to restrict the spread of novel coronavirus saw some drastic steps – both from Centre and state governments – on Monday, with 19 states and Union Territories announcing a complete lockdown, and all domestic flights being stopped. As on Monday, the total number of COVID-19 cases had climbed to 433, according to the Health Ministry.
Partial lockdown is being observed in six states and Union territories, according to the Health Ministry.
Some governments, such as Punjab, Puducherry and Maharashtra, imposed curfew after people were found to be defying the lockdown.
In another move to strictly enforce the lockdown, the Centre on Monday announced that violators would face six months of jail or a fine of Rs 1,000 under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code.
All this comes after the announcement of the Centre on Sunday to completely lock down 75 districts in 22 states and Union Territories and suspended all passenger trains, inter-state buses and metro services across the country till March 31.
No Domestic Flights From Wednesday
On Monday, the civil aviation ministry announced that no domestic commercial flights would operate in India Wednesday onwards. Airlines have to plan operations so as to land at their destination before 11.59 p.m on Tuesday, NDTV quoted the government as saying. Only cargo flights would be allowed.
The decision comes after international flights had already been banned for a week.
ICMR Recommends Anti-Malarial Drug for High-risk Cases
Meanwhile, the National Task Force for COVID-19, constituted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), has recommended the use of hydroxy-chloroquine for prophylaxis of SARS-CoV-2 infection for asymptomatic healthcare workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 and asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory confirmed cases.
In an advisory released on Monday, the body said hydroxy-chloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, is found to be effective against coronavirus in laboratory studies and in-vivo studies.
This comes only two days after United States President Donald Trump touted the same drug to be used to treat the infection.
Labour Ministry Advises Not To Terminate Employees
In the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak and given the high number of contract and casual workers in India, the Labour Ministry issued an advisory to all employers of public/private establishments to not terminate their employees, or reduce their wages.
In the letter dated March 23, tweeted by the Ministry of Labour, it has been further advised that if any worker takes leave, he should be deemed to be on duty without any consequential deduction in wages for the period.
Over 80 Organisations Suggest More Testing in Maharashtra
In a letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, close to 80 different organisations demanded a slew of measures to fight against coronavirus, that has left 89 in the state infected as on Monday.
The group has demanded mass COVID-19 testing of people who are coughing, having a running nose, fever etc. They have also demanded an immediate special package for the public healthcare system and free treatment of infected people in private hospitals.
Signed by All India Kisan Sabha’s Ashok Dhawale, social activist Medha Patkar among others, the letter also demanded that all homeless persons to be transferred to temporary shelters and state government to take help of private companies, corporates and charitable trusts to increase the facilities in hospitals.
Trade Union Demands Humane Approach
The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) has demanded that th Centre should come out with financial assistance to working people to ensure job security and to safeguard the poor, vulnerable and needy sections of the society.
In a statement, AITUC said the address of the Prime Minister “was too late and too little” without any commitments on the part of government for necessary financial package and for necessary steps that are needed to be taken to give confidence to the people to allay their fears.
Delhi High Court, District Courts Suspend Functioning Till April 4
On Monday, the Delhi High Court also suspended its functioning and so did district courts till April 4 in view of the coronavirus threat.
The matters of extreme urgency will have to be mentioned before the registrar or joint registrar telephonically and hearing will take place through video conferencing, PTI reported.
The high court also said that the limitation period – period under which a suit, appeal or application has to be filed – for any court proceeding would not be considered from March 23 till April 4, 2020 subject to further orders.
Earlier, the Bar Council of Delhi had written to the Delhi High Court, urging it to consider a total shutdown till March 31, according to Bar and Bench.
Contactual and Outsourced Staff to be considered 'On Duty'
The Finance ministry has announced that contractual and outsourced workers of Government of India, who are unable to attend work and are required to stay home in the view of the lockdown will be treated as 'on duty' during the such period and they will be paid necessary pay/wages accordingly.
(With Inputs from Amey Tirodkar in Mumbai)