QBullet: Graded Lifting of Curbs From 20 Apr; Monsoon to be Normal
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1. Graded Lifting of Curbs From 20 April; States to Decide Zones of Containment
The Centre on Wednesday issued guidelines effective 20 April lifting restrictions on a range of activities in the rural and agriculture sector, manufacturing in SEZs and industrial zones, and e-commerce operations. Strict restrictions will, however, continue in COVID-19 containment zones notified by respective states.
A close reading of the guidelines indicates the government’s keenness to support the rural poor and urban migrant workers who have suffered the most due to stringent lockdown curbs. Unlike the 21-day lockdown, the suddenness of which had left states unprepared in tackling the migrant rush back home, Wednesday’s guidelines by the Ministry of Home Affairs gives them five days to calibrate resumption of activities.
2. COVID-19 Hotspots Marked in 170 Districts, 207 More Under Close Watch
The government has identified 170 districts with COVID-19 hotspots or 'red zone' areas, including in all six metros-Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. Other large cities such as Bhopal, Agra, Gurugram, Noida and Faridabad also have hotspots.
Besides, 207 districts-where the rate of doubling is currently low but which can be potential hotspots-have been classified as 'non-hotspots' or 'white zones'. Apart from this, there are 'green zone' districts with no new confirmed COVID-19 case in the last 28 days.
These figures released by the health ministry add up to 377 districts, where the disease has been reported, out of India's total of 732. Districts with hotspots have several such areas that the ministry says are 'clusters' of local transmission, but do not amount to community transmission so far.
3. TV Reporter Arrested for Bandra Migrant Gathering, Channel Calls it Outrageous
A Journalist with TV channel ABP Majha was among 11 people arrested by Mumbai Police Wednesday for having allegedly “played a part in the rumour mongering” that led to nearly 2,000 migrant workers gathering in Bandra the previous day and demanding to be sent back to their home towns.
On Tuesday, hours after the Prime Minister announced that the national lockdown would be extended, ABP Majha journalist Rahul Kulkarni had cited an internal Railways document to report that special trains would transport stranded migrant workers back home.
Police said that the video report was “incorrect” while arresting Kulkarni under various sections of the IPC and the Epidemic Act 1897. Slamming the move, ABP Majha called for “due to verification of all facts and circumstances” before arresting a journalist.
4. 7 Million Jobs on the Line, Losses Piling Up, Restaurants Stare Into Lockdown Abyss
An estimated 7.3 million jobs are on the line as the restaurant industry braces to be battered by the second phase of the national lockdown, set to now span at least 40 days. Counting its losses each hour, its challenges are sweeping: from supplies to labour, skilled and semi-skilled, real estate to credit, overheads and utilities, delivery commissions and rental contracts.
More so, when urban centres that fuelled this sector’s rapid growth are the worst hit. In fact, just six cities – Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Indore, Ahmedabad, and Hyderabad – together account for over 65 percent of all COVID-19 deaths. Also, Delhi has 33 containment zones, Mumbai more than 300 – most unlikely to reopen anytime soon.
Some half-a-million restaurants across the country are hoping the Centre and the state governments announce quick relief measures – otherwise, many fear they could be forced out of business altogether.
5. Normal Monsoon Forecast Brings Some Cheer to India
Monsoon rains are likely to be normal this year at 100 percent of the long-period average (LPA), the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Wednesday, bringing some cheer to farmers reeling under the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown that has disrupted agricultural supply chains across India.
India receives about 70 percent of its annual rainfall during the monsoon season that generally begins in June and starts to retreat by September; the monsoon is key to the prospects of agriculture in the country.
For the first time in its monsoon forecast history, IMD on Wednesday also released new monsoon onset and withdrawal dates, factoring in the likely impact of climate change, which has altered the way the south-west monsoon progresses over India.
6. Migrants in Some Regions Begin to Walk Once Again
With the nationwide lockdown extended till May 3, distress among migrant workers continued to grow, a non-government organisation report on Wednesday said, even as the Centre said the revised guidelines were aimed at reviving the rural economy and thus providing relief to the migrant workers.
Three separate incidents of migrants trying to walk back to their homes in other states were reported from Hyderabad. All of them were sent back. “Due to various misgivings about the lockdown, the people are deciding to take up this Herculean task of returning home on foot,” said the Cyberabad police commissioner.
Similar incidents of workers being stopped from taking a walk were reported from other areas as well. Workers in Punjab, Telangana, Haryana and Odisha said they would start walking home shortly as the ration they received was about to be exhausted.
7. At 17, Sharp Dip in New Cases in Delhi
Delhi reported only 17 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, according to the daily health bulletin released by the government, which also showed that the number of people who contracted the infection from a positive person was four times higher than the number of those who got infected abroad.
The city also recorded two new deaths, taking the total death toll to 32.
So far, only 82 people who travelled internationally have tested positive in comparison to 327 who got the disease locally, the city’s health bulletin said.
This is apart from the 1,080 people who tested positive after being evacuated from the Nizamuddin Markaz of the Tablighi Jamaat. On Wednesday, none of the 17 new cases were linked to the Nizamuddin cluster.
8. UP Mob Attacks Doctors, Cops of Quarantine Team
A team of health workers and police officials came under heavy stone pelting by an irate mob on Wednesday when they reached Nagphani in Moradabad, UP, to take away the brother of a deceased COVID-19 patient to a quarantine facility. Two doctors and four cops suffered serious injuries in the attack.
Condemning the incident, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath ordered action under the National Security Act (NSA) against those involved in the assault.
The COVID-19 patient had died on Monday and his brother has developed fever and cold, classic coronavirus symptoms. Nagphani has, meanwhile, been "sealed" and declared a "COVID hotspot".
9. Trump Halts WHO’s Funding; Not the Best Time, Says World Body
US President Donald Trump escalated his feud with the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday, announcing a hold on US funding for it, in a move widely seen as an attempt to deflect mounting criticism of his own handling of the outbreak, as US coronavirus deaths rose by 2,228 in a single-day record.
“We have not been treated properly,” Trump said, as he announced the suspension of the US funding, which is around $450 million, for a period of 60 to 90 days. During the duration of the hold, the president said at the daily briefing of the White House task force on coronavirus, the United States will conduct a review to “assess the WHO’s role and severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus”.
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