Coronavirus | Schools, colleges may remain closed till May 15

The Group of Ministers on COVID-19 recommends that closure of all educational institutions and restrictions on all religious activities having public participation be extended till May 15.


The Union Health Ministry on Tuesday said the country has registered 13 deaths and 508 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the total death toll to 124 with 4,789 cases nationwide.

A total of 326 persons have recovered from the infection, Joint Secretary in the Union Health Ministry Lav Agrawal said at the daily press briefing.

Amid calls from the States on the need for a calibrated lifting of the lockdown, a meeting of the Group of Ministers on COVID-19, chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, recommended that the closure of all educational institutions and restrictions on all religious activities having public participation be extended till May 15, irrespective of the government decision, official sources said.

The recommendation came as State Health Departments reported 20 more deaths, taking the nationwide toll to 165, with 5,126 confirmed cases.

Maharashtra reported 12 more deaths, taking the tally of the deceased so far to 64, with 1,018 confirmed cases.

Four more deaths were reported from Gujarat, while Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Jammu & Kashmir and Tamil Nadu reported one death since Monday.

In Rajasthan, which saw the number of active cases touching 283 with 24 new cases, Health Minister Raghu Sharma said the government had decided to step up screening in hotspots using rapid testing kits. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that one lakh random rapid anti-body tests would be conducted in the city’s hotspots.

Stating that India had moved from local transmission phase to the next higher scale of large outbreaks amenable to containment phase, Mr Agarwal said three types of health care facilities have been set up for various categories of COVID-19 cases for triaging and decision-makingfor identification of the appropriate dedicated facility and for providing care to patients.

State government have now been asked to offer COVID Care Centres (CCC) for mild to very mild cases, dedicated COVID health units or blocks for moderate cases and dedicated COVID hospitals for cases clinically assigned as severe.

“These [last] facilities should either be a full hospital or a separate block in a hospital with preferably separate entry\exit and fully equipped ICUs, ventilators and beds with assured oxygen support,’’ added Mr. Agarwal.

He added that there was no clear decision so far on continuing or lifting the on-going 21-day lockdown and assured that there is no shortage of the preventic drug hydroxychloroquine for use in the country.

“We have issued guidelines for cluster outbreak containment and this strategy is working well in areas like Agra, Gautam Buddh Nagar, Pathanamthitta, Bhilwara and East Delhi which saw large number of cases recently. Government has been adopting a strategy for cluster containment and for outbreaks that are amenable to management. This strategy is producing positive results,’’ he said.

“Indian Railways has prepared 40,000 isolation beds in 2,500 coaches and they are making 375 isolation beds daily and this is going on across 133 locations across the country,’’ he added.

The Ministry added that technology-led initiatives for undertaking surveillance, monitoring quarantine facilities, tracking the health of suspected patients and their contacts placed under home quarantine, providing up-to-date information to citizens, making predictive analytics using heat maps, with real-time tracking of ambulances and disinfection services are being conducted across various districts.

Speaking about the number Raman R Gangakhedkar, head, Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases-I, Indian Council of Medical Research said: “So far we have conducted over a lakh test for COVID-19 and 11,795 tests were done in last 24 hours.”