New Delhi:

As the country entered Day 5 of a 21-day lockdown, the total coronavirus cases in the country has risen to 979, according to the latest figures released today from Union Health Ministry. This includes 48 foreign nationals. The death toll has increased to 25. Meanwhile, 87 patients have been cured/discharged across the country. Maharashtra reported 186 coronavirus positive cases, followed by Kerala at 182 and Karnataka at 76.


Globally, with over 6.60 lakh caronavirus cases,the death toll from coronavirus has crossed 30,000.Italy has seen the highest casualty. Italy alone had more than 10,000 dead while the US ranked sixth in deaths, after Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France. Spain on Saturday reported over 800 deaths and over 8,000 news cases.


The princess, who was King of Spain Felipe VI’s cousin, became the first royal to pass away from the virus when she died aged 86 in Paris on Friday. Her younger brother Prince Sixtus Henry of Bourbon-Parma announced the sad news, as another 832 people died of Covid-19 in Spain, bringing the death toll to 5,690.Prince Charles of UK and Boris Johnson, prime minister, UK ,are now currently in self-isolation after being infected with COVID-19 disease.   


The  Indian government decided on a two-pronged strategy: lock down the entire nation to break the infection chain and quickly ramp up its tattered healthcare facilities to face the pandemic.The blueprint also encompasses converting medical colleges and railway coaches into isolation wards, stadiums into quarantine facilities, and readying part of hospitals under defence, central police forces and railways for Covid-19 patients.


In an unprecedented directive issued on Tuesday, the railway factories were asked to immediately assess the feasibility of manufacturing items such as hospital beds, medical trolleys, masks, sanitisers and, most importantly, ventilators. Because Covid-19 patients often encounter acute respiratory troubles, authorities have deemed it critical to have adequate number of ventilators.

“We are readying 7,000 beds, or half of Indian Railways’ hospital strength, for Covid-19 patients. We are ordering about 500 ventilators and examining the feasibility of manufacturing ventilators in our own factories,” Railway Board Chairman Vinod Yadav told media.

India’s ventilator inventory is estimated to be a mere 40,000, clearly inadequate given the scale and reach of the coronavirus. International experiences have shown that 5-10% patients need ventilator support to survive.

The government has also reached out to other companies including market leader Maruti Suzuki,  Tata Motors and Hyundai to look at ways to manufacture ventilators expeditiously. According to a Brookings report, if the number of cases spiral in India, it may need as many as 110,000-220,000 ventilators as early as mid May. It estimated the number of ventilators today in the country at a maximum 57,000.  


Meanwhile, the government has formed a ministerial level committee to mitigate supply chain problems as India undergoes one of the longest curfews in history.


Headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Home Minister Amit Shah, the committee has been tasked with ensuring unhindered supply of essential items during the lockdown. Seven secretaries from the ministries of consumer affairs, road transport, civil aviation, shipping, textile, health and Chairman of the Railway Board are part of the committee which will meet daily at 11 AM through video conferencing


Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 announced a 21-day lockdown- the most far reaching measure by any government to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.


The Union government has also asked all banks to ensure that their banking channels — branches, ATMs, and the business correspondent network — are up and running across India for transactions, especially cash withdrawals.


Banks are expected to witness a surge in transactions across channels next week, owing to salary payments to employees. Pensioners will also be visiting branches in the first few days of April. The beneficiaries of the direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme are also likely to withdraw money from their accounts, senior public sector bankers said.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman held one-to-one interaction with chief executives of banks on Saturday. The nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19 has led to disruptions in banking operations in the field. Banking services have been declared as essential services.


According to the finance ministry’s Twitter handle, during the call, banks raised specific problems and were heard in detail. Solutions to these issues are being found through coordination with state governments and all the problems are being addressed, it said.

Reflected on the prevailing Covid-19 situation in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his monthly 'Mann ki Baat' programme, lamented that some people don't understand the gravity of the situation and they are violating the lockdown restrictions. Health is the source of all happiness and those who are violating the restrictions are playing with their lives, he said..


The Prime Minister applauded those who have been in quarantine and said such people should not be looked down upon are discriminated against.