The nationwide tally of coronavirus positive patients neared 25,000 on Saturday with fresh cases getting detected in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh among other places, but the government said the daily growth rate has dipped to 6 per cent and some states began relaxing some lockdown conditions by allowing more shops to open.
Late Friday night, as the Centre issued orders allowing shops and markets in rural areas and stand-alone shops in urban areas to open for sale of even non-essential items for the first time since the COVID-19 lockdown, states reacted with caution.
As confusion prevailed over its exemptions given to certain category of shops across the country on Friday, the MHA issued multiple clarifications on Saturday to clear the air. On the category of shops, the MHA said, “In rural areas, all shops, except those in shopping malls are allowed to open. In urban areas, all standalone shops, neighbourhood shops & shops in residential complexes are allowed to open. Shops in markets/market complexes and shopping malls are not allowed to open.”
The MHA also clarified there would be no sale of liquor, paan or tobacco products and that “sale by e-commerce companies will continue to be permitted for essential goods only”. It has also been clarified that none of these exemptions would apply to containment zones and hotspots.
It also said that in reading its guidelines, it must be remembered that exemptions are only for shops selling items and not those providing services. “In view of queries coming from various sections of society, it is clarified that all restaurants, salons and barber shops would remain closed. They render services & the relaxations given under #lockdown restrictions yesterday pertain only to shops selling items,” MHA said.
It appeared states were once again caught unawares by the Centre. A month ago, on March 24, when the Centre announced the first phase of the lockdown, states were left to manage its sudden consequences such as the massive disruption in supply chain, and migrant labour walking hundreds of miles to their homes. Some states, including one ruled by the BJP, suggested that adequate discussions had not been held with them before the announcement.
Doctors at Military Hospital in Punjab’s Pathankot had to perform a complicated surgery on a one-day-old baby with rare congenital anomaly of intestines without a pediatrician or neonatal expert as they could not arrange one due to restrictions in place because of the nationwide lockdown in view of COVID-19 outbreak.
A defence spokesperson said that it was not feasible to take the baby to the nearest medical facility at Chandimandir, where the requisite expertise was available.
In an art-deco building in the heart of Brussels, Belgium’s leading scientists gather daily to announce the country’s coronavirus toll. It’s been grim reading.
Despite having only 11 million people, the country has reported more deaths from the disease than China. With some 57 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, it has the highest per-capita death rate in the world — almost four times that of the US.
According to Belgian officials, the reason for the grisly figures isn’t overwhelmed hospitals — 43% of intensive-care beds were vacant even at the peak of the crisis — but the country’s bureaucratic rigor.