India starts 14-hour curfew to curb coronavirus spread

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Members of Welfare Society wearing protective gear spray disinfectant on a street amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, in Amritsar on March 21, 2020. (AFP)
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Passengers wearing facemasks amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, arrive at the international airport on the outskirts of Amritsar on March 21, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 22 March 2020

India starts 14-hour curfew to curb coronavirus spread

  • Several Indian states announced measures to curb the spread of coronavirus

MUMBAI: India launched a 14-hour long curfew on Sunday to limit the fast-spreading coronavirus epidemic in the country, where 315 people have so far been found to have contracted the disease.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an address to the nation last week urged citizens to stay indoors from 0130 GMT to 1530 GMT — a move that he said would be a crucial test for a country to assess its abilities to fight the pandemic.
“Let us all be a part of this curfew, which will add tremendous strength to the fight against the COVID-19 menace,” Modi tweeted minutes before the curfew commenced. “The steps we take now will help in the times to come,” he said in the tweet.
Health experts said India’s cases have been growing at a rate seen during the early stages of the outbreak in other countries, which subsequently reported exponential increases in infections.
Several Indian states announced measures to curb the spread of coronavirus. Four cities in Modi’s home state of Gujarat have declared a complete shutdown until March 25.
Its neighboring desert state Rajasthan ordered a shutdown until March 31, while eastern and central states suspended inter-state bus operations to prevent an exodus of daily wage earners from urban centers to villages.
State leaders urged citizens not to rush to villages, avoid crowding trains and buses to prevent the virus spread. Tensions have mounted, however, with angry laborers protesting at some bus stations against sudden closures of basic transport services.
Private events, such as weddings, and local elections were canceled. The federal government was accelerating the production of masks and allowed deodorant manufacturers to produce sanitisers.
Modi has requested citizens to stand at balconies and near windows on Sunday evening to clap, ring bells to admire the emergency personnel and sanitation workers who are at the frontline in the fight against coronavirus. 


UK government tries to advance coronavirus response, Boris Johnson ‘stable’ in ICU

Updated 5 min 9 sec ago

UK government tries to advance coronavirus response, Boris Johnson ‘stable’ in ICU

  • Britain’s leader was in "good spirits,” his spokesman said on Wednesday
  • The UK was slower than many other European nations to close schools, shut businesses and restrict people’s movements in a bid to curb infections

LONDON: Britain’s government sought Wednesday to keep a grip on the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as Prime Minister Boris Johnson started a third day in the intensive care unit of a London hospital being treated for COVID-19.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab chaired a meeting of the government’s COVID-19 crisis committee while the number of virus-related deaths reported in the UK approached the levels seen in the worst-hit European nations, Italy and Spain.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is responding to treatment in intensive care at a central London hospital, his spokesman said on Wednesday, adding the British leader was in "good spirits".
"The prime minister remains clinically stable and is responding to treatment. He continues to be cared for in the intensive care unit at St Thomas' hospital. He is in good spirits," the spokesman told reporters.
The country’s confirmed death toll reached 6,159 as of Tuesday, an increase of 786 from 24 hours earlier. That was the biggest daily leap to date, although the deaths reported Tuesday occurred over several days.
The virus has hit people from all walks of life — including Johnson, the first world leader known to have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The 55-year-old prime minister was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital late Sunday with a fever and cough that persisted 10 days after he tested positive for the virus.
He was moved to the ICU on Monday night after his condition deteriorated. 
Johnson’s illness has unleashed a wave of sympathy for the prime minister, including from his political opponents. It has also heightened public unease about the government’s response to the outbreak, which faced criticism even with the energetic Johnson at the helm.
Britain was slower than many other European nations to close schools, shut businesses and restrict people’s movements in a bid to curb infections, and the government has struggled to meet its goal of dramatically the number of individuals tested for the virus.
Britain has no official post of deputy or acting prime minister, but Johnson has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to temporarily take over many of the prime minister’s duties to lead the country’s response to the pandemic.
But Raab’s authority is limited. He can’t fire Cabinet ministers or senior officials, and he won’t hold the prime minister’s weekly audience with Queen Elizabeth II.
In the British political system, the prime minister’s power lies less in the role’s specific responsibilities — which are relatively few — than in the leader’s political capital and authority as “first among equals” in the Cabinet.
That’s especially true in Johnson’s government, which is made up of relatively inexperienced ministers appointed by a prime minister with a big personality and a hefty personal mandate from a resounding election victory in December.
In Johnson’s absence, it’s unclear who would decide whether to ease nationwide lockdown measures the British government imposed on March 23 in response the worldwide pandemic. The initial three-week period set for the restrictions expires next week, but with cases and deaths still growing, officials say it is too soon to change course.
“We need to start seeing the numbers coming down,” Argar told the BBC. “That’s when you have a sense, when that’s sustained over a period of time, that you can see it coming out of that.
“We’re not there yet and I don’t exactly know when we will be. The scientists will tell us that they are constantly modelling the data and they’re constantly looking at those stats.”
Meanwhile, officials are watching anxiously to see whether Britain’s hospitals can cope when the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients reaches its peak. Before the outbreak, the UK had about 5,000 intensive care beds, and the government has been scrambling to increase that capacity.
The Nightingale Hospital — a temporary facility for coronavirus patients built in nine days at London’s vast ExCel conference center — admitted its first patients on Wednesday. It can accommodate 4,000 beds, if needed. even other temporary hospitals are being built around the country.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the city, which is the epicenter of Britain’s outbreak, had one-quarter of its existing hospital beds still available, as well as the new Nightingale hospital.
“It demonstrates the can-do attitude of not just Londoners but those around the country who have helped us get ready for the peak of this virus,” he said.