FRONT PAGE NEWS
25 March 2020
PM ADDRESSES THE NATION, DECLARES 21-DAY NATION-WIDE LOCKDOWN
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced a complete lockdown across
the country for 21 days from midnight, asserting that social distancing is
the only way out for the country to fight a decisive battle against
In his second national broadcast in a week on the pandemic raging across
much of the world with the number of infections rising in India, Modi made a
fervent appeal to the countrymen not to cross the 'lakshman rekha' of their
homes for the next three weeks.
"If the situation is not handled in these 21 days, the country and your
family could go back by 21 years. If situation is not handled in these 21
days, several families will get devastated forever," he said underlining the
massive danger the coronavirus poses.
The Centre and state governments have taken measures to ensure that the
supply of all essential items continue smoothly, he said, seeking to allay
apprehensions among people about availability of food and other essential
"My fellow citizens, there is absolutely no need to panic. Essential
commodities, medicines etc. would be available. Centre and various state
governments will work in close coordination to ensure this," he tweeted
after his speech. Separately, the government issued detailed guidelines
about the restrictions, along with certain exemptions.
In his nearly 30-minute address, Modi underscored the challenge India faces
at a time when countries with world class health infrastructure have been
left "helpless" due to the rapid pace of the coronavirus' spread as he
repeatedly, at times with folded hands, asked people to remain indoors. "To
save India, to save every Indian, there will be a complete ban on people
from stepping outside their houses from 12 midnight today," he said.
The lockdown will be like a "curfew" only but more stringent than the
'janata curfew', which the country had observed on Sunday, he said, adding
it will have an economic cost but saving people's lives is of the paramount
interest to his government.
A lockdown in most of the country was already in place till March 31, and
Modi's announcement extended it everywhere and for two more weeks after this
The lockdown will be applicable to everyone from the prime minister to a
citizen in a village, he said.
He lamented that some people suffer from this wrong mindset that only
infected persons need to follow social distancing, warning that such a view
can endanger lives of others and their families. "It will be impossible to
estimate the price India will have to pay if this carelessness continues.
Currently India is at a stage where our current actions will determine how
much we are able to minimise the impact of this disaster," he said.
The Centre has put in place a provision of Rs 15,000 crore for treating
coronavirus patients and strengthening medical infrastructure in the
country. "I am confident that every Indian will not only successfully fight
this difficult situation but also emerge victorious," he said.
GUIDELINES ISSUED FOR 21-DAY ALL-INDIA LOCKDOWN
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address to the nation was followed by the
Union Home Ministry issuing detailed guidelines on implementing the 21-day
While the government has exempted several essential service employees, there
is a longer list of establishments and institutions that are completely
All manufacturing units (except essentials)
All offices of the government of India, its subordinate offices and PSUs
All rail, road, air and marine passenger transportation
All hospitality services
All places of worship, educational institutions parks, sports centres, etc
Anyone who has arrived from abroad after February 15 to be in quarantine
The exemption to banks and ATMs will allow employees to withdraw the
salaries, but the issue that hangs fire is that with no accounts staff of
locked down sectors permitted to venture out, it will be difficult to
compute the salary slips.
All shops selling groceries, meat and fish, fruits and vegetables and animal
Banks, insurance offices and ATMs
Hospitals, chemists and all related establishments
Print and electronic media
Defence, Central Armed Police, Police, Home Guard and Treasury
Electricity, sanitation, water and municipal bodies
Telecom, internet and broadcasting services
Delivery of all essential goods
Petrol pump, LPG, Petroleum and gas retail outlets
Power generation and transmission units
Private security services
Capital and debt market services
In a relief that would have curbed panic buying, the Home Ministry note
exempted all shops selling groceries, meat and fish, fruits and vegetables
and animal fodder from the purview of the lockdown.
All gathering of any sort have been banned except funerals where
participation has been limited to 20 persons.
District magistrates have been told to appoint executive magistrates as
"Incident Commanders" who will enforce restrictions on the movement of
persons, but not goods and authorised to book violators under Sections 51 to
60 of the Disaster Management Act and Section 188 of the IPC.
The I&B Ministry has directed all states and union territories to ensure
"operational continuity" of print and electronic media in view of the
COVID-19 DASHBOARD - (Nos. IN INDIA / Nos. WORLDWIDE) at 0930 IST
Total Cases 562 / 422,829
Total Deaths 11 / 18,906
Total Recovered 40 / 109,102
Active Cases 511 / 294,820
Serious / Critical Cases 0 / 13,095
SITHARAMAN ANNOUNCES RELIEF MEASURES
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman yesterday announced a series of measures
that the government has taken to fight the impact of coronavirus outbreak on
India's economy and taxpayers.
Here are the key points:
Three-month waiver on minimum balance in savings accounts
Debit cardholders who withdraw cash from any bank ATM can do it free of
charge for the next three months
An economic package to aid those impacted by COVID-19 will be announced soon
The last date to file income tax returns for FY 2018-19 (not FY 2019-20)
extended till June 30 (from standard 31/March). For delayed payments
interest rates reduced from 12% to 9%
The interest rate on delayed deposit of TDS reduced
Aadhar Card-Pan Card linking last date extended to June 30
Last date of filing GST returns for March, April and May 2020 has been
extended to June 30
For companies that have less than 5 crore turnover, no interest, no late
fee, no penalty will be charged. For bigger companies, late fee and penalty
will be null and void but interest will be charged at a subsidised interest
Under Sabka Vishwas Yojana, people can now pay their dues till June 30, no
extra interest will be charged from them
Customs clearance now an essential service, till June 30th, 2020 it will be
For newly incorporated companies, additional time of 6 more months will be
given to file the declaration of commencement of business
Mandatory requirement of holding board meetings is being relaxed by a period
of 60 days, this relaxation is for the next two quarters
Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code default limit has been increased from Rs 1 lakh
to Rs 1 crore
WORLD ON LOCKDOWN: BUSINESS ACTIVITY COLLAPSES AT RECORD PACE
Business activity has collapsed from Australia and Japan to Western Europe
at a record pace, as measures to contain the coronavirus hammer the world
economy, with data for the United States later on Tuesday expected to be
just as dire.
Activity in the 19 countries that use the euro has crumbled as nations lock
down to curb the spread of the disease, shuttering shops, restaurants and
offices. IHS Markit's flash composite Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for
the eurozone, seen as a good gauge of economic health, plummeted to a record
low of 31.4 in March. That was by far the biggest one-month fall since the
survey began in mid-1998 and below all forecasts in a Reuters News Agency
poll which gave a median prediction of 38.8.
In France, services activity fell to a record low and manufacturing saw its
steepest drop since the global financial crisis more than 10 years ago.
"Taken together, these declines suggest GDP is collapsing at an annual rate
approaching double digits," IHS Markit economist Eliot Kerr said.
WHO WARNS U.S. COULD BECOME CORONAVIRUS EPICENTER AS CASES TOP 50,000
A WHO official on Tuesday said that the U.S. could become the next epicenter
of the coronavirus. "We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in
the U.S.," WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters, according to
She said the U.S. has the "potential" to overtake Europe as the new
epicenter of the virus.
The U.S. hit a grim milestone on Monday, with the death toll rising by more
than 100 in the span of a single day. Health officials report more than
50,000 cases in the country and 600 total deaths, according to Johns Hopkins
Despite large increases in cases and deaths, President Donald Trump on
Tuesday said he is eyeing Easter Sunday (April 12) to get the country
"opened up and just raring to go."
Only California, New York, Washington State and Illinois have put in place
broad restrictions shuttering nonessential businesses and activities.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that the number of cases in the
state is doubling every three days. Vice President Mike Pence made it clear
that New York City is now the nation's epicenter: "We have to deal with the
New York metropolitan area as a high-risk area," he said, telling New
Yorkers, "We are with you."
US Stocks soared on Tuesday on expectations that Congress was close to
producing a stimulus bill to stabilize America's faltering economy and offer
lifelines to industries on the brink of collapse because of the coronavirus.
A plan to bail out companies and send checks of up to $1,200 to Americans
had been stalled since Sunday over objections by Democrats. But on Tuesday,
top Democrats and Trump administration officials said they were optimistic
about finalizing an agreement on a roughly $2 trillion plan.
CHINA TO LIFT TRAVEL CURBS ON 50 MILLION PEOPLE IN HUBEI
China announced on Tuesday that a lockdown would be lifted on more than 50
million people in central Hubei province, where the coronavirus first
emerged late last year.
But fears rose over a second wave of infections in the country fuelled by
people arriving from overseas.
After two months living with draconian curbs on daily life, residents will
be allowed to leave Hubei from midnight on Tuesday if healthy, said
Wuhan city - the initial epicentre of the outbreak - will end restrictions
from April 8.
Hubei ordered the shutdown in January but has been gradually easing rules
and permitting people to move about within the province and return to work.
People who wish to travel in or out of Hubei or Wuhan will be able to as
long as they have a "green" health code issued by authorities, but schools
will remain closed.
Three airports in the province will resume flights from Wednesday, state
broadcaster CCTV reported.
OMAR ABDULLAH RELEASED: CORONAVIRUS FOREMOST ON HIS MIND
Ten days after his father Farooq Abdullah's detention was revoked by the
Jammu and Kashmir administration, former J&K Chief Minister and National
Conference leader Omar Abdullah was released after being held for over seven
Sporting a flowing grey beard, Abdullah stepped outside at 1.25 pm to make a
statement. "In my period of detention I had thought a lot about what I would
say the J&K as a state was broken up into two Union Territories and what I
would say about the change in the status of Jammu and Kashmir."
"There are two things to be considered first. One, we have to fight
coronavirus. Second, all of our people who are incarcerated in jails, either
within or outside J&K. In these difficult times, the Centre should release
them and bring them home. It is my earnest appeal to the Centre to lift
restrictions on communication, if nothing else, please restore 3G/4G."
'HEALTHCARE WORKERS BEING HARASSED: AIIMS DOCTORS BODY WRITES TO HOME
Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers battling the coronavirus
outbreak are being asked to vacate their rented homes, and some have been
forcibly evicted by landlords, the Residents Doctors' Association of AIIMS
has alleged in a letter to the Home Minister.
After the allegations came to light, Home Minister Amit Shah called up the
RDA and assured them that such instances of ostracisation will be taken
seriously and action will be taken immediately. Shah also spoke to the Delhi
Police Commissioner and asked him to take strict action against such
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also took to Twitter, asking doctors to send
him contact details of their landlords so he can try and persuade them not
to evict doctors. "These doctors save our lives, they put their lives at
risk. Landlords should not do this. God forbid that someone from the
landlord's family gets coronavirus; these doctors will be the ones who can
help them out," he tweeted.
INDIA HAS TREMENDOUS CAPACITY IN ERADICATING CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC: WHO
India, which led the world in eradicating two silent killers-smallpox and
polio-has a tremendous capacity in eradicating the deadly coronavirus
pandemic that has now claimed nearly 15,000 lives and infected over three
lakh others globally, according the executive director of the WHO, Michael
"India led the world in eradicating two silent killers and eliminating them
from the country," he said during a press conference in Geneva on Monday on
the COVIVD-19 pandemic.
India, through targeted public intervention, ended smallpox and gave a great
gift to the world. India also eradicated polio, he noted. "India has
tremendous capacities. It is exceptionally important that countries like
India lead the way to show the world what can be done," Ryan said.
PUNJAB: TRACKING TEAMS FORMED AS QUARANTINE-DODGING NRIS SPARK ALARM
Thousands of NRIs have been pouring into Punjab in the last few weeks, with
several of them dodging home quarantine, or even running away from
authorities looking to track them down. This has forced the government to
form around 200 teams in the state's Doaba region, which has a large NRI
population, to track down such people and forcibly isolate them at home.
The NRI inflow has also prompted the state government to clamp down
extremely stringent restrictions to contain the spread of coronavirus.
More than 95,000 NRIs have arrived in Punjab in last three weeks. The
government has only been able to identify and home quarantine 30,000 of
TRUCKS STUCK, RAIL STAFF STOPPED, ONLINE DELIVERY STAFF ASSAULTED
Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing a 21-day countrywide
lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19, long queues had formed on
highways of trucks carrying essential goods and commodities, including
medicines, milk, fruits and vegetables, hours into several states sealing
borders. While goods trains fall in the exempted category, freight services
too were hit as states did not mention 'Railways' as essential service in
their respective orders.
With confusion at the lower levels about exemptions, transport even within
states was hit. Big online grocers such as Grofers and Big Basket too were
left scrambling to ensure sustenance of their supply chains.
Online pharmacy 1mg's co-founder Prashant Tandon reported "about 17-18
incidents" of its delivery personnel being beaten up in Hyderabad, Delhi,
Mumbai, Lucknow, and Bengaluru.
PUNE-BASED FIRM DEVELOPS TESTING KIT FOR FASTER CONFIRMATION OF COVID-19
In what may go down as an important solution in India's fight against
coronavirus, Pune-based Mylabs Discovery Solutions has created an indigenous
solution to test patients for COVID-19 that can halve the time taken for
The molecular diagnostic company, which received statutory approvals late on
Monday from authorities, can manufacture over 15,000 testing kits per day
from its facility at Lonavala in Pune district and the same will be ramped
up to 25,000 kits per day, its co-founder Shrikant Patole said.
Citing the experience in South Korea, the WHO has been stressing on the
importance of tests to fight the pandemic,.
Patole explained that the company is able to shorten the test time to 2.5
hours with the 'Mylab PathoDetect COVID-19 Qualitative PCR kit' as against
the prevalent 6-8 hours because its team has created a solution that does
both the screening and confirmation jobs simultaneously.
TELCOS ALL READY WITH CONTINGENCY PLANS
Telecom companies are dealing with an unprecedented challenge, other than
COVID-19 - of providing seamless internet services for a smoother
work-from-home for India Inc. In a bid to do this at the available capacity,
Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have said they are doing everything to keep
the situation under control. Companies have activated a comprehensive
pandemic response plan with requisite risk mitigation protocols for keeping
networks working as telecom is an essential service.
Airtel has a full-fledged contingency plan in place to deal with any event.
This includes quarantining any of the company's critical network operating
centres and call centres, among others. The company has enabled each
location to operate in a distributed as well as virtual way. Every team has
also been broken into two in order to reduce the number of people on a site
and make the workplace safer.
Vodafone Idea is also reviewing its business continuity plans across all
operations. "Our centralised network monitoring facilities, across multiple
locations like Pune and Hyderabad, have been prepared for any kind of
emergency evacuation due to the corona threat at any particular building,"
Vodafone Idea said.
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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
Adversity is a friendship's truest test. - Jedi Proverb
A woman walked into the elevator tossing her keys up in the air and catching
them. After one too many tosses, she dropped the keys, and we watched as
they disappeared into the crack between the open doors and the floor.
I felt terrible for her. Or I did until she cried, "Oh no! Not again!"