World Newsletter

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

coronavirus outbreak.

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

provisions.

"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

month.

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

lockdown.

While the government has exempted several essential service employees, there

is a longer list of establishments and institutions that are completely

locked down.

 

Under lockdown

 

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.

 

Exempted

 

All shops selling groceries, meat and fish, fruits and vegetables and animal

fodder

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

coronavirus outbreak.

 

 

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

of 9%

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

working 24/7

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

 

 

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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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

Reuters.

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

University.

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

provincial authorities.

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.

 

 

THE REST

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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

months.

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

MINISTER

 

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

landlords.

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

Ryan.

"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

them.

 

 

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

CASES

 

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

results.

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.

 

 

INDICATORS

 

Sensex 26,674 (+693), Nifty 7,801 (+191), Trading Value NSE (Rs.crores)

40,635

Nasdaq 7,418 (+557) Dow 20,705 (+2,113), S&P 2,447 (+210)

US$-Rs. 76.12 GBP-Rs. 89.08, Euro-Rs. 82.23, UAE Dhm-Rs.20.72, Can$-Rs.

52.67, Aus$- Rs. 45.13

GBP 0.85 /US$, Euro 0.92 /US$, Jap.Yen 110.88 /US$, Aus$ 1.68 /US$, Sing

1.44 /US$, Bang Taka 82.96 /US$, Can$ 1.44 /US$, Mal Ring 4.43 /US$,

Pak Re 157.77 /US$, Phil Peso 51.00 /US$, Russian Rouble 78.76 /US$, NZ$

1.72 /US$, Thai Baht 32.77 /US$, Ukraine Hryvnia 27.51 /US$, Norway NOK

74,310 /US$

Bitcoin - USD 6,657

Dollar Index 101.62 Brent Crude 27.88 BDI 617

Gold world Spot Price USD/aoz 1,614 India (Rs. per gm 24k/22k) 4,096 /

3,996, Silver (Rs. Per KG) 40,100

 

 

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

 

Adversity is a friendship's truest test. - Jedi Proverb

 

 

OFF TRACK

 

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!"

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