COVID-19: Exercise restraint, stay at home to fight pandemic, urges PM

Health ministry refuses to clear air over Tamil Nadu ‘community transmission’

By Banjot Kaur
Published: Thursday 19 March 2020

Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the nation to observe a ‘janta (public) curfew’ between 7 am and 9 pm March 22, 2020 in the wake of a novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Addressing the nation on March 19, Modi said the ‘curfew’ would symbolise India’s resolve and restraint in fighting against the pandemic — a crisis that could escalate in India in days.

There is no room for complacency in the fight as nobody knows what will be the trajectory of the virus (SARS-CoV-2) against which there is neither a preventive vaccine nor a therapy, the PM said.

He urged people to stay home as much as they could and avoid contagion. Especially, senior citizens — those above 60-65 years, as Modi put it — should completely avoid stepping out the next few weeks.

Modi proposed people should postpone elective surgical procedures — those that are scheduled in advance — and avoiding crowding hospitals, unless urgent. Even routine check-ups at hospitals might lead to nosocomial (hospital-associated) infections.

He also assured people of smooth supply of milk, food items and other essentials and asked them to not hoard.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman would lead a task force to deal with the economic fallouts of the outbreak, he said.

Community transmission in Tamil Nadu?

Earlier, a group of Union ministers (GoM) met to discuss the pandemic and the Centre issued an advisory that no commercial aircraft would be allowed in from any part of the world for March 22-29.

So, no Indian citizen abroad would be able to return. The entry of foreign nationals have already been barred.

The health ministry also maintained that the country has not reached the deadly levels of ‘community transmission’, after which containing the virus becomes difficult. This happens when the source of a confirmed case can be traced neither to international travel of COVID-19 affected country nor is a contact of another confirmed case and the virus has started spreading in community. 

The ministry refused to clear the air over the mystery surrounding the source of infection of a 20-yr-old in Tamil Nadu.

C Vijaya Bhaskar, the state’s health minister, March 18 described it as a “domestic case who did not have any travel history abroad” — a possible condition for community transmission.

But Lav Aggarwal, joint secretary at the central health department, refuted but refused to share whether the youth did travel abroad. Officials didn’t respond to multiple attempts at seeking clarity by Down To Earth.

The total number of confirmed cases in India increased to 173, with Maharasthra still leading the tally (at 44 cases), followed by Kerala (25) and Uttar Pradesh (18). Four patients have died while 20 have been discharged.

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