COVID-19 remains the story to read about, this Monday, across newspapers. The rising number of cases in India, the Prime Minister’s video conference with SAARC leaders on how to contain the outbreak and whether states should impose Section 144 to restrict public gatherings, were the top reports on the pandemic.
Also in news, Pakistan brings up Kashmir during the SAARC COVID-19 discussion, the State Bank of India filed an FIR to discover the source of the leaked audio in which the Finance Minister is heard scolding SBI chairman and bank executives, and the continuing political uncertainty in Madhya Pradesh as a floor test Monday might challenge the Congress government.
The Times of India’s lead story (‘Covid-19 cases to be discharged…’) quotes the government on people who have recovered from the virus: COVID-19 cases will only be discharged after two negative tests in 24 hours. According to the daily, the total number of cases in India rose to 115, with Maharashtra leading with 34 cases — TOI notes that even Uttarakhand has joined the list of places with reported cases.
There’s a cautionary tale ín ‘Infected Brits, 17 others leave Munnar resort…’A British national, who had tested positive tried to flee the country, says TOI, on a flight out of Kochi to Dubai. He and 17 others had been quarantined at a resort in Munnar.
‘SBI plans FIR on leaked audio clip…’ states that the SBI was initiating action — including lodging an FIR against what SBI called “mischievous elements’’ who had recorded and circulated an embarrassing clip of the Finance Minister upbraiding the SBI chief.
The Indian Express leads with the “unprecedented” SAARC summit, held via video-conference where PM Modi “proposed creation of a COVID-19 emergency fund, for which it committed ‘an initial offer of RS$10 million’” the report says.
It also mentions how Pakistan’s Zafar Mirza “took the opportunity to score political points…’’ by raising Jammu and Kashmir in the discussion — he said the lockdown should be removed for health reasons after two coronavirus cases were confirmed there.
Another worrying report reports the “highest single-day jump in new cases” as 26 fresh ones were reported Sunday, “Of the new cases, 18 were reported from Maharashtra, 2 from Telangana, 3 from Kerala and 1 each from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand,” writes Express.
Back on the political front, the MP Assembly Speaker is also worried about the outbreak as he remains “defiant on floor test” for the Kamal Nath government as ordered by the Governor: “I am more concerned about the spread of coronavirus,” he is quoted as saying.
More bad news for the Congress in the report, ‘Gujarat: 4 Cong MLAs resign…’ The four MLAs tendered their resignation to the Assembly Speaker “triggering panic in the party ahead of the March 26 election to four Rajya Sabha seats from the state” where the Congress was hoping to win two seats.
Hindustan Times’s flap page explains the ‘Anatomy of a Contagion’ that shows how in the last 15 days there’s been a “change of battlefront” as China recovers with fewer and fewer reported cases while the worry for the rest of the world increases.
This seems to be borne out by the lead story that, like in the Express, notes the biggest “daily jump” in cases.
More interesting is the report, ‘More random tests amid caution’, which says, “The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the country’s apex biomedical research laboratory, Sunday began the second round of random testing of samples of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) to screen for the new coronavirus disease.”
The Hindu’s lead appears to be a straightforward report on ‘Confirmed COVID-19 cases rise to 114’. However, tucked in there is a cause for alarm: it says that while the government maintained there have been no cases of community transmission — people testing positive who have no traceable links to travellers from abroad — so far, however, “A senior researcher at an institution affiliated to the Union Science Ministry…said that it is likely community transmission ongoing in India’’ but has not been recorded due to inadequate testing
The coronavirus story to read here is on the Supreme Court: ‘CJI Bobde rules out complete shutdown’, says that the Chief Justice of India, Sharad A. Bobde has ruled out a complete shutdown of courts in the wake of the outbreak. “The CJI explained that as virtual courts are on the verge of commencement, there can only be a possibility of limited shutdown at present. The court is reopening on March 16 after the Holi break,” the paper notes.
The lead story tells of how the Briton infected with coronavirus and fellow tourists were tracked down and offloaded from a plane that would have taken off with 290 passengers for Dubai just over 15 minutes later Sunday morning.
The New Indian Express offers some calm solace in ‘South Korea, China Back on Their Feet’. “With the outbreak’s epicentre shifting to Europe, S Korea’s lessons could help countries like Italy that report hundreds of deaths on a daily basis,” the report notes and before listing the measures taken by the Moon Jae-in government.
And, in a “rare order” the Tamil Nadu Health Department empowered state officials to “forcibly hospitalise or isolate any person to prevent the spread of COVID-19″. This order also “empowers district collectors to even seal a geographical area like ward, village, town or city, if cases of COVID-19 are reported,” states the report.
Mumbai Mirror reported the total number of cases in India to be at 109. While its main story was a move the Western Railway undertook, which would determine who could travel by train. Mumbai Mirror reported, “the WR will screen passengers with a travel history to China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, South Korea and Spain in the past one month, and cancel their train ticket on the spot if they show symptoms of COVID-19.”
What also made it to the front page was actor Shahid Kapoor and wife Mira Kapoor still going to work out despite the advisory to shut all gyms.
The Tribune is creative in its headline on the news about the Madhya Pradesh government perhaps pinning its hopes of survival on the outbreak — ‘Virus may come to rescue of Nath govt’.
Also, the 33 percent cut in global crude oil prices has brought little respite for consumers. The page 1 report points that retail consumers “are yet to reap the benefits of low crude oil prices” as diesel and petrol prices are being cut only by 10-30 paise every day.
There’s a small but noteworthy item about Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad launching a political outfit — Azad Samaj Party. According to the report, “Azad said the Bhim Army would run parallel to the party and continue to fight for Dalit rights and will enrol new members”.
Read the story about “Indians stuck in the locked-down Covid-19 epicentres of Italy and Iran”. “Their wait for the Indian government’s evacuation operation gets agonising by the day, the problem compounded by their sheer numbers…” the report details.
The report also describes the travails of a pregnant woman in her first trimester who is in the throes of severe pain: “The woman…fears she may lose her baby.”
There’s also an interesting, albeit a little worrying anchor story (‘In Tech-Driven Telangana, The Eyes Have It’), about the “command and control centre” building or the “twin towers” in Telangana from where the one million CCTV cameras, which are being set up, will be controlled. “If you got out for work, by the time you are back, 50 cameras can spot you,” the report quotes the translated text of the information put out by the Telangana government.
Surprisingly, Mint is the only pink paper to note how the virus will “cut into India’s growth” as it highlights the “slowdown in consumption, curbs on travel and other restrictions set to pull down growth, (that will) have a toxic impact on the economy”.
“This (the pandemic) has prompted economists to pare India’s growth projection for 2020-21 closer to 5% from about 6% earlier. Moody’s Investors Service said Covid-19 will likely depress global growth in 2020 below 2.5%, the recessionary threshold for the world economy,” the report further emphasises.
Also, the cheaper oil prices “may not help industry” as second-page report says that with the “simultaneous impact of Covid-19″…nobody is sure “if things will progressively improve or deteriorate hereon”.