A man is screened for COVID-19 | Photo: ANI
A man is screened for COVID-19 (Representational Image) | Photo: ANI
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation on the coronavirus outbreak, the arrival of 26,000 Indians in Mumbai from the Gulf region, the postponement of CBSE board exams and uncertainty surrounding the census to commence on April 1 dominate headlines Thursday.

The financial newspapers dwell on the Supreme Court’s strictures against the telcos and Department of Telecommunications as it bans any self-assessment, calling it a fraud.

The Times of India’s flap story ‘SC refuses to have MP MLAs’ parade in court’, notes that the judgment regarding the floor test in Madhya Pradesh will most likely take place Thursday. The daily reports, “While refusing on Wednesday BJP’s offer to parade 16 rebel Congress MLAs before the Supreme Court judges to counter Congress’s charge that the legislators were coerced to quit the party and held in captivity by BJP in Bengaluru, the court said it would “proceed to dictate the judgment (in the case), once arguments get over on Thursday afternoon”.”

The lead story is somewhat alarming: Mumbai is set to welcome 26,000 Indians coming from the Gulf (‘Mum prepares to quarantine…’). “As the total number of coronavirus cases in India went up to 171 and Maharashtra, with four more patients testing positive on Wednesday, continued to lead the list at 45 (by a wide margin), the Mumbai civic body prepared to welcome around 26,000 Indians expected to land in the city between Thursday and March 31 from Covid-19-hit Gulf nations such as the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman”, reports TOI

But there appears to be reassuring news too, in ‘Results in, no community spread so far’. “All the 820 randomly collected samples…’’ have tested negative, “providing scientific evidence that community transmission is yet to manifest itself,’’ writes TOI

The Indian Express leads with ‘PM Modi to address nation today, random tests to include more pneumonia cases’.  

“India does need to test more, and is already moving in that direction by looking at atypical pneumonia patients which presents symptoms slightly different from pneumonia”, writes the paper.

An accompanying report (`One COVID-19 positive infects 1.7 in India, lower than hot zones’) notes “climate to lockdown may be factors” argues that “a possible reason for the slow increase’’ in the number of infections is that each patient has been passing on the virus to only 1.7 persons but it notes that scientists say they don’t know the exact reason yet and the figures may change. 

Another important report (‘Taken for tests, youth back from Sydney jumps to death at hospital’) covers the suicide of a man back from Sydney who was “admitted only as a suspected coronavirus patient” at Delhi’s Safdarjang Hospital. 

As the COVID-19 panic grows, another report covers how “Subhash Chandra to Anil Ambani and Naresh Goyal: 5 slip ED summons, cite virus, illness, House duty”. All these businessmen have been cited in the Yes Bank probe.

Hindustan Times opens on a sombre note today with a note for its readers which says that in this “unprecedented situation”, the paper might have to make changes in the news that is reported. “Keeping our focus on coverage that is essential and topical, so that our readers can stay aware and make informed choices.”

Unusually, it carries a front page piece, on the flap, by its editor R. Sukumar ‘Covid-19: What you need to know today’, which points out the main developments in the battle against coronavirus in India and argues that perhaps more aggressive testing is required.  

The HT lead story is about India’s coronavirus tally crossing 150 cases, with 14 new cases reported. “States intensify curbs, malls shut in Gurugram, Rajasthan imposes Sec 144 in state. Global Mayhem: Cases cross 200,000 worldwide, with at least 8,300 people dying, European Union seals borders”. 

Also making news is the ‘1st case in the army…’ as a soldier tested positive and “The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on Wednesday postponed ongoing Class 10, 12 examinations till March 31 due to the coronavirus outbreak.”

The Hindu leads with its report on “276 Indians infected with virus abroad.”

It states that “with 255 Indians testing positive for the novel coronavirus in Iran and another 21 in other countries, the total number of Indian nationals afflicted with the pandemic rose to 413.” While cases within the country touched 162, including 25 foreigners Wednesday.

Away from coronavirus is the report, ‘With two weeks to Census start, uncertainty clouds NPR’. The article notes, “At least 13 States, and Delhi, covering almost 60% of the total population of India, are opposed to the National Population Register (NPR) being updated in the format being prepared by the Centre, even as the nationwide exercise is scheduled to kick off on April 1.”

Moving away from its clever headlines, the Kolkata daily notes that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee appealed to all travelling to Bengal to strictly adhere to the rules to combat COVID-19, making it clear there was no space for doing “VIP-LIP (very important person-less important person)”. 

In other news, the Bengal health department is tracking down passengers who were on the same flight as the 18-year-old boy student who tested positive for COVID-19.

The New Indian Express leads with the cancellation of board exams due to a rise in COVID-19 cases (‘Cases jump, board exams off’) adding “Given the gravity of the situation, CBSE put off all remaining class X and class XII exams.”

Another report covers Tamil Nadu’s second coronavirus case (‘TN records second COVID positive case’) who “hails from Delhi, in isolation and is stable under the observation of an expert team.”

There’s also a report on how Kerala is tackling the situation (`Kerala plans mass screenings at bus stands, railway stations’) as “fears of community transmission of coronavirus grows.”

In Mumbai Mirror, the headline: “THANK YOU!’’ says it all: “This is to those at the forefront of the battle against coronavirus at considerable risk to their own wellbeing”.

The daily notes, “The coronavirus pandemic has claimed thousands of lives… It has, however, failed to crush the indomitable spirit of a few brave Mumbaikars who have been working inhuman hours, in conditions of extreme risk, to keep the rest of us safe. The brave few who have been at the frontlines of the outbreak include doctors, nurses and other staff at Kasturba and SevenHills hospitals – the last place those of us lucky enough to practice social distancing would dream of venturing.”

The Tribune takes a break from the pandemic and leads with the political tangle in Madhya Pradesh (`SC: Won’t have rebel MLAs paraded). The report reads, “Noting that the rebel MLAs may or may not go to the Assembly, the Bench said it had to ensure that the MLAs could freely exercise their choice.”

The newspaper highlights the Centre’s advice on cutting public transport — ‘Cut public transport use to prevent spread: Centre’, as the paper notes this “effectively means curbs on metros and bus transport.”

Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi also made it to the front page as his Rajya Sabha nomination has been challenged in the top court. The report (‘Gogoi’s RS nomination challenged in top court’) notes activist Madhu Kishwar challenged it on the grounds that “it compromises the independence and credibility of our judiciary at the highest level.”

The Economic Times leads with ‘Feeding on Fears, Bears Tighten Grip’ as the report details “One of the swiftest bear markets in the history of global equities intensified on Wednesday as fears over the unchecked surge in Covid-19 cases eclipsed optimism around the US government’s $1-trillion stimulus package.”

Supreme Court’s slamming of telcos makes second lead (“SC slams DoT & Telcos over AGR self-assessment) as it bans “any further reassessment or self-assessment of telcos adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues, dubbing attempts to reopen the issue as tantamount to fraud and contempt of court, and ordering that operators pay interest and penalties in full.”

Mint’s lead (‘Global Recession Comes Knocking’) details how “Indian stocks plunged again on Wednesday, as investors fled risky assets amid fears that coronavirus infections may surge in the country, wreaking economic havoc.” 

The anchor story features chairperson of Bengaluru-based Biocon Ltd Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw who has a warning for all those celebrating India’s low rate of infection: “India has one of the lowest coronavirus testing rates in the world and must scale up efforts by involving accredited private labs.”

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