All mainstream papers give Odisha a pat on the back for being the first state to provide a clear roadmap ahead in extending its lockdown till 30 April.
The other main coronavirus stories of the day concern ramping up testing, coronavirus expert teams being sent to nine states and the worrying news that Thursday saw the highest increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in a day.
The financial press focuses on the RBI’s ominous warning of more adverse effects of Covid-19 looming large over the economy, despite low inflation.
The lead story in The Times Of India is about the NCR, which saw the sealing of many hotspots: ‘Confusion, chaos abound on Day 1 of Noida containment’ reports, “The administrative preparation that such an exercise demands was missing, resulting in the first day of sealing… bringing all-round chaos…
Supplies of essentials ran low, helplines struggled to cope and the status of passes was hazy, leading to even essential service providers like doctors having to plead with police to be allowed to pass. Gates of societies and colonies were sealed, with ‘police line, do not cross’ tapes put up at several places.”
In more bad news, ‘3 die in city; new India cases top 750 in a day for 1st time’, the national daily reports, careful to add that the numbers are as “per confirmed reports collated by TOI from states”.
“India’s Covid-19 count rose sharply on Thursday with states confirming 787 new cases – by far the highest single-day tally so far and 30% more than the previous highest of 598 recorded on Wednesday, as per confirmed reports collated by TOI from states,” it states.
However, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan tried keeping spirits high. TOI quotes him in another story: “At 3.8 cases per mn, India’s rate of infection still fairly low…’ According to the daily Vardhan boasted “that in terms of data or statistics on Covid-19, India is much better placed than any other country”.
The Indian Express singles out Odisha as the first state to “clearly spell out its plan of action”. In its lead ‘Extending lockdown: Odisha leads the way’, it commends Odisha’s decision to continue the statewide lockdown till 30 April. “The state government also said it would recommend to the Centre to extend the national lockdown to the same date and request for rail and air services to the state to be stopped until then,” reports Express.
Another report (‘No let up in Maharashtra: 25 deaths 229 cases is single highest day-jump’) notes the alarming rise of cases and deaths in Maharashtra but is careful to add — “The higher number could be the result of the increase in the number of tests”.
In an exclusive report based on an interview with Haryana Additional Chief Secretary (Health) Rajeev Arora, the newspaper notes the Centre’s firm push to “ramp up the number of samples collected across the country for testing to at least 2.5 lakh by April 14”. The target of 2.5 lakh was conveyed to states and UTs by the Union Ministry, said Arora.
Bihar heaves a sigh of relief. In the story ‘Bihar tests, finds migrants haven’t added to state tally of positive cases’, Express says the state government has found no Covid-19 positive case amongst the 1.8 lakh migrants who arrived in Bihar after the mass exodus ten days ago. Bihar CM Nitish Kumar said, “But most of those who tested Covid-19 positive [in Bihar] are people who travelled to Middle East countries or have Tablighi Jamaat connection.”
Hindustan Times puts an even higher number on the total number of new Covid-19 cases than TOI’s 750 in ‘816 cases jolt India amid harder curbs’. The paper reports, “The Centre on Thursday approved an emergency response package worth ~15,000 crore to control the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and was considering dividing the Indian Railways into three zones for a staggered exit from the nationwide lockdown, even as it opened a new front in the battle to halt the outbreak by creating over 1,100 containment zones.”
And what will disappoint readers, a US study warns, “Heat may not bring relief”. There has been a widespread belief that high temperatures will kill the virus — a good sign for India. However, according to HT’s report, “a prestigious scientific panel in the US said that high temperature is unlikely to significantly stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) without major public health interventions such as personal protection and social distancing. The report is from the US National Academies of Sciences (NAS), which, on April 4, said Covid-19 can be spread just by talking or breathing, resulting in many countries, including India, to revise guidelines on masks.”
The Hindu chooses to be more optimistic in its lead with ICMR stating, ‘No significant rate of increase in COVID-19 positive cases’.
Hindu writes, “The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Thursday said the country has maintained a steady rate of COVID-19 positive cases — 3% to 5% over the past month and half — and has registered no significant increase in this trend so far.”
This optimistic lead is somewhat belied by bad news in another report ‘Study points to community transmission’. According to the daily, “There was evidence for community transmission from as early as March 22, as per a study authored by several ICMR scientists — including its head Balram Bhargava — and made public late Thursday. Of the 102 COVID-19 positive patients with severe respiratory illness, 40 did not report any history of contact or international travel, it says.”
And the report ‘Ahmedabad adopts South Korean model’ explains, “The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has adopted the South Korean model of aggressive testing to ascertain the scale of the pandemic.’’
The paper also carries a photo captioned ‘Every inch matters’, as the BMC converted the National Sports Club of India’s indoor stadium into a 500-bed quarantine facility in view of the Covid-19 crisis.
The Telegraph‘s lead story is ‘Sign of spread below radar’ expands on the study by ICMR scientists, mentioned by The Hindu, “The novel coronavirus has spread undetected among people in at least 36 districts across India, government medical researchers said on Thursday, releasing the strongest evidence yet for community-level transmission of the virus.”
It also reports on a disturbing trend: `Virus hate campaign triggers attacks’. The Kolkata daily notes, “Alleged firing on a mosque, the targeting of Muslim vegetable vendors and a mob attack on a man who had attended a Tablighi Jamaat meeting in Madhya Pradesh have prompted the Delhi minority commission to send three notices to the police in the past one week. These incidents, all reported from northwest Delhi and purportedly captured on WhatsApp videos, are part of a series of attacks on Muslims reported from across the country, from Assam to Punjab to Karnataka.”
Mumbai Mirror dedicates its front page to news of DHFL promoter, the Wadhawan family being detained in Panchgani for violating the lockdown.
The Mumbai daily reports, “Nine members of Dewan Housing Finance Limited’s (DHFL) promoter family were detained near Mahabaleshwar on Thursday for violating lockdown orders and were sent into quarantine at a government facility in Panchgani. The family members – in what could be a major embarrassment for the government – were carrying a letter from one of the state’s top bureaucrats, Principal Secretary (Home) Amitabh Gupta, granting their entourage of five cars immunity from the lockdown.”
Giving some juicy details, the paper adds, “Among those detained were Kapil Wadhawan, promoter-director, DHFL and Dheeraj Wadhawan, a former non-executive director of the company. DHFL – a non-banking finance company has been in news recently for its suspicious transactions with Yes Bank founder Rana Kapoor in 2018. Last month, a city court had issued non-bailable warrants against the brothers after they did not appear before the CBI for questioning in the case, which was registered on March 7.”
The Tribune leads with news on nine “high-level multidisciplinary teams for containment and hospital preparedness” being set up in nine states including Bihar, Karnataka and Maharashtra. In “Expert teams for nine states”, it says the scheme is fully funded by the Centre.
And, with an eye on “potential treatment lines”, India has started genome sequencing of the novel coronavirus. In the newspaper’s second lead (`India begins genome sequencing’), it says top researchers with the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, and the Institute of Genomics and Integrated Biology (IGIB), New Delhi are looking at samples of the virus provided by different states “to trace the source of the disease”.
Two human interest stories on Tribune’s front page. The first,’2 Delhi doctors assaulted for ‘spreading’ the virus’, notes two female doctors of Safdarjung Hospital who were slapped by a 42-year-old man after stepping out of their house to buy fruits. The second, in ‘Ludhiana police team arrest infected thief, all 17 home quarantined’, reports how 17 policemen in Ludhiana have gone into self-quarantine after nabbing a thief who tested positive for Covid-19. “The judge in whose court the accused was produced has also gone into self-quarantine,” it adds.
In some troubling news, the RBI says “Covid-19 pandemic looms as a ‘spectre’ that could upset all calculations”. In The Economic Times’ lead (‘RBI sees inflation plunging to 2.4% in Q4 of this fiscal’), it warns that the “second round of effects of Covid-19 could be more severe as it could feed through the global trade channel, demolishing the confidence of investors and consumers as volatility reigns in financial markets”.
Another report notes how the “country’s biggest consumer goods firm”, Hindustan Unilever, has incurred major losses. “Average daily sales and factory output have tumbled to about 40% of its usual run rate thanks to labour shortages and transport disruptions in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown”, says the report.
Mint’s lead ‘RBI Warns, IMF Proposes’ also takes heed of the RBI’s ominous statement in its biannual monetary policy report. The front page also notes IMF chief economist, Gita Gopinath’s calls for a “substantial fiscal stimulus package” and providing SMEs the resources they need.
In some encouraging news, economists and business leaders are pitching for “a massive Rs. 10 trillion fiscal stimulus package to support people who have lost their livelihoods and businesses on the verge of collapse because of the coronavirus crisis”. In ‘Chorus grows for ₹10 tn stimulus as lockdown ravages economy’, the newspaper says this follows former chief economic adviser, Arvind Subramanian observation that it will take Rs 10 trillion, “an amount equivalent to 5% of India’s gross domestic product, to deal with the disruption caused by the pandemic”.
Like other pink papers, Business Standard also sees “Covid-19 hangs over future like spectre: RBI”. It says the central bank expects the global economy “to slump into recession in 2020, as post-Covid-19 projections indicate”.
After the mass exodus of migrant workers ten days ago, the government seems to be devising a plan for the informal sector struggling under the unprecedented lockdown. In ‘Govt begins mapping of migrant workers for relief measures’, the anchor story notes the Centre’s plans for “a database of millions of such workers to ascertain whether a relief package could be announced for the most affected segment of the workforce”.
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