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COVID-19 cases climb to 84 in India


New Delhi

Amid a controversy over the cremation of the 68-year-old woman who died in Delhi after being infected with the novel coronavirus, the Union health ministry has begun working on framing guidelines for handling the bodies of those who die of the disease.

Though it is unlikely that coronavirus infection could spread from handling of a body, the guidelines are being drafted to dispel any misconception and raise awareness regarding spread of the disease from a deceased, a health ministry official said.

India reported its second casualty due to coronavirus on Friday with the Union health ministry confirming the death of the woman who had tested positive for the contagious respiratory disease after coming in contact with her son who acquired the virus after travelling abroad recently.

The first casualty was a 76-year-old man in

Karnataka who died on March 10.

“Coronavirus infection is a respiratory disease which spreads through droplets and the probability of mortuary or disposal staff contracting the virus from the dead is unlikely as against in case of high-risk pathogens like Ebola and Nipah which have very high chances of spreading through direct contact with body-fluids of the deceased,” the health ministry official said.

Cremation of a person who died due to coronavirus has no side effect by any methods – using fire or electrical, gas or by burial – said Sudhir Gupta, the head of the forensic medicine department of the AIIMS, New Delhi.

In case of burial, the above surface of the grave should be cemented, Gupta added.

The World Health Organisation guidelines on ‘Infection prevention and control of epidemic and pandemic-prone acute respiratory infections in health care’ recommends proper use of personal protection equipment in accordance with standard precautions to avoid direct contact with body fluids while moving a body from isolation room or area.

The number of coronavirus positive cases in the country has risen to 84 which include the two deaths in Delhi and Karnataka, according to the Union health ministry.

Seven persons who had tested positive, including five from Uttar Pradesh, and one each from Rajasthan and Delhi have been discharged after treatment, a health ministry official said.

So far, Delhi has reported seven positive cases and Uttar Pradesh 11. Karnataka has six coronavirus patients, Maharashtra 14 and Ladakh three while Jammu and Kashmir reported two cases. Rajasthan, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab have reported one case each.

Kerala has reported 19 cases, including three who were discharged last month after they recovered from the contagious infection. Of the country’s 84 confirmed cases 17 are foreigners — 16 Italian tourists and a Canadian. 

The Jammu and Kashmir administration issued prohibitory orders in Kishtwar and Ramban districts, restricting assembly of more than five persons at any public place.

The Aligarh Muslim University suspended all classes, including sessional tests, till March 22 as a precautionary measure.

All conferences, workshops, educational tours and sports programmes have been postponed till March 31 though examinations of the university and schools will be held according to schedule.

The Punjab government ordered a shutdown of cinema halls and banned public gatherings including cultural events till further notice to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri at an event in Hyderabad said domestic passenger traffic was down by 10 to 15 per cent owing to the killer virus.

The external affairs ministry announced that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lead India at a video conference of all SAARC nations on Sunday at 5 pm to chalk out a joint strategy to fight coronavirus in the region.

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