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India bans travellers from EU, UK, Turkey

New Delhi: The number of coronavirus cases touched 114 in the country on Monday after fresh cases were reported from several states, including Odisha as the government imposed fresh travel restrictions, prohibiting entry of passengers from the European Union (EU) countries and the United Kingdom (UK) from March 18.

The Union Health Ministry also said fresh coronavirus cases were also reported from Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh and Kerala.

A Maharashtra government official said four patients were detected for the novel coronavirus infection, taking the state tally to 37, as concerns over the pandemic steered decisions across all sectors and states, including in politically-volatile Madhya Pradesh.

The Union ministry did not immediately add the Maharashtra cases to its national count, covering 15 states and Union territories. Kerala officials also maintained the total tally was 24 as against 23 given by the Union ministry.

The tally of 114 includes 17 foreigners. While two people died, 13 people were discharged after they recovered from the infection, which according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) has infected 1,53,517 people in 135 countries and territories and claimed more than 5,700 lives. 

With the four new patients, Odisha has a count of one, Ladakh four and Jammu and Kashmir three, according to the ministry. 

With the positive cases of COVID-19 showing an increase, the government after a meeting of a group of ministers (GoM) proposed a set of social distancing measures to be in force till March 31, the health ministry officials told reporters.

“Travel of passengers from member countries of the European Union, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey and United Kingdom to India is prohibited with effect from 18th March 2020,” said Lav Aggarwal, the Joint Secretary in the ministry. “No airline shall board a passenger from these nations to India with effect from 1200 GMT on 18th March 2020. The airline shall enforce this at the port of initial departure,” he said.

Both these instructions are temporary measures and shall be in force till March 31, 2020 and will be reviewed subsequently, he said.

On March 11, India suspended all visas, except a few categories such as diplomatic and employment, till April 15 to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The GoM held their seventh meeting on Monday and after detailed deliberations social distancing measures as a preventive strategy has been proposed for implementation, Aggarwal said, adding that these interventions are proposed to be in force till March 31.

The key measures proposed include closure of all educational institutions – schools, colleges and universities – gyms, museums, cultural and social centres, swimming pools and theatres, he said.

All ASI-protected monuments and central museums across the country will also be shut till March 31, Union Culture Minister Prahlad Patal said.

Students should be advised to stay at home and online education should be promoted, Aggarwal said. “Non-essential travel should be avoided. Buses, trains and aeroplanes should maximise social distancing in public transport, besides ensuring proper disinfection of services,” he said.

As many states virtually shut down to stem the spread of COVID-19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the contribution of doctors, nurses and healthcare workers in fighting the virus. He said there was a coordinated response to the outbreak, showing the strong spirit of the nation in such situations.

In a series of tweets with the hashtag ‘India Fights Corona’, Modi said the encouragement from people highlighting the steps being taken to combat the virus is boosting the morale of all the “remarkable people” at the forefront of the fight.

Authorities in Maharashtra, which has registered the highest number of positive cases in India, have decided to close some prominent tourist and religious attractions as a precautionary measure. The world-famous Ajanta and Ellora caves near Aurangabad, the popular Siddhivinayak temple in Mumbai and the Tuljabhawani temple in Osmanabad district would remain closed in view of the coronavirus situation in the state, officials said. Entry restrictions to Mantralaya, the state secretariat in south Mumbai which sees thousands of visitors daily, will also be in force, Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope said.

Giving details of the Odisha case, an official in Bhubaneswar said a researcher who recently returned from Italy tested positive for the coronavirus. The 33-year-old patient who reached Delhi from Italy on March 6 and travelled to Bhubaneswar by train on March 12 is being treated at the Capital Hospital in the Odisha capital. “His condition is stable and he is not showing any other complications,” the state government’s chief spokesperson on coronavirus cases Subroto Bagchi told reporters.

The man consulted a doctor on March 13, complaining of fever and headache, and was admitted to the hospital’s isolation ward the next day.  As he travelled by train from Delhi to Bhubaneswar, the state government has launched a “contact tracing exercise”, Bagchi said. His family members have been quarantined and kept under observation.

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