In wake of an increase in COVID-19 cases, authorities in India's southern Tamil Nadu state imposed a fresh lockdown in the state capital of Chennai and its suburbs on Friday.
The lockdown which came into force early Friday will remain in force until the end of this month.
"The 12-day lockdown in Chennai and three other districts of Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur and Chengalpattu began today," an official said. "Only the essential services will be allowed in these areas."
Tamil Nadu has recorded the second-highest number of infections in India with 52,334 COVID-19 cases including 625 fatalities till date.
According to officials, shops will remain open until 2:00 p.m. local time during the lockdown and relaxations have been extended to medical and other essential services.
Health, revenue and police officials in Chennai, Chengalpattu, Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur districts have prepared an elaborate action plan to implement the full lockdown.
Public bus service has been suspended for quite a long time in the region, though flights and long-distance trains will continue as per the existing schedule of service providers.
Officials said the relaxations in other parts of the state will continue as per federal government directives.
China and India on Wednesday accused each other of instigating border clashes between their forces along the disputed Himalayan frontier.
Both sides pledged to safeguard their territory and also to try to end a standoff that has dramatically raised the stakes between the nuclear-armed Asian giants, reports AP.
Twenty Indian troops were reportedly killed in the clashes on Monday night in the Ladakh region's Galwan Valley, while it was not clear whether China suffered any casualties.
Indian security forces said neither side fired any shots, with some officials saying the soldiers were carrying anti-riot gear rather than weapons. The Indian soldiers, including a colonel, died of severe injuries suffered in sub-zero temperatures after the two sides threw rocks and traded blows, Indian officials said.
It was the deadliest conflict between the sides in 45 years, and escalated a standoff in the disputed region that began in early May, when Indian officials said Chinese soldiers crossed the boundary at three points, setting up tents and guard posts and ignoring verbal warnings to leave.
That triggered shouting matches, stone-throwing and fistfights, much of it replayed on television news channels and social media.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned New Delhi not to underestimate Beijing's determination to safeguard what it considers its sovereign territory. His comments came in a phone call Wednesday with his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.
Wang said China demanded that India conduct a thorough investigation and "harshly punish" those responsible.
"The Indian side would best not make an incorrect judgement of the situation, would best not underestimate China's strong determination to safety its sovereign territory," Wang said in a statement issued by the foreign ministry.
He repeated China's claims that India was solely responsible for the conflict, saying Indian forces had crossed the Line of Actual Control that divides the thousands of troops from both sides deployed in the area.
Jaishankar, in turn, accused China of erecting a structure in the Galwan Valley, which he called a "premeditated and planned action that was directly responsible for the resulting violence and casualties," according to a statement.
He added that the incident would have "serious repercussions" on India's relationship with China, but that both sides were committed to further disengaging on the remote plateau of the Himalayan terrain.
‘Watershed moment in India-China ties’
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the soldiers killed in the clashes.
"Their sacrifices won't go to waste," he said. "For us, the unity and sovereignty of the country is the most important thing. India wants peace, but when provoked, it is capable of giving a fitting reply, be it any kind of situation."
While experts said the two nations were unlikely to head to war, they also believe easing tensions quickly will be difficult.
"This will likely be a watershed moment in India-China relations and the geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific," said Abraham Denmark, Asia programme director at The Wilson Center. "Both countries are led by men who have embraced nationalism, and both countries are facing tremendous domestic and international upheaval as a result of COVID-19 and other long-standing problems."
The main questions now are if either side can find a path to deescalation and whether India's allies such as the US will help.
"It is a highly volatile and dangerous situation between two nationalistic, nuclear powers at a time when American influence has badly diminished," Denmark said.
China claims about 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles) of territory in India's northeast, while India says China occupies 38,000 square kilometers (15,000 square miles) of its territory in the Aksai Chin Plateau in the Himalayas, a contiguous part of the Ladakh region.
India unilaterally declared Ladakh a federal territory while separating it from disputed Kashmir in August 2019. China was among the handful of countries to strongly condemn the move, raising it at international forums including the UN Security Council.
Thousands of soldiers on both sides have faced off over a month along a remote stretch of the 3,380-kilometer (2,100-mile) Line of Actual Control, the border established following a war between India and China in 1962 that resulted in an uneasy truce.
The United Nations urged both sides "to exercise maximum restraint."
"We are concerned about reports of violence and deaths at the Line of Actual Control between India and China," UN associate spokesperson Eri Kaneko said. "We take positive note of reports that the two countries have engaged to de-escalate the situation."
At least 20 Indian soldiers have been killed in a border skirmish high in the Himalayas between the world's two most populated countries - India and China.
This is seen as the first deadly violence since the two nuclear armed neighbours faced off in a border dispute 45 year ago.
The Indian and Chinese troops fought each other with fists and rocks along the high-altitude Himalaya terrain in a clash that left 20 Indian soldiers dead, Indian authorities said Tuesday, reports AP.
China accused Indian forces of carrying out "provocative attacks" on its troops and has not said if any of its soldiers have died.
The Indian army said in its statement that the two sides had "disengaged" from the disputed Galwan area where they clashed overnight on Monday.
The army originally reported that three Indian soldiers had died, but later said 17 additional soldiers succumbed to injuries they suffered in the sub-zero temperatures where the clash occurred in the Himalayan region of Ladakh.
Thousands of soldiers on both sides have been facing off for over a month along a remote stretch of the 2,100-mile Line of Actual Control, the border established following a war between India and China in 1962 that resulted in an uneasy truce.
The clash Monday — during which neither side fired any shots, according to Indian officials — is the first deadly confrontation between the two Asian giants since 1975.
Vivek Katju, a retired Indian diplomat, said the deadly violence represented a dramatic departure from the four-decades-old status quo of troops from the two countries facing off without any fatalities.
"The political class and the security class as a whole will have to do very serious thinking about the road ahead," he said.
The Indian army said in a statement earlier Tuesday that a "violent faceoff" took place in Ladakh's Galwan Valley on Monday night, "with casualties on both sides."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian gave no details of any casualties on the Chinese side, but said that China had strongly protested the incident while still being committed to maintaining "peace and tranquility" along the disputed and heavily militarized border.
"But what is shocking is that on June 15, the Indian troops seriously violated the consensus of the two sides, crossed the border illegally twice and carried out provocative attacks on Chinese personnel, resulting in serious physical conflicts between the two border forces," Zhao said.
India's Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement that the incident happened "as a result of an attempt by the Chinese side to unilaterally change the status quo" in the Galwan Valley.
A tanker truck exploded on a highway in southeastern China on Saturday, killing 18 people and injuring at least 189 others, authorities said.
The explosion caused extensive damage to nearby buildings. One photo showed firefighters hosing down a row of buildings with blown-out facades well into the night.
The truck carrying liquefied gas exploded around 4:45 p.m. on the Shenyang-Haikou Expressway south of Shanghai in Zhejiang province, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing local authorities.
A second explosion followed when the truck fell onto a factory workshop, Xinhua said.
The Wenling city government information office said on its social media account that houses and workshops collapsed and 189 people were treated at six hospitals.
A worker at a nearby restaurant told Xinhua that the blast shattered the windows of her home, but that her mother and brother were unharmed.
Chinese health authorities on Sunday said that 57 new confirmed coronavirus cases were reported on the Chinese mainland on Saturday.
Of these cases, 38 were domestically transmitted and 19 were imported, reports Xinhua.
Thirty-six of the domestically transmitted cases were reported in Beijing and two in Liaoning Province, the National Health Commission said in its daily report.
No coronavirus-related deaths were reported Saturday, according to the commission.
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On Saturday, two people were discharged from hospitals after recovery.
As of Saturday, the overall confirmed cases on the mainland had reached 83,132, including 129 patients who were still being treated, with one in severe condition.
Altogether 78,369 people had been discharged after recovery and 4,634 people died of the disease, the commission said.
By Saturday, the Chinese mainland had reported a total of 1,827 imported cases. Of the cases, 1,744 had been discharged from hospitals after recovery, and 83 remained hospitalized, with no one in severe condition. No deaths from the imported cases had been reported. There were currently two suspected case, the commission said.
According to the commission, 3,358 close contacts were still under medical observation after 542 people were discharged from medical observation Saturday.
Also on Saturday, nine new asymptomatic cases, including six from abroad, were reported on the mainland. Two asymptomatic cases were re-categorized as confirmed cases, and two were discharged from medical observation, according to the commission.
The commission said 103 asymptomatic cases, including 53 from abroad, were still under medical observation.
By Saturday, 1,109 confirmed cases including four deaths had been reported in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), 45 confirmed cases in the Macao SAR, and 443 in Taiwan including seven deaths.
A total of 1,061 patients in the Hong Kong SAR, 45 in the Macao SAR, and 431 in Taiwan had been discharged from hospitals after recovery.