India has extended its lockdown for a further period of two weeks beyond May 4.
After a comprehensive review and in view of the lockdown measures having led to significant gains in the COVID-19 situation in the country, Indian Ministry of Home Affairs issued an order under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
The Indian Military also issued new guidelines to regulate different activities during this period, based on the risk profiling of the districts of the country into Red (hotspot), Green and Orange Zones.
The guidelines have permitted considerable relaxations in the districts falling in the Green and Orange Zones.
The criteria for identification of districts as Red, Green and Orange Zones have been spelt out in detail in the letter dated April 30, 2020, issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), GoI.
People who arrived from neighboring Madhya Pradesh state wait to board a bus to be transported back to their native homes in Uttar Pradesh state in Prayagraj, India.AP Photo
The Green Zones will be districts with either zero confirmed cases till date; or, no confirmed case in the last 21 days.
The classification of districts as Red Zones will take into account the total number of active cases, doubling rate of confirmed cases, extent of testing and surveillance feedback from the districts.
Those districts, which are neither defined as Red nor Green, shall be classified as Orange zones.
The classification of districts into Red, Green and Orange Zones will be shared by MoHFW with the States and Union Territories (UTs) on a weekly basis, or earlier, as required.
While States and UTs can include additional districts as Red and Orange Zones, they may not lower the classification of a district included by MoHFW in the list of Red or Orange Zones.
An e-ITEC course on Covid-19 management has been designed by All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) especially for participants from Bangladesh taking forward India’s commitment to Bangladesh.
The course is scheduled to be held from May 12 to 13 and will be conducted in Bangla by medical professionals from AIIMS, Bhubaneswar.
This is the first course to be conducted in Bangla and is open for health professionals, health workers and administrators from Bangladesh, according to the Indian High Commission in Bangladesh.
All interested candidates are invited to apply by visiting website of Indian Technical & Economic Cooperation (ITEC).
Health experts of India and Bangladesh have already held videoconferences to discuss specific measures and exchange best practices on Covid-19 management.
Multiple online capacity-building courses on Covid-19 for health professionals have been designed and conducted by leading medical professionals from India under the Indian Technical & Economic Cooperation (ITEC) framework.
The first such course was conducted by AIIMS, Raipur from April 17 to 21 and the second course being conducted by Post Graduate Institute of Medical Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh is presently underway (April 27–May 6, 2020).
Over 150 health professionals from Bangladesh have already benefited from these courses.
As a friend and neighbour, India said, it is ready to stand with Bangladesh in times of challenge.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in their telephone conversation held on Wednesday reiterated their commitment to work together.
Together, India and Bangladesh can overcome the extraordinary situation created by the spread of Covid-19, said the High Commission.
Under India’s ‘Neighborhood First’ policy and with a view to taking a collaborative approach to tackling the spread of Covid-19, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi took the initiative to hold a videoconference with leaders of other SAARC Countries on March 15.
As Philippines saw a rise in coronavirus cases, Thailand recorded its single-digit count in new cases for the second straight day while India is easing COVID-19 restrictions.
The following are the latest developments of the COVID-19 pandemic in Asia-Pacific countries.
MANILA -- The Philippines' health authorities on Tuesday reported 181 more cases of COVID-19 disease, bringing the total number of the COVID-19 cases in the country to 7,958.
The Department of Health (DOH) also reported 43 more COVID-19 patients have recovered from the viral disease, bringing the total number to 975. Nineteen more deaths were also reported, raising the death toll to 530, the DOH added.
The Philippines continued to grapple with a steady rise of COVID-19 cases despite the lockdown the government imposed in mid-March.
BANGKOK -- Thailand has on Tuesday recorded single-digit count on new COVID-19 infections for the second straight day with 7 cases and 2 new fatalities, bringing the total cases to 2,938 and the death toll to 54.
Recovery cases rose by 43 to 2,652 while 232 patients are being treated in hospitals, said Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).
NEW DELHI -- The Indian capital government on Tuesday resumed services provided by specialist workers like electricians, plumbers, and water-purifier repair mechanics.
The 40-day lockdown in the country is scheduled to end on May 3.
Besides, the local government also allowed the movement of all medical and veterinary personnel, scientists, nurses, para-medical staff, lab technicians, mid-wives, and other hospital support services including ambulances within its premises.
YANGON -- The Myanmar government has formed a coordination and cooperation committee to work with ethnic armed groups in the fight against COVID-19, said an order issued by the President's Office on Tuesday.
The presidential order stressed that the government has been making strenuous efforts to adopt measures of prevention, control and treatment of COVID-19 without any discrimination on racial and religious grounds, based on a "No one left behind policy".
KABUL -- Afghanistan on Tuesday reported 125 new COVID-19 cases, the second highest daily increase so far, spokesman of the Ministry of Public Health said.
"A total of 125 new COVID-19 cases were reported across Afghanistan within the past 24 hours. The number of infected patients in the country stands at 1,828 as of Tuesday morning," spokesman Wahidullah Mayar said.
On Monday, the country reported 172 new coronavirus ceases, the highest daily increase since the outbreak of the pandemic in mid-February.
SYDNEY -- Australian state leaders moved to relax COVID-19 restrictions in order to allow family and friends to visit each other, as the number of new infections in the country remained low.
The country recorded 12 new cases during the 24 hours from Monday to Tuesday morning -- taking the total cases to 6,725 -- with just one coming from an unidentified source, according to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Australia's total number of COVID-19 fatalities stood at 84 after the death of an 89-year-old woman, who was a resident at an aged care facility in Sydney. She was the 17th resident to pass away after an infected nurse worked several shifts at the facility despite displaying mild symptoms.
ISLAMABAD -- Governor of Pakistan's south Sindh province Imran Ismail late Monday confirmed that he has tested positive for the COVID-19 and quarantined himself at his residence following the test result.
"I have just been tested COVID-19 positive," the governor said in a tweet.
Ismail said Prime Minister Imran Khan has taught people to fight the most difficult situations in life. "I believe this is nothing against what we are prepared for," he added.
Samples for his test have been sent to a laboratory on Sunday, which came positive on Monday night.
Talking to local media, Ismail said he has informed people he met over the past couple of days, adding that he will also have his family tested for the virus.
WELLINGTON -- New Zealand reported two new confirmed COVID-19 cases and one probable case over the past 24 hours, with the total number of infections being 1,472 in the country, the Ministry of Health said on Tuesday.
The country moved from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3 on Tuesday and will stay for at least two weeks at Level 3 before a further review and Alert Level decision on May 11.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield stressed social distancing at the press conference in order to prevent COVID-19.
SEOUL -- South Korea reported 14 more cases of the COVID-19 compared to 24 hours ago as of 0:00 a.m. Tuesday local time, raising the total number of infections to 10,752.
The daily caseload hovered around 10 for the 10th straight day. Of the new cases, 12 were imported from overseas, lifting the combined number to 1,056.
One more death was confirmed, raising the death toll to 244. The total fatality rate came in at 2.27 percent
A top South Korean official said his country remains confident that there have been no "unusual developments" in North Korea, suggesting that rumors about the health of leader Kim Jong Un are untrue.
Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul told a closed-door Seoul forum on Sunday that South Korea has "enough intelligence to confidently say that there are no unusual developments" in North Korea that back up speculation about Kim Jong Un's health, according to his ministry.
The minister said he would not reveal what specific intelligence led to that conclusion, but stressed that it had undergone a complex analysis process.
The rumors about Kim's health began to swirl after he missed the April 15 commemoration of the 108th birthday of his grandfather, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung. Kim Jong Un is the third generation of his family to rule North Korea, and he hadn't missed the event, one of the most important in the North, since assuming power after his father Kim Jong Il's death in late 2011.
The unification minister's comments are a reiteration of previous South Korean statements maintaining that Kim Jong Un appeared to be handling state affairs normally and that no unusual activities had been detected in the North. Those earlier comments failed to dispel the rumors about Kim, which have been fed by the silence of North Korea's state media about their leader's whereabouts.
As the absolute leader of country with a nuclear weapons program, Kim's health is matter of intense interest both regionally and globally. If something were to happen to Kim, some experts have said it could lead to instability in North Korea.
South Korea's presidential office earlier said that it has information that Kim has been staying out of Pyongyang and that there had been no emergency readiness order issued by the North's military or the ruling Workers' Party that likely would have been made if Kim were truly in bad condition.
Recent satellite photos released Saturday by 38 North, a website specializing in North Korea studies, showed that a train likely belonging to Kim has been parked at his compound on the country's east coast since last week.
"The train's presence does not prove the whereabouts of the North Korean leader or indicate anything about his health, but it does lend weight to reports that Kim is staying at an elite area on the country's eastern coast," 38 North said.
India's government is blaming an Islamic missionary meeting for a surge in coronavirus cases, triggering a wave of violence, business boycotts and hate speech toward Muslims that experts warn could worsen the pandemic in the world's second-most populous country.
The stigma faced by India's Muslims, poorer and with less access to health care than other groups, is making health workers' battle against the virus even tougher, according to veterans of other epidemics. India has about 24,500 confirmed coronavirus cases — about one in five of which have been linked to the missionary meeting — and 775 deaths, and the outbreak may not peak until June.
"Not only is the (Muslim) community at a higher risk of being infected, but they will also be at a high risk of spreading the virus," said Dr. Anant Bhan, a bioethics and global health expert. "It becomes a cycle that will continue."
About 8,000 people in the Tablighi Jamaat congregation met for three days in March at the group's compound in the crowded Nizamuddin area of New Delhi, shortly before the Indian government banned large gatherings. The compound stayed open, later giving shelter to people stranded in a 21-day lockdown imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24, according to the group's spokesman, Mujeeb ur Rehman.
On the second day of the lockdown, a government raid on the compound discovered the largest virus cluster in India. Police filed a case against some of the group's leaders for violating the ban, a charge the group denies. Officials said Tuesday they have arrested 29 people, including 16 foreigners, who participated in the missionary meeting.
India's communal fault lines, still stressed by deadly riots over a new naturalization law that excludes Muslims, were split wide open by the allegations against Jamaat.
Politicians in Modi's ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party were quoted on TV and in newspapers describing the Jamaat incident as "corona terrorism."
False news targeting Muslims began to circulate, including video clips purportedly showing congregation members spitting on authorities. The clips were quickly proven to be fake, yet by April 1, the hashtag "CoronaJihad" was trending on Twitter in India.
Lav Aggarwal, joint secretary of India's health ministry, repeatedly called out the congregation by name in daily news briefings. On April 5, he said the number of virus cases was doubling in just 4.1 days, and would have been a slower 7.4 days "if the additional ... cases due to the Tablighi Jamaat meeting would not have arisen."
That same day, Dilshad Mohammad took his life.
Panic, blame and stigma were spreading across India when the 37-year-old chicken peddler was shunned by his neighbors in Bangarh, a village in the hilly state of Himachal Pradesh, for giving two members of the Jamaat congregation a ride to their village on his scooter. Neighbors accused him of deliberately trying to infect them with the virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease.
Karthikeyan Gokulachandran, the district police superintendent, blamed his suicide on stigma.
In Rajasthan state, a pregnant Muslim woman was turned away from a public hospital because of her religion, resulting in the death of her 7-month-old fetus, said Vishvendra Singh, the state's tourism minister.
In Uttarakhand, Hindu youths forced Muslim fruit vendors to stop selling. Shots were fired at a mosque in Gurugram, a suburb of New Delhi, and a Muslim family in the neighboring state of Haryana was attacked by neighbors who accused them of not turning off their lights on April 9, the night Modi had asked the country to extinguish household lights for 15 minutes in a show of national unity.
Doctors who studied previous epidemics warn that stigma and blame for a contagious disease weaken trust in marginalized communities, threatening decades-long efforts against illnesses such as polio and tuberculosis by making people less likely to seek treatment.
Stigma in general is adding to India's coronavirus death toll, said Dr. Randeep Guleria, head of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi and among the architects of the country's response.
"It is actually causing increasing morbidity and mortality. Because of the stigma that is happening, many patients who have COVID-19 or who have flu-like symptoms are not coming forward," he said.
Muslims were already at a disadvantage when the coronavirus entered India.
India's 200 million Muslims account for 14% of the population and are the largest minority group in the Hindu-majority nation and also the poorest, surviving on an average of 32.6 rupees ($0.43) per day, a 2013 government survey found.
Muslims also have less access to health care. About 40% of villages with large Muslims populations don't have medical facilities, a government report in 2006 said. The government in Maharahstra -- the state with the biggest concentration of coronavirus cases -- said Muslim-majority areas had a "paucity of health facilities" in a 2013 report. It said the "threat of communal riots" forced Muslims to "live together in slums and ghettos" where social distancing is often impossible.
In deeply polarized India, some Modi critics have suggested that the government singled out the Jamaat congregation for strategic reasons.
The "vilification of Muslims was done to hide the government's mismanagement in dealing with the virus and their callousness," said Professor Tanweer Fazal, a sociologist at the University of Hyderabad.
Aggarwal, the health ministry spokesman, declined to respond.
On Sunday, Modi tweeted that the coronavirus does not discriminate based on race, religion or creed.
"Our response and conduct thereafter should attach primacy to unity and brotherhood. We are in this together," he said.
His remarks came hours after the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's human rights body condemned the "unrelenting vicious Islamophobic campaign in India maligning Muslims for spread of COVID-19."