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Coronavirus Updates: FM Nirmala Sitharaman Announces Rs 1.7 Lakh Crore Relief Package For Poor

A British national treated with anti-HIV drugs tests negative in Kerala
Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaks to media on Cabinet decisions, at PIB Conference Hall, Shastri Bhawan on March 4, 2020 in New Delhi.
Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaks to media on Cabinet decisions, at PIB Conference Hall, Shastri Bhawan on March 4, 2020 in New Delhi.

Coronavirus cases in India crossed 600 on Wednesday with active COVID-19 cases at 593 while 43 people have been cured, discharged or migrated, while 13 have died, as of 10.15 am on Thursday.

Maharashtra is still reporting the highest number of COVID-19 cases so far at 121, including three foreign nationals, followed by Kerala which has recorded 110 cases, including eight foreign nationals.

Here are the updates from today:

1. Relief package announced by FM Nirmala Sitharaman with immediate effect

Sitharaman announced a package of Rs 1.7 lakh crore for the poor and for migrant workers via cash transfer and food subsidy. Here’s what that includes:

— Three months of Rs 50 lakh medical insurance cover each for doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers. Insurance cover will benefit 20 lakh people.

— For the poor, in addition to 5kg they already get through PDS, 5 more kg of rice or wheat for free per person per month and 1kg of pulses of their choice for per household. This will benefit 80 crore people. They can avail this in 2 instalments.

— Additional wage of Rs 2000 per worker under MGNREGA, which is to benefit 5 crore families. MNREGA workers wage increased from R.182 to 202 per day.

Rs 2,000 to be transferred to farmers in first week of April under PM Kishan Yojana, to benefit 8.69 crore farmers

— 20 crore women Jan Dhan account holders to get an ex-gratia amount of Rs 500 per month for next three months

Free cylinders for 3 months for 8.3 crore BPL families covered under Ujjwala scheme

Collateral-free loans for women’s self-help groups doubled to Rs 20 lakh, to benefit 7 crore households

One time ex-gratia of Rs 2000 to 3 crore poor senior citizens, poor widows and the disabled through direct benefit transfer

EPF contribution by the Employee and Employer (total 24%) will be paid for the next 3 months by the government. This is for all those establishments which have 100 employees and 90% of those employees earn less than Rs.15,000/month.

— Govt ready to amend the regulation of EPF so that workers can draw upto 75% non-refundable advance from credit in PF account or 3 months salary, whichever is lower. This will benefit 4.8 crore workers.

— Govt to allow staff in 4 lakh companies to withdraw fund from their EPF account on non refundable basis

— Welfare for building and construction workers, registered 3.5 crore workers to be benefited, Central Govt has given orders to State Govts to use fund (Rs31,000 crore) to provide relief,

— Centre to request state govts to use the District Mineral Fund to augment medical testing, screening and providing health attention.

2. Delhi to test all healthcare workers involved in COVID-19 treatment

Indian Express’s Astha Saxena reports:

3. Sonia Gandhi writes to Modi with lockdown suggestions

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has written to PM Modi extending support to the 21-day lockdown. She has sought measures to protect doctors, paramedics and ease supply chain for essentials.

The Centre might consider deferring all EMIs for 6 months and interest charged by banks for this period may consequently be waived, she wrote.

All loan instalment deductions from salaries of government employees may also be deferred for six months, Gandhi said.

4. Kashmir reports first death

A 65-year-old man hailing from Hyderpora area of Srinagar died on Thursday, becoming the first fatality in Jammu and Kashmir due to coronavirus.

The restrictions on the movement and assembly of people to contain the spread of the coronavirus were intensified in Kashmir on Thursday, in the wake of four more positive cases detected in the valley on Wednesday, taking the total number of affected persons to 11, officials said.

Authorities have tightened curbs across the valley as four more positive cases— all from Bandipora district—were detected on Wednesday.

5. Delhi mohalla clinic doctor, wife, daughter test positive, 900 quarantined

A doctor at a mohalla clinic—which are community health centres set up by the Delhi government—has tested positive for coronavirus along with his wife and daughter, NDTV reported.

The clinic is located in northeast Delhi’s Maujpur, one of the areas worst hit by violence in the capital last month.

Nearly 900 people who came in contact the doctor have been quarantined, Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain told NDTV.

6. Bengal, Tamil Nadu ask Centre for funds

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has sought a Rs 1,500 crore package from the Centre to supplement the state government’s efforts to deal with coronavirus.

The Tamil Nadu government has sought a special assistance of Rs 4,000 crore from the Centre, saying the state’s revenues have “also taken a hit” in this “unprecedented situation.”

Chief Minister K Palaniswami wrote to PM Modi asking for relaxation of the fiscal deficit limit of 3% of GDP for the financial years 2019-20 and 2020-21 as a one-time measure.

He said that of the Rs 4,000 crore, Rs 3,000 crore will be required for the health sector at “this crucial juncture”.

7. SpiceJet to fly Iran-returned Indians to Jodhpur quarantine facility

SpiceJet said it will conduct a special flight on Sunday to take 142 Iran-returned Indians from Delhi to Jodhpur so that they can be taken to a government quarantine facility there.

“The special flight will be operated as per Government of India’s request and the airline will deploy its Boeing 737 aircraft for the assignment,” the airline said in its press release.

8. British national treated with anti-HIV drugs tests negative in Kerala

A British national, who was administered HIV antiretroviral drugs for treating his coronavirus infection, has tested negative, doctors at the Ernakulam Medical College Hospital here said on Wednesday

The result of the test of his samples conducted three days after giving him the drugs returned negative, doctors said. They made the disclosure of his recovery after the second test result on March 23 also turned out to be negative.

It is for the first time in Kerala that the HIV antiretroviral drug was used to treat COVID-19 patients, officials said.

The man and his wife along with 17 others of their group from the UK off-loaded from a Dubai-bound flight shortly before take-off at the airport in Kochi on March 15 after the man tested positive for the coronavirus.

9. 3-year-old India girl tests positive in Singapore

A three-year-old Indian girl was among the 73 new COVID-19 cases that have been reported in Singapore in a day, PTI reported.

The 73 new cases reported on Wednesday brought the total number of COVID-19 cases in Singapore to 631, the health ministry said.

10. Goa reports first cases

Three persons tested positive for coronavirus in Goa on Wednesday, health department officials said. This is the first time the tourist state has reported coronavirus positive cases.

All three are male patients of ages 25, 29 and 55 years. They have travel history of returning to Goa from Spain, Australia and the USA, respectively, the officials said.

11. Chef Floyd Cardoz died of complications from coronavirus

Chef Floyd Cardoz, who competed on Top Chef, won Top Chef Masters and operated successful restaurants in both India and New York, died Wednesday of complications from the coronavirus, his company said in a statement. He was 59.

He was a partner in Bombay Sweet Shop, O Pedro and The Bombay Canteen in India at the time of his death.

Cardoz had traveled from Mumbai to New York through Frankfurt, Germany, on March 8. He was admitted a week ago to Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, New Jersey, with a fever and subsequently tested positive for Covid-19, the statement said.

12. Racism against people from the Northeast

A 40-year-old man was arrested for allegedly spitting paan at a Manipuri woman and calling her ‘coronavirus’ in Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar, Indian Express reported.

The Union home ministry had on Monday asked all states to take action against those who harass people from the northeast by linking them with the novel coronavirus.

“This is racially discriminatory, inconvenient and painful to them. It is requested that all law enforcing agencies in your State/UT may be sensitised to take appropriate action in cases of harassment when these are reported,” it said in a communication.

(With inputs from PTI)

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