Air travel resumes with hiccups, schools to open in July as India reports 10th highest Covid-19 cases in world
Domestic air travel resumed on Monday after two months even as India entered the list of 10 countries worst hit by the novel coronavirus after record spike in the number of cases for four consecutive days.by India Today Web Desk
The nationwide tally of Covid-19 cases neared 1.40 lakh on Monday after a record number of nearly 7,000 people tested positive for the deadly virus infection during the day.
The count has quadrupled since May 1 when special trains began ferrying migrants back to their native places, followed within a week by special flights to bring back Indians and expatriates from abroad.
India's Covid-19 death toll has also crossed the 4,000-mark, marking an over three-fold increase since May 1, while the total number of active cases has more than tripled too in this time period. The number of recovered Covid-19 patients has also grown over six-fold since then to nearly 60,000 now.
DOMESTIC FLIGHT SERVICES RESUME AFTER 2 MONTHS
Domestic air travel resumed on Monday after two months even as a number of states were unenthusiastic about opening up their airports in view of rising Covid-19 cases causing around 630 flights to be cancelled.
According to aviation industry sources, around 630 domestic flights of Monday were cancelled due to the Centre's Sunday night announcement that there would be no flights in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, and limited operations at major airports such as Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad.
Consequently, many passengers reached the airports on Monday only to be told by the airline staff that their flights have been cancelled. Many people took to social media to vent their anger.
Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Monday evening, "From no domestic passenger flights yesterday to 532 flights and 39,231 passengers today, action has returned to Indian skies. With Andhra Pradesh set to resume operations from tomorrow & West Bengal from 28 May, these numbers are all set to increase further."
The first flight on Monday took off from Delhi for Pune at 4.45 am under strict regulations recommended by civil aviation authorities. The first flight from Mumbai was to Patna at 6.45 am.
DON'T BOOK MIDDLE SEATS AFTER JUNE 6: SC TELLS AI
The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the Centre and national carrier Air India to keep operating its scheduled flights with the middle seats filled for the next ten days while observing that the government should be more worried about the health of citizens rather than the health of commercial airlines.
The top court asked the Bombay High Court to decide the plea against DGCA circulars expeditiously and said Air India and other airlines will have to follow the order given by the HC with regard to safety measures including maintaining of social distancing inside aircraft by keeping middle seats vacant between two passengers in a row.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde conducted an urgent hearing on Eid holiday through video conferencing to hear the appeals of the Central government and Air India against the Bombay High Court order.
“You should be worried about the health of citizens, not about the health of commercial airlines,” the bench, also comprising AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who appeared for the Centre.
WHO TELLS INDIA TO MAINTAIN 1 METRE DISTANCE DURING AIR TRAVEL
Commenting on the resumption of domestic air travel in India, the World Health Organisation on Monday recommended that distance of one meter or more is maintained during air travel.
When asked about whether middle seats should be kept vacant on flights, WHO technical lead Dr Maria Van Kerkhove told India Today, "It's great to see a slow approach towards travel again, from what we have seen in our analysis, we recommend a distance of one meter or more."
SEE: Indian skies buzzing again as domestic services finally take flight
SCHOOLS TO REOPEN FROM JULY
The Central government is planning on re-opening schools in a zone-wise manner, state reports. The government is planning to reopen schools in the Green and Orange districts first and that too only for older students while students of primary classes (1 to 7) will need to wait till schools are operating in full swing before they join.
As per reports, younger children will be kept at home, for now, to make sure they remain safe since very young kids cannot be expected to follow strict rules to ensure their own safety. They will continue their studies from home.
VIRUS DAMPENS EID CELEBRATIONS
Muslims across the country on Monday celebrated Eid-Ul-Fitr by maintaining social distancing norms, amid the coronavirus-triggered lockdown.
There was no big assembly of people to offer namaz on the occasion of Eid. Most of the masjids allowed only few people at a time to offer namaz.
The familiar sight of children donning new clothes and skullcaps, marching to the places of worship clutching the fingers of their elder ones similarly dressed for the occasion, and erupting in joyous shrieks of 'Eid Mubarak' amid hugs and handshakes after the prayers, remained conspicuous by its absence across India.
Majority of the community members stayed indoors and refrained from wearing new clothes this time on the festival.
In the wake of the lockdown, people did not invite relatives and friends for feasts and kept the celebrations simple. Women prepared the festive dishes at home in most of the Muslim families to mark the occasion.
DELHI-GHAZIABAD BORDER SEALED AGAIN
The Ghaziabad administration on Monday sealed its border with Delhi again in view of the rising cases of coronavirus in the district in the last few days, according to an official order.
Essential services, including doctors, paramedical staff, police, bank employees and media personnel, are allowed to move across the two cities after showing identity cards, the order stated.
The Ghaziabad DM said the entry of people into Ghaziabad from hotspots in Delhi will remain completely banned. Similarly, there will be a complete ban on the exit of people from hotspots in Ghaziabad except for emergency cases.
CHINA TO EVACUATE CITIZENS FROM INDIA
China has decided to evacuate its citizens, including students, tourists and businessmen, from India who are facing "difficulties" in the country and want to return home in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Chinese embassy put out a notice on its website on Monday, asking those wanting to return home to book tickets on special flights.
The move to evacuate its citizens comes in the wake of India emerging as the 10th worst-hit country by the deadly virus, which has infected nearly 1.40 lakh people in India.
WHO PAUSES CLINICAL TRIAL OF HCQ
The World Health Organization has suspended testing the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in Covid-19 patients due to safety concerns, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday.
Hydroxychloroquine has been touted by Donald Trump and others as a possible treatment for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
India, too, has been advocating the use of the anti-malarial drug with the ICMR issuing guidelines for the use of HCQ as prophylaxis for frontline workers.
STATES NEED PERMISSION TO HIRE UP MIGRANTS: YOGI ADITYANATH
Any state that wants migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh back has to seek permission from the government and need to ensure their socio-legal-monetary rights, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said on Sunday.
Upset that migrant labourers were "not properly taken care of" by various states in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown, Adityanath said, "These workers are our biggest resource and will give them employment in Uttar Pradesh as state government is going to set up a commission for their employment."
The Uttar Pradesh Government on Sunday said that it has decided to set up a Migration Commission for the employment of migrant labourers in the state.
INDIA NUMBER 10 IN COUNTRIES WORST-HIT BY CORONAVIRUS
India has entered the list of 10 countries worst hit by the novel coronavirus after record spike in the number of cases for four consecutive days, pushing the tally of infections to over 1.38 lakh, surpassing Iran, according to the John Hopkins University data.
The Union Health Ministry in its morning 8 AM update said that the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases has reached 1,38,845 with a record 24-hour increase of 6,977 cases since Sunday morning, while the death toll has risen to 4,021. It also said that 57721 people have so far recovered from the infection.
While badly-hit Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Delhi continued to report large numbers of positive cases, states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Jharkhand have seen their tallies reaching to the levels up to 10-times of the numbers recorded before the return of their people in special trains from states where they had gone as migrant workers.
Nagaland also reported its first three cases on Monday, after two men and a woman -- all in their 20s, who recently returned to the state from Chennai in a special train -- were found infected with the novel coronavirus.
According to official data, the Railways has ferried around 40 lakh migrant workers in 3,060 migrant special trains since May 1. The five states accounting for the maximum number of terminating stations are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, while the top five states or union territories from where these trains originated are Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, which incidentally have been among the worst hit by the outbreak.
Maharashtra, the worst-hit state, reports 2,436 new cases and 60 deaths on Monday, taking its case count to 52,667 and fatalities to 1,695.
Gujarat, another badly affected state, reported 405 new cases to take its tally to 14,468, while 30 more patients died to take its death toll to 888.
Bihar reported 180 new cases, pushing the tally to 2,574 in the state. A large number of new cases in Bihar over the last few days are among the people having had returned from outside.
Odisha registered its biggest spike in Covid-19 cases on Monday with 103 more people testing positive for the disease, taking the total number of infected to 1,438.
In Tamil Nadu, 805 new cases were reported to take the state's tally to 17,082.
Haryana, Puducherry, Kerala, J&K, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Rajasthan also reported more cases.
In Himachal Pradesh, lockdown restrictions have been extended till June in several areas.
The cases across the country have also seen a significant spike since May 18, when the fourth phase of the lockdown came into effect with several relaxations. Nearly one-third of the cases across the country have been reported since May 18.
Delhi recorded 635 fresh cases, taking its tally to 14,053. At least 276 deaths have also been recorded so far in the national capital. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, however, said the Covid-19 situation is under control in Delhi even after the easing of lockdown restrictions.
A nationwide lockdown has been in place since March 25, which was initially imposed for 21 days but has been extended thrice already and the ongoing fourth phase is scheduled to continue till May 31.