The total number of coronavirus cases in India has risen to 649.
People with their face covered walk at Azadpur Mandi wholesale market during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in New Delhi on March 26, 2020. | Sajjad Hussain/AFP
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Thursday said that though the number of coronavirus cases in India was rising, the rate of growth had decreased in the last few days. The health ministry said that 43 new cases have been reported in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 649. The toll has risen to 13 with four more deaths. “While the number of coronavirus cases is increasing, the rate of growth has decreased,” Lav Agarwal, joint secretary of the Health Ministry, said at a press conference. He added that despite the statistics, the government will stay on alert. “We cannot be relaxed at this point and will maintain our continued effort,” he said. The number of daily new cases had peaked on March 22, when India reported 81 patients. Since then, the number of new cases has been 72, 68, 70 and 43, according to updates from the Health Ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research. The ministry said that the decrease in the growth rate of cases does not establish a clear trend but said that India may be able to combat the pandemic if proper guidelines are followed. “We are hopeful that by following social distancing policy, conducting a proper contact tracing and by ensuring all people in home quarantine are monitored, we will be able to combat the disease,” Agarwal said. Follow today’s live updates on coronavirus here Agarwal added that 17 states had begun the process of building dedicated hospitals for coronavirus. He also said that the government had started an online training programme for doctors in collaboration with All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi. “The doctors will be trained in infection control and case management,” Agarwal said. He added that the pandemic poses an enormous challenge that will require coordinated efforts. Earlier on Thursday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced an economic bailout package worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore to help the poor tide over the impact of the countrywide lockdown that is in place to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. The benefits – through cash and food – cover farmers, migrant workers, the poor, women and the disabled, among others. The government will also provide a Rs 50 lakh health insurance cover for doctors, nurses, paramedics and sanitation workers. From Wednesday, India entered a 21-day period of complete lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to contain the rapidly-spreading disease. Only essential services are operating across the country.