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Coronavirus outbreak: Cases in India rise to 74

Coronavirus outbreak: Cases in India rise to 74

New Delhi: As the total number of positive cases of novel Coronavirus reached 74 on Thursday after Karnataka, Delhi reported fresh cases, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked his Cabinet colleagues not to travel abroad in the coming days.

Meanwhile, a 76-year-old man, who was being treated as a suspect to have contracted novel Coronavirus, has died. His tests have been confirmed and this marks the country's first fatality due to the deadly virus.

Mohammed Hussain Siddiq was being treated at a hospital in Kalaburagi, Karnataka, for showing symptoms like breathlessness, cold and cough after he returned from Saudi Arabia on February 29.

Besides, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) — the apex research arm of the Health Ministry — has claimed that it would take a minimum of 1.5 to 2 years to develop a vaccine to contain the spread of COVID-19. However, the ICMR has claimed that the government has managed to isolate the virus.

The Prime Minister has also urged people not to panic and urged them to take precautionary measures and avoid non-essential foreign travels.

"We can break the chain of spread and ensure the safety of all by avoiding large gatherings," he said in a series of tweets. Modi further said: "The government was 'fully vigilant about the situation due to COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus. Across ministries and states, multiple steps have been proactively taken to ensure the safety of all. These steps are wide-ranging, from the suspension of visas to augmenting healthcare capacities'."

Meanwhile, the Delhi government on Thursday declared COVID-19 an epidemic in the national Capital and issued orders to shut down all cinema halls, schools and colleges, which are through with their exams, till March 31. Delhi has reported six positive cases of Coronavirus.

Notably, Haryana was the first to declare it an epidemic on Thursday after out of 44 samples of suspected cases, 38 were found negative for Coronavirus while reports of six people are awaited.

Highlighting the role of the Health ministry in containing the spread of COVID-19, joint secretary Lav Aggarwal said: "There is no evidence to suggest the Health ministry missed Coronavirus cases. There could be such speculation but that's not true. Our networking of surveillance is strong. We don't know any case that could have been missed. ICMR will soon start surveillance to look at such evidence." He also added that three planes will be sent to Iran over the next three days to bring back Indians stranded there.

On operational testing labs, Aggarwal said: "As many as 52 testing facilities are located across the country and a total of 56 sample collection centres are functional. We have evacuated 900 Indian national, along with 48 foreigners so far. The government has over 1 lakh testing kits available right now."

Notably, the WHO declared COVID-19 as global pandemic on Wednesday. As per the reports, the death toll of COVID-19 has crossed the 4,000 mark and confirmed cases globally have touched 1 lakh.

Hollywood superstar Tom Hanks, meanwhile, has revealed that he and wife Rita Wilson have tested positive for Coronavirus. The actor couple, currently in Australia to shoot for a film, decided to get tested after they felt "a bit tired". Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla has made it clear that Parliament Session wouldn't be adjourned due to the outbreak of the virus.

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