10.40 pm: Here are the top updates from Wednesday:

  1. The Union Cabinet approved an ordinance to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, making acts of violence against healthcare professionals a cognisable and non-bailable offence. The crime may attract imprisonment for a period between six months and seven years.
  2. The number of coronavirus patients in India rose to 20,471 after 1,486 cases were reported, according to the health ministry. The toll increased by 49 to 652, while the number of patients who have recovered stood at 3,959.
  3. The Indian Medical Association withdrew its symbolic protest against attacks on healthcare professionals after Union Home Minister Amit Shah assured them that the safety and dignity of doctors at their workplace is non-negotiable. IMA members had demanded a special central law against violence on doctors, nurses, healthcare workers and hospitals by an ordinance and to implement it on a priority basis.
  4. The West Bengal government said that it will fully cooperate with the Centre’s inter-ministerial team to review the coronavirus situation in the state. The team leaders had alleged that that the ruling Trinamool Congress was not providing them access to some districts.
  5. An official from the ministry of civil aviation tested positive for the coronavirus. The employee was present in office on April 15 and was tested positive on April 21, the ministry said in a tweet. All colleagues who came in contact with the official were asked to go into self isolation as a precautionary measure.
  6. Globally, the toll from the coronavirus pandemic crossed 1.8 lakh and more than 26 lakh declared cases have been found in 185 countries and territories, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

10.23 pm: The toll in the United Kingdom has hit 18,100, says Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

10.01 pm: At a review meeting in Lucknow earlier in the day, Chief Minister Adityanath said the Uttar Pradesh government will allow other states to take their stranded residents home if they wished, PTI reports.

9.52 pm: Rajasthan reports 153 new cases, taking the tally to 1,888.

9.50 pm: The number of cases in Uttar Pradesh rises to 1,449 after 112 new cases are reported. Pratapgarh district has become free from Covid-19, officials say.

9.35 pm: Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope says the state has improved its doubling rate in the number of cases to 7.1 days.

He says the state has got permission from the Indian Council of Medical Research to administer plasma therapy to Covid-19 patients in Mumbai on an experimental basis, PTI reports.

“The plasma of those who have recovered from coronavirus infection has some antibodies,” he says. “If these people’s plasma is used with utmost precaution, it has proven to be useful.”

9.20 pm: Jammu and Kashmir Raj Bhawan says the decision on organising this year’s Amarnath Yatra will be taken on reviewing the situation in the coming future, ANI reports.

9.05 pm: In Delhi, the number of cases rises to 2,248 after 92 new cases are found. Of these, 724 have recovered, and 48 have died.

9 pm: The number of containment zones in Delhi rises to 89.

8.35 pm: Indian Council of Medical Research issues a protocol for the use of rapid testing kits.

8.31 pm: The Union Health Ministry has directed all States to provide financial incentives to ASHA workers for undertaking Covid-19 relief activities, ANI reports. The ministry has also asked states to ensure that ASHA workers are supplied with adequate protective gear.

8.22 pm: West Bengal has reported just 32 new Covid-19 cases, PTI reports. State Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha claims the total number of cases in the state is now just 300.

8.18 pm: Maharashtra has reported 431 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday. As many as 18 deaths have been reported, ten of them from Mumbai. The total number of cases in Maharashtra is now 5,649. The total number of deaths is 269.

8.15 pm: The World Health Organization has reported a 45% increase in the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus to 15,394, across its African region over a week. This region excludes parts of North Africa such as Egypt. There has been an increase of 38% in the number of deaths, to 716.

8.11 pm: A United Nations human rights expert says that countries around the world have failed in responding to the needs of their poorer citizens during the pandemic, The Guardian reports. “The policies of many states reflect a social Darwinism philosophy that prioritises the economic interests of the wealthiest, while doing little for those who are hard at work providing essential services or unable to support themselves,” Phillip Alston claims.

7.58 pm: The Jammu and Kashmir Directorate of Information has now withdrawn the press note that said that the Amarnath Yatra is being cancelled, ANI reports.

7.45 pm: Gates Foundation Co-Chairperson Bill Gates has written to Narendra Modi, praising the Indian government’s efforts to combat Covid-19, The Times of India reports. “I’m glad your government is fully utilizing its exceptional digital capabilities in its COVID-19 response and has launched the Aarogya Setu digital app for coronavirus tracking, contact tracing, and to connect people to health services,” Gates says in his letter.

7.43 pm: Service provided by self-employed people like electrician, IT repair, plumbers, motor mechanics, and carpenters in local areas will also be allowed in Karnataka, Wednesday’s order says.

7.41 pm: Karnataka has announced slight easing of lockdown regulations from Thursday, PTI reports. Information technology and related services will be allowed to operate with minimum staff at the workplace. Tea, coffee and rubber plantations have been allowed to work with 50% workforce, and a similar exemption have been given to processing, packaging, sale and marketing of these produce.

7.38 pm: As many as 665 more people have died in hospitals in England, bringing the country’s toll to 16,272, The Guardian reports.

7.32 pm: UNESCO has said that over 154 crore students have been severely impacted by closure of educational institutions across the world, PTI reports. Stefania Giannini, UNESCO’s assistant director general for education, has told the news agency that there is now a “potential for increased drop-out rates which will disproportionately affect adolescent girls, further entrench gender gaps in education and lead to increased risk of sexual exploitation, early pregnancy and early and forced marriage”.

7.22 pm: Pune has reported two more deaths on Wednesday, taking the total number of deaths in the district to 57.

7.19 pm: The number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan has risen to over 10,000, with the figure at 10,072 on Wednesday evening. As many as 212 people have died, and 2,156 recovered.

7.17 pm: The Amarnath Yatra for this year has been cancelled due to the pandemic, ANI reports.

7.09 pm: Over 100 cases have been registered and 3,392 people detained in the national capital on Wednesday for violating lockdown regulations, PTI reports quoting the Delhi Police. Sixty cases have registered against people for stepping out of their houses without wearing masks.

7.11 pm: Five more cases of Covid-19 have been reported in Bihar, the state principal health secretary says according to ANI. The total number of positive cases is now 141.

7.07 pm: Some fresh data on Covid-19 in India as of Wednesday evening:

6.58 pm: “Happiness therapy” is being provided to Covid-19 patients in Delhi’s Chaudhary Brahma Prakash Ayurvedic Centre, says Health Minister Satyendar Jain.

6.55 pm: India will airlift 220 tonnes of essential medical cargo from China over next three days, says Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri. “It is planned that Air India along with SpiceJet and Blue Dart will airlift another 220 tonnes of this critical cargo in the next three days,” he says.

6.52 pm: The number of Covid-19 cases in Tamil Nadu rises to 1,629, with 33 more people testing positive. As many as 27 patients have recovered on Wednesday, says the state health department.

6.48 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will interact with chief ministers of all states via videoconferencing on Monday morning, The Hindu reports.

6.40 pm: Residents of a locality in Ahmedabad threw stones at policemen for enforcing the lockdown, PTI reports. As many as 15 residents of Sardarnagar area were detained and the process of lodging a first information report has begun, says police inspector MB Barad.

6.31 pm: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan says 11 new cases have been reported in the state on Wednesday. Five of them have foreign travel history, and three have local contacts, he adds. The total number of cases in the state has reached 437, of which only 127 are active cases.

6.24 pm: Himachal Pradesh has reported no cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday. The state health department says there 23 active cases in the state.

6.20 pm: The IMCT panel that is in Mumbai has claimed that there will be over 6,50,000 cases of the coronavirus in the city by May 15, The Hindu reports. Mumbai’s health infrastructure during this peak would have a staggering shortage of 13,636 ventilators and 4,83,000 isolation beds, the mathematical projection claims. The Maharashtra government has contested the findings of the study.

6.11 pm: There are now 20,471 cases of Covid-19 in India, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Of these, 652 people have died, 3,959 recovered and one has migrated to another country.

(Photo credit: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare)

6.08 pm: “There are 260 cases of Covid-19 in Haryana out of which 153 people have recovered and three died,” says Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar according to ANI. “[As many as] 511 tests have been conducted on each 10 lakh people in the state. There is no case in three districts.”

6 pm: “The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 manifests our commitment to protect each and every healthcare worker who is bravely battling COVID-19 on the frontline,” tweets Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “It will ensure safety of our professionals. There can be no compromise on their safety!”

5.55 pm: Iran has announced 94 more deaths from the coronavirus, AFP reports. However, the country says its number of fresh cases have been on the downswing, with just 1,194 new cases on Tuesday.

5.45 pm: Punjab’s first Covid-19 hotspot district Nawanshahr has cured all infected patients, The Indian Express reports. As many as 18 patients have been cured, and one person has died.

5.41 pm: Railways has offered to supply 2.6 lakh meals daily from its various kitchens to all those districts which are willing to pick up cooked meals and serve them to the poor, The Hindu reports. The Ministry of Railways says this communication has been sent to all districts in the country.

5.38 pm: Spain has announced that it plans to phase out the lockdown in the second half of May, The Guardian reports. Restrictions will be eased slowly and gradually to ensure safety, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says. He also asks lawmakers to extend Spain’s state of emergency till May 9.

5.35 pm: Union Ministry of Home Affairs writes to all states asking them to take strict action against those who attack doctors, The Indian Express reports.

5.27 pm: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee claims that the Centre dispatched faulty testing kits to the state, PTI reports. “Canards are being spread every day that only a few are getting tested in Bengal for Covid-19,” she says. “This is absolutely false. Faulty kits were sent to Bengal which have now been withdrawn. We didn’t even get adequate testing kits.”

Also Read: Covid-19: After Centre’s order, West Bengal says it will fully cooperate with teams visiting state

5.19 pm: At least 40 more people have tested positive for coronavirus in Madhya Pradesh, taking the total number of infections up to 1,587 according to state government officials, PTI reports. The virus is now present in 28 of the 52 districts in the state.

5.17 pm: Just nine new cases have been reported from Karnataka between 5 pm on Tuesday and 5 pm on Wednesday, ANI reports. Five of these cases are in Kalaburagi, two in Bengaluru and two in Mysuru.

5.09 pm: Spain has reported 435 deaths over the last 24 hours, slightly higher than in the 24 hours from Monday to Tuesday, The Local reports. The country has also reported 4,211 fresh cases of Covid-19.

5.05 pm: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath says the government will allow other states to take their stranded residents home, PTI reports.

4.55 pm: As many as 27 new cases have been reported from the Kashmir division on Wednesday, according to Jammu and Kashmir Principal Secretary (Planning) Rohit Kansal. The total number of cases in the Union Territory is now 407.

4.49 pm: Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli thanks Prime Minister Narendra Modi for supply of medicines to fight Covid-19, ANI reports.

4.43 pm: The Assam government has decided to conduct Covid-19 tests for journalists on April 25, PTI reports. “Those who want to get themselves tested can come to the Guwahati Medical College Hospital on April 25,” Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma says.

4.30 pm: Grateful citizens in the US drove past homes of health care workers, blowing their horns and holding up posters, while others offered heartfelt applause. Covid-19: Watch these moving displays of gratitude to doctors and nurses by their neighbours here.

4.20 pm: The Right to Food Campaign on Tuesday issued a statement against the Centre’s decision to use surplus rice stocks to make ethanol for hand sanitisers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. At a meeting of the National Biofuel Coordination Committee on Monday, the government approved a policy that will allow surplus rice available with the Food Corporation of India to be converted into ethanol to manufacture alcohol-based hand sanitisers.

Read more here:

Covid-19: As millions fear starvation, activists criticise move to make sanitisers from surplus rice

4.10 pm: Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police claims Pakistan is exporting coronavirus patients to India in an effort to infect people in Kashmir.

4 pm: Cabinet approves a Rs 15,000 crore package for “India Covid-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package”. It will be used it three phases. Of this, Rs 7,774 crore will be for immediate emergency response and the rest will be used over a period of a year to four years.

3.55 pm: More than 1,000 foreign workers test positive for the coronavirus in Singapore, taking its total count to 10,141 cases. This also includes several Indians, the government said.

3.50 pm: The Tamil Nadu government intensifies lockdown measures as the number of coronavirus infections rose to 1,596 in the state, PTI reports.

“Considering the prevailing situation, I have directed steps to completely curb public movement in containment zones, expedite contact tracing and subject them to tests, and carry out coronavirus testing on those in the city limits with symptoms like breathlessness, fever and throat pain,” Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami says.

3.42 pm: The toll from the coronavirus crosses 1,10,000 in Europe, AFP reports. As many as 1,10,192 people have died and 12,46,840 cases have been registered in Europe, which is the worst affected continent. Italy has recorded the most deaths at 24,648, followed by Spain (21,717), France (20,796) and Britain (17,337).

3.40 pm: Germany authorises first clinical human trial of a vaccine for Covid-19, AFP reports. “The Paul-Ehrlich-Institut... has authorised the first clinical trial of a vaccine against COVID-19 in Germany,” the country’s regulatory body says in a statement. The approval was the “result of a careful assessment of the potential risk/benefit profile of the vaccine candidate”, it adds.

3.35 pm: The Union minister adds that the Cabinet has not yet made any decision on the resumption of flight operations.

3.30 pm: If a health worker’s vehicle or clinics are damaged, then “a compensation amounting to twice the market value of the damaged property will be taken from the accused”, Javadekar says.

3.20 pm: The Cabinet approves an ordinance to end violence against health workers amid the coronavirus pandemic. These non-bailable offences will carry an imprisonment and compensation to the victims.

The accused can be sentenced from three months to five years and penalised between Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh, Union minister Prakash Javadekar, who announced the Cabinet decision, says. In case of a grievous injury, the accused can be sentenced from six months to seven years and penalised between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 5 lakh.

Read more here:

Covid-19: Attack on healthcare workers to be non-bailable offence, jail up to 7 years, says Centre

3.05 pm: Here is a chart showing the number of coronavirus tests conducted in India till April 21.

2.57 pm: Rajasthan’s tally rises to 1,868 after 133 new cases were recorded, ANI reports.

2.55 pm: The total number of coronavirus cases in Bihar rises. to 136, ANI reports.

2.49 pm: Haryana Health Minister Anil Vij claims the doubling rate in the state is 14 days, better than the national average of 7.5 days. “Our recovery rate is 57% whereas it is 16% [average] across India,” he says, according to ANI.

He adds that Haryana had placed orders for 1.1 lakh testing kits from two Chinese firms but it has now been cancelled. “We’ve placed fresh orders for 1 lakh kits from South Korea out of which we’ve received 25,000 kits,” he says. “Prices of these kits are half compared to Chinese kits.”

2.46 pm: Thirty-three new cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed on the Italian cruise ship Costa Atlantica, which is shored on Japanese waters off the Nagasaki coast, CNN reports.

2.44 pm: Andhra Pradesh has recorded 56 new coronavirus, taking the state’s tally to 813 on Wednesday morning, PTI reports. The toll in the state rose to 24.

2.42 pm: Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope says the Centre has recommended a rise in the capacity of beds at the quarantine facility in Mumbai. “The Central committee has also asked us to provide minimum oxygen supply to patients undergoing treatment, as it will help ease their breathing distress if any,” the minister says, according to PTI.

2.40 pm: Sarma adds that the state will begin to test journalists from April 25.

2.35 pm: Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma says no new case has been reported in the last seven days.

2.15 pm: The Punjab government says patients who go to private hospitals for treatment will have to bear the costs but adds that the hospitals cannot charge them more than the Central Government Health Scheme rates valid in the National Capital Region.

1.55 pm: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has undergone the coronavirus test after he met the chairperson of a philanthropic foundation on April 15, who was found to be infected, Dawn reports.

1.45 pm: Rajasthan Health Minister Raghu Sharma says the state will test journalists for the coronavirus infection.

1.42 pm: Mahesh Vyas of the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy has suggestions for what India’s post-lockdown strategy could look like.

Read more here:

Podcast: How has India’s lockdown impacted unemployment rates and income levels?

1.40 pm: Residents in Badurai of North 24 Parganas in West Bengal block roads alleging that ration material has not been distributed properly, ANI reports. Police personnel use baton charge to disperse them.

1.35 pm: “Out of the total population of students enrolled in education globally, we estimate that over 89 per cent are currently out of school because of COVID-19,” Stefania Giannini, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education, tells PTI. “This represents 154 crore students enrolled in school or university, including nearly 74 crore girls. Over 11 crore of these girls are living in the world’s least developed countries where getting an education is already a struggle.”

1.32 pm: Stefania Giannini, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education, tells PTI that girls are the most affected. Shutting down schools have the “potential for increased drop-out rates which will disproportionately affect adolescent girls, further entrench gender gaps in education and lead to increased risk of sexual exploitation, early pregnancy and early and forced marriage”, she says.

1.30 pm: More than 154 crore students are affected across the world due to the shut down of educational institutions, UNESCO says, according to PTI.

1.20 pm: The annual spelling bee held in the US has been cancelled for 2020 due to the pandemic, PTI reports. The tournament, often dominated by Indian Americans, has been cancelled for the first time since World War II.

“Our hearts go out to the spellers who won’t get their final shot at winning because of the pandemic and the difficult decisions it is prompting us to make. They are now part of a widely expanding group of children and adults who are missing out on opportunities due to the coronavirus,” said Paige Kimble, Executive Director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

1.15 pm: Seven new cases of coronavirus confirmed in Karnataka, taking the total number of infections in the state to 425, PTI reports, citing the state health department. The toll in the state rises to 17.

1.12 pm: Bihar reports five more Covid-19 cases, taking the state’s tally to 131, ANI reports.

1.05 pm: The Ministry of Civil Aviation’s B Wing at the Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan was sealed and sanitised after an employee tested positive, ANI reports.

12.55 pm: The Kanpur police perform “aarti” as an attempt to shame people into not violating the lockdown.

12.47 pm: The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare cancels its daily briefing at 4pm on the coronavirus situation in the country on account of the Cabinet meeting to be held today, ANI reports.

12.36 pm: Rajasthan records 64 more coronavirus cases, taking the state’s overall tally to 1,799, PTI reports. There have been 26 Covid-19 related deaths in the state so far, out of which, 14 were reported from Jaipur.

12.31 pm: A group of 231 pilgrims from Ladakh who were evacuated from Iran were flown to Leh in an Indian Air Force flight. The pilgrims are currently undergoing screening at the Leh airport, after which they will be put under institutional quarantine in Leh and Kargil, says Jamyang Namgyal, BJP MP from Ladakh.

12.07 pm: The Indian Medical Association withdraws the “symbolic protest” planned against the attacks on health workers after holding a meeting with home minister Amit Shah and health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, ANI reports.

Read more here:

Covid-19: IMA calls off protest after Amit Shah says ‘government with doctors’

12.01 pm: A ministry of civil aviation employee tests positive for the coronavirus. The employee was present in office on April 15 and tested positive on April 21, the ministry says in a tweet. “All necessary protocols are being stringently followed on the premises,” it adds. “All colleagues who came in contact are being asked to go into self isolation as a precaution.”

Read more here:

Covid-19: Civil aviation ministry employee tests positive, colleagues asked to isolate

11.57 am: A woman who tested positive for the coronavirus gives birth at a hospital in Howrah district of West Bengal, PTI reports. Both the mother and the child are in a stable condition.

11.51 am: Serpentine queues of vehicles are seen at the DND Flyway, as police are checking passes of people commuting between Delhi and Noida.

11.47 am: The World Health Organization on Tuesday said the novel coronavirus originated in animals in China, dismissing theories that it was produced in a high-security laboratory, Reuters reports. Several conspiracy theories have linked a laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology to the coronavirus pandemic.

11.46 am: Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain says the Capital has reported a total of 2,186 positive cases as of now. Out of these, 75 cases were reported on Tuesday. A total of 611 people, or 28% of the patients, have recovered, 27 patients are in the ICU, and five are on ventilator, he adds.

11.43 am: A five-member panel appointed by the Centre has projected that the number of Covid-19 cases in Mumbai will touch an estimated 42,604 by April 30 and spiral to 6,56,407 by May 15, The Hindu reports.

11.40 am: A member of the Central Reserve Police Force, part of a battalion deployed in Jammu and Kashmir, tests positive for the coronavirus in Delhi, PTI reports. He was asked to take a test in Delhi at the end of his leave on April 7 before joining his unit. It is standard operating procedure, an official says. He is now in an isolation ward in a Delhi hospital.

11.23 am: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issues an advisory to mediapersons covering Covid-19 and travelling to containment zones and hotspots. “It is advised that all such media persons may take due health and related precautions while performing their duties,” the advisory says. “Further, management of media houses is requested to take necessary care of their field staff as well as office staff.”

11.15 am: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister chairs a meeting in Lucknow to discuss the coronavirus pandemic.

11.10 am: Toll in Gujarat rises to 95. The total number of cases increases to 2,272, according to the state health department, ANI reports.

11.05 am: Maharashtra reports 553 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, ANI reports. This takes the total number of cases in the state to 5,229 and the toll to 251.

11 am: West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha says 28,000 people have been booked for violating lockdown in the state since the end of March, PTI reports.

10.55 am: Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray urges Centre to issue guidelines on sending migrant workers to their native places, PTI reports.

“If the central government feels the coronavirus spread will be more from April 30 till May 15, it should consider if the stranded labourers can be sent back to their homes before that. If it is possible, guidelines in this regard should be issued,” Thackeray says.

He adds that his government has opened camps for more than six lakh migrant workers but they want to return to their homes.

10.52 am: Fifty-eight employees of the Tiruvarur Medical College and Hospital in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu were sent to isolation after a 13-year-old boy tested positive for Covid-19 on April 11, The Indian Express reports.

“The boy had severe stomach pain and mild fever. Both were normal symptoms of appendicitis,” a doctor who treated him says, adding that he was given regular treatment over the next 24 hours. But when he was tested before the surgery, he tested positive for Covid-19.

“There were other patients in the post-operative ward. We immediately shifted him to the isolation ward. After a week, his condition is stable now,” the doctor says. “We did contact tracing internally. We identified everyone… A total of four doctors, 15 house surgeons, 30 staff nurses, nine hospital staff and three relatives of the patients have been isolated.”

10.50 am: A doctor at the Jawaharlal Lal Nehru Medical College in Aligarh was suspended for medical negligence after the district reported its first Covid-19 death, The Indian Express reports.

10.45 am: Fifty pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities in Baddi, Himachal Pradesh, have shut down operations after the region was declared a containment zone. Several other manufacturing units in the area, which is Asia’s largest pharmaceutical hub, have also significantly downsized operations, fuelling concerns about the impending shortage of medicines in the country.

Read more here:

Covid-19: About 50 drug firms in Baddi halt operations, trigger concerns about shortage of medicines

10.39 am: The World Health Organization has become a Chinese propaganda tool, the US claims, according to PTI.

“The problem with the WHO is that they’ve lost all credibility during this crisis,” US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien says. “It’s not like the WHO has been a highly-credible organization for many years. The United States spends over half a billion dollars on the WHO. China spends about $40 million dollars on the WHO, about one-tenth of what the US spends, and yet the WHO has become a tool of Chinese propaganda.”

10.36 am: Three people from Odisha’s Bhadrak district test positive for Covid-19, PTI reports. This takes the total number of cases in Odisha to 82, officials say.

10.32 am: “All available evidence suggests the virus has an animal origin and is not manipulated or constructed in a lab or somewhere else,” World Health Organization spokesperson Fadela Chaib says, according to Reuters. “It is probable, likely, that the virus is of animal origin.”

“It most likely has its ecological reservoir in bats but how the virus came from bats to humans is still to be seen and discovered,” Chaib adds.

10.26 am: Union minister Amit Shah interacts with doctors and members of the Indian Medical Association, ANI reports.

He urges them to withdraw the symbolic protest they had proposed to protest against the attacks on health workers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

10.23 am: “The Chinese government lied to the world about the danger and contagious nature of Covid-19, silenced whistleblowers, and did little to stop the spread of the disease. They must be held accountable for their actions,” the lawsuit adds.

10.20 am: The US state of Missouri files a lawsuit against Chia for allegedly suppressing information on Covid-19, and leading to “irreparable damage” across the world, PTI reports.

“Covid-19 has done irreparable damage to countries across the globe, causing sickness, death, economic disruption, and human suffering,” the lawsuit filed by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt says. It was filed against the Chinese government, the Chinese Communist Party and other Chinese officials. “In Missouri, the impact of the virus is very real – thousands have been infected and many have died, families have been separated from dying loved ones, small businesses are shuttering their doors, and those living paycheck to paycheck are struggling to put food on their table.”

10.18 am: Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh asks CBI to take custody of the Wadhawans today, as their home quarantine ends. Business tycoons Kapil Wadhawan and Dheeraj Wadhawan were caught violating the coronavirus lockdown in Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra on April 9.

10.17 am: The Delhi government has set up Covid-19 centres to test mediapersons.

10.15 am: The Centre’s refusal to commit to a timeframe on the resumption of domestic or international flights or on steps to bring back Indians who are abroad has left several travellers in the lurch.

Read more here:

Covid-19: A cry for help from Indians stuck abroad: ‘Arrange flights for us, we want to come home’

10.13 am: Violators of the lockdown are punished in Madhya Pradesh.

10.12 am: Assam directs officials in border district to screen truck drivers and their helpers who are entering the state.

10.10 am: By crowdfunding benefits for embattled workers, app-based services are evading their own obligations, says this report. Why are India’s app-based firms, which have multi-million dollar valuations, appealing to the public to help them offer security to their own workers? Read more here.

10.05 am: Bajaj Auto Managing Director Rajiv Bajaj criticises the Indian government’s “arbitrary lockdown” to curd the spread of the pandemic, CNBC TV18 reports. “The lockdown is a solution that is looking for a problem,” he says. “This crisis started with a virus; it is being propagated by the government.”

“Lockdown is not the long term answer to the health crisis. The young and healthy need to go back to work. The lockdown is arbitrary and not an answer to the economic crisis either,” he adds. “I think job losses have already happened. You just have to speak to suppliers and dealers. The government is pretending as if there are no job losses and no salary cuts.”

Read more here:

‘Covid-19 crisis started with virus, propagated by government,’ Bajaj Auto chief criticises lockdown

10 am: With nearly 2 billion people, South Asia is the world’s most populated region as well as its most densely populated. It is also extremely poor, with abysmal levels of healthcare. However, till now, the region has escaped relatively unscathed from the coronavirus pandemic, compared to much wealthier places such as China, Europe or North America.

As of April 20, the entire region – tabulated here using data from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan – had just around 28,000 cases of Covid-19. It had 817 deaths as a result of the disease. To put that in perspective, New York City alone has 134,436 cases and 10,022 deaths.

Read more here:

What explains the low coronavirus numbers in poor, densely populated South Asia?

9.58 am: Even by India’s relatively low testing numbers compared to other countries, West Bengal lags – and by a far margin. It has tested the least among all the large states. The population of West Bengal is three times that of Assam. Yet, as of April 20, the number of swab samples that two states had tested to detect Covid-19 among their residents were almost comparable. West Bengal had tested 5,469 samples while Assam only marginally fewer at 5,112.

Read more here:

‘Sitting upon a volcano’: Doctors in Bengal ring the alarm bell over state’s low testing numbers

9.55 am: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath on Tuesday directed officials to house the arrested members of the Muslim religious sect who had gathered in Nizamuddin in March amid the coronavirus pandemic in temporary jails if they are suspected of being carriers of the virus.

Read more here:

Covid-19: Adityanath government to keep Tablighi Jamaat members who test positive in temporary jails

9.50 am: An assistant police inspector at Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s official residence tests positive, ANI reports.

9.45 am: Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis raises queries on the cremation of the bodies of some people who are suspected of the coronavirus infection, according to PTI.

“They are admitted as COVID-19 suspect cases,” Fadnavis says. “But no swab test is done. When the patient dies, the reason is noted as suspected COVID-19. However, the body is released to kin and cremated as non-COVID-19.”

He adds: “This may bring down the COVID-19 numbers but it also increases risk of the virus spreading. A total of 44 bodies have been released from Nair Hospital alone. There may be more from other hospitals.”

9.36 am: Azadpur Mandi in Delhi recorded its first coronavirus death after a 57-year-old trader died on Tuesday, reports ANI. “The block [where his shop was] is sealed and no one is there,” sellers tell ANI. “Sellers at that side have asked that their shops be barricaded and no one is allowed to go there unnecessarily.”

Read more here:

Covid-19: Trader at Delhi’s Azadpur market dies after testing positive, sparks panic among sellers

9.35 am: A civil servant in Bihar has been suspended for issuing a travel pass to a BJP MLA who recently travelled to Kota to bring back his daughter, reports PTI.

Read more here:

Covid-19: IAS officer in Bihar suspended for issuing travel permit to BJP MLA amid lockdown

9.34 am: Out of the 704 samples tested yesterday, 12 are positive, says King George’s Medical University, Lucknow, according to ANI.

9.23 am: 64 new cases reported from Rajasthan as of 9 am today. This takes the total cases in the state to 1,799, including 26 deaths.

9.15 am: China reports 30 new cases, taking the number of imported infections in the country to 1,610. Authorities have stepped up the testing and treatment facilities in all border regions. However, the country reported no new death on Tuesday.

9.06 am: Japan confirms 33 new cases on cruise ship docked in Nagasaki prefecture, reports CNN. Officials say those with symptoms will be admitted to medical centers while asymptomatic patients will remain onboard in isolated private rooms.

8.59 am: Six State Reserve Police Force jawans test positive in Maharashtra’s Hingoli district, reports News18. “Two units of SRPF jawans returned from Mumbai after being posted there for 45 days, so it was decided to quarantine them as a precaution,” says Civil Surgeon Kishor Prasad Shrivas.

8.57 am: The West Bengal government assures the Centre that it will abide by all its orders related to the ongoing lockdown and assures full cooperation to the two visiting central teams assessing the ground situation in the state.

Read more here:

Covid-19: After Centre’s order, West Bengal says it will fully cooperate with teams visiting state

8.45 am: New Zealand sets a bold goal of eliminating Covid-19 as new cases dropped as low as 5 on Tuesday, reports AP.

8.29 am: In the last 24 hours, India has reported 50 deaths and 1,383 new cases, show the Union ministry’s data.

8.23 am: Health officials identify Hindpiri area in Ranchi as a new coronavirus containment zone after one case was reported from the region, reports ANI. The total number of positive cases in Jharkhand stands at 46 with two deaths.

8.16 am: India has recorded 19,984 cases and 640 deaths so far, according to the Union health ministry’s Wednesday morning update.

8.01 am: Three new cases in Odisha today, reports ANI. The total number of positive cases in the state stands at 82.

7.54 am: The US Centre for Disease Control and Protection warns that another wave of the Covid-19 could hit US in winter. “We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time,” says organisation official Dr Robert Redfield at a White House briefing.

7.52 am: A Qatar Airways flight with 243 Canadian passengers on board departs from Amritsar International Airport, ANI reports. Punjab’s Special Chief Secretary KBS Sidhu says the flight will reach Montreal in Canada via Doha.

7.49 am: A total of 92 areas in Jammu and Kashmir have been identified and designated as red zones, says Rohit Kansal, principal secretary (planning), according to NDTV. Out of these, 14 are in Jammu, while 78 are in Kashmir.

7.47 am: After oil futures plummeted in the negative for the first time in history on Tuesday, the US WTI went up to $13.76 a barrel.

7.46 am: The Delhi Police are conducting checks at the border between Delhi and Ghaziabad. Traffic movement between the districts has been blocked, and only those rendering essential services or who have valid passes are being allowed.

Read more here:

Covid-19 lockdown: Delhi-Noida border sealed, some exceptions allowed

7.38 am: United States President Donald Trump says that he would order a temporary halt in issuing green cards to prevent people from immigrating to the United States. He cast his decision to “suspend immigration,” which he first announced on Twitter Monday night, as a move to protect American jobs.

Read more here:

Covid-19: Donald Trump halts issuing of Green Cards for 60 days

7.15 am: Here are the top updates from Tuesday:

  • India’s total number of Covid-19 cases has gone up to 18,985, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s Tuesday evening update. Of the confirmed cases, 603 patients have died, 15,122 people are undergoing treatment, 3,259 people have recovered, and one person has left the country.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs told chief secretaries of all states that bedside attendants and caregivers of senior citizens are allowed to work during the lockdown. The order added that public utilities are exempted from the lockdown, including recharge facilities for prepaid mobile phone connections. Food processing industries are also allowed to function, the ministry said.
  • The Trinamool Congress criticised the visit of Centre’s inter-ministerial teams to review the coronavirus situation in West Bengal. Party leader Derek O’Brien termed the visit as “adventure tourism” and questioned why teams were not sent to states with much higher number of cases and hotspots. Meanwhile, Apurva Chandra, central team leader, said the state government has not been giving logistical support to visit affected areas.
  • Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain on Tuesday said a Covid-19 case has been reported from the Rashtrapati Bhavan complex. According to reports, about 125 families living in the premises have been asked to go under quarantine.
  • Twenty-five hospital employees, including 19 nurses and six paramedics, of the Ruby Hall Clinic in Maharashtra’s Pune city have tested positive for the coronavirus.
  • Media watchdog Reporters Sans Frontières said the coming decade will be decisive for the future of journalism, with the coronavirus pandemic “highlighting and amplifying the many crises that threaten the right to freely reported, independent, diverse and reliable information”.
  • The price of the United States crude oil benchmark turned negative on Monday for the first time in history, falling more than $50 a barrel within a day to close at $37.63 below zero. President Donald Trump said that the US would take advantage of the historic drop in oil prices to replenish its national stockpile.
  • A 12-year-old girl from Chhattisgarh, who worked in a field in Telangana, died after walking 150 kilometres for three days to Bijapur district amid the nationwide lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus. The child collapsed and died just an hour away from her village.
  • Donald Trump on Tuesday said he would sign an executive order to suspend immigration to the US because of the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement comes at a time when the US economy has come to a near standstill because of the pandemic, with more than 22 million people applying for unemployment benefits in the last month. So far, the US has been the worst-hit by the pandemic.