8.55 pm: Here are the top updates from Saturday:

  •   The number of coronavirus cases in India rose to 24,942, and the toll to 779 on Saturday evening, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Saturday’s rise of 1,490 cases was the lowest daily percentage rise in cases since the country hit 100 infections.
  •   The Centre eased lockdown curbs to allow standalone shops in residential areas to open with conditions. However, the relaxations will not apply to shops in malls, coronavirus hotspots and containment zones.
  •   China rejected global calls for an independent international investigation into the origins of the virus, calling these demands “politically motivated”.
  • Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other Congress leaders criticised the Narendra Modi government’s decision to cancel the dearness allowance of pensioners, government employees and soldiers.
  • After global financial company Franklin Templeton decided to shut six debt schemes in India, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram urged the government to act promptly and resolve the matter.
  • Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath banned public gatherings in the state till June 30. The chief minister also ordered people to perform prayers at home with the beginning of Ramzan.
  • Employees of national carrier Air India asked the government to withdraw the 10% pay cut it announced earlier in March.
  • The Delhi government said it will implement the Centre’s directive that shops in residential areas can open in non-containment zones. However, Maharashtra is yet to make a decision in the matter.

8.45 pm: Maharashtra has updated its number of new cases for Saturday to 811, and deaths to 22, ANI reports. This takes the total number of cases in the state to 7,628 and the toll to 323, the Maharashtra Health Department says.

8.37 pm: Gujarat has reported 256 new cases on Friday. Total coronavirus cases in the state now stand at 3,071.

8.26 pm: Union Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba says the Centre has started the process of consultations with states and Union Territories for bringing back Indians stuck abroad, ANI reports. He says a decision will be taken after ascertaining the preparedness of the states and Union Territories to take them back.

8.20 pm: The number of containment zones in Delhi is up to 95 now, reports The Times of India.

8.19 pm: Mumbai has 281 new cases of the coronavirus today, and 12 more deaths, ANI quotes the Public Health Department as saying. This takes the number of cases in the country’s financial capital to 4,870 and the toll to 191.

7.46 pm: The Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory administration has shifted four red zones to orange zones, The Indian Express reports. Orange zones denotes a lesser spread of Covid-19.

“The transition from Red zone to orange has been permitted in Janipur, Gujjar Nagar, Bhatindi & Sunjwan, keeping in view the guidelines for the same,” Jammu Deputy Commissioner of Police Sushma Chauhan says. “Further, transition from orange to green will take place as per procedure, in due course of time [second week of May, if situation remains as it is today].”

7.41 pm: The Punjab government has sought details of people of the state who have been stranded abroad due to the coronavirus, PTI reports. A letter has been sent to all district commissioners seeking details.

7.36 pm: As of April 24, the Karnataka government has identified 111 containment zones across the state, The Indian Express reports. As many as 31.68 lakh people continue to live in buffer zones.

7.33 pm: The Uttar Pradesh government has started bringing migrant labourers back to the state, PTI reports. Briefing reporters, Additional Chief Secretary (Home and Information) Awanish Awasthi says the first batch of workers returned on Friday, and a second batch of 11,000 labourers will arrive on Sunday.

7.27 pm: Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope says the lockdown rules will remain unchanged in the state till May 3, PTI reports. “We will get more clarity after a video conference with the prime minister on Monday,” he tells PTI. “We haven’t taken any decision on the order of the Ministry of Home Affairs as yet. But there will be no further relaxation in lockdown rules till May 3.”

“It has to be seen if only containment areas in red zones should be sealed or the entire zone should be under lockdown,” Tope says. “Decision will be taken after thorough deliberations.”

7.20 pm: A Maharashtra government official says the state is yet to take a decision on the Centre’s order that shops in residential areas in non-containment zones can open again.

7.14 pm: Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant says that the state government has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to finalise a standard operating procedure, or SOP, to bring back Goans stuck in foreign countries, PTI reports. “Those who want to return would be allowed to do so,” Sawant says. He adds that the state has prepared a foolproof SOP for those stranded on ships.

7.10 pm: The Delhi government has now decided to implement the Ministry of Home Affairs order on the opening of shops, PTI reports. A Delhi government official says that non-essential shops will be allowed to open, but not in coronavirus containment zones. Standalone shops and and shops in residential areas will open with social distancing measures to be followed.

7.05 pm: The Tamil Nadu Health Department says that 66 new cases have been reported in the state on Saturday, and one person has died, according to ANI. The total number of cases in the state stands at 1,821.

7 pm: The Madhya Pradesh Health Department says that 1,945 cases of Covid-19 have been reported so far in the state, and 99 people have lost their lives, ANI reports. Indore has reported 1,085 cases and 57 deaths while in Bhopal there are 388 cases and nine deaths.

6.51 pm: Actor Vidya Balan has decided to donate 1,000 PPE kits to healthcare workers in India. The actor also announces that she is collaborating with celebrity shout-out platform Tring to raise money for the kits.

6.46 pm: Delhi Health Minister Satyender Jain has said that while there are 92 hotspots in the city, the entire city is not a hotspot, PTI reports. The Delhi government is yet to decide on whether to follow a central government order to open shops in non-market areas. Shopkeepers have kept their establishments shut on Saturday, seeking clarity.

6.40 pm: In Maharashtra, 96 police personnel have been found Covid-19 positive so far, PTI reports. Seven of them have recovered and been discharged from hospitals.

6.33 pm: The West Bengal government claims there are 423 active infections in the state.

6.24 pm: Italy will start easing its lockdown on May 4, AP reports. Millions of Italians will be allowed to return to work from that day. The country will also start distributing free protective masks to nursing homes.

6.20 pm: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Netherlands has risen by 655 to 37,190, The Guardian reports. As many as 120 more people have died.

6.10 pm: The Trinamool Congress has labelled the two IMCT teams visiting West Bengal as “India’s Most Callous Team”. “As expected, IMCT’s visit to #Bengal has served no purpose,” Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien tweets. “Visiting districts with no hotspots, asking #Bengal for audit committee, already been in place since early April.”

He claims the main aim of the teams was to “spread the political virus”.

6 pm: A central team on a visit to West Bengal to assess the Covid-19 situation has complained to the Centre that the state government is not cooperating in providing logistical support and other relevant information, PTI reports.

“Four letters have been written to the state government till today,” the head of the IMCT team, Apurva Sinha says. “No response has been received till date.”

5.55 pm: The total number of cases in India has risen to 24,942, and the toll to 779.

5.30 pm: Congress President Sonia Gandhi writes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the grave economic crisis facing India, and suggests five measures to provide respite to micro, small and medium enterprises.

Gandhi tells Modi that if ignored, the MSME crisis can have a “devastating and expansive ripple effect” on the Indian economy.

5.25 pm: Karnataka reports 26 more cases from 5 pm on April 24 to 5 pm on April 25, according to ANI. The state health department says total positive cases in the state stand at 500 which includes 18 deaths and 158 discharges.

5.14 pm: A Mumbai Police officer says over 5,000 cases have been registered over the past month against people who violated the lockdown, PTI reports. As many as 6,164 persons have been arrested and released on bail, 2,440 persons were allowed to go after notices were issued to them and 1,188 are absconding, he adds.

5.10 pm: MD Singh, the district collector from Yavatmal in Maharashtra, says that 15 more people have tested positive, ANI reports. This takes the total number of cases in the district to 30.

5 pm: Honnali BJP MLA MP Renukacharya has held a meeting of Accredited Social Health Activist workers in Honnali in Davanagere district earlier on Saturday, ANI reports. No social distancing norms were followed at the meet.

4.45 pm: China has rejected global calls for an independent international inquiry into the origins of Covid-19, calling them “politically motivated”. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that America will make sure the world knows that the virus originated in China.

Read more:

Covid-19: China rejects calls for independent international probe into origins of the virus

4.40 pm: South Korea’s diagnostic kit manufacturing company SD Biosensor has started manufacturing rapid antibody test kits in Gurugram, ANI reports. “We have received orders from Chattisgarh and order of one lakh kits from Haryana government,” says Anshul Saraswat, the Manesar plant head of SD Biosensor. “Twenty-five thousand kits have been delivered, rest will be transferred soon. Other products are also under evaluation by ICMR.”

4.33 pm: The Himachal Pradesh government has decided to relax curfew between 5.30 am and 7 am everyday from Sunday, in order to allow people to go for morning walks, ANI reports quoting the Chief Minister’s Office. The total relaxation in curfew will increase from three hours to four hours from Monday.

4.22 pm: Bihar Principal Secretary (Health) Sanjay Kumar says 10 more cases have been reported in the state on Saturday, taking the total number to 238.

4.14 pm: The World Health Organization says there is no evidence so far that persons who recover from the coronavirus are immune to a second infection, Reuters reports. The United Nations agency warns against against issuing “immunity passports” or “risk-free certificates” to people who have been infected once.

4 pm: In a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, eight employees’ unions of Air India have requested him to withdraw the decision made to cut their salaries by 10%.

Read more:
Covid-19 lockdown: Air India employees ask Centre to withdraw 10% pay cut

3.45 pm: Former India cricket player Yuvraj Singh says professional cricket should resume only when the coronavirus is “completely eradicated” and that players’ health and safety should be paramount for the custodians of the game.

Read more: Cricket should resume only when coronavirus is completely eradicated, says Yuvraj Singh

3.40 pm: The Allahabad University suspends a political science professor who was arrested on charges of sheltering Tablighi Jamaat attendees.

Read more: Covid-19: Allahabad University professor, arrested for sheltering Tablighi Jamaat members, suspended

3.33 pm: There is massive panic buying in some Tamil Nadu cities after the state on Friday announced an “intense lockdown” over the next few days. Social distancing has been completely ignored at many shops in Chennai, Coimbatore and Madurai today.

More here: In photos: Panic buying in some TN cities after state announces ‘intense lockdown’ from Sunday

3 pm: The central team sent to Bengal writes to the state government suggesting a stricter implementation of the lockdown in north Bengal, PTI reports.

2.06 pm: Seven more people test positive for the coronavirus in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, taking the total number of cases in the Union Territory to 29, reports PTI. “Of the new cases, six are from one family, and all of them came in contact with a Covid-19 patient detected earlier,” an unidentified official tells PTI.

2 pm: Jharkhand government has started the process of transferring cash in the bank accounts of the state’s migrant workers stranded across the country amid the coronavirus-induced lockdown, reports PTI.

1.58 pm: Union Home Ministry Joint Secretary Punya Salila Srivastava consolidated revised guidelines on lockdown is not applicable to hair salons and barber shops, reports ANI. “Our order is applicable on shops which deal in sale of items,” she says. “There is no order to open liquor shops too.”

1.55 pm: Germany’s coronavirus cases have increased by 2,055 to 1,52,438, reports Reuters. This is the second day of deceleration after three days of acceleration in new infections.

12.58 pm: Maharashtra’s Health Department reports 394 new coronavirus cases and 18 deaths in the last 24 hours. The total number of positive cases in the state rises to 6,817, including 301 deaths.

12.50 pm: Karnataka records 15 new coronavirus cases between 5 pm of April 24 and 12 pm of April 25. So far, 489 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in the state. This includes 18 deaths and 153 recoveries, reports ANI.

12.40 pm: In Andhra Pradesh, 61 new Covid-19 cases makes the state’s tally cross 1,000-mark to 1,016. Toll in the state stands at 31, reports PTI, citing a government bulletin.

12.35 pm: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath has ordered the state’s officials to prevent public gatherings till June 30, reports ANI.

12.32 pm: A decision on the Ministry of Home Affairs’ order to ease certain restrictions amid the nationwide lockdown will be taken after the Delhi government reviews the situation. “A decision will be taken this afternoon,” Health Minister Satyendar Jain has said. “Delhi has 92 hotspots...entire city or district is not a containment zone. Whatever is finalised, will be started only after April 30.”

12.30 pm: Delhi’s Health Minister Satyendar Jain says four patients who went through plasma therapy four days ago have “almost recovered”, reports ANI. A total of six patients have undergone the treatment. “All of them were critical patients and results are very encouraging,” he adds.

12.27 pm: BJP MP Ravindra Kushawaha has announced a cash prize of Rs 11,000 to anyone providing specific information about people, including Tablighi Jamaat members, who hid details about their travels and avoided screening for the coronavirus, reports PTI.

12.13 pm: Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba conducts a meeting via video-conferencing with chief secretaries and directors general of police of states and other officials over public health response to the coronavirus, and resumption of economic activities as per the guidelines of the Ministry of Home Affairs, among other matters, reports ANI.

11.45 am: Gujarat’s Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel says the state will easily implement the Centre’s decision to open shops in rural areas. “But as far as implementation in urban areas is concerned, we will do it as per conditions in [the] Centre’s notification,” he says, according to ANI. “A meeting, chaired by [the] chief minister, will be held in [the] afternoon. Decision to be taken after discussion.”

11.30 am: People flock to markets in Tamil Nadu’s Madurai district, reports ANI. This comes a day after the state’s chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami announced that the government will tighten lockdown restrictions imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic in five municipal corporations – Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Salem and Tirupur – from April 26.

Also read:

Covid-19: Tamil Nadu announces complete lockdown in Chennai, four other cities from April 26

11.10 am: The Ministry of Home Affairs issues a clarification on its Friday night order:

  • In rural areas, all shops, except those in shopping malls allowed to open. 
  • In urban areas, all standalone or neighbourhood shops and stores in residential complexes are allowed to open. Shops in markets or market complexes and shopping malls are not allowed to open.
  • Sale by e-commerce companies will continue to be permitted for essential goods only.
  • Sale of liquor and other items continues to be prohibited as specified in the National Directives for COVID-19 management.
  • No shops permitted to open in hotspots or containment zones.

10.56 am: Hardware stores in Delhi’s Laxmi Nagar area open after a month of being shut.

10.53 am: Rajasthan’s health department has reported 25 new Covid-19 cases in the state. This includes eight in Ajmer, two in Dholpur, one in Dungarpur, five each in Jhalawar and Jodhpur and four in Kota. The total number of confirmed cases in the state stands at 2,059.

10.35 am: Stationary and electronics shops open in a locality in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh after the Centre’s order easing restrictions.

Also read:

Coronavirus: Centre eases lockdown curbs to allow select shops to open with conditions

10.26 am: Assam’s Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna says no decision has been taken on relaxation in lockdown restrictions in the state. “A decision in this regard will be taken only on April 27,” he adds, according to ANI.

9.33 am: Britain will soon start trials to see whether plasma collected from donors who have recovered from the coronavirus could be an effective treatment for patients who are severely unwell with the infection, reports Reuters.

9.26 am: China reports 12 new coronavirus cases, taking the total infections in the country to 82,816, reports Reuters. The toll remains the same at 4,632, with no new deaths reported.

9.22 am: Eight people test positive for the coronavirus in Maharashtra’s Amravati, taking the total number of cases in the city to 16, reports PTI.

9.20 am: Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh criticises the Centre’s decision to freeze the dearness allowance of pensioners, government employees and soldiers in order to fund the fight against the coronavirus, reports ANI. “I sincerely believe it is not necessary at this stage to impose hardships on government servants and also on the armed forces people,” he says.

8.58 am: The health ministry has updated the coronavirus figures in India. The country now has 24,506 cases. The toll has risen to 775, while 5,062 people have recovered from the infection.

8 am: US President Donald Trump claims he spoke “sarcastically” about injecting disinfectants to combat the coronavirus, reports AFP.

Also read:

After Trump’s remarks, Lysol and Dettol maker say disinfectant is not to be used to treat Covid-19

7.55 am: A seven-member committee, set up by the University Grants Commission, proposes delayed start to new college session due to the coronavirus pandemic from mid-July to September, reports The Indian Express.

7.50 am: The administration of Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi district recommends the suspension of a government official after he reportedly lodged a case against a six-month-old child and three-year-old girl, along with 45 others, for violating the lockdown guidelines, reports The Indian Express.

7.47 am: The toll from the coronavirus pandemic in United States has crossed 50,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 3,000 people died in the last 24 hours, BBC reports.

7.45 am: Here are the top updates from Friday:

  • The number of coronavirus cases in India rose to 23,452 on Friday evening, according to data from the health ministry. The Indian Council of Medical Research, however, said that at least 23,502 people have tested positive for Covid-19 so far. The toll rose to 723 while the number of patients who have recovered stood at 4,813.
  • The Centre has said four more inter-ministerial central teams have been set up to review the Covid-19 situation in Ahmedabad, Surat, Hyderabad and Chennai. The Centre had earlier this week sent six teams to West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the coronavirus crisis has taught India to be self-reliant. “Coronavirus has created new challenges that we have never imagined,” the prime minister said during a virtual meeting with village heads across the country on the occasion of Panchayati Raj Day. The prime minister praised the village heads for their handling of the escalating health crisis.
  • Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami has announced a complete lockdown in Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Salem and Tirupur from April 26. This entails a blanket ban on all activities and movement of people apart from the “extremely essential services” identified by the government.
  • Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that plasma therapy trials – transfusion of plasma from a person who has recovered from Covid-19 to a patient in critical condition  have been conducted on four patients in the Capital. He added that the results so far had been encouraging.