Coronavirus India updates March 15: Cases rise to 107, PM holds video conference with SAARC leaders

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Travellers from abroad queue outside ward 9 of Kasturba hospital, Mumbai, to get assessed by doctors. Those symptomatic of coronavirus are transferred to the isolation facility. (Express photo: Ganesh Shirsekar)

The number of positive coronavirus cases in India climbed to 107 Sunday after 23 fresh cases were reported from across the country, with the highest being from Maharashtra, the Health Ministry said. Maharashtra accounted for 12 of the 23 fresh cases even as the Mumbai Police directed tour operators not to take any groups to foreign or domestic destinations for tourism purpose till March 31.

Meanwhile, positive cases were also reported from Kerala (2), Karnataka (1), Pune (1), Uttar Pradesh (1), and Hyderabad (1). The cases are yet to be confirmed by the health ministry.

The virus, which was declared a 'national disaster' by the Centre on Saturday, has claimed two lives so far. A total of 10 persons who tested positive, including three from Kerala, five from Uttar Pradesh and one each from Rajasthan and Delhi, have recovered and been discharged.

Meanwhile, three flights carrying 218 Indian nationals stranded in Italy and 236 in Iran landed in India earlier today and have been quarantined at different facilities in New Delhi and Jaisalmer. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also participated in a SAARC video-conference, where he held discussions on coronavirus with different heads of nations. Follow coronavirus outbreak LIVE Updates here

So far, 31 cases have been reported in Maharashtra, 22 in Kerala, 11 in Uttar Pradesh, 7 in Delhi, 6 in Karnataka, 3 in Ladakh and Telangana, 2 in Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan, and one each in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab. The total number of confirmed cases includes 17 foreigners -- 16 Italian tourists and a Canadian.

PM Modi addresses SAARC leaders

Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed to create an emergency coronavirus fund for South Asian countries during his video conference with SAARC leaders on Sunday. PM Modi said the contribution to this fund would be voluntary for all the SAARC nations while pitching India’s initial offer of USD 10 million to the fund.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses SAARC leaders on coronavirus on Sunday. (Source: ANI)

During his address, PM Modi shared India’s guiding mantra to fight the pandemic – ‘prepare but don’t panic’ – while also saying that the country has made special efforts to protect vulnerable groups in the society.

Highest number of coronavirus cases in Maharashtra

Maharashtra is the worst hit due to the novel coronavirus after 12 fresh cases were confirmed by the Health Ministry on Sunday, taking the overall count to 32. Among the new cases was a 59-year-old woman who tested positive on Sunday. The woman had a travel history to Russia. "The woman has tested positive for coronavirus infection. She had travelled to Russia and Kazakhstan. She has been quarantined at Dhoot Hospital in Aurangabad," a state health official said.

Indians evacuated from Italy, Iran quarantined

A group of 218 Indian nationals, mainly students, evacuated from Milan in Italy reached the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport in New Delhi at 10 am Sunday, officials said. At 21,000, Italy has recorded the highest number of novel coronavirus cases outside China besides seeing 1400 deaths.

The evacuees have been taken to a facility set up by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) in Chawla, Delhi where they will be tested and quarantined.

“They (passengers) were tested for COVID-19 before boarding the flight in Italy and only those who tested negative were allowed on board. Thermal imaging will be done at the isolation bay at the IGI airport following which they would be brought to the facility,” an ITBP spokesperson said.

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Two Air India flights carrying 236 Indian nationals from Iran landed in Jaisalmer by Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, two Air India flights carrying 236 Indians from Iran landed in Rajasthan on Sunday morning and the passengers have been quarantined at the Indian Army Wellness Centre at Jaisalmer.

While External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said a total of 234 Indians have been evacuated from Iran, defence spokesperson Col Sombit Ghosh pegged the number at 236.

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The Indian Army Wellness Centre at Jaisalmer where passengers from Iran will be quarantined.

Jaishankar said the batch comprised of 131 students and 103 pilgrims. "234 Indians stranded in Iran have arrived in India; including 131 students and 103 pilgrims. Thank you Ambassador Dhamu Gaddam and @India_in_Iran team for your efforts. Thank Iranian authorities," Jaishankar tweeted.

Dubai-bound flight carrying coronavirus patient grounded in Kochi

As many as 289 passengers on board a Dubai-bound flight were offloaded at Kochi airport Sunday shortly before take-off after a UK national tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The UK national, who was travelling with 18 others, had slipped out of a quarantine facility from a Munnar hotel without informing authorities, officials said.

The UK national, who was travelling with 18 others, had slipped out of quarantine from a Munnar hotel, officials said. He and his wife were brought down from the flight and placed under isolation at Kalamassery Medical College in Ernakulam district.

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Speaking to reporters, Health Minister KK Shailaja said the British native, who had arrived in Kerala as part of a group of 19 on March 3, was placed under quarantine at Tea County resort in the hill station of Munnar after he showed symptoms of the virus. His swab samples were sent for testing.

After his results on Saturday night showed that he had contracted the virus, medical officials visited the resort to shift him to a government hospital where he could be treated in isolation.

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Students from IIT Delhi leave for home as the campus is going to shut down, with notices from the Institute. (Express photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Uttarakhand govt declares coronavirus an epidemic

The Uttarakhand government has declared novel coronavirus an epidemic and shut all multiplexes, cinema halls, degree colleges and technical institutes across the state till March 31, official sources said. The decision was taken at a meeting of the state council of ministers here late on Saturday night. However, medical colleges will remain open, they said.

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Two-wheeler riders were seen wearing handkerchiefs and air masks on their faces while riding, in different parts of Ahmedabad on Sunday morning. (Express photo Javed Raja)

117 put in home isolation in Mizoram

At least 117 people with novel coronavirus-like symptoms have been put in home isolation in Mizoram, a senior health official on Sunday told PTI. Though Mizoram has not yet reported any positive case of coronavirus, 117 people have been home quarantined as a precautionary measure, Health department principal director F Lallianhlira said.

"Even though no positive case has been reported, we have to remain alert," he said. Lallianhlira said all sections of the society must make efforts to prevent the spread of the disease in the state.

The state government has clamped Section 144 of the CrPC along the state's international borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh to prevent the entry of people from the neighbouring countries.

Central, Western Railway withdraw curtains, blankets from AC coaches

Central and Western Railway on Saturday ordered the withdrawal of blankets and curtains from AC coaches as they are not washed every day. Other items in the bedroll, including bed sheets, towels and pillow covers, are washed every day.

“As per the extant instructions, curtains and blankets provided in AC coaches are not washed (after) every trip. In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, blankets and curtains will be immediately withdrawn from service until further orders. Passengers will be advised to bring their own blankets in their own interest. Some additional bedsheets will be kept for any exigencies,” Western Railway spokesperson Gajanan Mahatpurkar told PTI.

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Doctors attend to patients with symptoms at a Homeopathic hospital in New Delhi on Saturday. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Andhra Pradesh local body polls postponed

The Election Commission of Andhra Pradesh on Sunday postponed the local body elections in view of the rising number of cases of the coronavirus disease. Election Commissioner N Ramesh Kumar said, "We have decided to postpone the local body polls for six weeks in the wake of coronavirus spread. New dates will be announced once the spread of the virus is contained."

SER opens 50-bed isolation ward in Ranchi railway hospital

The South Eastern Railway (SER) has opened a 50-bed isolation ward in the Ranchi rail division hospital in view of the novel coronavirus outbreak, officials said on Sunday. Apart from the 50-bed isolation ward, a 24/7 emergency team has also been deployed at the hospital, the SER said in a statement.

Bengaluru techie's wife tests positive for coronavirus

Wife of Bangalore techie tested positive for coronavirus after samples were sent to Lucknow. The woman's father has been booked for allegedly misleading health officials about her whereabouts. The woman had travelled to her parents’ home in Agra via Delhi by the time she was tested.