New Delhi, May 8 (PTI) Amid concerns over rising economic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Union Health Ministry on Friday said people should 'learn to live with the virus' while the nationwide tally of confirmed infections was seen fast approaching the 60,000 mark and the death toll crossed 1,900.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray admitted there has been no success yet in breaking the virus chain in the state -- the worst hit in the country in terms of infections and the death toll -- while apex industry body CII sought an immediate stimulus package of Rs 15 lakh crore, or 7.5 per cent of the country's GDP, to help the Indian economy deal with this sudden but 'deep distress'.
Industry chambers, including CII, FICCI and Assocham, also demanded suspension of several labour laws for next two-three years to help India Inc come out of the crisis induced by the lockdown to combat COVID-19 pandemic, including by increasing working hours to 12 hours per day from the existing 8 hours per day, a labour ministry statement said.
The Health Ministry, in the meantime, reeled off various datasets, including those showing a rising number of infection-free districts and an increasing recovery rate, to suggest success in the government's COVID-19 fight, even as it sought 'a behavioural change' and everyone's support in this massive challenge.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray also said his government may seek deployment of central forces, if needed, to allow police to take rest in phases.
The state, which already tops the nationwide tally, reported 1,089 new cases of confirmed infection and 37 more fatalities on Friday. It now has 19,063 positive cases while the death toll has risen to 731, a health department official said.
Mumbai, the country's financial capital, saw its tally of COVID-19 patients growing to 11,967 with 748 new cases, while its death toll has reached 462 with 25 more fatalities. The state's Health Minister Rajesh Tope said Mumbai should see a sharp decline in cases in the next 15-20 days.
Large numbers of new cases were also reported from Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, while Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Rajasthan and Odisha also recorded higher tallies. Kerala and Himachal Pradesh reported only one fresh positive case each.
Concerns over the huge economic cost of the COVID-19 fight and the ongoing lockdown further grew after Moody's Investors Service projected India's economic growth at zero per cent for the current fiscal. It also said that a high government debt, weak social and physical infrastructure, and a fragile financial sector face further pressures due to the coronavirus outbreak.
According to experts, industrial and other business establishments may face a huge labour shortage once they resume operations after the lockdown, which has been in place since March 25 and is scheduled to continue till May 17. Lakhs of migrant workers have either left for their native places or are in the process of doing so, including by trains and buses arranged by central and state governments.
There are also worries that the virus spread may grow further in newer areas following these movements, while a large number of Indians stranded abroad have also begun returning home in special flights.
During a press briefing on the COVID-19 situation, Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said, 'As we talk of relaxations to the lockdown and of migrant workers returning back to their respective homes, there is a big challenge in front of us that we also have to learn to live with the virus.' 'And when we are talking about learning to live with the virus then it is very important that the guidelines that are there on saving oneself from the virus are adopted in the community as a behavioural change,' he said.
It is a big challenge and the government needs the community support for it, Agarwal added.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had also recently said the people will have to be ready to live with the novel coronavirus and that time has come to re-open the city.
Agarwal said there has been a reduction in the doubling time of COVID-19 cases in the country from 12 days till two days ago to 10 now because of the spike in cases at some places, but asserted that the peak of the disease can be avoided if the prescribed do's and don'ts are followed.
According to the daily morning update from the ministry, a total of 3,390 COVID-19 cases and 103 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours till Friday 8 AM, taking the total number of cases to 56,342 and death toll to 1,886.
However, a PTI tally of numbers reported by different states and union territories till 11 PM showed that at least 59,747 have tested positive so far across the country while 1,915 have died. This marks an increase of over 6,000 cases and nearly 100 more deaths since Thursday morning.
Close to 17,000 COVID-19 patients have also recovered so far, giving a recovery rate of more than 29 per cent. The worldwide recovery rate has been around 33 per cent in the past few days.
Since its outbreak in China last December, more than 38.6 lakh people have been found to be infected with this virus, while over 2.7 lakh have lost their lives. Nearly 13 lakh people have recovered so far, including about 2 lakh in the US.
In India, big urban centres across Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi have been reporting large numbers of positive cases.
While rising numbers were reported from Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Thane and Aurangabad, among other places, in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu saw its tally rising by 600 to cross the 6,000-mark while its death toll also rose to 40.
Delhi saw its tally rising to 6,318 confirmed cases and 68 deaths, with 338 new cases and two fresh deaths being reported on Friday, according to the Delhi government authorities.
On the outskirts of the national capital, Noida reported its first death while its tally of confirmed cases rose to 214.
Gujarat reported 390 new cases, taking its tally to 7,403, while the death toll also rose to 449 with 24 more patients dying in the last 24 hours.
Giving the district-wise situation of coronavirus cases, Agarwal said there are 216 districts in which no COVID-19 case has been reported till date.
On May 1, the ministry had divided 733 districts in the country into three zones -- 130 in red, 284 in orange and 319 in green.
Agarwal said 42 districts have had no fresh cases in the last 28 days while 29 districts have reported no new case in the last 21 days. Also, 36 districts have not registered any fresh cases in the last 14 days and 46 districts have had no fresh cases in the last seven days, he said.
In Kerala, which reported one solitary case during the day, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the state has flattened the COVID-19 curve.
He also said the state needed to be careful to avoid another wave of the deadly virus but asserted it was ready to fight it in such an event.
Among other people, several paramilitary personnel have also contracted the virus and one CISF official posted in Kolkata succumbed to COVID-19 on Friday. The number of active cases of the infection in the five paramilitary is more than 530, while thousands have been placed under preventive or clinical quarantine, officials said.
A total of five paramilitary personnel have died so far of COVID-19, two each from BSF and CISF and one from the CRPF. PTI PLB ASK ENM UD KIS JD AA NES MR PM PJT PD RSN KKS KND BJ BJ