Two cops of Mumbai Police died on Wednesday due to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

One was a 57-year-old policeman from Parksite police station. For the last seven days he was admitted to a hospital in Andheri. After battling with Covid-19 for a week, he succumbed to the infection on Wednesday.

The other policeman was from Sahar traffic division who also died due to Covid-19.

There are more than 650 coronavirus cases in the Mumbai Police department.

The total tally of Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra stands at 1,388, which includes 142 police officers and 1,246 policemen.

So far, 428 policemen of the state have been discharged after they fully recovered.

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The Railways is set to resume intrastate services as it gave its nod to run two trains in Karnataka from May 22, the South Western Railways said on Wednesday.

The two special trains are the Bengaluru – Hubli – Belagavi and Mysore — Bengaluru Special Express, according to an order issued by the SWR.

These will be the first intrastate trains to be run by the Railways since it suspended passenger services due to the coronavirus lockdown.

The bookings for these trains will be online through the IRCTC portal.

“Intrastate special trains started in Karnataka. Bengaluru – Belagavi and Bengaluru – Mysore expresses to begin with 100%. Passengers have to book the tickets online. These trains will help the people who were stranded during lockdown,” Minister of State for Railways Suresh Angadi tweeted.

The Railway Board approval came two days after the Karnataka government gave its nod to commence the train services within the state.

The Railways had earlier cancelled operation of all regular trains till June 30.

In a communiqué to the SWR on Wednesday, the Board said the trains may be operated at the earliest convenient date to the zone.

Both the trains will be operated as fully reserved trains and strict maintenance of social distancing norms, the Board said.

The Bengaluru-Belagavi service would depart Bengaluru at 8 am, reach Hubli at 3.25 pm and Belagavi at 4.30 pm.

In its return journey, it would leave Belagavi at 8 am, Hubli at 10.50 a.m. to reach Bengaluru at 4.30 pm.

It would have stops at Yeshwantpur, Tumakuru, Arsikere, Birur, Chikkajajur, Davangere, Harihar, Ranebennur, Haveri, Hubli, and Dharwad.

From Bengaluru, it would operate on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and from Belagavi, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

The Bengaluru-Mysuru daily express special would depart Bengaluru at 9.20 a.m. to reach Mysuru at 12.45 pm while in the return direction, it would depart Mysuru at 1.45 pm to reach Bengaluru at 5 pm.

It would have stops at Kengeri, Ramanagaram, Maddur, Mandya, Pandavapura, and Naganahalli.

The Railways will also begin operations of non-air conditioned passenger services for all from June 1.

ALSO READ | In April, Govt predicted zero new Covid-19 case by May 16. What went wrong?

ALSO READ | Covid-19 tracker: State-wise data, daily trends, patients recovered, deaths and more

ALSO WATCH | India’s coronavirus cases cross 1 lakh-mark, Maharashtra worst affected with over 35,000 cases

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India is inching closer to business as usual with announcements of resumption of air and train services within the country even as the number of Covid-19 cases reached 1,06,750 on Wednesday.

The Centre said that with a recovery rate of 39.62 per cent and a mortality rate of 0.2 death per lakh population, India was ahead of the rest of the world in dealing with the Covid crisis. Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Health Ministers’ meeting that the country’s policy of micro-identification, mass isolation and quick treatment helped prevent large scale deaths and spread of Covid-19.

Businesses have started to reopen in various parts of the country. Delhi’s neighbouring Gautam Budhh Nagar on Wednesday announced that markets can reopen using the odd-even formula. Delhi has already allowed shops to open on alternative days. Gujarat resumed the state transport bus services, while Haryana decided not to run interstate services and limited its buses within the state.

Movement of buses created a massive political flutter on the UP-Rajasthan border as UP CM Yogi Adityanath and Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi locked horns over the transportation of migrants. Around 500 buses full of migrants had to turn back from the state’s border as UP did not allow them entry.

Meanwhile, the economic crisis due to Covid-19 pandemic once again became evident on Wednesday as taxi service Ola laid off 1400 employees. The company said that due to the lockdown its revenue has come down by 95 per cent in the last two months.

Nationwide tally

India saw a spike of 5,611 cases of Covid-19 infections and 140 deaths in 24 hours, ending Wednesday morning. The death toll climbed to 3,303 with as many as 140 fatalities.

According to the data by Union Health Ministry, the total number of cases in India reached 1,06,750. These include 61,149 active cases, while 42,298 people recovered or discharged, the health ministry said.

The total confirmed cases include foreign nationals too who were tested in India. India’s recovery rate stood at 39.6 per cent on Wednesday.

Maharashtra, the worst hit due to coronavirus, saw over 2,000 cases in 24 hours. The state tally stood at 37,136 infections, followed by Tamil Nadu (12,448) and Gujarat (12,140).

On Tuesday, India’s tally stood at 1,01,139. While there were 58,802 active cases, the recoveries were at 39,174.

High recovery rate, low death rate

The Union Health Ministry has said that 7.9 people per lakh population of India has got affected due to COVID-19 and the recovery rate is 39.62 per cent.

“If the total population of the world is taken into account, then 62 people per lakh population have been affected due to COVID-19. In India, 7.9 people per lakh population have got affected due to COVID,” said Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Union Health Ministry at a press conference.

Agarwal said that at present about 40 per cent of people have recovered from COVID-19. Out of active cases, 2.94 per cent are on the oxygen support, 3 per cent at ICU related support, and 0.45 per cent on ventilators, he added.

He said that 4.2 people per lakh population across the world have died due to the disease, India has recorded 0.2 deaths per lakh population.

Talking about COVID-19 recovery rate in the country, he said: “When the first lockdown started, then the recovery rate was around 7.1 per cent. The recovery rate during the second lockdown was 11.42 per cent, which further rose to 26.59 per cent. Today the recovery rate is 39.62 per cent.”

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said the country has conducted over 25 lakh COVID-19 tests till 12.30 pm on Wednesday.

India succeeded in preventing large scale infection: Harsh Vardhan

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday said the country’s policy of micro-identification, mass isolation and quick treatment helped prevent large scale deaths and spread of Covid-19.

He said 1.35 billion Indians honoured the decision of nationwide lockdown that helped keep the mortality rate down and contained the spread of Covid-19 so far.

Addressing the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Health Ministers’ meeting through video conference, Vardhan stressed that human welfare must be the basis of all economic growth.

ICMR mulling revision of recommendation to use HCQ for COVID-19 treatment

The ICMR is mulling a revision of its recommendation to use hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) for treatment of COVID-19 patients after doubts were raised over the effectiveness of the drug.

Asked if the government is planning to drop HCQ from the COVID-19 treatment plan and also as preventive medication, Head of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases at ICMR, Dr Raman R Gangakhedkar on Wednesday said, “A decision in this regard will be taken following a review of all the evidences we are collecting.”

Meanwhile, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is conducting an observational study in which five hospitals have been enrolled to assess the efficacy of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a preventive medication against COVID-19 among healthcare personnel.

According to an ICMR official, there is limited evidence on the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine to deal with COVID-19 cases and therefore, there is not enough proof to recommend it for use by the general public as of now.

The ICMR has recommended the use of the drug as a preventive medication to healthcare workers and household contacts looking after a positive case. Besides, the Union Health Ministry has recommended the use of hydroxychloroquine in combination with azithromycin for patients suffering from severe COVID-19 and requiring ICU management.

Hydorxychloroquine recently failed in two separate randomised controlled trials conducted in China and France, the findings of which were published in the BMJ journal on May 15.

200 additional trains to operate from June 1

The Railways has issued a list of 100 pairs of trains that it will operate from June 1, putting in operation popular trains such as Durontos, Sampark Krantis, Jan Shatabdis and Poorva Express. These trains will have both AC and non-AC classes and fully reserved coaches.

The general (GS) coaches shall also have reserved seats for sitting, meaning there will be no unreserved coach in these trains. Fare shall be as normal. But second seating(2S) fare shall be charged for General (GS) coaches being reserved.

Seats will be provided to all passengers, the Railways said, adding these trains shall run from June 1 and booking will commence at 10 am on May 21.

Partial domestic passenger flights to resume from Monday

Domestic passenger flight services will resume from May 25 in a calibrated manner, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Wednesday.

The minister, however, did not say as to when international passenger flights would resume.

All scheduled commercial passenger flights have been suspended in India since March 25, when the Modi government imposed a lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Senior government officials have said around 30 per cent of domestic flights will be allowed initially. “The number of flights will be increased gradually after that,” one of them added.

The officials also said the government is likely to put a cap, as well as a floor, on all air fares so as to discourage predatory pricing by airlines.

Shops reopen

On Day 3 of Lockdown 4.0, several parts of the country started issuing directives to resume markets and other industries. While Delhi has already allowed markets on the basis of odd-even, neighbouring Noida also adopted the formula on Wednesday.

Noida also allowed all industrial units outside containment zones to open but they shall adhere to rules of social distancing, covering of faces and cautiously use buses for transport work. Noida authorities also allowed street-side vendors to work in open spaces allocated to them by the local authorities provided they use face mask and gloves.

Parks in Noida will open from 7 am to 10 am and then 4 pm to 7 pm. People coming to parks should cover their faces with masks and adhere to social distancing rules.

The Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation (GSRTC) started running its buses across the state from Wednesday, after a nearly two-month-long hiatus due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown. The bus service had come to a halt from March 25, when a nationwide lockdown came into force.

The state government had lifted many restrictions on May 19. However, the bus service resumed from Wednesday.

Yogi, Priyanka tussle over migrant buses

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi continued to fight over the transportation of migrant labourers via Congress-sponsored buses.

As the war of words between the BJP and the Congress heated up, Priyanka Gandhi urged Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath once again on Wednesday to allow her party to ply buses to ferry migrants to their homes amid the coronavirus-triggered lockdown, without playing politics over the issue.

In a 10-minute video message released on Congress social media handles, she said this is not the time to play politics but to help people, especially migrant labourers, suffering due to the lockdown.

Meanwhile, BJP claimed Priyanka Gandhi Vadra made a “fake promise” of providing 1,000 buses to the Uttar Pradesh government for ferrying stranded migrants and demanded an apology from her.

BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao accused the Congress general secretary of passing off buses provided by the Rajasthan government as those arranged by her party, and said she “betrayed” people of the state by doing so.

Ola lays off 1400 employees

Ola has terminated 1400 employees in the backdrop of COVID-19. The downsizing comes just days after Ola resumed services in some of the Indian cities as lockdown rules were relaxed.

Bhavish Kumar, CEO, and Co-founder of Ola, in a note to his employees, said that the company’s revenue has come down by 95 per cent in the last two months.

“The fallout of the virus has been very tough for our industry in particular. Our revenue has come down 95% over the past 2 months. Most importantly, this crisis has affected the livelihoods of millions of our drivers and their families across India and our international geographies.”

Kumar said that the employees in the senior leadership positions have taken salary cuts.

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With people keeping indoors and venturing out only for urgent needs, drivers of paratransit vehicles like autorickshaws, e-rickshaws and taxis struggle to find passengers and make ends meet.

The compulsion to follow social distancing norm and sanitise the vehicles to combat coronavirus have only added to their financial woes, the drivers say.

“I started at around 8 am from Preet Vihar. I did not find any passenger for two hours. A woman and her daughter met me near the Nirman Vihar Metro Station, but I had to say no to them because of the government-announced one passenger norm,” auto driver Abhay Kumar said on Wednesday.

Under lockdown 4.0, the Delhi government has allowed transport services in the city by limiting the number of passengers for various categories of vehicles. Autorickshaws and e-rickshaws have been allowed to carry one passenger only. Taxis, cabs, Gramin Sewa, Phat-Phat and eco-friendly sevas can carry only two passengers.

“It is a tricky situation for auto drivers. While most are not getting any passengers due to coronavirus fear, in many cases they are forced to deny passengers numbering 2-3 due to fear of action,” Rajender Soni, general secretary, Delhi Autorickshaw Sangh said.

Hari Prasad, who runs an autorickshaw near ITO, said it is very difficult to survive under the current situation.

“The problems are many–lack of passengers, social distancing norms and increased expenses to keep the auto sanitised.

“I had taken this auto on rent. I used to earn on an average around Rs 400-500 every day. I have now taken a loan to survive with my family during lockdown, add to it the mandatory cost of fuel, rent and sanitiser. I thought I would get passengers, but in last two days I earned just Rs 400. I do not think I can continue this anymore,” he said.

Soni said the government should pitch in to help the drivers of paratransit vehicles and revise the social distancing norms.

“The government has allowed only one passenger in an autorickshaw which should be changed to at least two for autos and three for taxis,” he said.

Rashtriya Rajdhani Kshetra Auto Drivers Union Secretary Anuj Rathor also demanded that the government allow more passengers in autos and taxis.

“Safety from coronavirus is important, but you cannot force them to provide services by facing losses. They are already broke due to joblessness in the past two months. The government should either compensate them or allow to carry more passengers,” he said.

E-rickshaw driver Naushad said he took out his vehicle on Tuesday but thought better to wait for a few more days before working again.

“Yesterday was a very bad day. I hoped to earn some money but instead spent it from my pocket. I paid Rs 100 for charging the e-rickshaw and went to the Tuglaqabad Metro Station in the morning. I returned back with just Rs 20 in the evening,” he rued.

“People are not coming out due to the fear of contracting coronavirus. Many have also lost jobs and have nowhere to go,” he said.

The drivers of last-mile connectivity vehicles like Gramin Sewa, Eco Sewa, Phat Phat Sewa, RTVs among others had similar stories to share.

“Such vehicles mostly cater to lower middle class people, including daily wagers and factory workers, many of whom have gone back to their home states. Drivers of these vehicles do not earn much as the fares are low and they cover short distances,” Chandu Chaurasia, vice president, Capital Drivers Welfare Association said.

He also added that the government should revise the social distancing norms and extend financial help to those running the paratransit vehicles.

ALSO READ | In April, Govt predicted zero new Covid-19 case by May 16. What went wrong?

ALSO READ | Covid-19 tracker: State-wise data, daily trends, patients recovered, deaths and more

ALSO WATCH | India’s coronavirus cases cross 1 lakh-mark, Maharashtra worst affected with over 35,000 cases

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