Coronavirus updates | March 17, 2020

West Bengal reports first case; Private labs will be asked to offer COVID-19 testing for free, says ICMR.

Updated - March 18, 2020 02:02 am IST

Published - March 17, 2020 09:38 am IST

A man looks at face masks at a market in Kolkata on March 17, 2020.

A man looks at face masks at a market in Kolkata on March 17, 2020.

India has reported its third coronavirus fatality with a 63-year-old dying in Mumbai, Health Ministry officials said.

As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic , India has been taking several steps to ensure the virus doesn't spread in the country. This includes tightening the land borders and travel ban. In addition to this, several States have closed educational institutions, public places like parks, theratres and malls, and have advised against inter-State travel.

There were 143 confirmed cases of  COVID-19  in India and three people have been reported dead so far. As of March 16, the WHO has reported 1,68,019 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 6,610 deaths worldwide.

We have been  covering the developments  related to the coronavirus pandemic as it unfolded. Here are  answers from experts  on your queries about the virus, a list of State Helpline numbers , and a map of confirmed cases in India .

The new 24/7 national helpline numbers are 1075 and 1800-112-545 and  011-23978046. Email:

Here are the latest updates:


West Bengal


West Bengal reports first case

West Bengal has reported its first positive case of coronavirus as a student who returned from United Kingdom tested positive.

Senior officials of the State government said that the student has been kept under isolation at Infectious Diseases and Beliaghata General Hospital in Kolkata. The student arrived in the country on March 15 and has been in contact with three persons including his parents and a driver.

This is  the first positive case from the fourth most populous State in the country. As on Tuesday there are 18 persons kept in isolation at different health facilities and the State which has  tested over 12,200 passengers from different destinations.

The State has already closed educational institutions, cinema halls and advised against major public gatherings. The State has also set up a special fund of Rs. 200 crore to combat the situations and invoked the Epidemic Disease Act.  - Our Kolkata Bureau



Air India to suspend flights to Europe, UK from March 19

Air India on Tuesday announced temporary suspension of its entire services to Europe and the UK from March 19.

The decision to suspend air services to the U.K. and the European Union member countries was taken in the wake of travel and visa restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak, Air India said in a tweet.

The airline flies to London and Brimingham in the UK, and Frankfurt, Milan, Rome, Madrid, Vienna, Stockholm and Copenhagen in Europe.

Services to Milan, Rome and Madrid was temporarily suspended earlier.

“All passengers travelling to UK & Europe, may kindly note that in view of DGCA instructions regarding travel and visa restrictions related to #COVID2019, all flights to/ from UK & Europe will operate only till March 18, 2020 & will remain suspended from 19th to 31st March, 2020, ” Air India said in a tweet.


Singapore reports 23 new cases

Singapore on Tuesday reported 23 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections to 266 in the country.

This is the highest number of confirmed daily cases reported so far.

Of the 23 new cases, 17 are “imported”, that is, people who got infected when they were abroad, the Ministry of Health said.

Fourteen patients are in critical condition in the intensive care unit, the ministry said.

Five more patients have been discharged, taking the total number of people fully recovered to 114, it said.

New Delhi

Cannot confirm whether over 250 Indians in Iran have tested positive: MEA officials

Ministry of External Affairs officials on Tuesday said they cannot confirm whether more than 250 Indians in Iran have tested positive for novel coronavirus.

“The Indians who are in Iran are being very well looked after by our mission. The ambassador is giving a lot of attention to them. Every care is being taken by the Mission, in coordination and cooperation by the government of Iran,” MEA Additional Secretary Dammu Ravi told reporters.

“Cannot confirm that over 250 Indians in Iran have tested positive for coronavirus,” he said in response to a question about media reports claiming that more than 250 Indians in Iran have tested positive for the virus.



WHO calls for ‘boldest actions’ from all European countries

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) regional office for Europe on Tuesday said there is a need for bold measures in all European countries, calling the continent the “epicentre” of the new coronavirus pandemic.

“Every country, with no exceptions, needs to take their boldest actions to stop or slow down the virus threat,” Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, told a press conference.


Russia begins testing potential coronavirus vaccine

Russian scientists have begun to test vaccine prototypes for the new coronavirus, and plan to present the most effective one by June, a laboratory chief at a state biotech institute said.

Russia has reported 93 cases of infection but no deaths, according to official numbers published on Tuesday.

“The prototypes have been created. We are starting laboratory testing on animals, to ensure effectiveness and safety,” Ilnaz Imatdinov of the Vector Institute in Siberia told the Vesti Novosibirsk television channel on Monday.

“In June we will present one or two showing the best results.” Vector Institute is a state virology and biotechnology centre in Novosibirsk, which previously worked on vaccines for the Ebola virus.

New Delhi

Two in ITBP quarantine test positive

Two youth, who were evacuated from Milan on March 15, have tested positive for coronavirus (Covid-19).

Both of them were shifted from the ITBP camp in Chhawla in west Delhi to the Safdarjung Hospital on Monday after they showed symptoms of the dreaded disease.

According to government sources, the youth were among the group of 218 persons who were evacuated from Milan in Italy. They landed in India on March 15.

The two youth started showing symptoms of the virus on Monday and were immediately shifted to the Safdarjung Hospital for proper care. On Tuesday, the authorities said that both have tested positive for Covid-19.


Two persons test positive in Maharashtra; total count 41

Two persons, one in Mumbai and another in Pune, tested positive for the coronavirus in Maharashtra on Tuesday, taking the number of confirmed cases in the state to 41, officials said.

The number of Covid-19 patients includes a 63-year-old man who died in Mumbai earlier in the day, becoming the first casualty of the disease in the state.

A 49-year-old man who had returned from the United States on March 7 tested positive on Tuesday. In Pune, a 26- year-old man who had returned from the US on March 14 tested positive, officials said.

Tamil Nadu

TN forms Special Task Force to tackle COVID-19

Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami on Tuesday told the Legislative Assembly that he had issued directions for constitution of a Special Task Force under the leadership of Chief Secretary to take action and monitor the steps to tackle COVID-19 pandemic in Tamil Nadu.

He said the government periodically was holding discussion with the officials of the Railways, Airport Authorities and other important departments and issued advisories. The government was also following the directions issued by the centre and taking measures on a war-footing.

The Chief Minister said the Special Task Force would include the secretaries of the Departments of Health, Rural Development, Municipal Administration and Water Supplies, Revenue Administration and Disaster Management, Labour and Employment, Transport, Information and Technology, Public and Rehabilitation and Industries.

The other members are the Commissioner of Revenue Administration, Director General of Police, Director of Medical Education, Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Director of Medical and Rural Health Services, General Manager of the Southern Railways, Director of the Chennai Airport, Chairman of the Chennai Port Trust, and a public health expert each from the government and private sectors.

Health Minister Vijayabaskar said a video conferencing was held in the Dr MGR Medical University to get the advice and opinion of internationally-renowned experts including Dr Sowmya Swaminathan.

-- Special Correspondent


One more test positive in Karnataka; total to 11

According to the health department the 11th patient is a 67 year old female who is resident of Bangalore returned from Dubai via Goa on March 9.

The department also stated that she has a medical history of  chronic kidney disease (CKD). "She has been in strict home quarantine since coming to Bangalore. On 16 March, she has been admitted in designated isolation hospital," the bulletin released by the health and family welfare department. A total of 21 high risk contacts have been identified including 5 family members and are under strict home quarantine.


ISKCON shrines in Bengaluru to remain shut

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness temples at Rajajinagar and Kanakapura Road here would remain closed from early morning of Wednesday till further notice.

The measure has been taken in view of COVID-19 outbreak in parts of India, an ISKCON statement said.

“However, temple worship and traditional temple ‘sevas’ to the deities will continue to be conducted privately by the resident priests of the temple,” it said.

“In addition, resident devotees will continue to perform bhajans and kirtans in the temple for the welfare of the world,” the statement added.


Puducherry Union Territory reports first case of COVID-19

The Union Territory on Tuesday reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 with a 68 -year-old woman in the enclave of Mahe testing positive for the virus.

The patient had been under observation at the Government General Hospital, Mahe, since her return from Umrah in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. After her arrival at the Calicut airport on March 13, she reported to Mahe GH for a mandatory check-up. As she was asymptomatic, doctors advised her to be quarantined at home, said a senior doctor at the GH.


News Delhi

Private labs will be asked to offer COVID-19 testing for free: ICMR

“We are in Stage-2 (local transmission),” said Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Balram Bhargava said on coronavirus outbreak, adding "We cannot say that community transmission will not happen in India."

“All asymptomatic patients who have taken international flights in past 14 days should get tested if they develop symptoms.

“We have 72 functional ICMR laboratories in govt sector for testing. 49 more will be active by month-end,” he said.

“Private NABL accredited laboratories will soon be operationalised.

“We are in the process of engaging private NABL accredited laboratories for carrying out testing of COVID-19 cases.

“We appeal to all private laboratories to offer COVID-19 diagnosis free of cost,” Mr. Bhargava said.

— Bindu Shajan Perapadan, PTI


Platform tickets hiked to ₹50 in western India

In a bid to discourage people from visiting railway stations, divisions across Western Railway (WR) and Central Railway (CR) have hiked the platform tickets across stations from the current ₹10 to ₹50.

"This will prevent excess people from coming to the stations just to drop people off," a senior railway official said.

On CR the decision has been taken on its Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Bhusaval and Solapur division. WR has adopted a staggered increase of platform tickets across stations with only Surat having Rs. 50, while most stations the increase is up to ₹15.


Centre taking all steps for safe return of Indians stranded in Italy: Karnataka govt

The Karnataka government on Tuesday said the Centre was making all efforts for the safe return of Indians, including those from the state, stranded in Italy that is severely hit by the coronovirus outbreak.

The External Affairs Ministry is already on the job in this regard, deputy chief minister C N Ashwath Narayan said in the Legislative Assembly.

The Centre was taking all required measures, he said.

Those Indians who were stranded in Milan airport were brought back after tests were conducted.

“For those at Rome tests and screening have been done and based on report they (authorities) will take a decision on whether they need to be taken to isolation or not,” he added.

Earlier, raising the issue, Congress legislator Priyank Kharge said in Italy, which has seen a large number of cases and is under shutdown, nearly 400 people from Karnataka were stranded there, and sought Chief Minister’s intervention by speaking to the External Affairs Ministry.



Archaeological Survey of India shuts down all its 3,691 monuments and sites. Yesterday it had closed only the 143 ticketed monuments and museums.

All Central Government offices have been asked to discourage to the "maximum extent" the entry of visitors, a Personnel Ministry order states.

All Central Government servants have been asked to "avoid non-essential official travel". Meetings, as far as possible, should be done through video conferencing.


Rajasthan bans all 50-plus gathering in public places till March 31

The Rajasthan government on Tuesday banned all gatherings at public places exceeding 50 people till March 31 to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

The ban will be in force till March 31 after which the situation will be reviewed and appropriate decision taken.


After West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, local body elections in Maharashtra has been stayed due to COVID-19 outbreak. The State Election Commission made the announcement.


V. Muraleedharan goes on self quarantine

Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan. H_Vibhu

Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan. H_Vibhu


The Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and External Affairs, V. Muraleedharan, who had attended a meeting at the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology on March 14, has gone into self quarantine on his own after it emerged that one of the doctors at the Institute had tested positive for COVID 19.

Mr. Muraleedharan had attended a meeting at SCTIMST on March 14, in which the Director as well as several senior doctors and senior administrative officials had taken part.

It was on March 15, Sunday that tests had confirmed that one of their doctors, who had returned from Spain after higher studies, was positive for COVID 19.


Two test positive in Noida

Two new cases of COVID-19 have come to light in Gautam Buddh Nagar of Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday.

Anurag Bhargav, Chief Medical Officer, Gautam Buddh Nagar said two patients in Noida have tested positive. “Both have been isolated and admitted to the designated hospital. Those who have come in contact with them are being put under surveillance. One has a traveling history to France. The travel record of the other patient is being ascertained,” said Dr Bhargav. - Anuj Kumar


Three more test positive in Ladakh

Three more persons test positive for COVID-19 in Union Territory of Ladakh, taking the total number to six.

"Two fresh cases were detected in Leh and one in Kargil," an official spokesman said adding all of them were locals.

Section 144, banning assembly of more than four people, has been imposed in Kargil district after the development. - Peerzada Ashiq

Travel advisory

Central Government on Tuesday has issued additional travel advisory stating that the travel of passengers from Afghanistan, Philippines, Malaysia to India is prohibited with immediate effect.

“No flight shall take off from these countries to India and airline shall enforce this at the port of initial departure. This instruction is a temporary measure and shall be in force till March 31 and will be reviewed subsequently,” the release noted.


Mumbai reports first COVID-19 death

A 64-year-old man who had returned from Dubai succumbed in Mumbai on Tuesday. He was first admitted at the Hinduja Hospital in the city and later shifted to the isolation facility at Kasturba Hospital. His wife and son have also tested positive. - Jyoti Shelar


Doctor who treated Kalaburagi COVID-19 victim tests positive

One of the two COVID-19 cases reported from Karnataka is a 63-year old doctor from Kalaburagi. He had treated the 76-year old man who died and later tested positive for COVID-19.

Kalaburagi Deputy Commissioner B. Sharat said the doctor had visited the patient's house and treated him initially.

The doctor was under home-isolation for some days now. He is now shifted to ESIC quarantine ward, Mr. Sharat said.

Kalaburagi administration is now keeping the doctor's direct contacts and the deceased man's secondary contacts in home-isolation. - Kumar Buradikatti


Karnataka reports tenth case

Three more person in the State have tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, taking the total number of infected cases to 10. Of the new cases, two are from Bengaluru and one is from Kalaburagi.

Also read | Data: Coronavirus death rates peak in Italy and Spain

Hong Kong

Hong Kong to quarantine all people entering the city from Thursday

Hong Kong will quarantine for 14 days all people entering the Chinese-ruled city starting midnight on Thursday to prevent the spread of the coronavirus , the Asian financial hub's leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday.

South Korea

S.Korea reports fewer than 100 new coronavirus cases for a third day

South Korea reported 84 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, marking a third day in a row that the county has reported fewer than 100 new infections amid growing hopes that Asia's largest outbreak outside China may be easing.

The new numbers are well below a Feb. 29 peak of 909, and bring the country's total infections to 8,320, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.



Canada shuts borders to foreign nationals

Canada closed its borders to all foreign nationals except U.S. citizens and permanent residents on March 16, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging people to limit social contact to stem the spread of COVID-19 .

Several other countries have taken the same step. The 27-nation European Union proposed shutting its external borders for 30 days on Monday.


Travel from EU, U.K. banned as India tightens preventive steps

In a series of temporary preventive measures, the Group of Ministers (GoM) on COVID-19 on Monday banned the entry of travellers from European Union nations, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey and the United Kingdom to India from March 18.

After its seventh meeting on the COVID-19 outbreak , the GoM also called for expanding the compulsory quarantine for a minimum period of 14 days for passengers coming from/transiting through UAE, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait.



Two persons who left from hospitals, return

Owing to pressure from fellow villagers, friends and relatives, a person with suspected COVID-19 infection who had escaped from the MKCG medical college and hospital in Berhampur on March 15, returned to the hospital to get admitted again.

In a similar incident, another person admitted in the isolation ward of the Kandhamal District Headquarter Hospital (DHH) in Phulbani escaped on Monday. A search was launched after the Additional District Medical Officer (ADMO) of Kandhamal lodged a complaint with the police.


Three-year-old among 6 new COVID-19 cases

A three-year-old girl from Kalyan and her 33-year-old mother are among the six new patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Maharashtra on Monday, taking the total count in the State to 39.

The child’s father, who had travelled to the U.S., had tested positive earlier. The other patients who tested positive on Monday include two Philippines nationals, aged 47 and 42, who had come to Navi Mumbai, a 44-year-old woman from Mumbai with a travel history to Lisbon in Portugal, and a 51-year-old woman from Yavatmal who was part of the Dubai tour group.


Monuments, National Museum closed till March 31

The Union Ministry of Culture announced on Monday that all ticketed monuments and museums maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India across the country and the National Museum at New Delhi would be closed to the public from Tuesday till March 31 in view of the COVID-19 crisis.



BMC starts door-to-door surveillance

Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials have started door-to-door visits as a measure to tackle the novel coronavirus pandemic. Officials have visited more than 10,000 housing societies to check for people with any history of foreign travel, anyone with COVID-19 symptoms and also tracking those discharged after showing no symptoms.


France imposes restrictions on movement

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday ordered stringent restrictions on people's movement that would last at least two weeks to slow the spread of the coronavirus and said the army would be drafted in to help move the sick to hospitals.


Maharashtra government orders private offices to go for ‘work from home’

Maharashtra went into partial lockdown mode with the government announcing closure of private office spaces, religious shrines, and wedding functions after fresh cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) were reported from across the State on Monday.

At a meeting with health officials, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray warned that citizens would have to show greater self discipline for the next 15 days — which are crucial for the mutation of the virus — or the government would be left with no option but to go for a total closure of the financial capital and rest of the State.


126 on U.K. tourist’s contact list quarantined

The Health Department has placed in quarantine 126 people in the district, who had come in contact with the U.K. tourist who tested positive for COVID-19.

The tourist was offloaded from an Emirates flight along with others on Sunday following the District Collector’s intervention.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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