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As virus toll rises to nine, States put in place tougher measures

Domestic flights grounded; first fatalities in West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh

As the death toll from COVID-19 touched nine on Monday, the government announced slew of measures, including the suspension of all domestic flight operations until the end of March, to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Thirty States and Union Territories moved to a complete lockdown mode, and governments warned of strict punitive action against those who violate preventive measures.

The number of cases confirmed by the Union Health Ministry rose to 471. Data from the States put the total number of cases at 473, with 441 active cases.

West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh reported their first fatalities

In view of the continuing spread of the virus, Parliament curtailed its session and adjourned sine die after passing the Finance Bill.

650 aircraft grounded

The Ministry of Civil Aviation ordered the shutting down of all domestic flight operations hours after it overruled an announcement made by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal suspending all incoming flights to the capital.

The new restriction will be effective from Tuesday midnight, a day after the ban on international flights came into effect.

A total of 650 aircraft owned by various Indian airlines will now be grounded across airports. The Centre's move comes after several States, including West Bengal and Bihar, requested a ban on flights.

Kerala and Maharashtra which are facing the brunt of the crisis, with 67 and 74 cases respectively, announced more sweeping measures. Following 28 new cases on Monday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said shops, offices and establishments barring essential services will be closed. Camps will be prepared for migrant labourers, who will be provided food and given medical examinations, as economic activities come to a complete halt in the State.

Announcing a State-wide curfew, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said: “People were not listening and they were stepping out as if the virus threat had diminished. However, that is not the case. I am forced to say this because there are still those who have not understood the seriousness of what we face.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi once again urged people to take the lockdown seriously.

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