Daily briefing: New lockdown guidelines, Piyush Goyal’s emotional plea and more

Written by Leela Prasad
| New Delhi |

Published: May 18, 2020 9:49:02 am

india lockdown, lockdown rules, lockdown relaxations A look at the top news today, May 18, 2020.

Dear readers,

The lockdown has been extended, again, no surprises there. However, on the day the country saw its biggest single-day spike in Covid-19 cases — 13 short of 5,000, the Centre has given states more ownership of the pandemic response. This decentralised approach means states will now get to define which areas fall under Red, Orange and Green zones. But how is the lockdown 4.0 going to be different from its predecessors? Markets and salons in non-containment zones can reopen; cabs, autos, rickshaws allowed; inter-state movement subject to consent of states involved; e-commerce deliveries of non-essentials allowed; no 33% cap on workforce in offices, factories; Aarogya Setu is no longer a must.

* Meanwhile, there is a growing challenge posed by migrants pouring into the their villages from urban Covid hotspots. Until May 15, 668 of the 1000 Shramik Special trains have originated from Red Zones and as many as 508 of them move passengers to Green or Orange zones. With restrictions eased further in the fourth phase of the lockdown, allowing conditional inter-state movement in private vehicles and buses, the numbers are expected to rise. This means states would struggle to quarantine them for 14 days in large numbers while ensuring that they maintain social distancing.

* In a significant climbdown from his earlier instructions to run Shramik Specials only until May 17 and strictly at the request of state governments, a visibly emotional Piyush Goyal told officials to go all out to arrange for trains for migrants, and to “do the best you can” to make their journey home comfortable. The Railways Minister also gave his officials free-hand in operational and financial matter without waiting for approval from the Railway Board.

* Wrapping up briefing on the fifth and final tranche of the Rs 20 lakh crore relief package, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced its full break-up as promised. As reported by The Indian Express earlier, it included stimulus measures announced by the RBI and the  Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan package. What it was missing however is the fiscal burden on the Central government. An analysis of the announcements made in the five tranches shows that Centre will be spending only 1.1% of the GDP from its exchequer.

* At the World Health Organisation (WHO) Assembly, India joined 61 countries in backing a proposal to “identify the zoonotic source” of the coronavirus and asked for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the WHO’s response to Covid-19.  But Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Afghanistan are not signatories to the resolution. From the SAARC nations, only Bangladesh and Bhutan have signed up.

* Over 20,000 people worldwide have volunteered to infect themselves with coronavirus in the quest for a vaccine against the novel coronavirus disease Covid-19. These Human challenge trials will expedite the process because a lot of time may be lost waiting for a trial subject to contract the disease naturally from the community. Find out how frequent are such trials, what is the objective, and what precautions are taken?

* Staying on the subject of Covid-19 vaccine, a real estate developer in Pune was allegedly duped to the tune of Rs 38 lakh by online fraudsters who took money from him under the pretext of procurement of a rare oil to be used for the development of a vaccine in the United States.

* A truck journey for two migrant workers and childhood friends took an unexpected turn when one of them fell sick en route home. A photo of the two on the roadside, with Mohammed Saiyub cradling his friend Amrit Kumar’s head in his lap has also gone viral.

* To teach four men found violating the lockdown a lesson, a few Delhi Police personnel decided to play a ‘prank’, telling them to pick up a “coronavirus patient’s body”. Except, the “body” was just a policeman wearing a PPE kit and playing dead.

Until tomorrow, Leela Prasad G

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