COVID-19 cases cross 6,000 across India; Governments gear up for extending lockdown with some possible rel

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NEW DELHI: The nationwide tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases crossed 6,000 on Friday with at least 200 deaths as several places including Delhi and Mumbai reported further spread of the deadly virus and

Punjab

became the second state to extend the lockdown till April 30, a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets chief ministers to take stock of the situation.

TheUnion Home Ministryalso sought views of state governments on the 21-day lockdown including whether more categories of people and services need to be exempted, officials said on Friday, amidst indications of a possible two-week extension of the nationwide restrictions to curb the spread ofcoronavirus.

The Health Ministry in the meantime maintained that no community transmission is taking place as yet in India, while theWorld HealthOrganisation also put the country in a category named ‘cluster of cases’ — a notch below the community transmission stage and a classification used by the global body for cases “clustered in time, geographic location and/or by common exposures”.

While several states includingMaharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Jammu & Kashmir andUttar Pradeshreported rising number of cases, theUnion Health Ministrysaid the rate of people testing positive was only 0.2 per cent on Thursday when more than 16,000 samples were tested. Cumulatively close to 1.5 lakh samples have been tested so far across India.

A PTI tally of numbers reported by various states as on 7 PM showed a total of 7,049 having been affected by the virus nationwide so far with at least 236 deaths. More than 650 have been cured and discharged.

However, the evening update from the Union Health Ministry put the number of confirmed infections at 6,761 and the death toll at 206.

Maharashtra has reported the maximum 1,385 cases, including close to 1,000 in Mumbai itself, while at least 97 people have died in the state. Tamil Nadu has over 900 caes, Delhi has more than 700 cases and Rajasthan has over 500, while Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have reported more than 400 positive cases each.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, however, said most of the 27 positive cases reported in his state on Thursday — the maximum daily increase for the state — were those of secondary transmission and expressed apprehension that the state may be entering the community transmission stage of the outbreak.

A day after Odisha decided to extend the lockdown till April 30, Punjab also did the same on Friday, while a decision by the central government on the nationwide lockdown, which entered its 17th day, is expected after Modi’s interaction with all chief ministers on Saturday.

In Tamil Nadu, an expert committee recommended to Chief Minister K Palaniswami that the lockdown be extended by two weeks beyond April 14 considering the rise in number of cases.

A review meeting was also held by the Prime Minister’s Office during the day on various efforts to check the coronavirus spread, which also discussed ramping up of production of personal protective equipments (PPEs) among other issues.

The Home Ministry, separately, has sought views of state governments on

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