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‘Coronavirus will not be completely eradicated shortly, accept it as part of life’: Sharad Pawar

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Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar on Wednesday said that the novel coronavirus will not be completely wiped out soon and it is imperative to “accept it as part of life” while limping back to normalcy.

“Coronavirus will not be completely eradicated shortly. It is necessary to accept it as part of life, beware of it, and create awareness among the masses about healthcare. In Japan, people wear masks and look after personal hygiene as part of their routine social life,” Pawar said here.

He said the ongoing lockdown 4.0 has severely disrupted transport services and that necessary steps must be taken to gradually restore road transport within the state, besides planning for resumption of air and rail services.

The earlier situation must be restored in Maharashtra by relaxing some conditions of the lockdown, and arrangements made to convey information about relaxations to the people at a fixed time daily.

The NCP chief said he had discussed in detail the prevailing situation in the state with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, the challenges faced by the administration, and the preventive measures required to provide relief to various sections of society.

“The presence of state ministers and officials needs to be reinstated to build public confidence about the situation returning to normal in Maharashtra. Appropriate instructions should be issued to the ministers and officials to be present at their workplaces,” Pawar said, implying ministers and officials must be seen leading from the front.

With migrants having left the state in large numbers, the NCP chief pointed out that “new employment opportunities have emerged for the unemployed in Maharashtra,” and an action plan would have to be drawn up on how to accommodate them in the industries.

Two days ago, Thackeray had made a similar plea to the locals in Maharashtra, exhorting them to exploit the employment opportunities available in different industries and help rebuild the state.

Referring to earlier incentive schemes for industries in backward and underdeveloped areas, Pawar said new policies for encouraging industrial growth should be released to attract new investments in the state.

The three-time former Chief Minister of Maharashtra also expressed concern at the apparent slowing down of operations in public and private ports which has hit international maritime trade.

“To increase imports, exports and inland shipping, consultations should be held with industrialists, entrepreneurs and expert officials in the field. Shops, offices, establishments in the private sector should be opened in a staggered manner with complete caution,” the NCP supremo said.

Reiterating his plea to the people to exercise precautions like wearing masks, gloves, sanitisers, washing hands etc, Pawar called upon the Information Department to spread social awareness among the masses on the preventive measures to tackle Covid-19.

Among the senior most political leaders in the country, Pawar, 79, has served as union minister for many years and as an opposition leader appointed as Vice-Chairman of the Disaster Management Committee by the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

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Unlock 1: Hair salons, all shops can open, no spas; Delhi borders sealed for a week, says Kejriwal

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With the Centre’s three-phase unlock plan — that will restrict curbs to containment zones — kicking in from today, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced that barber shops and salons will be allowed to reopen apart from whatever was permitted till now. However, spas will remain closed.

The chief minister also announced that all shops will be allowed to open from now on. So far, Delhi had been following odd-even rule for shops in markets.

Also, the state government has decided to lift restrictions on the number of passengers travelling in autos, e-rickshaws and other vehicles.

In autos, e-rickshaws and other vehicles, as per earlier orders, the number of passengers was fixed. Autos and e-rickshaws were allowed to carry only one passenger at a time while two passengers apart from the driver were allowed in cars.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, meanwhile, announced sealing of Delhi borders for one week, barring essential services.

Kejriwal said that a decision will be taken on the same after one week as per suggestions from the citizens.

“With borders opening up but Corona cases rising, can Delhi open its hospitals for treatment of people from across the country? Will it put pressure on capacity to handle Corona? Should Delhi’s hospitals be reserved for Delhi residents?” the chief minister asked seeking suggestions from the people by Friday 5 pm.

According to the Chief Minister, Delhi had 9,500 beds for COVID-19 patients. “I can guarantee, as your Chief Minister, there will be a bed if you or someone in your family is infected,” he said.

“Delhi hospitals should be reserved for people of Delhi. At the same time, Delhi belongs to the country, how can it refuse to treat anyone?” he asked.

Last Monday, Kejriwal had informed that 117 private hospitals have been asked to reserve 20 per cent beds for COVID-19 patients.

CM Kejriwal had on Saturday said that the national capital “cannot have a permanent lockdown”, even as he admitted that the city has been witnessing a surge in Coronavirus cases.

“We agree that the city has seen a huge spike in the number of Coronavirus cases. But we should not panic. The situation in Delhi would be worrying for me in two scenarios – if the number of deaths increase and if there’s a shortage of hospital beds,” the Chief Minister had said.

“A permanent lockdown is no solution. We have to move on with all the precautions,” Kejriwal added.

Although he termed the rising number of infections as a matter of concern, Kejriwal assured that the government is “fully prepared” and “four steps ahead” of the Coronavirus.

Delhi has so far recorded 19,844 cases and 473 deaths.

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Airlines must allot seats, try to keep middle space vacant: DGCA after SC’s ‘common sense’ rap

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The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Monday directed airlines to allot seats so that middle seats are kept vacant to the extent possible.

In a notification, the aviation regulator said that airlines should allot seats in a manner that the middle seat is kept vacant if passenger load and seat capacity permits.

However, if passenger load does not permit this kind of an arrangement, then the middle seat passenger has to be provided with protective equipment like a wrap around gown in addition to the three-layer mask and face shield.

The DGCA directions will come into effect from June 3.

As per the order, all passengers are to be provided with safety kits, which include three-layered surgical mask, face shield and sanitiser.

No meal or drinking water will be served on board except for health-related reasons.

The embarkation and disembarkation will be sequential and no passenger will be allowed to rush to the entry/exit gates. The DGCA has directed the airlines to ensure orderly entry and exit of passengers.

Flights have been asked to set the air-conditioning system in such a way that the air gets replaced at the shortest possible intervals.

The flights have to be regularly sanitised, but when there is no passenger on board.

Airlines have been directed to carry out health check-up of all crew regularly and all flying as well as cabin crew will have to be in full protective suits.

The directions come nearly a week after the Supreme Court pulled up Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and Air India while hearing urgent petition filed by Centre and the national carrier against the Bombay High Court order to keep middle seats vacant in international flights carrying back stranded Indians.

“You should be worried about health of citizens more than health of airlines,” the court said and asked “Why social distancing norms wasn’t necessary in flights? Why centre seats should be booked for air travels?”

Meanwhile, the top court has allowed Air India to operate non-scheduled foreign flights with middle seats booking till June 6 after which those seats can’t be sold.

The Bombay High Court, as directed by the apex court, will hear the matter tomorrow.

The court, in its hearing on the matter, commented that it was “common sense” that social distancing is important.

“It is common sense that maintaining social distancing is important. Outside, there should be a social distancing of at least six feet, what about inside aircraft,” the CJI rapped Air India, which has been operating special flights under the Vande Bharat Mission to bring back Indians stranded abroad due to the Coronavirus lockdown.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the national carrier and the Centre, said that the “best practice is testing and quarantine and not seat difference”.

He further told the court that the decision not to have vacant middle seats was taken following a meeting held with experts.

CJI SA Bobde, however, quipped: “How can you say it will not affect passengers? Will the virus know it’s in the aircraft and it’s not supposed to infect?”

“The transmission will be there if you are sitting next to each other,” he added.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had in May, while announcing the recommencement of domestic flights, made it clear that it would not be possible to keep the middle seat vacant.

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Ahead of lockdown 5.0, India reports highest spike in COVID-19 cases, tally at 1.82 lakh

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India’s coronavirus cases reached 1,82,143 on Sunday after 8,380 fresh cases were reported in the last 24 hours. The death toll due to the deadly virus reached  5,164. The highest rise in the cases comes as nation prepares for the  fifth lockdown which will come in effect from June 1.

The Ministry of Home Affairs released a set of guidelines for the fifth phase of a nationwide lockdown on Saturday, allowing hotels, restaurants and shopping malls to open, besides permitting all inter and intra-state movement of public and goods.

States, however, will have the freedom to enforce suitable restrictions if they deem necessary. International flights, Metro trains, cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars and auditoriums, assembly halls and similar places shall remain out of bounds for now.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the nation in his monthly ‘Mann ki Baat’ programme. He is likely to discuss the new lockdown guidelines, and the one year anniversary of the BJP-led NDA government’s second term in power.

Globally, about 6 million people have been infected with coronavirus, and 3,66,875 people have lost their lives. The United States, at 1,03,353 deaths, is the worst-affected country.

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