India on Tuesday reported its third coronavirus fatality with a 63-year-old dying in Mumbai, health ministry officials said as the number of positive cases rose sharply to 137 and more parts of the country shut down to stem the spread of the infection.
The government, which on Monday banned the entry of passengers from European Union countries, Turkey and the United Kingdom from March 18 till March 31, also closed its doors to those from Afghanistan, the Philippines and Malaysia with immediate effect, according to an additional travel advisory.
Unheard of till just a few days ago, 'social distancing' was the buzz-term as public spaces, including monuments such as the Taj Mahal, shut down and many thousands of people prepared to spend the next few days confined to home, working or studying online.
The Mumbai patient with a travel history to Dubai is the first COVID-19 death in Maharashtra, which has the most number of coronavirus cases at 39, officials said.
Earlier, a 76-year-old man from Kalaburagi in Karnataka with a travel history to Saudi Arabia and a 68-year-old woman in Delhi died after they tested positive for the infection that according to Johns Hopkins University has infected 1,82,000 people and claimed over 7,100 lives globally.
The Maharashtra patient, whose wife also tested positive and is stable, was in a private hospital for five days and subsequently referred to Mumbai's Kasturba Hospital, officials said. He reportedly did not disclose his travel history when he was admitted to the private hospital.
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said the exact cause behind his death is being ascertained as he was also suffering from various ailments.
The 137 positive cases, 23 more since Monday night, have been reported from 15 states and union territories. The number includes 24 foreign nationals.
Among the new cases are two people from the suburb of Noida bordering the national capital. One recently returned from France and is already in isolation. The other has also been quarantined, Chief Medical Officer Anurag Bhargava said.
In Bengaluru, two more persons tested positive for COVID-19 late Monday night.
"We have got 2 more #COVID2019 cases in Karnataka taking the total number of confirmed cases to 10," Karnataka Health and Family Welfare Minister B Sriramulu tweeted.
Both are admitted to a designated isolation hospital.
One is a 20-year-old woman who travelled from the UK and the other a 60-year-old "contact" of the 76-year-old man from Kalaburagi who became the country's first coronavirus casualty last week, officials said.
The Union ministry did not immediately add the figures to its national count.
According to ministry data, 14 people have been discharged so far, including the three Kerala patients who were discharged last month following their recovery from the contagious infection with flu-like symptoms.
Kerala also has the highest number of COVID-19 patients after Maharashtra with 26 patients, including two foreigners.
Asking Bharatiya Janata Party MPs to spread awareness about the coronavirus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made it clear the Budget Session of Parliament will not be curtailed as lawmakers should be seen to be doing their work at a time such as this.
In his address at the BJP parliamentary party meeting, Modi heaped praise on doctors and other medical staff as well as airline crews and others involved in tackling the coronavirus crisis, saying they have worked positively and tirelessly, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi told reporters.
Amid rising coronavirus cases, the government has said no community transmission of the virus has been observed and there have only been a few cases of local transmission so far.
With the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, a health ministry official said over 5,700 people who had come in contact with the positive cases have been identified through contact tracing and are under vigorous surveillance.
He said all essential facilities like community surveillance, quarantine, isolation wards, adequate personal protective equipment, trained manpower, rapid response teams are being strengthened.
The Central Railway cancelled 23 trains citing preventive measures and also non-occupancy. And the DGCA instructed airlines to ensure that all aircraft are deep-cleaned and disinfected at least once in 24 hours.
GoAir announces the suspension of its international operations and offered leave without pay for its staff on a rotational basis amid the sharp decline in air travel.
The Central government also issued an order asking all ministries to install thermal scanners at government buildings and suspend the routine issue of visitors and temporary passes.
As consternation mounted, public events such as concerts and plays and even weddings were called off or pushed indefinitely. People queued up to stock up on essential provisions in the eventuality of a lockdown of their neighbourhoods.
Educational institutes, cinema halls as well as several gated communities and other residential neighbourhoods curtailed the number of visitors as did offices that asked many of their people to work from home.
"At midnight today we at first fiddle are shutting down all our restaurants till 31st March across the country and we will be back with a bang once the virus goes," said Priyank Sukhija who owns restaurant franchises, including Flying Saucer, Lord of the Drinks and Tamasha, across several cities.
In Uttar Pradesh, the state government announced the closure of all educational institutions in the state till April 2.
Competitive and other examinations have been postponed till April 2 and tourist places in the city shut, a minister said.
Upcoming polls to Maha local bodies postponed
The Maharashtra state Election Commission on Tuesday deferred the upcoming elections to local bodies in the state till further orders as a precautionary measure to check the spread of coronavirus.
State Election Commissioner UPS Madan said the government had requested that the elections be postponed in view of coronavirus infection.
The election commission also stayed the poll-related process.
"As per a Bombay High Court order dated August 10, 2005, the SEC has powers to postpone elections in view of natural calamity or a sudden situation. Accordingly, the SEC has stayed the process of ward delimitation, voter list (updation) and other activities related to elections from today (Tuesday) onwards," Madan said.
He said voting for 1570 gram panchayats was scheduled to be held on March 31. The nomination process was completed for this election.
He said the process of finalising voter lists for the elections to Aurangabad and Navi Mumbai municipal corporations and for by-elections to one seat each in Nashik, Dhule, Parbhani and Thane municipal corporations, is also stayed.
Madan said the process for delimitation of wards in the Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation, and municipal councils/nagar panchayats of Ambernath, Kulgaon-Badlapur, Wadi, Rajgurunagar, Bhadgaon, Varangaon, Kaij, Bhokar, and Movad has been stayed as well.
The process was also stayed for Bhandara and Gondia zilla parishads and in 15 panchayat samitis under their jurisdiction, besides in 12,000 gram panchayats.