India reported its fourth coronavirus death on Thursday as the total number of cases of COVID-19 rose to 173 while most of the states and Union Territories imposed restrictions, inching towards partial shutdown and India banning landing of all international commercial passenger flights from March 22 for a week.
The Union health ministry said the fourth person to die in Punjab after getting coronavirus was an elderly and had co-morbid conditions like diabetes, cardiac ailments.
There were more than 20 fresh cases in last 24 hours with Chhattisgarh and Chandigarh reporting their first COVID-19 patients on early Thursday.
As the virus continued to spread its tentacles across India, several parts, including Kashmir valley headed towards a virtual lockdown with the administration restricting movement of people in several parts and banning all public transport in Srinagar city.
Punjab and the national capital also inched towards virtual shutdown. While the Punjab government announced suspension of public transport services from Friday midnight and restricting public gatherings to less than 20 besides deciding to close down marriage palaces, hotels, restaurants, banquets and dining places, except home delivery services and takeaways in the entire state.
The Kejriwal government in Delhi also announced shutting down of restaurants but said that takeaway and home delivery services will continue.
"Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal has asked all government departments, autonomous bodies and PSUs to segregate activities and suspend non-essential services," Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said at a press conference.
Non-essential government services will be discontinued from Friday, he added.
Social, cultural and political gatherings with more than 20 people are not allowed across the national capital to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus disease, he said.
As part of its efforts to detect and prevent the spread of coronavirus, which has claimed over 8,000 lives globally and infected more than two lakh, the government banned all international commercial passenger aircraft from landing in the country from March 22 to March 29.
Moreover, the Central government has requested states to enforce work for home for private sector employees, except for those working in emergency and essential services.
"State governments shall issue appropriate directions so that all citizens above 65 (other than for medical assistance) except for public representatives or government servants or medical professionals are advised to remain at home," the government statement noted.
"No scheduled international commercial passenger aircraft shall be allowed to land in India from March 22, 2020 for one week," the government statement said. "Similarly, all children below 10 should be advised to stay at home and not to venture out," it added.
"States are being requested to enforce work for home for private sector employees except those working in emergency/essential services," the statement added.
While the Indian Railways decided to suspend all concessional tickets except for patients, students and those in the Divyangjan category from the midnight of March 20 till further notice to discourage unnecessary travel, IndiGo announced pay cuts for senior employees, including of its CEO who would take the highest cut of 25 per cent amid the novel coronavirus pandemic that has hit the aviation industry hard.
The total tally of 169 include 25 foreign nationals -- 17 from Italy, 3 from the Philippines, two from the United Kingdom, one each belonging to Canada, Indonesia and Singapore.
The figure also includes four deaths reported from Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Punjab so far.
Delhi has reported 12 positive cases which includes one foreigner, while Uttar Pradesh has recorded 17 cases, including one foreigner.
Maharashtra has 45 cases, including three foreigners, while Kerala has recorded 27 cases which include two foreign nationals.
Karnataka has 14 coronavirus patients. The number of cases in Ladakh rose to eight and Jammu and Kashmir four. Telangana has reported six cases which include two foreigners.
Rajasthan has also reported seven cases including that of two foreigners. Tamil Nadu has two cases so far.
Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Pondicherry, Chandigarh and Punjab have reported one case each. In Haryana, there are 17 cases, which include 14 foreigners.
In a last minute-decision, the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations postponed class 10 and 12 examinations, which were to start from Thursday.
With the class 12 sociology exam scheduled to be held at 2 pm, the announcement was made at 10 am.
The HRD ministry had on Wednesday ordered the Central Board of Secondary Education, National Institute of Open Schooling, University Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education to postpone their exams till March 31, saying the safety of students and staff were as important as following the exam calendar.
Meanwhile, Mumbai's famed tiffin suppliers, the dabbawalas, said they are suspending their services from Friday till March 31 in view of the coronavirus situation.
In the national capital, the upscale Sunder Nagar market in South Delhi has been closed till March 31 in view of the coronavirus outbreak, the traders' body said. It is the first market to shut down in the capital.