COVID-19: India's tally rises to 622

Coronavirus: Confirmed cases soar to 622 as 21-day lockdown begins

While Covid-19 tests are carried out free of cost at government laboratories, private players have been asked not to charge more than Rs 4,500 for the set of tests with an advise to perform the tests pro bono.(Credit: PTI Photo)

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases across the country soared to 622 on Wednesday as India embarked on a three-week complete lock down amid reports of teething troubles in access to essential commodities. Amid concerns over access to food grains to the poor, the Centre on Wednesday increased the entitlements under the National Food Security Act to 7 kg per beneficiary instead of the 5 kg earlier.

“This decision will benefit 81 crore beneficiaries under the NFSA,” Consumer Affairs Minister Ramvilas Paswan said even as the Centre issued directions to ease movement of essential commodities across states. Madhya Pradesh reported its first death as 65-year-old woman succumbed to the viral infection in Indore, taking the national death toll to 12.

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According to the health ministry, India had 553 active cases of Covid-19, while 42 patients have been cured of the viral infection and discharged from respective hospitals. Under attack from the opposition over shortage of masks and personal protection equipment (PPE), government officials admitted on Wednesday that it had faced some challenges in supplying them due to restrictions on certain components that were dependent on imports.

“As far as PPEs and masks are concerned, most of these have some imported components. There had been disruption in import of certain components,” Lav Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, Health Ministry told reporters here. The government has stepped up testing capacity for Covid-19 by granting approval to 29 private laboratory chains across the country with cumulative sample collection centres in excess of 16,000. In Karnataka, Neuberg Anand Reference Laboratory and Cancyte Technologies Pvt Ltd have received approval from the Indian Council of Medical Research for carrying out Covid-19 tests.

Also Read: Coronavirus India update: State-wise total number of confirmed cases, deaths

While Covid-19 tests are carried out free of cost at government laboratories, private players have been asked not to charge more than Rs 4,500 for the set of tests with an advise to perform the tests pro bono. As many as 118 government laboratories have a capacity to carry out 12,000 Covid-19 tests per day. As the 21-day lockdown kicked off, a mad scramble for stocking essential commodities was witnessed across the country despite repeated appeals from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several chief minister an availability of adequate stocks.

Several shopkeepers complained of teething troubles in movement of vehicles carrying essential items, prompting district administrations issue appropriate directions for their smooth movement. Online retailer chains complained that their personnel were harassed by the police and the district administration officers leading to breakdown in supply chains.

“All identified home delivery personnel of ITC, Grofers, Milk Basket, BigBasket, Zomato, Harvest Gold, EasyDay and Spencer are allowed smooth movement as they fall under essential services category,” Noida Police Commissionerate announced Wednesday evening.

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