NEW DELHI, March 13 - Several States across India went into battle mode to contain the spread of COVID-19, shutting down schools, theatres and colleges, and many public events, including the IPL, were postponed as the Union health ministry on Friday put the number of cases at 81.
The tally of 81, seven more since Thursday night, includes a 76-year-old man from Karnataka who became the country�s first coronavirus fatality and 17 foreign nationals, health ministry officials said.
Cases of the infection have been reported from at least 11 States and Union Territories, including Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Kerala, where three patients were discharged last month after they recovered.
The Centre has also decided to allow international traffic only through 19 border checkposts out of 37 and continue the suspension of Indo-Bangladesh cross-border passenger trains and buses till April 15, or earlier, if so decided.
Officials disclosed that 42,000 people across the country are under community surveillance.
Taking stock of the situation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed a video conference of SAARC leaders to chalk out a joint strategy and set an example for the world.
�Our planet is battling the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. At various levels, governments and people are trying their best to combat it,� Modi said on Twitter. South Asia, which is home to a significant number of the global population, should leave no stone unturned to ensure that the people are healthy, he said.
Amid speculation over the ongoing Budget Session being shortened, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said, �There is no question of curtailing the session.�
A day after the country�s first coronavirus death was reported from Kalaburagi in the State, the Karnataka government announced a lock-down of malls, cinema theatres, pubs and night clubs for a week. Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa also issued instructions to stop all kinds of exhibitions, summer camps, conferences, marriage events and birthday parties.
�We will close all universities for a week in the entire State,� he told reporters.
Tech giant Google confirmed that an employee of its Bengaluru office, who had returned from Greece, was diagnosed with COVID-19.
In Odisha, the Naveen Patnaik government announced that educational institutions would be closed till March 31 but provided an exception for holding exams.
He said the government has earmarked Rs 200 crore to combat the coronavirus threat and declared COVID-19 a �disaster�.
Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University and Jamia Millia Islamia suspended classes in Delhi. Other universities such as Jindal University in Haryana announced the university would be open but there would be no classes till March 29.
As concern mounted, people scrambled to change their travel plans. At an Air India office in Delhi, for instance, there were crowds of people waiting to change their tickets.
Aviation watchdog DGCA has asked international airlines to consider waiving ticket cancellation and reschedule charges or look at providing any other incentives.
States which had not reported any case were also on alert. � PTI