New Delhi: The Union government on Wednesday announced to postpone the first phase of Census 2021 and the National Population Register (NPR) exercise owing to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the country.
The exercise slated to begin on April 1 this year has been "postponed until further orders", the office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner announced.
The department under the Ministry of Home Affairs said that the decision was taken to break the transmission of the deadly novel coronavirus.
The announcement comes a day after the Prime Minister announced a complete lockdown across the country for 21 days from Tuesday midnight.
The Census 2021 was scheduled to be conducted in two phases. The Phase I related to house listing and housing census was to be taken up during April-September 2020 while the Phase II was for population enumeration from February 9 to 28, 2021.
The updation of NPR was also proposed to be done along with the Phase I of Census 2021 in all the states and Union Territories, except Assam.
Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, the Home Ministry had earlier declared high alert and it was followed by the states and UTs.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has issued guidelines for strict implementation of the measures to be taken by the ministries and departments of government of India and state and UT governments for the containment of coronavirus.
Lockdown has also been declared by many states and UT governments. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued advisories for various precautionary measures, including social distancing.
There are at least 606 confirmed coronavirus cases in India as of Wednesday, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Ministry said. Of this, 553 are active cases, 42 patients have recovered and been discharged from the hospital and 10 people have lost their lives.
The active cases include 563 Indian nationals and 43 foreign nationals.
Addressing a press conference, Joint Secretary, Health, Lav Agarwal said: "There are 29 private laboratory chains, accredited by the Indian Council of Medical Research for conducting tests for novel Coronavirus.
"These labs have 16,000 collection centres across the country, where at least 12,000 tests can be conducted per day."
Agarwal also said that the private labs will have to follow ICMR norms while testing for COVID-19.
Besides private labs, there are 119 government laboratories approved by the ICMR, of which 104 are operational for testing Covid-19 and 15 are in the process of being functional according to ICMR data.
On the situation of protective gear, Agarwal said: "PPEs and masks have certain imported materials. We are trying the best sothat the gap is filled as soon as possible..."
He also clarified on one death that was reported in Delhi on Tuesday, saying "the sample of the deceased was under testing and later was found to be negative".
Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, at a digital press conference, said that five new cases of coronavirus infection had been reported in the city in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 35.
Tamil Nadu also reported five new novel coronavirus positive cases today, taking the total number of such patients in the southern state to 23. With three new positive cases of coronavirus in Gujarat, the total count of COVID-19 patients in the state has surged to 38. Five more COVID-19 positive cases were detected overnight in Maharashtra taking the total to 116. Madhya Pradesh also reported five new cases taking the total number upto 14. Casualties, so far, have been reported from Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, and West Bengal.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, on the other hand informed that around 64,000 people have arrived from other countries in India since March 21, out of which about 8,000 have been placed in various quarantine facilities and the remaining 56,000 are in home isolation.
"We are fighting an infectious disease. In order to protect ourselves and others, it is highly important that we follow all the protocols, guidelines and directions issued by the government, failing which may lead to legal actions under section 188 of IPC," Vardhan asserted.
He also reiterated his appeal to everyone not to ostracise doctors and other medical staff who are on the forefront of this health emergency and serving to save people from COVID-19.
He was speaking after a high-level meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM) on COVID-19 was held at Nirman Bhawan. It was held under his chairmanship. It was also attended by Hardeep Puri, Minister of Civil Aviation, S. Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs, Nityananda Rai, Minister of State for Home, Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister of State for Shipping, & Chemical and Fertilisers and Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State, Health & Family Welfare. Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat was also present.
"The Group of Ministers (GoM) had detailed deliberation on prevention and management of COVID-19 in the meeting. The GOM also discussed the actions taken so far, current status of social distancing measures as a preventive strategy and the stringent actions to contain the spread of COVID-19 by the states so far," said a government release.
The GOM discussed about strengthening capacity of states, which need to devote adequate resources for creating dedicated COVID-19 hospitals, equipping the medical institutes with PPEs, ventilators and other essential equipment etc.
Meanwhile, states have been asked to ensure that essential services and supplies remain open. These include hospitals, medical shops and establishments engaged in manufacturing of medicines, vaccines, sanitisers, masks and medical devices.
The GoM was informed that Gujarat, Assam, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Goa, Karnataka, MP and J&K are setting up hospitals dedicated for the management of COVID-19. A total of 118 laboratories have been included in the ICMR network of COVID-19 testing. Group of Ministers (GoM) was also apprised that Cabinet Secretary has also written letters and conducted Video Conference with Chief Secretaries, Health Secretaries and DGs of Police and instructed them to enforce implementation of lockdown measures.
Harsh Vardhan reiterated his appeal to all those who are in home and facility quarantine about observing it according to the protocol laid down by the Health Ministry.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day lockdown across India starting Wednesday.