Police personnel enquire during nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against coronavirus in Hyderabad. File/AFP
The number of confirmed new coronavirus cases in South Asia neared 6,000 on Saturday, even as authorities in some cities tightened restrictions on movement and warned lockdowns could be extended in a bid to rein in the pandemic.
"If people don't obey the rules seriously and cases continue to rise, then there may be no option but to extend the lockdown," Rajesh Tope, the health minister of Maharashtra state which includes the financial hub Mumbai, told Reuters. "It could be extended in Mumbai and urban areas of Maharashtra by two weeks."
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said this week the country will pull out of the planned three-week lockdown in a phased manner. India has been hardest hit by the disease in South Asia with some 2,902 cases, of which 68 have died.
Maharashtra has 516 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the coronavirus — and 26 people have died.
While the government does plan to review the lockdown, set to end on April 14, three senior officials told Reuters this will depend on an assessment of the situation in each state, and lockdowns and restrictions would be extended in districts where the coronavirus case spread has continued.
Public transport in large metros such as Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi, may only be restored in a phased manner days after the lockdown ends, said the officials, who asked not to be named as the plans were still under discussion.
The Health Ministry on Saturday put the total number of cases in India at 173,763 with 4,971 deaths. The total infections included 86,422 active cases and 82,369 recoveries.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a televised address to the nation, said the challenge was to stop the virus from spreading to new parts of the country, but held out hope that some restrictions could be eased next week in the least-affected areas to allow essential activities.
One of the new cases was detected in the capital, New Delhi, while the other was in the southern state of Telangana, the government said in a statement.
The latest phase of these repatriation flights, known as the "Vande Bharat Mission," began on March 1 and will last till March 28. Slightly more than 1,350 international flights are scheduled to be operated from 28 countries in this phase, enabling an estimated 260,000 Indians to travel home.
Congress state President Nana Patole said that the new evidence like demands of Rs250m bribe to release Aryan Khan, has raised "big questions on the role of NCB" and sought a high-level enquiry into the matter.
The flight, operated by Go First, took off for Sharjah at 6:30pm from Srinagar and landed at Sharjah International Airport at 9:30pm UAE time. The flight revives direct air link between the Kashmir Valley and the UAE after 11 years.
In the first case, which took place at 5:00pm, there were 3 Asians, two of whom were rescued while the third, 29, drowned. In the second case, which took place at 6:00pm, an Arab, 30, drowned and was transported by the national ambulance to the Khalifa Hospital..
According to Colonel Saleh Al Dhanhani, Director of the Traffic and Patrols Department at Fujairah Police, the accident took place around 7:30am on Sunday when a man dropped his son identified as ASA opposite the private school where he was studying.