Kerala extended shutdown in the state till 9 June but withdrew ‘triple lockdown’ in Malapppuram whereas Andhra Pradesh decided to extend and intensify restrictions in Tirupati and its entire Chittoor district till 15 June
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday announced welfare measures for children who lost their parents to COVID-19 , including ensuring a corpus of Rs 10 lakh when they turn 18 through the PM CARES, enrollment in health insurance and providing for their education.
Several states like Assam and Tamil Nadu also announced measures to support chidren orphaned by the virus.
Also on Saturday, the Union government decided to stop central allocation of anti-viral injection Remdesivir to states, as the supply had surpassed the demand.
The announcement came on a day when India recorded 1,73,790 new coronavirus cases, lowest single-day count in last 45 days. While the total number of cases recorded so far rose to 2,77,29,247, the toll mounted to 3,22,512 with 3,617 fatalities, according to the Union health ministry’s data.
The active cases declined by 1,14,428 to 22,28,724 and now comprise 8.04 percent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has improved to 90.80 percent. The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 2,51,78,011 while the case fatality rate stands at 1.16 percent, the data showed.
The daily recoveries outnumbered the daily new cases for the 16th consecutive day.
While India saw a decline in new and active COVID-19 cases, the news about Vietnam identifying a hybrid variant of the coronavirus strains found in the UK and India, and Pakistan reporting the first in-land case of the B.1.617 variant (the cause behind the second wave in India) has raised alarm bells.
Speaking about the hybrid variant, identified in Vietnam, the country’s health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said that it spreads very strongly to the surrounding environment.
“The characteristic of this strain is that it spreads quickly in the air. The concentration of virus in the throat fluid increases rapidly and spreads very strongly to the surrounding environment,” he told a national meeting on the pandemic, according to state media.
He did not specify the number of cases recorded with this new variant, but said told AP that the new variant could be responsible for a recent surge in Vietnam, which has spread to 30 of the country’s 63 municipalities and provinces. Vietnam will soon announce the discovery in the world’s map of genetic strains, he added.
Modi announces ‘PM-CARES for Children’ scheme
Back in India, chairing a meeting to deliberate on steps that can be taken to support children whose parents succumbed to COVID-19 , Modi said such children will be supported under the “PM-CARES for Children” scheme.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a statement that fixed deposits will be opened in the names of such children, and the PM-CARES Fund will contribute through a specially designed scheme to create a corpus of Rs 10 lakh for each of them when he or she reaches 18 years of age.
This corpus will be used to give monthly financial support or stipend from 18 years of age for the next five years to take care of his or her personal requirements during the period of higher education. On reaching the age of 23 years, they will get the corpus amount as lump-sum for personal and professional use.
While announcing these measures, Modi emphasised that his government will do everything possible to support and protect the children so that they develop as strong citizens and have a bright future.
“The Prime Minister said that in such trying times it is our duty, as a society, to care for our children and instil hope for a bright future. All children who have lost both parents or surviving parent or legal guardian/adoptive parents due to COVID-19 will be supported under PM-CARES for Children’ scheme,” he said, according to the statement.
For ensuring their education, the PMO said children under 10 years will be given admission in the nearest Kendriya Vidyalaya or in a private school as a day scholar.
Those between 11-18 years of age will be given admission in any Central Government residential school such as Sainik School and Navodaya Vidyalaya. In case the child remains under the care of a guardian or extended family, then he or she will be given admission in the nearest Kendriya Vidyalaya or in a private school as a day scholar.
If the child is admitted in a private school, fees, as prescribed under the Right to Education Act norms, will be given from the PM-CARES fund, and it will also pay for expenditure on uniform, text books and notebooks, the PMO added.
Children will be assisted in obtaining education loan for professional courses or higher education in India according to existing norms and the interest on this loan will be paid from the PM-CARES fund. As an alternative, scholarship equivalent to the tuition fees or course fees for undergraduate and vocational courses will be provided to them under Central or state government schemes.
For children who are not eligible under the existing scholarship schemes, PM CARES will provide an equivalent scholarship.
All children will also be enrolled as a beneficiary under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme, or Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY), with a health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh. The premium amount for these children till the age of 18 years will be paid by PM-CARES, it said.
States announce schemes to support children
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said his government will launch a programme ‘Chief Minister’s Shishu Seva Scheme’ on Sunday, under which it will provide Rs 3,500 per month to the guardian of every child orphaned due to COVID-19 in the state, for their education and skill development.
Sarma also said that the ones who have no extended family will be sent to residential schools or institutions, with the state bearing their expenses.
The initiatives will be launched on Sunday, marking seven years of the Modi government at the Centre.
Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin has also announced that children orphaned or those who lost either of their parents to coronavirus will be provided an assistance of Rs 5 lakhs, in the form of a deposit in the beneficiary’s name. The amount along with interest will be given to the child upon attaining the age of 18 years. The state government will also bear all expenses towards their education till graduation.
According to a release, he also announced other measures including an immediate relief of Rs 3 lakh to surviving parent and monthly allowance of Rs 3,000 for children growing up with the support of a relative or guardian, till they attain adulthood.
As many as 577 children across the country were orphaned after their parents succumbed to COVID-19 , Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani had said earlier this week, citing reports from states and Union Territories from 1 April till 25 May.
Kerala extends lockdown, Goa to continue with curfew
Meanwhile, the Kerala government extended shutdown in the state till 9 June but withdrew the ‘triple lockdown’ in Malapppuram whereas the Andhra Pradesh government decided to extend and intensify restrictions in Tirupati and its entire Chittoor district till 15 June.
According to a report by The NewsMinute, Chief Minister Pinaray Vijayan said that though the test positivity rate in the state has come down, Kerala is not yet ready to remove restrictions. However, he announced relaxations in the curbs including reopening of industries from 31 May with 50 percent staffing and allowing some shops to operate on certain days, among others.
Industries, including packaging industries or shops that provide raw materials to manufacturers are allowed to open on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Shops providing supplements for students, textiles, jewellery and those selling shoes are allowed to open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Banks are allowed to open three days a week – the same as of now – but will be allowed to function till 5 pm from 31 May.
Andhra Pradesh deputy chief minister K Narayana Swamy, ministers P Ramachandra Reddy and M Goutham Reddy, after a review meeting in Tirupati told reporters that the existing daily 18 hour-long curfew restrictions would be increased to 20 hours and would continue till 15 June.
However, the movement of public and business activities would be allowed for four hours from 6 am to 10 am daily during the period, they said.
The corona curfew in Goa was also extended till 7 June, said the Chief Minister’s Office.
Government of Goa has decided to extend the curfew till 7 am of 7th June 2021. The orders regarding the same shall be issued by respective District Collectors.
— CMO Goa (@goacm) May 29, 2021
Centre stops allocation of Remdesivir to states
Also on Saturday, Union minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers Mansukh Mandaviya said the production of Remdesivir, used in the treatment of COVID-19 , has been ramped up over ten times from just 33,000 vials a day on 11 April to 3,50,000 vials per day currently.
“Now the country has enough Remdesivir as the supply is much more than the demand. So we have decided to discontinue the Central Allocation of Remdesivir to States,” Mandaviya said in a tweet.
But I have also directed @nppa_india & @CDSCO_INDIA_INF to continuously monitor the availability of Remdesivir in the country.
Government of India has also decided to procure 50 lakh vials of #Remdesivir to maintain it as a strategic stock for the emergency requirement. (3/3)
— Mansukh Mandaviya (@mansukhmandviya) May 29, 2021
GoM formed to decide GST cut, exemptions on COVID relief mateial
In the evening the Finance Ministry said a Group of Ministers (GoM) had been constituted to examine the issue of GST concession/exemption to COVID relief material, as a follow up of the decision of the GST Council at its 43rd meeting.
As a follow up of the decision of the GST Council at its 43rd meeting, a Group of Ministers (GoM) has been constituted to examine the issue of GST concession/exemption to COVID relief material.
✅GoM to submit its report by June 08, 2021.#IndiaFightsCorona #Unite2FightCorona pic.twitter.com/Qn1N2IEvIw
— Ministry of Finance (@FinMinIndia) May 29, 2021
As per its terms of reference (ToR), the GoM would examine whether a GST rate cut or exemption would be required for medical grade oxygen, pulse oximeters, hand sanitisers, oxygen therapy equipment like concentrators, ventilators, PPE kits, N-95 and surgical masks and temperature checking equipment.
Besides, the panel would also look into COVID-19 vaccines, drugs and medicines for treating the coronavirus infection and testing kits for detecting it. Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma is the convenor while Gujarat deputy chief minister Nitinbhai Patel, Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, Goa transport minister Mauvin Godinho, finance ministers of Kerala (K N Balagopal), Odisha (Niranjan Pujari), Telangana (T Harish Rao) and UP (Suresh Kr Khanna) are the other members.
The GoM will submit its report by 8 June.
With inputs from agencies