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Coronavirus: Centre sets up 11 empowered groups to contain outbreak

These have been tasked with identifying problem areas to formulate plans, strategise operations and take steps for time-bound implementation of policies.

Coronavirus: Centre sets up 11 empowered groups to contain outbreak
A man wearing a facemask rides a bicycle along a deserted street during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus in Amritsar on March 29, 2020. | Narinder Nanu / AFP

The Narendra Modi-led government on Sunday set up 11 empowered groups as part of its response to the outbreak of Covid-19, the infection caused by the coronavirus, in India. As the country entered the sixth day of the countrywide lockdown on Monday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases stood at 1,024. Out of these, 901 are being treated, 27 people have died, 95 have recovered, and one person has migrated. Covid-19 has claimed 27 lives in the country so far.

The focus groups were set up under the Disaster Management Act to “synchronise efforts cutting across ministries and departments” in containing the pandemic. These groups have been empowered with the responsibility of identifying problem areas to formulate plans, strategise operations and take all necessary steps for effective and time-bound implementation of policies and decisions.

Each group will have a senior representative from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Cabinet Secretariat to ensure coordination, unidentified sources told NDTV. Meanwhile, the Department of Expenditure has issued instructions to ensure speedy decision-making in matters related to procurement of funds, it added.

Some of the focus areas included are medical emergency management, which will be headed by Niti Ayog member VK Paul; availability of hospitals, isolation and quarantine facilities; disease surveillance and testing; ensuring availability of essential medical equipment, among others.

The decision comes at a time when the countrywide lockdown has sparked a mass exodus of migrants who are leaving large cities to return to their villages after losing their source of livelihood. The Centre on Sunday asked all states and Union Territories to seal their borders, as migrant labourers attempted to return home on foot.

The Centre said adequate arrangements should be made for shelter and food for the migrants in their places of work itself. Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologised to the public for imposing the countrywide lockdown, calling it harsh but “needed to win” the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

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