Coronavirus cases in the country crossed 600 on Wednesday as authorities beefed up preparedness to fight the pandemic with a chain of hospitals of the Army ordnance factories and central paramilitary forces earmarking over 2,000 beds for isolation and treatment of people affected by COVID-19.
In addition, the Hamirpur district administration in Himachal Pradesh took over all the ten hostels with 2,000 rooms of the National Institute of Technology (NIT) for creating an isolation centre, an official said in Shimla.
A 2,200-bed state-run hospital in Kolkata has stopped admitting new patients who are suffering from other diseases and was discharging patients whose condition had improved as part of efforts to create a dedicated isolation centre, another official said in Kolkata.
Addressing people of his constituency in Varanasi via a video link, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated that social distancing and staying indoors were the only way out and the best option to deal with coronavirus.
"Around one lakh people infected with coronavirus are recovering, this also needs to be highlighted," he said.
"People should focus on how deadly this virus is. This disease doesn't discriminate between rich and poor."
Authorities were augmenting the preparedness to deal with the pandemic at a time when an international team of scientists projected that India could face over one lakh confirmed cases of coronavirus by mid-May if the current trend in spike continues.
The report, compiled by COV-IND-19 Study Group, an interdisciplinary team of researchers, said while India seems to have done well in controlling the number of confirmed cases compared to other countries like the US and Italy in the early phase of the pandemic, the country is critically missing a key component in this assessment -- the number of truly affected cases.
According to the latest Union Health ministry data released in the evening, coronavirus cases crossed 100 in Maharashtra(116) and Kerala(109). Of the 612 confirmed cases, 562 were active while 40 had recovered.
The coronavirus death toll stood at 10 as per the data which included the first casualty reported in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday.
The all India tally did not take into account the third death in Maharashtra which was reported by a Mumbai civic body on Tuesday. It also showed that the second death in Delhi reported by the ministry yesterday was not from the viral infection.
In a heart warming gesture, a Pune-based couple, the first COVID-19 patients in Maharashtra, received an emotional welcome from the members of their housing society when they reached their homes on Wednesday afternoon after being discharged from a hospital following recovery.
Residents of the housing society, located on Sinhgad Road in Pune, came out in their balconies and clapped and clanged their utensils to greet the 51-year-old man and his 43-year-old wife.
A chain of 32 paramilitary force hospitals across the country, with a total capacity of about 1,900 beds, has been taken over by the government for isolation and treatment of COVID-19 affected patients, officials said in Delhi.
The "urgent" decision to use the ''composite hospitals'' of these forces, also called as the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), was taken after a high-level meeting of the Union home ministry that was chaired by the secretary of border management.
An order issued by the medical establishment of these forces has been reviewed by PTI and it said these hospitals have been designated and earmarked for the "purpose of isolation cum treatment of COVID-19 patients as and when they arrive".
These 32 hospitals are operated by forces like the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and are located at places like Greater Noida, Hyderabad, Guwahati, Jammu, Tekanpur (Gwalior), Dimapur, Imphal, Nagpur, Silchar, Bhopal, Avadi, Jodhpur, Kolkata, Pune and Bengaluru, among others.
The total capacity of these 32 earmarked hospitals is 1,890 beds, a senior official said.
It has also been directed that arrangements should be made so that people already admitted here, troops of these forces or their family members, could be shifted to another location in case of an increase in the number of coronavirus-affected people.
Border guarding force ITBP is already running the largest such CAPF quarantine centre, which can accommodate 1,000 people, in Delhi's Chhawla area.
The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has designated a total of 285 beds for isolation wards to handle the coronavirus cases, the Defence Ministry said.
The ministry said in a statement that 40 beds have been earmarked in hospitals at Vehicle Factory at Jabalpur, thirty beds each at Metal and Steel Factory in Ishapore, Gun and Shell Factory in Cossipore, Ammunition Factory in Khadki, Ordnance Factory in Kanpur, Ordnance Factory in Khamaria and Ordnance Factory in Ambajhari.
Twenty-five beds at Ordnance Factory at Ambernath and twenty beds each at Heavy Vehicle Factory in Avadi and Ordnance Factory at Medak have been earmarked for isolation wards to handle such cases, it said.
The West Bengal government has started discharging patients from a state-run hospital and stopped admitting new ones to the institute to convert the entire facility into an isolation and treatment centre for people suspected to be infected with coronavirus, a senior health official said in Kolkata.
Full fledged operations at Medical College Hospital, Kolkata as a dedicated facility for isolation and treatment of suspected coronavirus patients will begin from Saturday, he said.
"From Tuesday, we have started discharging patients who are in better condition and also stopped admitting new patients, especially those who are pregnant and are referring them to other hospitals.
"This is as per the state government's plan to convert the entire hospital, which has 2,200 beds, into an isolation and treatment centre for persons suspected to be infected with the coronavirus," the official said.
As coronavirus cases showed a rise, authorities in Kashmir said they are worried that it might be more than the 11 reported so far in the Valley as a significant number of people have reportedly concealed their travel history.
Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, Shahid Iqbal Chaudhary said the administration was flooded with messages about people concealing travel history, apparently to avoid undergoing quarantine.
As hospitals are expected to face pressure to handle coronavirus cases, Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw said she would like to see more hotels brought into the quarantine cum-hospital zone.
Before they go to hospitals, there are many people who will have mild symptoms who can recover also, they need not go to hospitals and crowd the hospitals," she told PTI in Bengaluru.