Press Trust of india

Domestic flights to resume next week

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New Delhi: Amid mounting worries about a deep recession due to the coronavirus lockdown, authorities on Wednesday announced plans to resume domestic flights from next week and also asked the entertainment industry to restart shoots and post-production activities. The nationwide COVID-19 tally in the meantime crossed 1.1 lakh with over 5,000 new cases getting detected during the day.

The Union Health Ministry said the recovery rate among those having tested positive has risen to nearly 40 per cent, from about 7 per cent before the lockdown began on March 25. It also said that hospital support was needed by less than 7 per cent patients.

In its morning 8 AM update, the ministry said the COVID-19 death toll has risen to 3,303 after 140 more deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, while the number of cases across the country rose by more than 5,600 to reach 1,06,750.

However, a PTI tally of figures announced by different states and union territories, as of 9.15 PM, put the nationwide tally of confirmed cases at 1,10,590 and the death toll at 3,355. This showed 5,092 new cases since Tuesday night and 210 more fatalities, while the recoveries also increased by over 3,000 to 44,757.

During a press briefing on the COVID-19 situation, Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said the total active COVID-19 cases now stands at 61,149 in the country and 42,298 people have recovered.

The current recovery rate stands at 39.62 per cent while it was 7.1 per cent at the beginning of lockdown, he added.

The nationwide lockdown was initially imposed for a 21-day period till April 14, but later got extended till May 3 in the second phase and then for another 14-day third phase till May 17. A two-week-long fourth phase is now underway till May 31, but with several restrictions having been relaxed to boost economic activities.

Announcing further relaxations, Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Wednesday that domestic flights will resume in a calibrated manner from May 25, two months after the services were shut due to the coronavirus.

The minister, however, did not mention any update for international flights, which have also remained shut during the lockdown, barring for special flights being operated to bring back stranded Indians and expatriates from abroad.

The Union Home Ministry also said later in the night that domestic air travel has been removed from the list of prohibited activities during the lockdown.

The aviation sector has been among the worst hit by the pandemic as various countries, including India, decided to suspend commercial flights completely to curb the spread of the virus. Several Indian carriers have resorted to pay cuts, layoffs and leave without pay for their staff members.

Similar is the situation for many other sectors, while a huge manpower shortage is also looming large due to the return of lakhs of migrant workers to their native places after being rendered jobless, and even homeless in most cases, from most of the industrial clusters across the country where they were working before the lockdown.

Cab aggregator Ola is laying off 1,400 staff as its revenue declined by 95 per cent in the last two months due to the coronavirus pandemic, CEO Bhavish Aggarwal said in an email to employees.

Rating agency Icra warned of a deep recession and drastically lowered its FY21 GDP forecast for Indian economy to a contraction of 5 per cent, citing the very modest fiscal support, extension of the nationwide lockdown and the looming labour shortage.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the industry needs to reset its relations with workers in view of the COVID-19 fallouts and consider a professional way to engage unskilled workers.

The Congress party accused the government of implementing the lockdown in an unplanned manner without any exit strategy.

In Mumbai, Maharashtra Chief Minister Udhhav Thackeray interacted with representatives of the entertainment industry and asked them to prepare an action plan on limited resumption of film shooting and post-production activities by adhering to social distancing norms amidst the coronavirus-induced lockdown.

He, however, ruled out reopening of cinema halls or theatres anytime soon.

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