NEW DELHI : Reported cases of the coronavirus pandemic touched 485 in India on Monday, as West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh both reported their first deaths, taking the countrywide toll to nine. The railway employee, who died in Kolkata, did not have a travel history to any of the virus-hit countries. He had returned to Kolkata from Bilaspur on 2 March and fell ill on 13 March.

Meanwhile, Kerala registered 28 new cases to a total of 92, and Telangana added three. Maharashtra reported 23 new cases to touch 97. Karnataka reported seven new cases, taking the total to 33. Uttarakhand reported a fresh case, and the person is under observation at Dehradun’s Doon Hospital, according to Pankaj Pandey, secretary of medical, health and medical education department in Uttarakhand. On Sunday, the country had around 396 positive cases.

With many wondering if the virus can be transmitted through the air, a top World Health Organization (WHO) official said no such spread has been reported. “Based on the information received so far and our experience with other coronaviruses, Covid-19 appears to spread mostly through respiratory droplets (for instance, produced when a sick person coughs) and close contact. This is why WHO recommends maintaining hand and respiratory hygiene," said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, South-East Asia regional director for WHO.

“The Chinese authorities reported that there could be a possibility of aerosol transmission in a relatively closed environment with prolonged exposure to high concentrations of aerosols, like in ICUs and CCUs in hospitals, but more investigations and analysis of epidemiological data are needed to understand this mode of transmission of the virus," she added.

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The health ministry on Monday said at least 12 private diagnostic chains have got approval for testing Covid-19, including Dr Lal PathLabs and SRL Diagnostics. Of these chains, five are in Maharashtra, while the remaining facilities are spread across Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. These chains together have 15,000 collection centres across the country.

The government also indicated that the lockdown in most states may be extended from Tuesday as many people were not following the rules. In total, 19 states and Union territories (UTs) have so far been under complete lockdown. Lav Agarwal, joint secretary in the health ministry, said: “States/UTs under complete lockdown are Chandigarh, Delhi, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Ladakh, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Tripura, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh." Later in the day, Kerala, too, announced a statewide lockdown.

The Karnataka government also ordered the suspension of all non-essential activities in nine districts, including Bengaluru.

Dammu Ravi, additional secretary in the ministry of external affairs, said Indian citizens, who are stuck in transit in London and Kuala Lumpur, are being brought back.

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