This post has been updated.
Indian stock markets opened to another day of Covid-19-induced slide today (March 13) before a 45-minute trading halt saved their day.
The panic sell-off in equities at opening came as India reported its first confirmed Covid-19 death and the number of positive cases in the country neared 80.
Trading was halted on both BSE and the National Stock Exchange (NSE) after the Sensex and Nifty indices fell 10% each within minutes of market opening. This is the first time since 2008 that the lower circuit has been triggered by a sell-off.
A 76-year-old man from Kalaburagi, Karnataka, who died on March 10 following his return from Saudi Arabia, has now been confirmed to have contracted Covid-19. While a couple of deaths were reported from India earlier, too, with the deceased showing symptoms similar to those in coronavirus patients, this is the first officially confirmed case.
His mother has also reportedly tested positive for coronavirus and around 1,500 people who came in contact with him have now been put under observation. The government also confirmed in parliament that there hasn’t been any case of the transmission yet.
The northern state of Haryana and the Delhi National Capital Region have, meanwhile, declared Covid-19 an epidemic. Delhi chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, has ordered all schools and cinema halls shut till March 31. The city has identified six patients who have tested positive for the virus.
In the absence of a cure—Indian officials say it will be around two years before a coronavirus vaccine is developed in India—the country is trying its next best option: isolate the virus.
Towards this, India has begun taking strong measures. For starters, it has decided to cancel all visas till April 15.
Yesterday, in the lower house of parliament, many leaders expressed their concern over Indians stranded in various countries. “For me, I need to find a way of helping or bringing all of them back. We are at it. Please understand, we can only bring them back if they are tested,” external affairs minister S Jaishankar said in response. “We cannot bring back untested people in a very severe epidemic situation because I have the security of this country to worry about as well,” the minister said.
He further informed the House that after evacuating the stranded citizens in Iran, India will try to bring back its citizens from Italy.
The Indian Army has set up a quarantine facility in Manesar, near Delhi, to keep those evacuated from China’s virus-hit province. With the numbers increasing, all those returning to Delhi from abroad, and not only from China, are being screened at this facility, along with another one in Haryana.
Meanwhile, in the southern state of Kerala, biometric authentication at public distribution shops have been suspended.
Schools in various states have also been shut, barring those where examinations are underway. Under the circumstances, ed-tech has begun to play a key role with online learning firms like Byju’s announcing free services for students.
The Kerala government has also advised internet providers to increase broadband availability by 40% to meet the rise in demand amidst the outbreak.