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Cyclone Nisarga: Coronavirus patients evacuated ahead of storm in Mumbai


Cyclone Nisarga made landfall at around 1 p.m. local time (3:30 a.m. ET) with wind speeds of up to 110 kph (68 mph), according to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD).

The cyclone, which formed in the Arabian sea on Tuesday morning, hit Alibag town, south of Mumbai.

Cyclones in that part of the country are relatively rare — Mumbai, India’s financial center and home to 18 million people, was last hit by a major storm in 1948.
The arrival of Cyclone Nisarga on Wednesday comes as Maharashtra grapples with India’s worst coronavirus outbreak. Hospitals are struggling to treat an influx of patients as the confirmed number of cases in that state passes 72,300, with more than 2,400 deaths.

Ahead of landfall, the cyclone strengthened to the equivalent of just below a Category 1 Atlantic hurricane, or a Severe Cyclonic Storm in the West Pacific.

The states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, and the Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu along India’s west coast are likely to be the most impacted by the storm. The biggest threat will come from intense rainfall that could lead to deadly flooding in and around Mumbai and surrounding areas of Maharashtra and Gujarat. 

Storm surges of approximately one to two meters (3.3 to 6.6 foot) are likely to inundate low-lying areas of Mumbai, Thane and Raigad districts, the IMD said.

Evacuating coronavirus patients

As Maharashtra struggles to contain the virus, about 1,000 patients with suspected Covid-19 were evacuated from a field hospital on Tuesday and taken to other facilities.

The Maharashtra government has set up several “jumbo facilities” to act as isolation centers for suspected coronavirus cases. “The sheds can easily withstand the rain but it is the wind speed that I am worried about and I don’t want to endanger anyone,” Uddhav Thackeray, the chief minister of the state said in an address on Tuesday. 

The field hospital in Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai has capacity for over 1,000 patients, all of whom are being shifted to other hospitals, he added. 

A fisherman pulls a handcart filled with crates inland ahead of a cyclonic storm in the north western coast of Mumbai on June 2.

Ahead of landfall, India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) deployed 20 teams in Maharashtra, 16 teams in Gujarat, and two teams in other nearby areas.

Thousands of people living in flimsy or makeshift homes along the low-lying coast have been evacuated, according to a statement from the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs.

More than 50,000 people living along the coast of southern Gujarat have been evacuated, Harshad Patel, Gujarat’s Relief Commissioner said. In Mumbai, the state authorities along with NDRF have evacuated more than 60,000 people from coastal districts, according to Kishor Raje Nimbalkar, Relief Commissioner of Maharashtra.

The IMD is expecting major damage to thatched houses and huts, as well as to power and communication lines.

Mumbai’s civic body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said 35 schools are being used as temporary evacuation shelters for citizens.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged residents in affected areas to take all possible precautions.

“Took stock of the situation in the wake of cyclone conditions in parts of India’s western coast. Praying for everyone’s well-being. I urge people to take all possible precautions and safety measures,” Modi said in a tweet on Tuesday.

Tropical Cyclone Nisarga comes two weeks after powerful Cyclone Amphan slammed into India’s eastern coast, killing at least 90 people in India and neighboring Bangladesh, leaving millions without power, and causing more than $13.2 billion dollars in damage.

CNN’s Brandon Miller contributed to reporting.



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‘I’m kind of scared’: Surgery for cancer patients and others cancelled as hospitals brace for possible COVID-19 wave


Janice Ense never actually got to talk to her doctor, or anyone else for that matter.

While she was out on Monday, an assistant left Ense a voicemail message announcing that the unfolding COVID-19 crisis had forced the postponement of her kidney cancer surgery.

The operation was supposed to take place next Thursday at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital. Now the 47-year-old from Manitoulin Island, an eight-hour drive north, has no idea when the tumour will be removed. As the pain from it continues unabated.

“I’m kind of scared, because I don’t know if it’s going to metastasize … It has grown substantially in the past year,” Ense said in an interview Wednesday. “I was really disappointed. I was psyched physically and mentally to have major surgery and then, boom, it’s delayed.”

She is not alone.

Relatively few Canadians have contracted the novel coronavirus and fewer still have died from it. But COVID-19 is already having a tangible impact on thousands of the ill in Canada as hospitals postpone elective surgeries and transplants and clear out clinics and wards to ready for a possible wave of infected patients.

The moves — many announced in just the last few days — are designed partly to prevent sick and immune-compromised patients from being infected by COVID-19, but mostly to free up critical-care space and equipment should the pandemic suddenly spike.

The rationale is that even if a surgery is not urgent, those patients often spend time in the intensive-care unit and occupy a ward bed, resources that would be desperately needed if Canada experiences an Italy-like surge in COVID-19 cases.

“This is a big deal, we are doing a lot less,” said Vancouver cardiologist Dr. Andrew Krahn, a spokesman for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and president of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.


Toronto General Hospital. COVID-19 is already having a tangible impact on thousands of the ill in Canada as hospitals postpone elective surgeries.

Dave Thomas/Postmedia/File

The cardiac care system has years of experience managing wait lists and ensuring the most urgent cases get looked after quickly, but there is always a concern with delaying treatment, especially if the coronavirus disruptions last for more than a few weeks, said Krahn.

“Of course there’s worry,” he said. “There’s no question indefinite delays will lead to people having bad things happen while they are waiting.”

With some variations from province to province, hospitals across the country are postponing all elective cardiac procedures, resulting in a reduction in bypass, stent and other operations of 50 to 75 per cent, said Krahn. The society is also recommending that clincs and diagnostic services essentially be closed, “except for very ill people.”

That means, for instance, that a patient who fainted because of a heart condition would be treated immediately. But those who have a routine stress test that indicates they have a borderline need for a stent will have to wait, he said.

This is a big deal, we are doing a lot less

Toronto’s University Health Network, which encompasses four major hospitals, tends to care for “the most acute patients in the country.” But it is delaying most elective surgeries — from non-urgent gall bladder and hernia operations to hip replacements — a reduction of 25 to 40 per cent, said CEO Dr. Kevin Smith.

Also postponed are kidney transplants except those involving dead donors and recipients who are “highly sensitized or quickly deteriorating,” and lung transplants for any patient who is not declining rapidly.

Smith said the process is being carried out with care, each potentially postponed case reviewed by a panel of doctors. Some cancer surgeries, such as those involving slow-developing tumours, can be delayed safely, he noted.

Smith said there’s been relatively little pushback from patients — some have even asked for a delay to lessen their potential exposure to COVID-19 — but acknowledged it can be difficult.

“No patient wants to hear ‘You’ve got a malignancy and I’m going to wait to take it out,’ ” said the CEO. “But we’re trying to balance that against the risk and needs of other patients we anticipate coming to the hospital.”

Still, a study of the spillover effects of the 2003 SARS outbreak in the Toronto area — relatively small compared to the scope of the COVID-19 changes — found that efforts to reduce the demand on hospital services had some unintended, and troubling, consequences.

There were actually reductions in high-acuity visits to Toronto emergency departments and of hospital admissions for heart attacks, gastrointestinal bleeding and pulmonary embolisms — blood clots in the lung.

Emergency physician Dr. Michael Schull, who headed the research, said some emergency departments are now also seeing significantly reduced patient volumes. Public health authorities should remind Canadians they can still go to the hospital if they have a serious problem, said the CEO of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

“As much as we’re telling patients ‘Stay home, don’t go out unless you have to’ … we should also be telling people: ‘If you need the health system, it’s there for you and make use of it.”





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Chinese hospitals discharge 1,153 recovered patients of coronavirus infection



A total of 1,153 patients infected with the novel coronavirus had been discharged from hospital after recovery by the end of Wednesday, Chinese health authorities announced Thursday, Trend reports citing Xinhua.

Wednesday saw 261 people walk out of the hospital after recovery, the National Health Commission said in its daily report.

By the end of Wednesday, a total of 563 people had died of the disease and 28,018 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection had been reported in 31 provincial-level regions and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps in China.

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