In one of the biggest migrations in India’s modern history, hundreds of thousands of migrant laborers have begun long journeys on foot to get home, having been rendered homeless and jobless by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
While India has seen 27 deaths and just over 1,000 cases, experts fear the real tally could be much higher and say the disease is already spreading in the community. Authorities say there's no evidence for this and have not significantly ramped up testing.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said he was sorry for the hardships caused by the national lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19, but underlined that there was no other option in a “war like” situation to combat the highly infectious disease.
Government hospitals seeking personal protective equipment (PPE) are being told that it will take a minimum of 25-30 working days for them to be delivered. In many places, doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are worried and beginning to protest as the shortage is forcing them to work without protective gear.
Many of those who returned from Gulf countries to India in February and early March were neither screened at airports nor advised to quarantine themselves. The focus then was on passengers from China, South Korea, Iran, Spain, Italy and Germany. Dubai and Saudi Arabia weren’t even on the radar.
A crowd of mourners, most of them wearing white and brown skull caps, baffled onlookers as they carried a body to the cremation ground in UP's Bulandshahr amid chants of «Ram naam satya hai». Videos of the funeral soon went viral on social media platforms, drawing accolades from hundreds of users.
In a move to curb the movement of migrant workers on roads and highways, the Centre on Sunday used the Disaster Management Act to fix responsibility on district magistrates and senior superintendents of police to seal district and state borders while making arrangements for those on the roads to be housed in shelters.
Some are finding their own villages in Bihar blocking their entry; a few had to make trees their temporary homes in West Bengal; hundreds left relief camps and hit the roads in Kerala in protest. And thousands of migrant workers are still walking on highways and railway tracks even at the risk of getting quarantined.
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on Sunday constituted 10 different high-level committees to suggest measures to ramp up healthcare, put the economy back on track, reduce pain and misery of people as quickly as possible post 21-day lockdown imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Soon after the government on Saturday set up ‘Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund’ (PM CARES Fund)’ seeking contributions to combat situations like COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to contribute generously to the corpus, saying it will strengthen disaster management capacities and encourage research to protect citizens.
With steep decline in traffic volumes, construction and industrial activity, India on Saturday recorded the best air quality in years, if not decades. The day’s average air quality index was in the top category (“good”) in as many as 35 cities out of 101 monitored by the Central Pollution Control Board on Saturday.
The Centre has rapidly expanded Covid-19 surveillance to track thousands of migrant labourers going out of cities, particularly large ones like Delhi and Mumbai, to keep an eye on incidence of the disease in villages and districts where these workers are headed.
The assessment conveyed by experts to the government was urgent: The number of Covid-19 patients would increase as people returning to India carrying the infection would come into contact with others and this required an immediate response.