PortandTerminal.com, April 14, 2020
NEW DELHI/MUMBAI – India extended a lockdown on its 1.3 billion people until at least May 3 on Tuesday. The country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said economic sacrifices were needed to save lives as the number of coronavirus cases exceeded 10,000 according to Reuters.
Sharp downward revisions to economic growth forecasts in the wake of the pandemic point towards surging unemployment, but Modi urged Indians to maintain the discipline shown in the first three weeks of the lockdown.
“That means until May 3, each and every one of us will have to remain in the lockdown,” Modi said in a televised address to the nation. People are desperate though – especially “daily-waged” migrant workers who are without money, food or a way to get home.
“From an economic only point of view, it undoubtedly looks costly right now; but measured against the lives of Indian citizens, there is no comparison itself.”
Later in Mumbai, thousands of jobless migrant workers gathered at a railway station, demanding to be allowed to travel to their homes in the countryside.
“Since trains and buses are not operational, they were making noise. To disperse them, police were forced to lathi (baton) charge,” said a senior police official.
Hundreds of thousands fled the big cities for their homes in the hinterland when Modi announced the lockdown last month, many walking great distances with their families on empty highways.
Modi announced the extension as latest government data showed the number of people infected with coronavirus in India had reached 10,363, with 339 deaths.
Although the numbers are small compared with some Western nations, health experts fear that is because of India’s low levels of testing and that actual infection levels could be far higher.
Health experts have warned that widespread contagion could be disastrous in a country where millions live in dense slums and the health care system is overstretched.
According to the government, India has about one doctor per 1,500 citizens. The World Health Organization recommends one doctor per 1,000. In rural areas, where two-thirds of Indians live, the ratio is one doctor to more than 10,000 people.
Since the lockdown began in late March, unemployment has almost doubled to around 14.5%, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, a Mumbai-based private think-tank.
“I am well aware of the problems you have faced – some for food, some for movement from place to place, and others for staying away from homes and families,” Modi said.
For them, he offered the hope that restrictions in parts of the country that are not coronavirus hot spots might be slightly eased next week.
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