India reports 2 more COVID deaths, 194 new cases as exodus of migrant workers continues
Thousands of migrant workers trying to find a place in the buses deployed by the Uttar Pradesh government to carry them home during the lockdown imposed in the country to contain the spread of the coronavirus, in Delhi on March 28, 2020.

India reports 2 more COVID deaths, 194 new cases as exodus of migrant workers continues

New Delhi, March 28, 2020

India today reported two more deaths due to coronavirus (COVID-19), taking the toll to 19, and 194 new cases of infection in the past 24 hours, raising the total to 918 so far, even as the exodus of tens of thousands migrant workers from the major cities to their home towns continued in view of the nationwide lockdown imposed to combat the pandemic.

By late this afternoon, the Uttar Pradesh government had arranged scores of buses to transport the migrants and their families from the border with Delhi after videos on television news channels and social media drew the nation's attention to the humanitarian crisis of unimaginable proportions that was unfolding.

Thousands of people were seen heading home from Delhi and other major cities on foot to their homes hundreds of kilometres away in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana and other states in the absence of any transport after the lockdown left them without income, food or shelter. Many of them were accompanied by their families, small children and aged relatives.

Most of them were employed as daily wagers in small factories or businesses, all of which have shut down during the three-week lockdown clamped from March 25 to try and prevent the spread of the coronavirus that has already claimed more than 23,500 lives across the world.

The Centre also stepped in, advising the States to take steps to help the workers stay at their place of work and also to make arrangements to look after those who had decided to return to their home towns and villages.

In Delhi, the state government arranged to provide food to some four lakh people today but this was not enough to persuade the workers to stay back, with most of them unable to pay rent for their accommodation in the absence of their daily income.

Meanwhile, fresh cases of coronavirus infection continued to be reported from different parts of the country.

The total number of 918 cases includes the 19 deaths and 80 patients who have been cured and discharged from hospitals, which means there were 819 active cases of coronavirus in the country as of 5.45 pm today, figures put out by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare said.

The 19 deaths include five in Maharashtra, three in Gujarat, two each in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh and one each in Bihar, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

The total of 918 includes 862 Indians and 47 foreigners.

Of the total 918 cases, Maharashtra accounted for the highest with 180, followed by 176 in Kerala, 56 in Telangana, 55 each in Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh, 54 in Rajasthan, 45 in Gujarat, 40 in Tamil Nadu, 39 in Delhi, 38 in Punjab, 33 in Haryana, 30 in Madhya Pradesh, 20 in Jammu & Kashmir, 15 in West Bengal, 14 in Andhra Pradesh, 13 in Ladakh, nine in Bihar, eight in Chandigarh, six each in Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Chhattisgarh, five in Uttarakhand, three each in Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Odisha, and one each in Manipur, Mizoram and Puducherry.

The Central and State Governments, which have their hands full with the task of staving off the pandemic, now have an equally big challenge in handling the exodus of the workers and also ensuring that they do not become carriers of the virus.

As directed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who reviewed the country's preparedness to contain the spread of COVID-19 here today, committed all support to migrant workers during the lockdown period.

The Union Home Secretary has again written to States requesting them to immediately set up relief camps for migrant workers and pilgrims who are returning to their domicile states or trying to do so during this lockdown period. States have been advised to give wide publicity and awareness, using public address systems, technology and by utilising the services of volunteers and NGOs, to give precise information on the location of the relief camps and the facilities being made available as also the relief package under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana and measures being taken by the State Government.

States have been also advised to set up relief camps along the highways for people returning home, including setting up of tented accommodation to ensure that these persons will stay in the relief camps till the lockdown orders are in place. The shelters are to be organised, keeping in view various precautions including social distancing, with adequate medical check-up drives to identify and separate cases requiring quarantine or hospitalisation, an official press release said.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has also authorised all States to use the State Disaster Response Fund for providing such relief measures.

Yesterday, too, the Union Home Secretary had written to all States and Union Territories to take immediate steps to provide adequate support, including food and shelter, to migrant agricultural labourers, industrial workers and other unorganized sector workers during the lockdown.

They were advised to take steps to ensure that students, working women from other States, and so on are also allowed to continue in their existing accommodation.

The advisory suggested that in order to mitigate the situation for unorganized sector workers, particularly stranded migrant workers, States/UTs need to explore measures by involving various agencies, including NGOs, to provide food and shelter with basic amenities like clean drinking water, sanitation, and so on.

MHA has also advised that States/ UTs need to ensure that hotels, rented accommodations, hostels etc., continue to remain functional and delivery of essential items is streamlined, so that students, working women hostel inmates etc. are allowed to continue in existing facilities, while observing precautions.

People in different parts of the country continued to face some difficulties in getting supplies of food items, including vegetables, and medicines. The government is making efforts to ensure that such items are available through the home delivery systems of e-commerce marketplaces, but such companies have paused deliveries in view of the restrictions in movement. Others reported huge backlogs and, therefore, delayed delivery slots.

As a result of the lockdown across the country, most cities and towns across India continue to wear a deserted look, with hardly any traffic on the roads. In many places, the police were filing complaints against violators of the restrictions and even wielding the stick and using other harsh measures against some of them.

All flights into and from India as well as all domestic flights are banned. All train services, suburban rail services, metro rail services and bus services in the entire country have come to a halt. All states have sealed their borders with neighbouring states.

Essential services have been exempted from the lockdown in all the states.

Schools and colleges, cinemas and shopping malls have been closed for many days now and all offices -- government, public sector and private sector -- are also now closed, except for those employees required to maintain essential services.

Most offices have told their employees to work from home and many schools and colleges are offering learning-from-home options for their students.

There continue to instances of people violating the lockdown and ignoring the calls for social distancing. The Government has strictly advised people, except those providing essential services, to remain indoors for the next few weeks.

Residential colonies in cities have also imposed restrictions on entry of people, including visitors, domestic helps, drivers and so on. Some colonies have temporarily barred the delivery of newspapers. Many newspapers are trying to hold on to their readers by popularising their e-papers and websites.

The outbreak which began in December in China, where it has claimed 3,295 lives, has spread to more than 200 countries, territories and areas around the world and claimed more than 23,500 lives worldwide so far.


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