Mumbai shuts down as India cases rise

A general view shows deserted roads with minimal traffic near the sea front in Mumbai on March 19, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 21 March 2020

Mumbai shuts down as India cases rise

  • Alarmed by an increasing number of infections in the state, Thackeray said if people did not stop flocking to local trains, the government would, in a “last resort” measure, suspend public transportation

NEW DELHI: The western Indian state of Maharashtra imposed a partial lockdown on its main cities on Friday, including the country’s financial hub Mumbai, as the region recorded the highest number of coronavirus cases.
All offices, shops and markets in Mumbai, Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad and Nagpur will remain closed until March 31, with the exception of those providing essential goods and services, the chief minister of Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackeray, announced.
He appealed to private employers not to stop paying their employees’ salaries.
“Crises will come and go, but don’t stop your humanity,” Thackeray said. He did not specify whether the state would offer any financial support to suspended businesses.
Alarmed by an increasing number of infections in the state, Thackeray said if people did not stop flocking to local trains, the government would, in a “last resort” measure, suspend public transportation.
Earlier this week, Maharashtra took the drastic step of stamping the hands of people flying into state airports with waterproof ink.
“If such people go out, others can identify them as home quarantine patients. This is being done so that patients strictly observe home quarantine,” Rajesh Tope, health minister of Maharashtra, told reporters.
The decision came after 11 people in the state, who were in isolation awaiting their coronavirus test results, escaped from a Mumbai hospital.
At least 52 people have tested positive in Maharashtra — a quarter of all cases reported in India.
The Mumbai shutdown decision comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement on Thursday night that a nationwide one-day curfew would be in effect on Sunday.
“This curfew will be for the people and by the people of India, and will be from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday,” Modi said in a televised address to the nation.
During the curfew, all means of public transportation will be shut down.
Political analysts see the one-day shutdown as a way to prepare Indians for longer lockdowns in the coming future.
“Considering the experience of some of the worst-affected countries, if India wants the virus not to spread, then it will have to shut down cities and towns for a couple of weeks. The public curfew is just a step in that direction,” the Gaya-based editor of the Hindu daily Prabhat Khabar newspaper, Pawan Pratyay, told Arab News.
In his Thursday address, Modi also announced the establishment of the COVID-19 Economic Response Task Force to assess the impact of the global pandemic on the Indian economy, and advise steps to reduce its burden on the country’s financial sector.
Also on Thursday, the Indian government imposed a week-long ban on all incoming international flights, starting on Sunday.


Bangladesh reinforces virus lockdown on Rohingya camps

The sun rises as thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar a day before wait by the road where they spent the night between refugee camps, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh October 10, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 32 sec ago

Bangladesh reinforces virus lockdown on Rohingya camps

  • Infection spike prompts tough measures as country’s death toll reaches 846

DHAKA: Authorities in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, which is home to more than 1 million Rohingya refugees, reinforced a two-week lockdown to limit the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, officials said Saturday.

The disease has killed 846 people in Bangladesh and the total number of infections as of Saturday was 63,026, with 29 people testing positive for the virus and one death reported at the refugee camps.
“In the past couple of days we have noticed a sudden boom in the virus infection rate in the district, which prompted us to reinforce a very strict lockdown again,” Shajahan Ali, additional district magistrate of Cox’s Bazar, told Arab News. He said that the doubling down would include dividing the area into different parts, with no entry allowed in the “red zone.”
“To make the lockdown truly effective vehicles’ movements will be restricted. People from outside Cox’s Bazar will not be allowed to enter the city. Kitchen markets will remain open for several hours only on Sundays and Thursdays. Banks will also follow the same,” he added.
Overburdened and with limited facilities available, district officials have been struggling with a sudden spike in infections.
Authorities were working around the clock to strengthen relief operations in the district to ease the suffering of refugees grappling with the restrictions, Ali said.
“In addition to the regular social safety net program, we have included 200,000 more people under the relief support network. Considering the long-time impact of the coronavirus, this support program is designed for four months starting from May.”
Authorities resumed testing for the virus after halting the process for two days in the area as it was undergoing disinfection, said Dr. Abu Toha Bhuyan, health coordinator of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission.
“Considering a huge population of 1.7 million host communities and 1 million Rohingya refugees, now we are working hard to increase the testing facilities in the district,” he told Arab News. “Also, with the two current lab facilities, we will launch another lab very soon at Teknaf sub-district, which holds several hundred thousand Rohingyas.”

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The total number of infections as of Saturday was 63,026, with 29 people testing positive for the virus and one death reported at the refugee camps.

Authorities are looking to establish an intensive care unit and a high dependency unit by June 21 to provide emergency care to critical patients.
“We can’t predict the situation at this moment about how far worse it might be at the overcrowded Rohingya camps,” Bhuyan said. “But till now the situation is very much under control. Many Rohingyas are now aware of the importance of social distancing and cleanliness in case of any coronavirus suspect.”
He added that there was “definitely” room for improvement to strengthen health and safety awareness among refugees, and that there was an emergency meeting on Sunday to work out the issues such as social distancing which was “almost impossible to maintain among the refugees” due to space constraints.
A refugee family comprising seven to eight people live in a tent of just 120 square feet.
Bhuyan said it was harrowing for refugees to keep all family members, including children inside, with the onset of summer and sweltering conditions.