New lockdowns ordered as India coronavirus cases near one million

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People stand in queues to get tested for COVID-19 at an urban health centre in Ahmedabad, India, Thursday, July 16, 2020. (AP)
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Migrant labourers and their families travelling from Kerala to Assam states wait, stranded, at a bus station after a new lockdown was imposed as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Siliguri on July 16, 2020. (AFP)
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A health worker takes a nasal swab sample of a man at an urban health centre in Ahmedabad, India, Thursday, July 16, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 16 July 2020

New lockdowns ordered as India coronavirus cases near one million

  • Bihar, a largely rural state with feeble health infrastructure, went into a 15-day lockdown at midnight
  • IT hub Bangalore — home to 13 million people — shut down for a week on Wednesday

PATNA: One of India’s most impoverished states went into lockdown Thursday, but near-normal traffic on Bihar’s streets showed the difficulty of corralling over 125 million people.
The lockdown in the northern state bordering Nepal started as India reported more than 600 deaths in the previous 24 hours, and the Red Cross warned the virus was spreading at “an alarming rate” across South Asia.
With India’s caseload fast approaching one million — and fatalities nearing 25,000 — local authorities across the country are reimposing restrictions that have only recently been lifted.
Bihar, a largely rural state with feeble health infrastructure, went into a 15-day lockdown at midnight, a day after IT hub Bangalore — home to 13 million people — shut down for a week.
All schools, clubs, temples and non-essential businesses were ordered to close in Bihar, but construction and agricultural activity are allowed to continue.
And while public transport was shut down, private vehicles are still permitted to operate, and the streets of the state capital Patna thronged with cars, lorries, bikes and auto-rickshaws.
“The lockdown is not being fully enforced,” businessman Ranjeet Singh said. Many people were still shopping for food with little regard for social distancing advice.
A lack of coronavirus discipline forced Goa, another Indian state, to announced a three-day shutdown from Thursday evening and a night curfew until August 10.
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said too many people were “stepping out to meet people at parties” and that there was a low level of “awareness and sensitivity.”
“We have more than 40,000 people fined for not wearing masks, plus there are many who are detained for flouting rules, but they continue to loiter,” Sawant told local media.
“This only establishes that people only understand the language of the law.”
Bangalore’s lockdown was stricter and the streets were much quieter.
Many firms that handle the back-office operations of global corporations were little affected by the re-imposed restrictions with staff already working from home.
Still, the health minister of Karnataka, of which Bangalore is the capital, said Wednesday that “only God can save us” as the state’s caseload approached 50,000.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said that the entire region was fast becoming the next epicenter for the coronavirus.
“While the world’s attention has been focused on the unfolding crisis in the United States and South America, a concurrent human tragedy is fast emerging in South Asia,” the organization said.
“COVID-19 is spreading at an alarming rate in South Asia, home to a quarter of humanity.”
India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have between them recorded more than 1.4 million cases and almost 33,000 deaths.
Many experts say however that authorities are not testing nearly enough people and that the official figures underplay the seriousness of the situation.


UK PM says schools must open in September

Updated 17 min 36 sec ago

UK PM says schools must open in September

  • A study has warned that Britain risks a second wave of COVID-19 this winter if schools open without an improved test-and-trace system
  • The government wants all pupils to return to school by early September

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said reopening schools in September was a social, economic and moral imperative and insisted they would be able to operate safely despite the ongoing threat from the pandemic.
His comments follow a study earlier this month which warned that Britain risks a second wave of COVID-19 this winter twice as large as the initial outbreak if schools open without an improved test-and-trace system.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Johnson said restarting schools was a national priority. Schools would be the last places to close in future local lockdowns, he was quoted by another newspaper as telling a meeting on Thursday.
Schools in England closed in March during a national lockdown, except for the children of key workers, and reopened in June for a small number of pupils.
The government wants all pupils to return to school by early September in what Johnson has called a “national priority.”
“Keeping our schools closed a moment longer than absolutely necessary is socially intolerable, economically unsustainable and morally indefensible,” Johnson wrote.
The economic costs for parents who cannot work if schools are shut are spiralling, and the country faces big problems if children miss out on education, the prime minister warned.
“This pandemic isn’t over, and the last thing any of us can afford to do is become complacent. But now that we know enough to reopen schools to all pupils safely, we have a moral duty to do so,” he wrote.
The Sunday Times newspaper reported that he has ordered a public relations campaign to ensure schools open on time and told the meeting last week that they should be the last places to close behind restaurants, pubs and shops.