India hits 2 million coronavirus cases as health volunteers strike

India has the third-highest coronavirus caseload in the world after the United States and Brazil. (AP)
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Updated 07 August 2020

India hits 2 million coronavirus cases as health volunteers strike

  • Disease trajectory varies widely across India with the burden shifting from cities with relatively robust health systems to rural areas

NEW DELHI: As India hit another grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, crossing 2 million cases and more than 41,000 deaths, community health volunteers went on strike complaining they were ill-equipped to respond to the wave of infection in rural areas.
Even as India has maintained comparatively low mortality rates, the disease trajectory varies widely across the country with the burden shifting from cities with relatively robust health systems to rural areas, where resources are scarce or nonexistent.
The Health Ministry reported 62,538 cases in the past 24 hours, raising the nation’s total to 2,027,074. Also, 886 people died, for a total of 41,585.
The ministry said that recoveries were also growing. India has the third-highest caseload in the world after the United States and Brazil. It has the fifth-most deaths but its fatality rate of about 2 percent is far lower than the top two hardest-hit countries. The rate in the US is 3.3 percent, and in Brazil 3.4 percent, Johns Hopkins University figures showed.
The caseload in the world’s second-most populous country has quickly expanded since the government began lifting a months-long lockdown hoping to jump-start a moribund economy. India is projecting negative economic growth in 2020.
Life cautiously returned to the streets of the capital of New Delhi and financial hub Mumbai, which appear to have passed their peaks.
But state and local governments elsewhere in India were reimposing lockdowns after sharp spikes in cases.
Around 900,000 members of an all-female community health force began a two-day strike on Friday, protesting that they were being roped in to help with contact tracing, personal hygiene drives and in quarantine centers, but weren’t given personal protective equipment or additional pay, according to organizer A.R. Sindhu.
The health workers, known as Accredited Social Health Activists, or ASHA, which means ‘hope’ in several Indian languages, have been deployed in each village on behalf of the Health Ministry. Their work ranges from escorting children to immunization clinics to counseling women on childbirth.
But while their regular work hasn’t reduced, they are increasingly being involved by state governments in the fight against the pandemic, said Sindhu.
“But ASHA workers don’t have masks or PPEs or even sanitizers,” she said.
She added that although the work has increased and become more dangerous, their salaries remain static at roughly 2,000 rupees ($27) per month And the families of at least a dozen women who she said died from the virus didn’t receive compensation from India’s federal insurance for front-line health care workers because their deaths were not recorded as COVID-19 deaths.
Manisha Verma, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


EU sanctions three firms for breaking Libya arms embargo

Updated 7 min 2 sec ago

EU sanctions three firms for breaking Libya arms embargo

  • Two individuals were also hit with the sanctions for supplying material to Libya
  • The EU has a naval mission operating in waters off Libya which is tasked with policing the embargo and collecting intelligence on violators
BRUSSELS: The European Union on Monday imposed sanctions on three companies — one Turkish, one Kazakh and one Jordanian — for breaching the UN arms embargo on Libya, diplomatic sources told AFP.
Foreign ministers from the bloc signed off on the measures, which freeze any EU assets held by the companies as well as cutting them off from EU finance markets and barring them from doing business with anyone in the bloc, at a regular meeting in Brussels.
Two individuals were also hit with the sanctions for supplying material to Libya, where the UN-recognized government in Tripoli has been under attack from strongman Khalifa Haftar, who runs a rival administration in the east.
The EU has a naval mission operating in waters off Libya which is tasked with policing the embargo and collecting intelligence on violators, but Monday’s measures are the bloc’s first independent sanctions related to the conflict.
Libya has endured almost a decade of violent chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed veteran dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
But there have been signs of progress, with representatives from the two sides meeting for peace talks in Morocco after last month announcing a surprise cease-fire and pledging national elections.
“After many months I see a reason for cautious optimism. There is a positive momentum, there is a cease-fire and we need to use it,” EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell said as he arrived for the foreign ministers’ talks.
But the targeting of a Turkish company risks inflaming already tense relations between Ankara and the EU following a recent flare-up in the eastern Mediterranean over oil and gas reserves.