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Indian state authorities warn coronavirus lockdown could be extended

Reuters | Updated: 04-04-2020 19:57 IST | Created: 04-04-2020 19:54 IST
Indian state authorities warn coronavirus lockdown could be extended
Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a three-week lockdown of India's 1.3 billion people on March 24 to avert a massive outbreak of infections. Image Credit: ANI

Authorities in some India states warned on Saturday that lockdowns to rein in the coronavirus pandemic could be extended in parts of the nation as the number of domestic coronavirus cases rose above the 3,000 marks. Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a three-week lockdown of India's 1.3 billion people on March 24 to avert a massive outbreak of infections.

But the world's biggest shutdown has left millions without jobs and forced migrant workers to flee cities to their villages in search of food and shelter. The country has recorded 3,072 coronavirus cases, of which 75 people have died. The state of Maharashtra, which includes the financial hub Mumbai, has 537 confirmed cases of COVID-19 - the disease caused by the coronavirus - and 26 people have died.

"If people don't obey the rules seriously and cases continue to rise, then there may be no option but to extend the lockdown," Rajesh Tope, the health minister of Maharashtra state, told Reuters. "It could be extended in Mumbai and urban areas of Maharashtra by two weeks." Authorities have already set up 200-plus containment zones and sealed off building complexes or streets in Mumbai, where cases have been identified.

While the federal government does plan to review the lockdown, set to end on April 14, three senior officials told Reuters this will depend on an assessment of the situation in each state, and lockdowns and restrictions would be extended in districts where the coronavirus case spread has continued. Public transport in large cities such as Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Delhi, may only be restored in a phased manner days after the lockdown ends, said the officials, who asked not to be named as the plans were still under discussion.

During a meeting with ministers on Saturday, Modi reviewed the readiness of hospitals and quarantine facilities, and directed officials to ensure sufficient availability of all essential medical protective equipment, his office said on Twitter. Modi said on Saturday he had a telephone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump about using the two countries' partnership to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

REGIONAL NUMBERS DOUBLE

The number of COVID-19 cases has more than doubled across South Asia in the last week, surpassing 6,000.

Health experts warn an epidemic in the region, home to a fifth of the world's population, could overwhelm its already weak public health systems. But Muslim-majority Pakistan and Bangladesh, and India, which has the world's largest Muslim minority, have struggled to convince conservative religious groups to maintain social distancing.

On Friday, Pakistani Muslims at a Karachi mosque clashed with baton-wielding police trying to enforce new curbs on gatherings to prevent Friday prayers and contain coronavirus infections, officials said. This came after the government in the southern province of Sindh, home to the financial hub of Karachi, enforced a three-hour curfew on Friday afternoon, in a bid to persuade Muslim worshippers to pray at home.

Pakistan has so far reported 2,708 coronavirus infections, fuelled by a jump in cases related to members of the Tablighi Jamaat, an orthodox Muslim proselytizing group. Following is data on the spread of the coronavirus in South Asia, according to government figures:

* India has registered 3,072 cases, including 75 deaths. * Pakistan has registered 2,708 cases, including 41 deaths.

* Afghanistan has registered 299 cases, including 6 deaths. * Sri Lanka has registered 162 cases, including 5 deaths.

* Bangladesh has registered 70 cases, including 8 deaths. * the Maldives has registered 32 cases and no deaths.

* Nepal has registered nine cases and no deaths. * Bhutan has registered five cases and no deaths.


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