India’s health system is in danger of being overwhelmed by the coronavirus, which the Red Cross said was spreading across south Asia “at an alarming rate”
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”. “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 organisation 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.
- PATNA AFP, 16 July, 2020