India: impossible political dilemma: India is in the middle of a three-week national lockdown to slow the coronavirus pandemic, but stringent measures have triggered cascading economic problems. Beginning on March 24, the government ordered the public to stay at home except when purchasing essential medicines, food and household items. Flights have been canceled, Indian Railwayspassenger trains canceleduntil March 31, and interstate buses stopped serving the roads. The result: Tens of millions migrant workers were stranded in jobless cities, and hundreds of thousands began long hikes. On March 29, the Prime Minister publicly apologized for the difficulties, but noted that the fight against coronaviruses was a matter of life and death. On March 31, the Supreme Courtorderedthe government will provide food, shelter and medicine for migrant workers and set up an online information portal to combat misinformation in health matters. Each state responded to central government directives byorganizeshelters, food distribution points and a limited number of buses for the transportation of migrants.
With the closure of businesses, foreclosure is putting strong pressure on an economy when growth has already been at an 11-year low. If governments unemployment $ 22.5 billionrescue packagewill quickly reach enough workers in the large informal sector remains to be seen.
Public health threats and pandemics
Since April 2 at 1 a.m. local time, India has1,860 active casesand fifty-three dead. In a country of 1.3 billion people,about forty-eight thousandhad been tested. Indian medical institutions have given priority to the rapid expansion of tests, in particular through partnerships with private laboratories. Authorities hospitalized more than 400 symptomatic people who attended areligious conferencein an Islamic center in New Delhi and quarantined 1,800 others. Health workers face a shortage of personal protective equipment, test kits and ventilators. Health professionals of the Indian railways convert at least five thousand inactivetraincars in isolation rooms that can hold hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 patients.
Religious rallies undermine lockdown in Pakistan: Pakistan has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in South Asia. After Prime Minister Imran Khan initially rejected Calling for stronger social distancing, citing economic concerns, powerful Pakistani military leaders imposed a lockdown on March 22. Since then, the Khans government install an operations command center and approved a $ 7.5 billion economic package that includes unemployment assistance, direct cash transfers to over ten million households, tax refunds for exporters, and mechanisms to reduce prices for food, fuel and public services.
Concerns about how the Pakistani health system will cope with a rapid increase in the number of patients are mounting, as health care and governance are poor at best. The largest city, Karachi, has only six hundred beds in intensive care units. On April 1, the Pakistans workload is 2,291, with 31 dead, likely a serious underestimation due to insufficient testing.
Many religious refuse to comply with public health directives and allow crowds to gather in mosques during Friday prayers. Earlier in March, more than 150,000 religious from around the world descended outside Lahore for a religious gathering organized by Tablighi Jamaat, the same group that organized the conference in New Delhi and earlier in Malaysia. At the time of the cancellation, thousands of participants had already arrived. The international conference appears to have been the point of infection for emerging cases inside and outside Pakistan, including the first in Gaza. The police quarantined the area of religious centers.
A national volunteer effort, led in part by the government, is also underway. The citizens concerned have organized food drives, donations of protective gear and even a quarantine room in a public hospital. March 27, Khan ad the creation of a donation fund for the working poor, a new banking program aimed at increasing foreign exchange reserves by increasing voluntary remittances from Pakistanis abroad, and a force of young volunteers for food deliveries.
Public health threats and pandemics
Layoffs in the garment industry in Bangladesh threaten livelihoods: Global brands and retailers canceled or postponed $ 2.8 billion worth of clothing orders to factories in Bangladesh; in some cases, refuse to pay for goods already en route. Most factories have closed due to weak demand. Employers dismissed or laid off more than a million garment workers as of March 27, mostly without paying. The collapse of the industry directly threatens the employment of millions of other people, the majority of whom are women. The ready-to-wear industry represents more than 80 percent of all Bangladeshi exports and lifted many Bangladeshis out of poverty. On March 25, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced a $ 590 million relief program to replace factory workers and ordered his administration to create a list of vulnerable workers to eventually distribute food and services.
March 31, Hasina expanded National closure of Bangladesh for five days until April 9. Compared to India, the closure in Bangladesh is less restrictive and its application more lax. Non-essential workplaces are said to be closed, although garment factories are allowed to operate and many stores are still open. The authorities requested, but did not force, the people to stay at home. As in India, however, the public holiday declaration has prompted many to flee urban areas.
As of March 31, Bangladesh’s restrictive guidelines limited tests only 1602 symptomatic patients. Fifty-six tested positive and six died. Like many wealthy countries, Bangladesh’s official response has been hampered by a shortage of test kits. Last week, in a country of 165 million people, only twenty people worked as sample collectors in a single laboratory, the Daily Star reports. Health officials have announced in a sign of progress that the country now has ninety-two thousand kits and anticipates that eight test laboratories will be active by next week.
Cases are increasing in small South Asian countries: In Afghanistan, where there are 239 cases and four dead on April 2, the Ministry of Hajj and Islamic Affairs Posted an official religious decree to pray at home in areas with limited access. Sri Lanka has 150 confirmed cases and go to expand a curfew in the western province until April 10. Nepal (six cases) and India have Okay to provide food and shelter for other hundreds of stranded citizens on the wrong side of the border. Bhutan has five cases and extended its official quarantine period to three weeks. Maldives have nineteen cases and placed two other stations under surveillance, but so far it appears to have avoided community transmission from the Maldivian to Maldivian virus.
Representatives of the Ministry of Commerce representing the eight member countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meet virtually in early April to discuss the next steps in a unified coronavirus action plan. Follow-up actions could include expansion the group’s online platform for sharing research, training emergency personnel and disease surveillance software.
Editor’s note: this post has been updated to reflect the fact that several Indian statesorganized buses for migrant workers.
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