India extends lockdown for two weeks, relaxes some restrictions
The world’s largest coronavirus lockdown will stretch beyond May 4 for two weeks, the Indian government said Friday but with some relaxing of restrictions — including for alcohol.
The lockout enforced at the end of March caused suffering for millions of employees in India’s large informal sector and hit Asia’s third-biggest economy by a huge blow.
In a statement the home ministry said that despite “significant gains in the COVID-19 situation,” areas with few or no cases will see “considerable relaxations.”
Due to the lockdown, air traffic and passenger trains ceased, and only “critical goods” were permitted to be transported, creating major problems as well as much uncertainty for industry and agriculture.
Hundreds of thousands of migrant labourers in particular were left overnight unemployed, causing a massive migration of people back to their home villages, many on foot, and leaving others dependent on handouts.
However, as of Friday, with 1,152 deaths, the stringent restrictions were credited with holding reported cases of coronavirus to around 35,000 cases.
But some analysts have said the vast 1.3 billion nation, home to some of the world’s most overcrowded cities where “social distancing” is practically impossible, isn’t enough to test.
However, there are worries that if the virus catches hold in a big way, it will seriously strain India’s health care system which is poorly funded by international contrast.