Covid-19 in India

UK, Hong Kong start travel curbs to India, Delhi goes into Covid lockdown

Migrant workers arrive at a bus station to board buses to return to their villages after Delhi government ordered a six-day lockdown to limit the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ghaziabad on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, April 19, 2021.
Migrant workers arrive at a bus station to board buses to return to their villages after Delhi government ordered a six-day lockdown to limit the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ghaziabad on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, April 19, 2021. © REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Britain has joined Hong Kong in announcing a ban on arrivals from India as the country battles a second wave of the Covid-19 virus. India’s capital has begun a strict six-day lockdown with its healthcare system at breaking point with thousands of new cases. The government also promised coronavirus jabs to all adults starting 1 May as it shored up efforts to boost vaccine production.

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Britain on Monday added India on its 'red list' of countries, banning all arrivals from the South Asian country. The announcement came as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also cancelled a month-end trip which was aimed to ramp up trade and investment relations with India.

The UK order said people who may have travelled from India in the last 10 days will be denied entry from Friday while British nationals will face health quarantine.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong also suspended flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines for two weeks after the South African mutant of the new coronavirus surfaced in the Asian financial hub.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also advised American travellers against heading to India even if they were fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

India is the world’s second worst hit country after the United States which has reported about 32.4 million infections.

Migrant workers flee Delhi

Meanwhile, Delhi’s elected chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said the new six-day lockdown was designed to prevent the collapse of the healthcare system in the bustling capital city, which has reported 877,000 coronavirus cases and 12,361 Covid-19 deaths so far.

“Our health systems have reached its limit … We have almost no I.C.U. beds left. We are facing a huge shortage of oxygen and if we don't impose a lockdown now, we might face a bigger calamity,” Kejriwal added.

The warning which came a day after the city of 20 million posted its biggest single-day spike of 25,462 cases Sunday sparked an exodus of migrant workers from Delhi.

“We rather die of Covid than hunger,” carpenter Vijay Sahu told RFI as he teamed up with hundreds of others making a desperate dash for their hometowns in eastern India.

Entire families of workers with their belongings were seen heading for city bus stations on Tuesday.

International experts such as US-based health policy researcher Ashish Jha said India may have reacted late to the pandemic’s devastating second wave.

“Case numbers have been rising for two months and by late February it was very clear that another wave was coming…. The policy response is just too slow,” Jha told a local television station as several other cities also shut down.

“Localized lockdowns make some sense but other than that I would try to avoid anything national,” Jha added.

India vows jabs for all

India’s government meanwhile promised coronavirus shots for all adults from 1 May, widening the state-sponsored inoculation campaign which had initially offered jabs to frontline workers and then to people above 60.

The announcement came a day before India recorded 259,170 new infections on Tuesday, taking the total number of cases beyond 15.3 million and 181,000 deaths so far.

Raghav Chadha, a Delhi lawmaker, said it was unclear how the government planned to meet the ambitious vaccination target.

“We have seen in the last few weeks 64.5 million doses of precious, life-saving vaccines have been exported to more than 84 countries and that indiscriminate export has caused a huge supply gap in India,” he argued.

“You cannot achieve vaccine universalization in the absence of vaccine nationalism,” the city politician added.

Last week, the federal government last week said it had shots to last nine days.

Some inoculation centers in a leafy Delhi suburb turned away vaccine-seekers for the second straight day Tuesday.

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