South Asian virus cases top 37,000, while govts eye end to lockdown

NEW DELHI: South Asia’s coronavirus infections have crossed 37,000, with more than half in India, official data showed on Thursday, complicating the task of governments looking to scale back lockdowns that have destroyed the livelihoods of millions.
Authorities in India sought this week to ease a stringent 40-day lockdown of the population of 1.3 billion by allowing farm and industrial activity in the least-affected rural areas. But more than 1,400 new cases reported on Wednesday, for one of India’s biggest single-day jumps in recent weeks, carried its tally to 21,392 infections.
“We have to remain focused in this fight, the effort is to stop the spread at any cost,” said Satyendra Jain, the health minister of Delhi, one of India’s top three virus hotspots. “If we want end the lockdown, we have to bring down the number of red zones.”
Meanwhile, The nationwide lockdown in India which started about a month ago has impacted nearly 40 million internal migrants, the World Bank has said.
The lockdown in India has impacted the livelihoods of a large proportion of the country’s nearly 40 million internal migrants. Around 50,000 60,000 moved from urban centres to rural areas of origin in the span of a few days, the bank said in a report released on Wednesday.
According to the report – ‘COVID-19 Crisis Through a Migration Lens’ – the magnitude of internal migration is about two-and-a-half times that of international migration.
Lockdowns, loss of employment, and social distancing prompted a chaotic and painful process of mass return for internal migrants in India and many countries in Latin America, it said. Thus, the COVID-19 containment measures might have contributed to spreading the epidemic, the report said.
Governments need to address the challenges facing internal migrants by including them in health services and cash transfer and other social programmes, and protecting them from discrimination, it said. World Bank said that coronavirus crisis has affected both international and internal migration in the South Asia region.
As the early phases of the crisis unfolded, many international migrants, especially from the Gulf countries, returned to countries such as India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh until travel restrictions halted these flows.
Some migrants had to be evacuated by governments, such as those of China and Iran, it said. Before the coronavirus crisis, migrant outflows from the region were robust, the report said. The number of recorded, primarily low-skilled emigrants from India and Pakistan rose in 2019 relative to the prior year but is expected to decline in 2020 due to the pandemic and oil price declines impacting the Gulf countries.
In India, the number of low-skilled emigrants seeking mandatory clearance for emigration rose slightly by eight percent to 368,048 in 2019. In Pakistan, the number of emigrants jumped 63 per cent to 6,25,203 in 2019, largely due to a doubling of emigration to Saudi Arabia, it said. According to the bank, migration flows are likely to fall, but the stock of international migrants may not decrease immediately, since migrants cannot return to their countries due to travel bans and disruption to transportation services.
In 2019, there were around 272 million international migrants. The rate of voluntary return migration is likely to fall, except in the case of a few cross-border migration corridors in the South (such as Venezuela-Colombia, Nepal-India, Zimbabwe South Africa, Myanmar-Thailand), it said.–Agencies