Thousands of migrant labourers, the poor and daily wage earners on Saturday (March 28, 2020) continued to move out of the big cities including the national capital of Delhi to return to their respective native places on the fourth days of the 21-day lockdown to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus COVID-19. Huge crowds of those wanting to return to their home towns and villages were witnessed in several parts of Delhi, taking the arduous trek of several kilometres on foot even as the coronavirus pandemic infected 918 people across India and over 6.40 lakh worldwide.
With the threat of coronavirus increasing due to the mass migrations, the Centre authorised all the states to use the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) to provide relief measures to the migrant workers during the lockdown period. According to the new rules of the SDRF, provision for temporary accommodation, food, clothing medical cure etc., would be applicable to homeless people, including migrant labourers, stranded due to lockdown measures and sheltered in relief camps and other places, a home ministry official said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday announced the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund’ (PM CARES Fund), a public charitable trust. The fund has been set up so that the people who want to contribute can do so by following a few simple steps which will help the government tide over the major COVID-19 hurdle.
At least 10 migrant workers were killed in two separate incidents in Maharashtra and Telangana when they were walking back towards their native places.
Four migrant workers from Rajasthan were crushed to death and three seriously injured when a tempo ran over them as they were walking along a highway in Maharashtra's Palghar district. In Hyderabad, six persons were killed when a truck carrying labourers back to their villages in Karnataka was rammed by a lorry on Outer Ring Road on Hyderabad outskirts. Six others were injured in the accident which occurred when 30 labourers, rendered jobless due to lockdown, were returning to their villages in Raichur district of Karnataka.
Coronavirus status worldwide
In an initiative to show solidarity with India and other nations, Burj Khalifa in Dubai lit up in Hindi among other languages over the coronavirus pandemic.
Globally, the total number of positive cases reached 640,589 and 29,848 people died according to figures by Johns Hopkins University at 11:45 pm IST on Saturday. The last 24 hours have been a major spurt in the number of positive cases and deaths.
The latest figures show that much work remains to be done to slow the virus' spread. The US now leads the world in reported infections with more than 110,000 cases followed by other worst-hit five other nations - Italy, Spain, Germany, Iran and France. Italy has recorded the maximum deaths which have exceeded 10,000 while Spain has over 5,000 deaths and Iran 2,500 fatalities.
"We cannot completely prevent infections at this stage, but we can and must in the immediate future achieve fewer new infections per day, a slower spread," German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is in quarantine at home after her doctor tested positive for the virus, told her compatriots in an audio message. Merkel appealed to Germans to be patient. Her chief of staff said Germany, where authorities closed nonessential shops and banned gatherings of more than two in public, won't relax its restrictions before April 20.
The virus has already has put health systems in Italy, Spain and France under extreme strain. Lockdowns of varying severity have been introduced across Europe, nearly emptying streets in normally bustling cities, including Paris where drone photos showed the city's landmarks eerily deserted.
In Spain, where stay-at-home restrictions have been in place for nearly two weeks, reported 832 more deaths on Saturday, its highest daily count yet. Another 8,000 confirmed infections pushed that count above 72,000. But Spain's director of emergencies, Fernando Simon, saw a ray of hope, noting that the rate of infection is slowing and figures indicate that the outbreak is stabilizing and may be reaching its peak in some areas.
Doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers in Spain's worst-hit regions are working nonstop and falling ill at an alarming rate. More than 9,000 health workers in the country have been infected. "We are completely overwhelmed," said paramedic Pablo Rojo at Barcelona's Dos de Maig hospital. Seven or eight (patients transported today) and all with COVID-19. ... And the average age is decreasing. They're not 80 years old anymore, they are now 30 and 40 years old. Sometimes you become a bit paranoid, you don't know any more when you pick up the phone if you have cleaned your hands if you've sanitized them or not. You touch your face with your hands," Rojo said.
Spain has struggled to get coronavirus tests and protective gear for health workers. The government has started flights to transport the supplies directly from China to reduce waiting times.
In prosperous Finland, police at roadblocks started restricting the movement of people into and out of its worst-hit Uusimaa region, which includes the capital, Helsinki. In parts of Africa, virus prevention measures took a violent turn as countries imposed lockdowns and curfews or sealed off major cities, with police in Kenya firing tear gas and officers elsewhere captured on video hitting people with batons.
Countries are still scrambling bring home some citizens stranded abroad by border closures and a near-shutdown of flights. On Saturday, 174 foreign tourists and four Nepali nationals in the foothills of Mount Everest were flown out days after being stranded on the only airstrip serving the world's highest mountain.
The effects of the outbreak have been felt by the powerful and the poor alike. On March 27, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first leader of a major country to test positive for the virus. He said he would continue to work from self-quarantine.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and lead to death. More than 135,000 people have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins.