Govt orders sealing of state, dist borders; death toll up to 27

As a mother, I am pained when I cannot feed my children. No one is there to help… We will die of hunger before any disease if we stay here —Savitri (30), Delhi slum dweller on 400-km walk home to UP’s Kannauj district

NEW DELHI: The nationwide tally of confirmed Coronavirus cases crossed the 1,000-mark and the death toll reached 27 on Sunday, even as the central government ordered sealing of all state and district borders to check community transmission of the deadly virus by migrant workers and asked those having left already to be quarantined for 14 days.
The total number of positive cases has increased by 106 in the last 24 hours to reach 1,024 and eight more persons died in this period to take the nationwide toll to 27, according to the latest official figures.
As the 21-day lockdown entered its 5th day, the exodus of migrant workers from big cities continued unabated, desperate to return to their villages after being left jobless and many of them without food or shelter. Charitable organisations, volunteers, religious institutions and government bodies including Railway Protection Force fed tens of thousands of people across the nation but many more remained outside the safety net.
The government announced some more exemptions to the lockdown by allowing movement of all goods, irrespective of those being in essential or non-essential categories. But, a panic-like situation emerged due to mass exodus of migrant workers from various parts of the country, including the national capital, Maharashtra and Kerala, where a large number of people came out of relief camps and demanded being allowed to go to their homes. A migrant worker reportedly died of heart attack in Uttar Pradesh after walking more than 200 kms on way to his hometown in Madhya Pradesh from Delhi.
“People are talking about the danger of some virus which can kill all of us. I don’t understand all these. As a mother, I am pained when I cannot feed my children. No one is there to help. All are equally worried about their lives,” Savitri, 30, a New Delhi slum dweller, told PTI as she walked along the Mathura Highway carrying her belongings on her head. “We will die of hunger before any disease if we stay here,” she said, determined to walk 400 kms to her village in Uttar Pradesh’s Kannauj district.
Hundreds of migrant workers also gathered again near the Anand Vihar terminus near the Delhi-UP border, hoping to board buses to their villages but they were turned back by police. A large number were seen walking in groups on highways and even on railway tracks.
Concerned over such movements causing the risk of a community spread, the Centre asked state governments and Union Territory administrations to effectively seal all state and district borders and said those having already left be quarantined for 14 days.
During a video conference with chief secretaries and DGPs, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba and Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla asked them to ensure that there is no movement of people across cities or on highways as the lockdown continues. “There has been movement of migrant workers in some parts of the country. Directions were issued that district and state borders should be effectively sealed,” an official statement said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Maharashtra’s Uddhav Thackeray, among other state leaders, asked migrant workers in their respective states to stay put and promised them food and other facilities.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also wrote to Modi, saying the sudden lockdown has created immense “panic” and “confusion”.
He called for steps other than a total lockdown announced by some developed nations to tackle the deadly disease. Gandhi said the number of poor people in India who are dependent on a daily income is too large to unilaterally shut down all economic activities in the wake of the pandemic.
“The consequences of a complete economic shut down will disastrously amplify the death toll arising from COVID-19,” he feared.
In its latest update on Sunday evening, the Union Health Ministry said the death toll due to COVID-19 has risen to 27 and the total number of positive cases has risen to 1,024 as at 7.30 pm. The number of active COVID-19 cases in the country was 901, while 95 people were either cured or discharged and one had migrated.
While the total number of deaths in India is still low compared to many other countries, there are widespread concerns including among the experts that the count may see a sudden spike and social distancing remains the only way to prevent community spread. (PTI)

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