India’s high-tech hub of Bengaluru went back into a coronavirus lockdown for a week yesterday after a surge of infections, threatening to derail government efforts to revive a stuttering economy.
Places of worship, public transport, government offices and most shops will close again from the evening, and people will be confined to their homes, only allowed out for essential needs.
Schools, colleges and restaurants will remain shut, authorities said.
Bengaluru, home to some of the world’s biggest IT firms such as Infosys, had only about 1,000 coronavirus cases in mid-June and was seen to have fared better than other parts of India in terms of testing and contact tracing.
But infections had grown to nearly 20,000 by Monday, something health experts blamed on the lifting of restrictions in June when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, worried about the economy, ended a nationwide lockdown that had thrown millions of people out of work.
Bengaluru began seeing a surge in infections from late June as both testing and the movement of people picked up, Hephsiba Korlapati, a senior official in the city’s Covid-19 response team, said.
In all, India has 906,752 cases of the novel coronavirus with 28,498 new infections reported yesterday, according to data from the federal Health Ministry, the third highest total in the world behind Brazil and the United States.
While cases in the main cities of Mumbai and Delhi account for most of the tally, infections are picking up in smaller cities, forcing authorities to re-impose curbs.
The western city of Pune, which is also an industrial and tech hub, began a 10-day shutdown on Monday while cities as far flung as Shillong in the remote northeast to Srinagar, the main city of Kashmir in the far north, imposed new curbs on movements to contain the virus.
Jitendra Singh, a junior minister in charge of the prime minister’s office, quarantined himself yesterday after Ravinder Raina, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) president in Jammu and Kashmir, tested positive for Covid.
Singh visited the region with Raina and several members of the BJP after a party worker was killed last week by militants.
Twenty-four BJP workers also tested positive in Patna, capital of the eastern state of Bihar, according to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who imposed a 16-day strict lockdown in the state.
“All city municipalities, district headquarters, block headquarters will stay under lockdown. The guidelines are being finalised,” eputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi tweeted.
Bihar yesterday saw a record 1,432 cases, the third consecutive day with more than 1,000 new infections, taking the state’s total to almost 19,000 with 134 deaths according to the local health authorities.
“There is no medicine or vaccine for corona. We have to ensure that we cover our faces with masks, handkerchiefs or towels,” the deputy chief minister said.
The new curbs raised questions about prospects for India’s growth, according to Japan’s biggest brokerage and investment bank Nomura.
“We also find growing evidence that after the initial normalisation in activity, mobility trends have started to plateau and fall lately,” Nomura said in a note.
“This implies that growth could remain below pre-pandemic peaks for a prolonged period of time.”
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