By Mikaela Viqueira
New Delhi, Jan 30 (efe-epa).- Exactly a year ago from Saturday, India confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus after a student of the University of Wuhan tested positive.
Now, more than 10.7 million cases later, the country has finally received a glimmer of hope of putting behind a pandemic which has devastated the economy and affected the daily life of millions of people.
The small souvenir shop owned by Karam Makan and Manoj Kumar at a tourist market at the heart of New Delhi, had never encounter such a crisis in more than half a century of business, with client footfall dropping by almost 70 percent.
“We are just coming over here, opening the shops, no customers. We need to pay the electricity, the taxes, and the laborers who are working over here,” Makan told EFE.
“Now we can hardly ever see 10 to 20 people coming to the shop in a day, earlier there used to be a lot of people around,” his colleague Kumar asserts, adding that they had reduced prices to cut losses, but to no avail.
With a population of around 1.35 billion and a fragile healthcare system, the Indian government chose to enforce a complete lockdown of the country – exempting only the most basic services – to prevent the spread of Covid-19, nearly two months after the first case was detected.
The sudden measure, announced on Mar. 24 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi just hours before it came into force, led to an immediate humanitarian crisis, with millions of migrant workers getting trapped in cities without any money or ways to return to their hometowns, as all travel had been suspended.
Many of them walked hundreds of kilometers on highways with meager belongings to reach their places of origin, often being driven away from even there over the fear of virus, about which very little was known at the time.
The strict lockdown, which lasted until June, was followed by a gradual reduction in restrictions, although some measures like the closure of borders – except for special international flights – remain in place.