Fresh lockdown restrictions imposed in parts of India to stem Covid-19 spike

By Sarwar Kashani

Srinagar, India, July 23 (efe-epa).- Several regions in India imposed fresh restriction on Thursday to stem the rapidly aggravating Covid-19 pandemic as the country struggles with a nationwide tally of infections crossing the 1.2-million mark and fatalities nearing 30,000.

While most of the infections have been reported from bigger states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh with very high caseloads, the surge has also gripped the relatively smaller states with a significantly large number of cases recorded in the last couple of weeks.

India now has the third-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, after the United States (4.1 million) and Brazil (2.2 million).

The wave of infections has risen steadily since the government relaxed the nationwide lockdown on June 8 with the country witnessing a devastating jump in the number cases since then.

The Muslim-majority region of Kashmir on Wednesday announced strict restrictions for six days, almost a week before Eid-ul-Adha, a major Muslim festival of animal sacrifice to be celebrated on Aug. 1.

The government said the “complete lockdown” would remain in place till 6 am on July 27, with the movement of essential services, goods carriers, and oil tankers exempted.

The government has also allowed agricultural and construction activities to go unhindered during the new lockdown period.

Shops and businesses were shut across the idyllic valley amid barricaded and deserted roads that remain dotted by mask-wearing security personnel.

People were not allowed to leave their homes since early morning on Thursday.

A district administration official in Srinagar told EFE that the lockdown was imposed to prevent crowds at market places since people had started “taking precautions lightly amid an Eid shopping frenzy.”

“If the situation improves, the lockdown would be relaxed a couple of days before the festival to let people shop essentials for Eid,” the official said.

The federally-administered region has recorded nearly 16,000 cases of the disease with 273 deaths.

Kashmir’s summer capital of Srinagar, with 3,500 infections and 71 deaths, has emerged as a coronavirus hotbed in the region of 10 million people.

The government earlier this week canceled the annual Hindu pilgrimage to a holy cave shrine in the snowy mountains of the region amid an alarming surge in cases.

Organizers of the historic pilgrimage, which involves a nearly 50-km (30 miles) trek to the icy cave across glaciers and waterlogged mountainous paths, said the event was called off due to a “very sharp” spike in the number of Covid-19 cases.

“The health concerns are so serious that the strain on the health system, along with the diversion in resources to the yatra (pilgrimage), will be immense,” the organizers said in a statement earlier this week.

Restrictions were also reimposed elsewhere in India, including in the northeastern state of Manipur where the government ordered a complete lockdown for 14 days from Wednesday amid a steep hike in the number of infections.

Normal life in neighboring West Bengal in India’s east came to an abrupt halt on Thursday as the state government ordered a complete lockdown to break the chain of fast-rising coronavirus cases.

Shops were shuttered and transport off the road as part of the state’s plan to impose a total lockdown on two days every week till August to stem the spread.

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