India lets migrants go home days before 2nd phase of lockdown ends

New Delhi, Apr 29 (EFE).- India on Wednesday eased restrictions to allow millions of stranded people, mostly migrant laborers, to go home, days before the second phase of the nationwide lockdown ends this weekend amid a growing number of coronavirus deaths and patients.

“Migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students, and other persons are stranded at different places in the country. Now, the center has permitted the movement of these stranded persons by road,” a government statement said.

The statement said the stranded people could move between one state to another “after the concerned states consult each other and mutually agree to”.

The travelers will be screened and “those found asymptomatic would be allowed to proceed”, the government said.

“After arriving at their destination, they will have to stay in home quarantine for 14 days, unless institutional quarantine is advised.”

The government will run buses to facilitate the interstate movement while ensuring strictly social distancing in the seating arrangements.

The order came days before the nearly six-week lockdown ends on Sunday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this week held a fourth video conference meeting with 10 chief ministers to discuss an exit plan from the lockdown.

Millions of people have been stuck in the states where they were on Mar.24 when Modi announced the nationwide mandatory stay-at-home orders on a four-hour short notice to curb the Covid-19 outbreak in a country of 1.3 billion residents.

The worst-hit by the strict restrictions, which include a ban on all inter-state transport links, have been migrant workers, who move from small towns and villages to far-off cities for work in factories and at construction sites.

Several among the hundreds of thousands of stranded laborers had even started the journey by foot to reach their homes hundreds of miles away.

The movement of migrants from cities to villages almost turned into an exodus, defying the social distancing and lockdown amid concerns about the spread of infection.

India, the world’s second-most populous country that has some of the most-densely crowded cities on the planet, has nearly 32,000 Covid-19 cases and a little over 1,000 deaths so far, according to Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker.

However, the complete halt in economic activity has severely affected its sizable poor and migrant populations, mostly engaged in the unorganized sector.

The government earlier announced a $23 billion aid package to help the poor, including migrant workers. However, critics say it was never enough, as the number of Covid-19 patients has been steadily climbing, despite the stringent measures. EFE


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