Migrants workers start fleeing cities as 2nd Covid-19 wave grips India

New Delhi, Apr 8 (efe-epa).- India on Thursday added a record-high of more than 126,000 new Covid-19 cases as several states announced restrictions, causing hundreds of migrant laborers to flee cities over fears of job losses.

The federal health ministry said 126,789 new patients tested positive for Covid-19 in the last 24 hours from Wednesday morning, while some 685 lost their lives in the same period.

India has been struggling with a second wave of the coronavirus with a steep rise in the daily numbers after infections had plummeted to less than 10,000 cases and 100 deaths a day in February.

The country has an overall tally of 12.9 million cases – the third-highest after the United States (31 million) and Brazil (13.1 million) – and a total 166,862 deaths.

Over the last seven days, India has recorded an average of more than 80,000 cases per day, prompting several states to impose restrictions such as night curfews and limiting office attendance.

Tamil Nadu in the south and Uttar Pradesh in the north announced Thursday a slew of restrictions to check the surge in Covid-19 cases.

The national capital, New Delhi, which has also seen a spike in infections, has imposed a curfew from 10 pm to 5 am until Apr.30.

No activity barring essential services will be allowed during the restricted hours.

Even though a nationwide lockdown like last year remains unlikely, the current restrictions in New Delhi and its satellite towns of Noida and Greater Noida have stoked fears among migrant workers.

Last year, a complete nationwide lockdown resulted in millions of migrant workers trekking hundreds of kilometers to their homes as their livelihood was impacted.

On Thursday morning, hordes of people were waiting to catch buses at interstate bus depots in Delhi. But not all of them were leaving due to lockdown fears.

For some of them, it was a part of yearly reverse migration to return home for harvesting season. But for many others, the fear of joblessness in the wake of restrictions seemed as overwhelming.

Jeetendra and a group of laborers were on their way back to Badaun in Uttar Pradesh from in Leh, Ladakh.

He said they used to get raw materials from the capital, and their contractor, apprehending a lockdown, feared the supply would get disrupted.

“So, he told us to stop the work and head back home,” Jeetendra told an EFE-EPA journalist at the Anand Vihar bus terminus in east Delhi.

Ramesh Kushwaha worked at an eatery in central Delhi’s Paharganj and was now going home in Gorakhpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh.

“The owner of the eatery shut down after the government announced night curfew in Delhi. We had nothing to fend for ourselves and are going home now,” Kushwaha said.

Raju, a three-wheeler rickshaw driver in Delhi who generally earns Rs.75-150 ($1-$2) a day, said that “food would not be a problem at home. But surviving in Delhi without earning will be impossible.”

Many migrant laborers in western Mumbai and southern Bengaluru cities were seen heading home since Wednesday.

India began its inoculation drive in January and more than 90 million health workers and other citizens have received at least one shot so far.

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