India’s COVID-19 tally crosses 90k as city returnees push numbers in hinterlands

The nationwide COVID-19 tally crossed 90,000 on Saturday with new cases getting detected from Ganjam in Odisha to Patna in Bihar to Thrissur in Kerala, and mostly among people having returned from big Indian cities or even from abroad.
Several big urban centres also continued to report large numbers, with just five of them — Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Pune — now taking a share of over 50 per cent in the nationwide count of the deadly virus infection with close to 46,000 cases. These five also account for over half of the nationwide death toll of close to nearly 2,800 so far.
Besides, at least 35 migrant workers were killed and many more were injured in road accidents during the day in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh while trying to return to their native places. Most of them had hitched rides in trucks while a couple was in an autorickshaw for a journey running into hundreds of kilometers.
Lakhs of migrant workers in different parts of the country had begun walking back to their native places after being rendered jobless, and many of them homeless too, due to a nationwide lockdown, which is in place since March 25.
While special trains are being run now by the government and some states have also arranged for buses to take them back to their homes, not all places are said to be connected by these trains and large numbers of people remain on roads. The government in the meantime unveiled a slew of “structural reforms”, including to allow private players in mining of coal and minerals and also in future projects for planetary exploration, outer space travel and satellite launches.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said these structural reforms, aimed at boosting economic growth and creating jobs, form part of the fourth tranche of the Rs 20 lakh crore special economic package announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make India self-reliant in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Modi said the measures announced by Sitharaman will create many business opportunities and contribute to the country’s economic transformation.
Leading industry body Assocham said these measures would give “new wings to India” and demonopolise core sectors.
Left parties, however, accused the government of using the COVID-19 pandemic to “impose the agenda of the rich” and privatise public assets.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said cash assistance should be given to the poor and vulnerable sections who are in dire need of money due to the lockdown.
The third phase of the nationwide lockdown is scheduled to end on Sunday and there are expectations that the fourth phase beginning Monday may give significant relaxations for various economic activities even as a complete exit is unlikely given the continuous rise in the number of COVID-19 cases.
In its morning update, the Union Health Ministry said the death toll due to COVID-19 has risen to 2,752 and the number of cases has climbed to 85,940, registering an increase of 103 deaths and 3,970 cases in the last 24 hours since Friday 8 AM. It put the number of active cases at 53,035, while more than 30,000 have recovered so far.
However, a PTI tally of figures announced by states and union territories, as of 9.15 PM, put the total number of confirmed cases at 90,326, deaths at 2,790 and recoveries at over 33,500.
India is the 11th most affected nation in terms of the total number of confirmed cases, while it is eighth largest in terms of active cases after the US, Russia, Brazil, France, Italy, Spain and Peru.
However, the total number of cases in Mumbai itself is more than that of many countries including Poland, Ukraine, Indonesia, Romania, Israel, Japan, Austria, South Africa, Philippines, Egypt, Denmark and South Korea.
Delhi also has more cases than Panama and Norway, while even Ahmedabad’s tally exceeds Argentina, Australia, Malaysia, Bahrain, Finland and Afghanistan. Chennai also has more cases than Kazakhstan, Oman and Luxembourg, Thailand and Greece, among other countries.
Several countries have begun relaxing their lockdowns, though there have been concerns about re-emergence of the virus spread including in China and several European countries.
In India, some states have already said they want the lockdown restrictions to continue further, while Punjab has become the first to extend it till May 31 but without curfew restrictions.
Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala, however, supported restarting of domestic flights as well as opening of schools and universities, as he stressed on resumption of normal life while dealing with COVID-19. His state reported 33 new cases, including 14 in Gurgaon on the outskirts of the national capital.
Delhi reported 438 new cases, taking its tally to 9,333, while its death toll rose to 129.
Delhi is the third worst hit among the major urban centres after Mumbai and Ahmedabad, which reported 884 and 973 new cases, respectively. The COVID-19 case count in Ahmedabad has now risen to 8,144, while its death toll has grown to 493.
Mumbai’s tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases has risen to 18,396, while its death toll due to the pandemic is now 696 with 41 new deaths.
Chennai also saw its tally rising to 6,261. Among other major urban centres, Pune, Surat and Indore have also been reporting large numbers of cases.
Tamil Nadu’s overall tally has risen to 10,585, while Gujarat has also now crossed the 10,000-mark on Saturday with 1,057 new patients being found positive for coronavirus including 709 “super spreaders” in Ahmedabad.
Gujarat now has 10,989 cases with 625 deaths, while Maharashtra’s COVID-19 tally crossed the 30,000-mark with 1,606 new cases and 67 more fatalities took its death toll to 1,135.
However, worries have also been mounting about a new phase of coronavirus infections with states like Kerala and Goa, which had become virtually free of new infections, have begun reporting new cases while the numbers have started rising rapidly in places like Odisha, Bihar and Assam too in the last few days.
Most of the new cases across states are being linked to the influx of people from other states or other countries in special trains, flights and buses.
In Odisha, 65 people tested positive during the day, taking its total to 737, and officials said most of these cases are among people who had returned from other states. Ganjam in south Odisha now accounts for the highest number of cases in the state at 277 and most of these people have returned from Gujarat and other states.
In Kerala, 11 people tested positive for COVID-19, including four from Thrissur district, three from Kozhikode and two each from Palakkad and Malappuram. All of them had come from outside the state — seven from abroad and two each from Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.
Nearly 57,000 people are under observation in the state at present, out of which about 3,000 came to the state through airports, nearly 800 from sea ports, over 1,000 through train and over 50,320 via road.
In Tripura also, 11 people, including seven BSF jawans, tested positive on Saturday.
Bihar recorded 46 new cases, including in Patna which now has 105 cases. The number of cases in Bihar has risen sharply since the beginning of the month, mainly because of migrants returning to their native places in large numbers by special trains in addition to other modes of transport.
According to the state health department, 427 of returnees since May 4 have tested positive for COVID-9. Most of them had come from Delhi, Gujarat and Maharashtra.