NEW DELHI: India neared 30,000 coronavirus infections on Tuesday, second only to China in Asia, a steady rise that would make it difficult to lift a nearly six-week lockdown that ends this weekend, health officials and some government leaders said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has allowed some farm and industrial activity to resume in less-affected rural areas after the shutdown of the economy left millions without work and short of food and shelter.

But with about 1,500 new cases each day on an average over the past week, the government is facing calls not to ease further and instead keep the world’s biggest shutdown in force beyond May 3, even though the economic distress is deepening.

“India is still on the ascending limb of the epidemic curve and so to ease the restrictions will mean the cases will multiply uncontrollably,” said Dr S.K. Sarin, who leads a government group tackling the outbreak in New Delhi, one of the hotspots.

Garment factories allowed to reopen in BD after the pandemic cost the industry over $3 billion

The number of people infected with the coronavirus stood at 29,434, the health ministry said, a rise of 1,543 over the previous day. So far 934 people have died in India, a small number compared with the United States and parts of western Europe where tens of thousands have died.

But India’s healthcare systems are much more limited than those in developed countries and the fear is that a surge in cases of the kind seen in the United States and Italy could easily overwhelm public hospitals.

“We are recommending that the lockdown be extended after May 3. No mode of public transport be allowed between states,” said Pramod Sawant, chief minister of Goa that draws hundreds of thousands of tourists to its beaches from within India and overseas.

Factories reopen in BD

In Bangladesh, hundreds of garment factories reopened this week nearly a month after the government ordered them shuttered, fuelling fears that the coronavirus disease might spread.

Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said she was under pressure to reopen factories after the pandemic cost the industry more than $3 billion in orders that were cancelled or suspended.

Huq said on Tuesday that about 600 factories had reopened during this week, adhering to health protocols. Workers living near the factories were the first to return to the production lines.

Over 850 factories will reopen soon, Huq added.

Bangladesh has the world’s second largest garment industry after China. It normally earns $35 billion annually from exports, mainly to the United States and Europe, and employs four million workers, mostly women from rural areas.

Bangladesh began its coronavirus lockdown late last month, when factory owners stopped production apart from some sewing of personal protection equipment. Workers left Dhaka and the nearby Narayanganj and Gazipur areas in waves, heading back to their village homes.

Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2020

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