BANGALORE: India’s IT hub Bangalore went into a new weeklong lockdown on Tuesday as the number of coronavirus cases surged, while economic data from Singapore to Britain revealed the shocking extent of the damage wrought by the global pandemic.

India joins a raft of countries and cities across the globe to re-impose restrictions in the face of new outbreaks of the disease.

After imposing one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in late March, the country of 1.3 billion people had been steadily easing rules to lessen the huge economic impact — particularly on vast numbers of poor Indians who lost their jobs.

But infections have continued to soar, passing 900,000 with almost 24,000 deaths, according to health ministry figures that many experts say underplay the severity of the situation.

Bangalore, home to more than 13 million people, has emerged as a new hotspot and the southern city started a new seven-day lockdown at 8pm.

Firms in the city’s lifeblood IT sector handling the back-office operations of dozens of global corporations can continue operating, but with only half the staff allowed on premises at any one time. Transport is banned except for emergencies, and only shops selling essential items are allowed to open.

“I do not want to take chances... I am stocking up for two weeks,” said Mangala, a housewife, as she joined a long queue to buy provisions ahead of the deadline.

Bihar, home to around 125 million people and one of India’s poorest states, will follow into lockdown on Thursday for 15 days, the local government announ­ced, following a record surge in cases.

The western city of Pune and other states including Uttar Pradesh, home to 200 million people, badly hit Tamil Nadu and Assam have also introduced new restrictions.

Other countries have been re-imposing restrictions as new infections spread like wildfire.

“There will be no return to the ‘old normal’ for the foreseeable future,” World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday, warning that without governments adopting a comprehensive strategy, the situation would get “worse and worse and worse”.

In England, face masks will become compulsory in shops and supermarkets from next week, the health secretary said on Tuesday in a U-turn on previous policy.

Face masks have been mandatory on public transport across the country since June 15, and Scotland has already made the coverings compulsory for shoppers.

After overseeing drastically downscaled Bastille Day celebrations in Paris, French President Emma­nuel Macron said he would like to make masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces.

“We have indications that (the outbreak) is accelerating a bit,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2020

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