03/23/2020, 00.00
SOUTH ASIA
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Coronavirus: up to 300 million people could be affected in india

In Dhaka’s slums are hole to more than 650,000. In Bhutan the king addressed the nation. All the countries in the area close their borders. The Catholic Church has suspended Masses, Lent activities. In Afghanistan, people continue to die from the war.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – In South Asia, the coronavirus pandemic could see its worst-case scenario unfold in the immediate future. in light of this, international borders have shut down across the region, and travel within countries is being restricted.

At top of the list stand India, where scientists point to possibly 300 million cases, and Bangladesh where the capital, Dhaka, sports 3,394 slums, home to 650,000 people, at risk of the rapidly spreading virus because of poor hygiene conditions.

Yesterday India came to halt for its first total curfew (Janata curfew), from 7 am to 9 pm.

The total number of positive COVID-19 cases stood at 415 with seven deaths, India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare reported Monday morning.

Based on the shortcomings of yesterday's lockdown, the authorities are critical of the way people have responded, with many violating the curfew, thus putting at risk the health of their fellow citizens.

For experts, India’s huge territory and population and its pockets of extreme poverty are factors that could eventually give it the sad record of deadliest country in the world.

Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy in Delhi (CDDEP), expects 200 and 300 million people to be infected, 10 million seriously.

In his view, the country’s health system could cope with this number of patients, but not if the peak happened “within a two or three-week window”.

Hence, India’s various levels of government are taking drastic containment measures. All metro rail companies have been shut down until 31 March. Delhi will be locked down from 6 am on 23 March until midnight on 31 March.

According to the health ministry, at least 82 districts in 23 states across the country were shut by 8 pm on Sunday.

Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Chandigarh were among the states and Union territories place under complete lockdown on Sunday until 31 March.

India’s Catholic Church has heeded to the government’s directives. In Mumbai, Card Oswald Gracias cancelled Masses until 4 April. In north-eastern India, Churches went on a lockdown.

In Bangladesh, the most worrying situation is in the capital, with its high concentration of poor people living on the streets or in slums. So far, 27 people have tested positive to the COVID-19 virus with three deaths.

Last week Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina cancelled all public, political and religious events. In Suihari, where PIME missionaries operate, all liturgical activities associated with Lent have been suspended.

Pakistan is the South Asian country with the highest number of infected people: 803 cases and three deaths.

Today the country celebrated a scaled-down Republic Day. In his message to the nation, President Arif Alvi stressed the message of “Unity, Faith, and Discipline” dear to the country’s Founding Father, Mohammed Ali Jinnah

The president thanked doctors and health professionals who “are the first line of defence in this crisis, and the nation salutes them for their unrelenting and selfless endeavours.”

In Nepal, where only one person is infected, the government has closed the borders with India and China for a week starting today.

Nepali Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali announced a 500 million rupees fund in which each minister will donate a monthly salary to buy protective masks, gloves, gowns, thermometers, ventilators and monitors.

The authorities admitted having limited medical equipment and asked for medical aid from Nepal’s two neighbours.

This morning Bhutan too shut its borders. So far, it has reported only one infection, but 33 people are quarantined in Samdrupjongkhar.

Also this morning, Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck released a video message, noting that schools and other facilities remain closed to protect citizens. The king also urges his compatriots abroad to come home, adding that to ensure health and safety, the authorities are “putting in place every measure necessary to safeguard the people of Bhutan.”

In Afghanistan, the virus has not stopped Taliban attacks following the start of the US pullout.

According to security forces, the attacks have considerably increased in the past three days in 14 provinces. Three attacks occurred in Kunduz, local Police Chief Bashir Rasheed reported, with at least 27 Taliban fighters killed.

Meanwhile, the population is starting to be affected by the pandemic, with 40 people testing positive and one death.

In Sri Lanka more than 3,000 people are in quarantine centres in various areas. Yesterday Sunday Mass by the Archdiocese of Colombo was again broadcast live on television.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 86. Police arrested 1,754 people for violating the curfew.

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