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India’s coronavirus cases tick up despite immense lockdown

NEW DELHI — Three more people infected

with coronavirus died overnight in India as the government

sought on Thursday to improve basic services to 1.3 billion

people locked indoors to slow the spread of the disease.

Streets were silent across India’s cities and towns on the

second day of a three-week, 24 hour shutdown as people heeded

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call not to step out of homes

except in emergencies or to buy food and other necessities.

Lines of people, wearing masks and some with gloves, could

be seen outside small neighborhood shops in Delhi and Mumbai,

among other cities.

Trucks were stranded at state borders and public transport

was withdrawn. Police have strictly enforced the lockdown even

though Modi said essential services would be maintained.

Ram Prakash, a shopkeeper in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area, said

supplies of some essential goods had improved although bottled

water was still a problem.

“We are still facing supply issues with a few things, but

slowly things are getting better,” he said.

The health ministry said the number of cases of coronavirus

had risen to 649, of which 13 had died.

The numbers are still small compared with those in China,

Italy and Spain, but health experts have warned that the world’s

second most populous country faces a tidal wave of infections if

tough steps are not taken.

Dr. Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergencies expert, told a

Geneva news conference that with the lockdown in place, India

had a window of opportunity to expand testing, surveillance and

quarantine facilities and said its success with eliminating

polio was an example.

“India got rid of polio by breaking it by breaking it down

to the village level. All the way through the system, it broke

down the problem, it went after the polio virus district by

district by district by district. And India won.”

“If India does the same thing, breaks down the problem, puts

in place the measures that are needed, then there is a way out.”

India has tested 24,254 people as of Wednesday, according to

the government run Indian Council of Medical Research, a small

number compared to the population.

Only recently has the government authorized the private

sector and some nongovernmental research laboratories to run the

tests for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

HIKERS STRANDED NEAR EVEREST

The number of cases rose to 1,102 in neighboring Pakistan

with eight deaths, with most cases in Sindh province that is

under a lockdown. But infections in Punjab, the most populous

province, are picking up now, government data showed.

On Wednesday, Pakistan said it was seeking a fresh $1.4

billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help

it deal with the economic slowdown from the coronavirus.

Pakistan is already on a three-year rescue package that

began last year as the country of 208 million people wrestles

with a balance-of-payments crisis.

In Nepal, authorities were trying to evacuate tourists

stranded in different parts of the country due to a nationwide

lockdown, bring them to Kathmandu and arrange to send them home,

the government said.

Shyam Thapa of the Himalayan Expedition company said about

125 foreign hikers were stranded at Lukla, the gateway to Mount

Everest. “They are safe and have no problem,” Thapa told

Reuters.

Following is the spread of the coronavirus in South Asia’s

eight nations:

Confirmed cases, government figures

Pakistan 1,102

India 649

Sri Lanka 102

Afghanistan 84

Bangladesh 39

Maldives 13

Nepal 3

Bhutan 2

TOTAL 1,871

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Gibran Peshiman in

Islamabad, Aftab Ahmad in Delhi and Gopal Sharma in Kathmandu;

Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)