Millions back into lockdown | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 15, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:41 AM, July 15, 2020

Millions back into lockdown

India’s tech hub, other towns re-impose curbs, California rolls back reopening plans

Cities and states on several continents re-imposed restrictions as new coronavirus infections spread like wildfire.

India's IT hub Bangalore went into a new week-long lockdown yesterday, while new economic figures from Singapore to Britain revealed the shocking extent of the damage wreaked by the global pandemic.

California drastically rolled back its reopening plans on Monday and ordered all indoor restaurants, bars and cinemas to close again as cases soared across America's richest and most populous state.

Latin America on Monday recorded the world's second-highest death toll, declaring a total of 144,758 deaths to pass the 144,023 recorded in the United States and Canada.

It now stands second only to Europe, where 202,505 people have died.

After imposing one of the world's strictest lockdowns in late March, India had been steadily easing rules to lessen the huge economic impact.

But infections have continued to soar, passing 900,000 on Monday 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 a seven-day lockdown in the southern city began at 8:00 pm yesterday.

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 sticking up for two weeks," said Mangala, a housewife, as she joined a long queue to buy provisions.

Bihar, home to around 125 million people and one of India's poorest states, will go 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.

'STAY-AT-HOME' ORDER'

Churches -- as well as gyms, shopping malls, hair salons and non-essential offices -- must also shut indoor operations in half of California's worst-hit and most densely populated counties, including Los Angeles.

"We're moving back into a modification mode of our original 'stay-at-home' order," said Governor Gavin Newsom, whose state was the first to close down in March, but began easing restrictions in May.

The move came as the US state reported 8,358 new daily cases, bringing its total to nearly 330,000 --  including more than 7,000 deaths.

The bruising economic impact of the pandemic was starkly shown in Singapore, where the economy shrank more than 40 percent in the second quarter, plunging the Southeast Asian financial and trading hub into recession for the first time in a decade.

"It's the worst-ever quarterly figure in Singapore's 55-year history," CIMB Private Banking regional economist Song Seng Wun told AFP yesterday.

ALARM BELLS

The worse-than-expected figures will ring alarm bells for other economies reliant on trade.

Britain also saw its economy shrink by nearly a fifth in the three months to May compared with the previous quarter as the lockdown crippled activity.

Across the globe, the pandemic has infected more than 13 million people, killed over 573,000 and triggered massive economic damage in the seven months since it was detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Since the start of July, nearly 2.5 million new infections have been registered across the globe, with the number of cases doubling over the past six weeks.

South Africa re-imposed a nationwide curfew to prevent a "coronavirus storm" from ravaging the continent's hardest-hit nation, where new infections have topped 12,000 a day.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday that he favours making face masks mandatory in public indoor spaces to curtail the pandemic, warning there were signs infections in the country were picking up again.

HEALTHCARE WORKERS DIED

More than 3,000 healthcare workers are known to have died of the new coronavirus, according to Amnesty International, as it raises concerns about unsafe working conditions, low pay, long hours and violence against medical workers in some countries.

In a new report published on Monday, the United Kingdom-based rights group said Russia at 545 had the highest numbers of healthcare worker deaths from Covid-19.

Russia was followed closely by the UK (540, including 262 social care workers), and the United States (507).

But the global toll was much likely higher, Amnesty added, because of under-reporting.

Meanwhile, a French expert warned that a fully effective vaccine was highly unlikely by 2021.

And in what may prove a blow to those who have recovered, researchers at Kings College London said Covid-19 survivors could lose their immunity within months, leaving them vulnerable to re-infection.

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