NEW DELHI (AP) – India recorded its biggest daily rise in coronavirus cases on Monday, after the government eased one of the world’s strictest quarantines to allow some of the agricultural and manufacturing activity to resume.
Authorities reported 1,553 additional cases in 24 hours, exceeding 17,000 in total. At least 543 people have died of COVID-19, the respiratory disease that causes the virus, and epidemiologists believe the peak may not be reached until June.
The confinement orders imposed in India on March 24 paralyzed everything except essential services. As of Monday, part of the agricultural and industrial activity was allowed in cases where employers could comply with the rules of social distancing and hygiene, and migrant workers were authorized to travel within the states to reach factories, farms and other workplaces.
“In the event that a group of migrants wishes to return to their places of work within the state where they are currently located, they would pass a control and those who are asymptomatic would be transferred to their respective places of work,” said the Indian Ministry of the Interior in a letter to state governments.
However, government polls in the central state of Maharashtra, the one most affected by the virus, indicate that few companies allegedly fit to resume operations can do so because they are required to transport and house workers as a precautionary measure.
India also continues to expand its virus testing program, stocking respirators and personal protective equipment, and preparing dedicated isolation units and hospitals for COVID-19.
In Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra and home to Asia’s largest slum, local authorities planned to administer hydroxychloroquine to thousands of slum dwellers for 14 days to gauge whether the drug helps slow the spread of the disease in a place where it is impossible to comply with the rules of social distancing.
It was unclear how many people would participate in the experiment or when it would start. United States President Donald Trump has defended the use of this antimalarial drug to treat COVID-19, although its efficacy against the disease has not yet been proven.