In an unprecedented turn of event, the Indian government has announced to restart a limited re-opening of its giant rail network beginning on Tuesday, May 12, 2020, despite having reported a record and biggest single-day jump of the new coronavirus infected cases in the country. The government started lifting some lockdown restrictions to allow the reopening of some economic activities in some major cities while India has entered a phase-3 lockdown, which was extended until May 17.
Resuming India’s Passenger Trains
Since the national lockdown has continued nearly over five weeks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi started facing pressure from several opposition leaders, business people, and regional government leaders to end the federal government’s strict restrictions. Many criticized the Modi government of its poor handling of the pandemic crisis in a country of 1.3 billion population and blamed the government for destroying the livelihoods of millions that rely on daily wages for sustenance.
The Indian railway ministry said around 15 passenger trains would start operating from Tuesday that connected the major cities such as Delhi to Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, and other big cities and the service would be gradually expanded to other regions. Citing the needs of the rail network, one of the world’s biggest rails that carry over 20 million people each day, in the country’s economy, the government added, “Thereafter, Indian Railways shall start more special services on new routes.”
The government instructed that the passengers, taking the trains, will have to wear masks and undergo screening at the stations. Meanwhile, Modi was expected to hold a meeting with state chief ministers later on Monday to determine an exit path out of the lockdown amid a rapid surge of infections.
Virus Situation in Major Cities
On the same day of the government’s announcement of resuming train service, India witnessed a record surge of new virus infection as it jumped up by 4,214 on a single day. The Indian ministry of health also said on Monday, as the virus-infected cases rose to 67,152 after the new record surge, the death toll from the virus has reached 2,206.
Government officials reported that a fifth of India’s coronavirus cases came from the densely populated cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, and Pune, which are also major centers of economic activity of the country.
Nonetheless, Delhi’s Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal said three-fourths of the coronavirus virus cases in Delhi were asymptomatic or related to mild symptoms and had not required hospital treatment. Kejriwal added, “Overall corona figures (are) rising in Delhi but at the same time people are getting cured and going back home safe. Now we’ve to learn to live with corona.”
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, the government’s top medical body working towards fighting the COVID-19, a disease caused by the coronavirus, the rise in the number of the new virus-infected cases in India as a result of increased testing, which has grown from 2,000 tests per day in late March to 85,000 to 90,000 a day now.
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