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Charity warns that India faces a ‘human time bomb’ as the virus spreads

09 April 2020

PA

People light lamps and candles and flash mobile phones in their balconies and terraces in Japiur, Rajasthan, India, at the Prime Minister’s request to light a lamp at 9 p.m. for nine minutes on Sunday, to express the country’s unity in the fight against the coronavirus

People light lamps and candles and flash mobile phones in their balconies and terraces in Japiur, Rajasthan, India, at the Prime Minister’s request to...

INDIA faces a “human time bomb” as the coronavirus spreads in densely crowded areas of the country, the Leprosy Mission has warned.

The charity said that the corona­virus, like leprosy, was sur­rounded by superstition, ignor­ance, and mis­understanding, which stigmat­ised the sufferers.

The head of programmes for the Leprosy Mission, Sian Arulanan­than, said that communities affected by leprosy would be some of the most vulnerable to the coronavirus in India. People with leprosy were more likely to be disabled, have weakened immune systems, and under­­­lying health conditions.

”And like leprosy, malnutrition, overcrowded living conditions and poor sanitation make an ideal breed­ing ground for the spread of corona­virus,” she said. Social distancing and isolation were “an almost im­­possible task in densely populated areas. This is a human time bomb waiting to explode.”

India went into lockdown on 25 March, when the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, announced a “total ban on leaving your homes”, which sparked panic, as many were left without food to last them through the lockdown.

There have been more than 3500 confirmed infections and about 100 deaths from Covid-19 in India, the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University report; but India has the lowest testing rates in the world; so the real figures are thought to be much higher.

The United Nations High Com­missioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said that she was concerned by the effect that the lockdown has had on informal migrant workers, who were forced to leave the cities where they were work­­ing and walk, sometimes hun­dreds of miles home, as no public transport was running. Some are reported to have died on the way.

But, on Sunday, in an effort to con­­trol the virus, the Indian Home Affairs Ministry ordered states to intercept and quarantine the mi­­grants for two weeks.

Ms Bachelet voiced concerns about measures that have been im­­posed, including stamping the hands of those quarantined and the posting of notices outside the homes of those quarantined. She said that this would stigmatise those affected.

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