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Coronavirus: How do you lock down India’s 1.3 billion people? | World News



India’s prime minister Narendra Modi has locked down the country for the next 21 days after invoking the National Disaster Management Act.

In his address to the nation, he said: “To save India there will be a total ban on venturing outside of your homes.

As per the health experts, a minimum of 21 days is most crucial to break the cycle of infection. If we don’t take care in these 21 days, then the country and your family will go back 21 years.”

Police officers try to stop a motorcyclist at a barrier in India

Fifth of the world’s population locked down in India

Only those involved with essential services are allowed to go out of their homes for work.

Everyone else needs to stay indoors and only venture out to buy essentials like food, milk and medicines.

A lockdown was expected, but not for such a long duration.

After his address there was a spike in panic buying across cities. Long lines at grocery stores and chemist shops were seen late into the night.

There were reports of police using batons to force people not to congregate at shops, and they even closed some of them.

How will the lockdown work for such a large population?

It has been a combination of punishment, legal threat, scaring and cajoling.

The prime minister was firm in his speech, but compassionate.

“You must remember that a single step outside your home can bring a dangerous pandemic like corona inside,” he said.

Some state governments have warned those violating the restrictions would be jailed for a year and their vehicles confiscated.

The chief minister of the southern state of Telangana, K.Chandrashekhar Rao, told the press: “If people will not listen to the police, I will ask for army deployment and shoot-at-sight orders will be issued.”

In Delhi, the national capital, there are police check posts across the metropolis.

The borders have been sealed and every arterial road has police barricades checking identity cards of people.

Those not in essential services who are caught are reprimanded – or worse – their vehicles seized.

Constable Vinod Kumar said that “largely people have adhered to the restrictions, adding: “We believe most whom we think have a genuine problem to be out on the streets, there are a few who lie and we do catch them.”

Fears for the poor – less than 1% GDP spent on health

India comprises 36 states and union territories. Its structure allows state governments to control their own law and order and health, among other administrative departments.

A number of states had already imposed a lockdown even before the prime minister’s announcement.

By Tuesday morning 32 states and union territories were in a complete lockdown, while the remaining had partial restrictions.

Police in Kerala, India have come up with a novel way of educating the public about how to prevent the spread of coronavirus

Kerala police in hand-washing dance

On Monday, Delhi sealed its borders to outsiders. A curfew pass was needed by those from other states to enter the capital.

Last week, the state of Rajasthan issued prohibitory orders that not more than four people were allowed to congregate anywhere. On Sunday it locked and sealed the state with further stringent restrictions.

Likewise, the states of Maharashtra, Kerala, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Kashmir and others had almost completely locked down.

International flights were shut last week, while domestic air travel stopped after midnight yesterday.

The country’s largest transporter, the Indian Railways, stopped running trains while the metro train services in cities have also closed.

Interstate bus travel has also ended.

The prime minister has appealed for people to stay put where ever they are and not to travel.

Daily wage workers and homeless people wait for food outside a shelter in Delhi
Daily wage workers and homeless people wait for food outside a shelter in Delhi

There’s growing alarm that the disease will spread into the poorest communities where public health sectors, starved of resources, would struggle to cope.

India spends less than then one percent of its GDP on health.

Almost 70% of the population relies on private hospitals, clinics and doctors – which is a drain on the poor.

Successive governments have vastly ignored health.

A pandemic in the country would have a detrimental effect on the prevailing health infrastructure and its doctors and nurses.

Health activists have criticised the government for not testing enough. Just over 20,000 tests for COVID-19 have taken place. That is about three in every million.

South Korea tests 4,000 people per million and has the capacity to test 20,000 per day.

Health experts warn that more than a million people in India could be infected with the coronavirus by mid-May.

The worst to have been affected are poor, daily wage earners and economically weaker sections.

With the lockdown, these millions of workers now have no where to go. The central government has been criticised for not having planned enough for this section of society.

Some state governments are now providing free meals and shelters for the homeless.

A man feeds monkeys in Ode village, near Ahmedabad
A man feeds monkeys in Ode village, near Ahmedabad

The Delhi government has announced free meals for everyone at all its shelters.

The west Bengal government has said it will provide free food grains to approximately 75 million of its people for the next six months.

India’s economy was slowing even before the pandemic and the last few days have been a bloodbath on the national stock exchange with almost every sector in the red.

The uncertainty has alarmed everyone and no one really knows how long this will last.

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Coronavirus: Infected woman accused of fleeing lockdown in Italy defends herself after protests | World News



Protesters have gathered outside the home of a woman accused of fleeing northern Italy’s lockdown and later testing positive for coronavirus.

The claims about the woman’s travel came from Raffaele Lettieri, the mayor of her home town Acerra, near Naples.

In a video posted on social media, he said: “This person came down here from Lombardy on 9 March – today it’s the 29th and only now have we discovered they have tested positive.

Mayor Raffaele Lettieri accused the woman of fleeing lockdown
Mayor Raffaele Lettieri accused the woman of fleeing Lombardy’s lockdown

“If for 20 days this person hasn’t rigorously respected quarantine, for 20 days they have met people who met other people etc then enough.

“One person who doesn’t respect the quarantine is enough for the virus to spread.”

The young woman hit back at the mayor’s criticism on social media after her home was targeted by protesters.

She said in an emotional video message: “I never let myself leave my room, leave my house, like has been said.

“The mayor will have to give me an explanation because from the beginning I explained what happened.

“I explained immediately. Therefore, to be defamed like this I find truly shameful.”

The woman defended herself in a video posted online
The woman defended herself in a video posted online

Italy has recorded the most coronavirus deaths in the world, with more than 11,500 people now dead.

The lockdown in the northern region of Lombardy, the worst hit region for COVID-19, came two days before the rest of Italy.

The south has a much higher level of unemployment and deprivation than the north and many travel to Lombardy for work.

The government has been criticised for giving advance warning of the lockdown in Lombardy, allowing the virus to spread as people jumped on trains and fled the region to their homes in the south of the country.

While the growth of the virus is slowing across the country, it is still rising at a faster rate in southern areas. Meanwhile, signs of unrest are growing.

Police are now patrolling supermarkets after the threat of raids and theft.

There have been emotional pleas to authorities from people who are struggling to put food on the table after the economic pain of three weeks in lockdown.

Police are now patrolling supermarkets after the threat of raids and theft
Police are now patrolling supermarkets after the threat of raids and theft

The government made an urgent €400m (£355m) fund available on Saturday night to help people struggling to buy food. But mayors in the south of Italy say this is not nearly enough.

As social and economic tensions build, scientists and politicians have been holding separate talks in Rome on the next steps in this crisis.

Details of the plans have not yet been released but the head of the emergency response in Italy told Sky News they hope the crisis has peaked there.

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“The lockdown can be opened and probably April will be the month this will happen,” said Luigi d’Angelo from the Italian Civil Protection.

Asked how long it would be before life returned to some semblance of normality, he replied: “Hopefully by May or June.”

He said schools could possibly return during August when it would normally be the holiday period.

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Coronavirus: How lockdowns have caused drop in air pollution across the world | World News



Air pollution appears to have decreased in urban areas across the world as cities continue to be locked down to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

In Europe, cities including Brussels, Paris, Madrid, Milan and Frankfurt showed a reduction in average levels of noxious nitrogen dioxide from 5 to 25 March, compared with the same period last year, according to new satellite images.

The images, released by the European Space Agency, show the changing density of nitrogen dioxide, a harmful gas emitted when fossil fuels are burnt at high temperatures, most commonly at power plants and in motor vehicles.

Air pollution has decreased in urban areas across Europe during lockdowns to combat the coronavirus, new satellite images show. Spain more polluted before pandemic
Air pollution data obtained before and after Spain was locked down. Pic: Sentinel-5 satellite images

Air pollution has decreased in urban areas across Europe during lockdowns to combat the coronavirus, new satellite images show. Spain less polluted

Daily weather events can influence atmospheric pollution, so the satellite pictures took a 20-day average and excluded readings where cloud cover reduced the quality of the data.

However, some scientists have urged caution, with specialists from Lombardy’s Regional Environmental Protection Agency (ARPA) saying it is too soon to draw conclusions from air quality data.

In Madrid, average nitrogen dioxide levels decreased by 56% week-on-week after the Spanish government banned non-essential travel on 14 March.

Air pollution has decreased in urban areas across Europe during lockdowns to combat the coronavirus, new satellite images show. France more polluted before pandemic
Air pollution data obtained before and after France was locked down. Pic: Sentinel-5 satellite images
Air pollution has decreased in urban areas across Europe during lockdowns to combat the coronavirus, new satellite images show. France less polluted

Pollution over parts of Italy also dramatically fell as the entire country was placed in lockdown.

However, in some regions of Poland nitrogen dioxide levels remained relatively high during the period despite its lockdown, perhaps due to the prevalence of coal-based heating.

Experts at Copernicus have warned that until a complete lockdown is imposed, emissions from some sectors may increase.

For example, people might take private cars more often to avoid using public transport.

China – the world’s biggest polluter – recorded a drop in nitrogen dioxide pollution in cities during February, when the government imposed draconian lockdown measures to contain the virus.

The country’s ministry of ecology and environment said the average number of “good quality air days” increased by 21.5% in February when compared to the same period last year.

According to Nasa, nitrogen dioxide levels have dropped by between 10-30% across eastern and central China.

Satellite images show nitrogen dioxide levels have fallen over China. Pic: NASA
Satellite images show nitrogen dioxide levels have fallen over China. Pic: NASA

Drops in pollution levels were particularly prominent in the city of Wuhan, the original epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Meanwhile, CO2 emissions in China were down by at least 30% between 3 February and 1 March, according to the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).

CREA estimates this is equivalent to 200 million tons of carbon dioxide.

In Hong Kong, key air pollutants dropped by nearly a third from January to February, according to data from Hong Kong University School of Public Health.

South Korea also appears to have seen a drop in nitrogen dioxide levels, despite avoiding putting entire regions under lockdown.

However, it has taken an aggressive approach to tracing and isolating suspected cases.

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Researchers in New York told the BBC that early findings showed carbon monoxide had been reduced by nearly 50% compared with the previous year.

The scientists, from Columbia University, said they estimated traffic levels in the city were down 35%.

Countries that went into lockdown later – such as Britain, which did so on 23 March – look set for a pollution reprieve in coming weeks.

Air pollution can cause or exacerbate lung cancer, pulmonary disease and strokes. It causes around 400,000 premature deaths each year in Europe.

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Coronavirus: Why Boris Johnson and other world leaders have become more popular during outbreak | Politics News



Boris Johnson’s popularity – like that of the majority of world leaders – has risen significantly during the coronavirus crisis.

As tracked by Ipsos MORI, the prime minister’s satisfaction ratings had improved to 52% by mid-March.

This is an increase of five points from 47% at the start of February, and up 16 points on his ratings back in early December (36%), just before the general election.

World leaders' approval ratings

Polling by Number Cruncher more recently found that Johnson’s satisfaction ratings had risen to 72%.

But Mr Johnson is by no means alone.

At a time of unprecedented global crisis, and with only one or two exceptions, leaders the world over are experiencing rising popularity.

PM’s video message from his virus isolation

Measured by Gallup, US President Donald Trump’s job ratings have soared to their highest ever point, with 49% of adults approving of his performance and 45% disapproving.

French President Emanuel Macron has seen an even larger increase in his satisfaction rating than his counterparts – rising to 51%, some 13 points up since last month, and his highest since January 2018.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has seen her approval rise to a meteoric 79%, up 11 points since early March – a remarkable figure for a leader who has been in power for well over a decade.

The approval rating of Giuseppe Conte, prime minister of Italy, the country worst-hit so far in terms of deaths, has hit 71% – an incredible 27 points higher than in February.

More broadly, polling firm Morning Consult reports that approval has risen in their daily tracker survey for a number of world leaders since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a pandemic.

Indeed, virtually the only leader to have seen their ratings markedly decline is Brazil’s populist far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, with the public seemingly unimpressed by his coronavirus-denialism.

What is interesting, however, is that this widespread rise in popularity appears to have little to do with actual performance in handling the crisis so far – with both the US and UK response having been criticised at times.

So what explains the fact that world leaders’ popularity seems to be rising regardless?

Jair Bolsonaro asked why Thunberg hat got so much attention
Brazil’s leader Jair Bolsonaro has downplayed coronavirus

Most obviously what we seem to be seeing is the “rally-round-the-flag” effect originally proposed by American political scientist John Mueller.

The characteristics that Mr Mueller linked with these surges of popular support for incumbents were inspired by Cold War events, but have substantial resonance with the COVID-19 outbreak.

For a rally-round-the-flag to occur, the event had to be international, involve the country and its leader directly, and be “specific, dramatic, and sharply focused”.

The global significance of the coronavirus pandemic – and the fact that the fight against it can (and has been) likened to a war – fits perfectly with this definition.

In all countries, leaders have been a central figure in the government response.

As to what drives this rally-round-the-flag at times of national crisis, one of the traditional explanations was that patriotic feelings led the public to view their incumbent leader as the focus of national unity, leading to greater support as citizens set aside their partisan biases.

World leaders' approval ratings

Others have argued that rallies in popularity depend on opposition politicians temporarily laying aside their partisan interests and on increased levels of media coverage, thereby influencing how the public perceive leaders.

Another view is that when feeling vulnerable and under threat, citizens put their trust in political leaders and authorities to protect them.

Whichever explanation works best, however, a big question remains: how long is any rise in popularity for our current crop of leaders likely to last?

To address it we can, perhaps, look to one fairly recent precedent.

U.S. President George W. Bush speaks to Vice President Dick Cheney by
phone aboard Air Force One after departing Offutt Air Force Base in
Nebraska, September 11, 2001, on the day of the terror attacks in New
York and Washington. Bush on September 16, 2001 asked "horrified"
Americans to go back to work this week, cautioning them to be alert for
more attacks and to brace for a long crusade to "rid the world of
evildoers". Picture released by the White House on September 16.
REUTERS/WHITE HOUSE photo by Eric Draper

George W Bush enjoyed a ratings boost after 9/11 – but it didn’t last

The last rally-round-the-flag with similar global ramifications as COVID-19 was that following the 9/11 attacks on America.

In the aftermath, President George W Bush’s approval rating jumped nearly 40 points to 90%, the highest ever recorded for a US president.

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More than a year later President Bush’s approval rating was 68%, still nearly 20-points higher than his rating at the time of the attacks.

Nothing, however, lasts forever.

President Bush’s popularity declined steadily throughout his first and second terms, and in the end only Harry S Truman and Richard Nixon left the White House with lower ratings.

It is impossible to say, then, precisely when the COVID-19 rally-round-the-flag effect might start to fade and then finally end.

As people are finally able to move beyond the pandemic, political gravity is bound to kick in: what goes up must come down.

Where that leaves individual leaders will depend in large part not just on how they are eventually seen to have handled the current crisis, but also on how they handle other issues whose importance to voters will gradually grow again.

A version of this article was originally published by UK in a Changing Europe

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