Migrant workers likely to spread COVID-19 to more areas, says World Bank
The World Bank has warned that migrant workers returning home could become vectors carrying the coronavirus to unaffected states and villages. Initial findings show that in India many outmigration areas are likely to have COVID-19 cases.
In its biannual regional report, the World Bank said South Asia is one of the highest population density areas in the world. This is especially the case in urban areas, and preventing domestic coronavirus transmission is an enormous challenge in the region.
This makes the spread easier especially among vulnerable groups like slum dwellers and migrant workers, says the Bank.
In India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, the time between the announcement of suspension of inland passenger transport and its enforcement was less than a day. This led to chaos as migrants rushed to get back to their homes, increasing the crowding and making social distancing harder to enforce.
The flow of migrant workers could easily become vectors carrying the coronavirus back to other states and villages. – World Bank
One small advantage of South Asia is that the population over 65 years of age is less than that in the United States and China. This could reduce the death rates. However, the average household sizes are large. Also, there is not enough medical equipment like sanitisers, masks, and ventilators available.
Lockdown policies have affected hundreds of millions of migrants across South Asia. Many are day labourers who no longer have work in urban centres, leading to mass migrations. Migrants face a choice between potentially starving in cities and towns without work or long and potentially fatal journeys over hundreds of miles to their home districts.
“Preliminary findings indicate that in India, high-outmigration areas are more likely to have COVID-19 cases”. the World Bank. It has urged the government to direct early resources to high-risk areas as defined by high-migration corridors, including medical equipment and staff.
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