MUMBAI (Reuters) – India on Tuesday recorded a total of 145,380 coronavirus infections and a death toll of 4,167, comparatively low figures for the world’s second-most populous country.
But separate states witnessing millions of migrant labourers returning from the big cities were recording rising infections, officials said, fearing that the pandemic could spread through villages where medical care is basic at best.
Health ministry officials said that India’s death rate stood at 0.3 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to what they said was a world average of 4.4.
“We have surprisingly found a low fatality rate in India, which is very good,” said Balram Bhargava, director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research, in New Delhi.
Officials from the home and railway ministries said at least 4.5 million workers had migrated home from economic hubs in the two months since Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a lockdown.
The eastern state of Bihar registered more than 160 infections on Monday, its highest one-day rise, taking its tally to more than 2,700 cases. In the past 48 hours, more than 75 people tested positive in Odisha and 176 in different districts in the desert state of Rajasthan.
The latest cases have forced authorities to stretch limited testing resources.
“Dozens of labourers who travelled from New Delhi have tested positive. We are ensuring that no one enters their village with this infection,” said Gaurav Sinha, a senior health official in Bihar’s capital, Patna.
Economists studying reverse migration patterns said India’s poorest migrant labourers have been the worst hit by the lockdown. TV footage early in the crisis showed police beating migrant workers as they tried to board city buses to reach their villages, making a mockery of social distancing.
(Additional reporting by Sumit Khanna in Ahmedabad, Saurabh Sharma in Lucknow, Jatindra Dash in Bhubaneswar, Editing by Nick Macfie)