Coronavirus Lockdown: Concerns mount on vulnerability of Indian police personnel as hundreds test positive for COVID-19

Some 3 million police are trying to ensure that the vast majority of India’s 1.3 billion people stay home,

Reuters May 06, 2020 21:55:36 IST
Coronavirus Lockdown: Concerns mount on vulnerability of Indian police personnel as hundreds test positive for COVID-19

Mumbai: Hundreds of Indian police have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days, raising alarm among an over-stretched force as it attempts to enforce the world’s largest lockdown.

Some 3 million police are trying to ensure that the vast majority of India’s 1.3 billion people stay home, with TV footage early in the crisis showing police beating back migrant workers as they tried to board city buses to reach their villages, making a mockery of social distancing.

India has been under lockdown since 25 March and has confirmed nearly 50,000 coronavirus cases and some 1,694 deaths.

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Representational image. AP

A senior officer in Maharashtra said the number of cases had nearly doubled in the police force there in the last week. Maharashtra, the hardest-hit state, has reported a total 15,525 cases as of Tuesday.

“More than 450 people from the state police force have now tested positive and four have died due to the virus,” the officer said on condition of anonymity.

Control rooms were being set up exclusively to deal with health issues faced by police in Maharashtra, according to the state’s home minister, Anil Deshmukh.

Police fired tear gas at a crowd of protesting migrant workers in the neighbouring state of Gujarat this week and launched baton charges against hundreds queuing at liquor stores in New Delhi, even as the first steps were being taken to relax the lockdown.

Last month, doctors had to re-attach the severed hand of a policeman, who was attacked while trying to enforce the lockdown in  Punjab.

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Six senior police in at least six states said dozens of police in their states were seeking sick leave, fearing becoming infected.

An official with the Union home ministry said it was aware of the matter and was monitoring the situation.

“Patrolling and crowd control in COVID-19 -affected areas is becoming more dangerous than fighting criminals,” said Salunkhe, a Mumbai policeman who agreed to be quoted using his last name.

“At least in those cases we can see the enemy.”

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