A woman walks past a graffiti, on a street, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Mumbai, India, on April 6, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

In last year’s lockdown about 100m people in the country lost their jobs

NEW DELHI-As COVID-19 ravages India, overwhelming hospitals and shutting many businesses, experts are warning of another looming crisis: hunger among the poor already reeling from a first lockdown last year.

The coronavirus has killed 160,000 people over the past two months. More than 27.7 million people were infected with the virus, according to the World Health Organization.

“It’s a double crisis that the poor in the country are facing,” said Anjali Bhardwaj of the Right to Food Campaign. “There is the health crisis and there is also an income economic crisis.

“We have had a huge health crisis unfolding … and many have had to spend their life savings on trying to provide medical aid to their families.”

About 230 million Indians fell into poverty due to the pandemic last year, defined as having less than 375 rupees ($5) a day to spend, a study by Azim Premji University in Bangalore found.

More than 7.3 million jobs were lost last month alone, the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy said. That means more pain in a country in which 90 percent of the workforce is in the informal sector with no social safety net, and in which millions do not qualify for emergency government rations.

“A lot of people went into poverty last year,” said Associate Professor Amit Basole, one of the university study’s authors. “They went into debt, and… they had to cut back on food consumption. So the second wave is coming on top of a very precarious, stressed situation.”

In last year’s lockdown about 100 million people in the country lost their jobs. After restrictions were lifted, about 15 percent failed to find employment by the end of the year, including 47 percent of female workers, the Azim Premji University study found.

Globally, the pandemic has killed more than 3,524,960 people worldwide, according to an Agence France-Presse compilation of official data. The US is the worst-affected country, with 593,962 deaths, followed by Brazil with 459,045, India with 322,512, Mexico with 223,072 and Britain with 127,768.

The coronavirus variant first identified in India could “pick up speed and become a big problem” in Britain as the country further eases its lockdown, a British expert warned on Saturday.

Britain’s fight against coronavirus could turn bad “very, very quickly “unless the government acts cautiously on further easing the lockdown, the Newspaper The Guardian quoted professor Tim Gowers of the University of Cambridge as saying.

The number of coronavirus cases in the country now stands at 4.49 million, according to Johns Hopkins University. The British government is expected to remove all legal limits on social contact on June 21, but it is understood that a final decision on the planned easing of the lockdown will not be made until a week before that.

Vietnam has discovered a new COVID-19 variant that spreads quickly by air and is a combination of the Indian and British strains, health officials confirmed. The country is struggling to deal with fresh outbreaks across more than half of its territory, including industrial zones and big cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Agencies – Xinhua