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Locusts, floods, compound India’s COVID-19 woes

From Krishnan Nayar

NEW DELHI, 27th June, 2020 (WAM) – On a day when India’s COVID-19 count crossed half a million infections, its National Capital Region, NCR, surrounding India’s capital New Delhi, was invaded by swarms of locusts prompting people to close down everything to contain the invasion.
In New Delhi’s satellite city of Gurugram, which houses top multinational companies from all over the world and their global business processing offices, authorities ordered people to keep their doors and windows shut to prevent the locusts from getting in.
At another end of the NCR, a satellite town of Faridabad was also invaded by locusts. This is the first time in living memory that the NCR has had to put up with a locust invasion. However, states like Gujarat and Rajasthan which have large desert tracts, have been battling millions of locusts in recent weeks. Now the locusts have moved north unexpectedly, destroying crops and everything else they can consume in their flight path.
New Delhi International Airport has asked pilots of incoming and outgoing aircraft to be on the lookout for locust swarms which can get into jet engines and cause them to be jammed.
Authorities in Gurugram have issued an advisory that banging empty vessels can keep away locusts.
Meanwhile, faced with a steep spike in Coronavirus infections, several states have initiated measures to contain the spread of the pandemic. In the east of India, the government of Jharkhand has extended its ongoing lockdown till 31st July.
“The lockdown in view of Covid-19 is extended till 31st July and all state departments and districts concerned are directed to strictly implement prescribed restrictions and advisories issued in the past,” Chief Secretary Sukhdev Singh notified.
In Assam, the government imposed a 14-day “total lockdown” in the state’s biggest city of Guwahati from Sunday midnight following a spurt in Covid-19 cases. Assam is simultaneously dealing with floods, following the onset of monsoon, which have affected the its 10 districts.
India’s Railway Board has announced that all regular passenger train services, as well as suburban train services, will remain cancelled till August 12. Earlier, they had been suspended till June 30, when the first phase of unlocking was to give way to more relaxations.
The Directorate-General of Civil Aviation, DGCA, has extended till July 15 a ban on all international flights. Exceptions have been granted for repatriation flights, which are regularly bringing back Indians from abroad, including the Gulf.
The DGCA allowed domestic carriers to operate flights up to 45 per cent of their capacity. Until now they have been allowed to use only 30 per cent of capacity as a precaution against the spread of Coronavirus.