October 3, 2023

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Coronavirus: Indians self-isolate in trees to protect relatives

long-distance journey home from the city of Chennai to a remote district of West Bengal.

Video footage shows the seven-strong group setting up temporary residence in two Mango trees and a Banyan tree normally used to look out for elephants.

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They told reporters that they did not want to enter their village and put their family at risk because they live in one single-room mud hut in the village of Vangidi in the Balampur area of Purulia district.

“The doctor directed us to stay at home and practice social distancing,” villager Bijoy Sing Laya said.

“We don’t have personal rooms in our houses. It was decided in the village that we should be isolated, we are living on and under the tree out of our own free will and we are doing well here. There are no problems.”

India’s entire population of 1.3 billion has been ordered to stay at home until 15 April by prime minister Narendra Modi.

The lockdown has left hundreds of thousands of people unemployed and prompted a mass exodus of migrant workers from cities towards their villages.

With buses and trains shut down, many are making the journey by foot, raising concerns they would spread the virus to the countryside where health facilities are limited.

On Sunday, police in the western city of Surat fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of migrant workers who demanded to be allowed to go home to other parts of India.

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“The workers refused to budge, and started pelting stones at police,” said Surat deputy commissioner of police Vidhi Chaudhari. Officers detained 93 people for violating lockdown orders.

Mr Modi has apologised for the abrupt 21-day lockdown, saying that he had “no choice”.

India’s health ministry reported a total 1,071 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 29 deaths in its latest update on Monday.

Additional reporting by agencies

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