Indian security forces clashed with angry residents who flouted a pandemic lockdown in the city of Ahmedabad on Friday as the country saw a surge in coronavirus deaths and cases that is predicted to worsen.
While authorities have insisted that the crisis is under control in the country of 1.3 billion people, experts have warned of an increasing toll despite a six-week-old nationwide lockdown.
The stay-at-home orders are being eased in many areas of India, but have been toughened in Ahmedabad and other cities in the western state of Gujarat, which has become one of the country’s worst pandemic hotspots.
Seven hundred paramilitary troops patrolled Ahmedabad and the other main cities of Surat and Vadodara in a bid to keep people off the streets. Virtually all stores have been ordered to stay closed for at least a week.
Trouble erupted late Friday when hundreds of people breached the lockdown. Police said “a mob” hurled stones at them and they responded with tear gas and baton charges. At least 15 people were detained.
Another 22 coronavirus deaths — taking the total in Ahmedabad to 343 — and 269 cases were reported in the city on Friday. The city, which has a population of about 5.5 million, accounts for about 20 percent of the 1,886 deaths reported in India and 10 percent of the 56,300 nationwide cases.
With the poor suffering mounting hardship and businesses complaining, the government faces increasing pressure to ease the world’s biggest lockdown that started on March 25 and is currently due to end on May 17.