State governments have set up over 21,000 relief camps to give shelter to more than 6 lakh people during the ongoing countrywide lockdown, the Centre said on Tuesday amid criticism for migrant workers returning from cities to their hometowns in various parts of the country.

The relief camps are providing shelter to the poor and destitute, stranded migrant workers, those seeking food and those who have reached their destinations but have been quarantined, Joint Home Secretary Punya Salila Srivastava told reporters during the daily press briefing on the situation arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic. Around 23 lakh people are also getting food support, she added.

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With businesses put on hold due to the lockdown, a huge number of daily wage labourers have been suddenly left without jobs and shelter in large cities. With no available means of transport, thousands of them have marched along highways to reach their hometowns. Last week, thousands of them boarded buses arranged by the governments of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh to get home. This has led to criticism of the Centre’s preparedness before announcing the 21-day lockdown on March 24.

Joint Health Secretary Lav Agarwal said that a group of ministers from various departments met on Tuesday and discussed ways to get more dedicated Covid-19 hospitals ready soon. They also discussed working with state governments to build temporary shelters for migrant workers and to provide them medical checkup as well as psychosocial support, and determine the need of quarantining them, Agarwal said.

Indian Council of Medical Research official Dr R Gangakhedkar said that 42,788 samples have been tested so far, including 4,346 on Monday. This represents 36% of the total capacity, he said.


Huge spike in number of cases

Commenting on the huge surge in positive cases in the ministry update issued on Monday night, Agarwal said it was because of lack of support from some people and a delay in reporting. He said the number of “hotspots” in the country had risen, and the government was using cluster containment strategies and doing rigorous contact-tracing.

On Monday, India had confirmed 227 new patients of Covid-19, its highest single-day increase so far. This took the number of cases to 1,251. The toll has risen to 32. More cases have been reported by state governments on Tuesday, and are yet to be confirmed by the central government.

The health ministry cautioned against “finding faults” in the context of a mosque in Delhi’s Nizamuddin locality, which has been the source of several positive cases after a religious event held there earlier this month. The home ministry said it would comment on the incident later.

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“For us, it is important that when we find a case in any area of the country, we take action on them through our containment processes,” Agarwal said when asked about the Nizamuddin case. “The Delhi government has already conducted health profiling of symptomatic cases in the area and is sending them in quarantine or hospitals, as required.”