Too many Indians appear to be in a flap over the 21-day nationwide lockdown announced on Tuesday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to check the spread of Covid-19. Migrant labourers seem particularly panicky. According to reports, over 2,000 daily-wage workers in Ahmedabad took to their feet and other means of transport for their homes back in Rajasthan. The virus has dealt them a double whammy: exposing them to infection in the shabby huts they typically inhabit, and robbing them of their livelihoods as the shutdown took effect. Their instinctive response, it seems, was a flight to the safety of their family homes.

But such a mass movement can defeat the very purpose of the lockdown. These workers need to stay put. For this, state governments must assure them of due care, be it the provision of food or other items. The Centre says it’s handing out wheat at 2 per kg and rice at 3 per kg to India’s needy, with funds to be given to states over three months. But all state administrations had better stop migrations right away, lest the virus attain wider dispersal and get harder to contain. Don’t let it spiral out of control.

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