The exodus from New Delhi started Wednesday after Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a three-week full lockdown, according to the Associated Press.
Modi took the extreme measure to stem the spread of the coronavirus amid growing fears that India could become the next global hotspot because of the millions of residents who live in cramped conditions without access to clean water.
So far, India has reported the number of confirmed cases at 775; the death toll stands at 19.
The lockdown has left many of the migrant workers jobless and scared they won’t be able to afford food or other essentials, according to the AP.
Indian’s finance ministry has passed a $22.5 billion economic stimulus package, which includes the distribution of enough grains and lentil rations for three months to 800 million people, but the most vulnerable decided they didn’t want to get stuck in the sprawling metropolises.
“How can we eat if we don’t earn?” Ram Bhajan Nisar, a painter, told the AP.
Nisar, his wife and their two children were walking and hitchhiking much of the 400 miles from New Delhi to Gorakhpur, a village on the border with Nepal.
The government sent enough buses, public and private, to carry as many as 52,000 passengers.