India reported a record 9,887 new COVID-19 cases in one day yesterday and overtook Italy as the world’s sixth-biggest outbreak, two days before the relaxing of a lockdown with the reopening of malls, restaurants and places of worship.
With its total number of cases rising to more than 236,000, India has fewer infections than only the US, Brazil, Russia, the UK and Spain, according to a Reuters tally.
However, India’s toll of deaths from COVID-19 is 6,642, small compared with those other countries.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, anxious to jump-start an economy crippled by the epidemic and put millions of people back to work, is easing its lockdown of the 1.3 billion population imposed in March, which the government said helped avoid an exponential rise in cases.
Restrictions would be loosened from tomorrow, but some experts were worried it is too soon.
Giridhar R. Babu, epidemiologist at the Public Health Foundation of India, in particular questioned the reopening of religious places.
“We can survive and sustain the gains without ... opening up religious places for sometime,” Babu said on Twitter.
The WHO on Friday said that India’s lockdown had helped it dampen down transmission of the disease, but there was a risk the cases could rise again.
“As India and in other large countries open up and people begin to move there is always a risk of the disease bouncing back up,” WHO Health Emergencies Program executive director Mike Ryan told a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland.
People visiting places of worship would be asked to wash their hands and feet, and there will be no distribution of food offerings, sprinkling of holy water or touching of idols and holy books.
The pandemic has killed at least 395,000 people worldwide since it surfaced in China late last year, according to Johns Hopkins University’s global pandemic monitoring Web site.
The US is the worst-hit country with 109,143 deaths, followed by the UK with 40,344, Brazil with 34,021, Italy with 33,774 and France with 29,114 fatalities.
Additional reporting by AFP
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