India continues to reopen as daily number of coronavirus cases hits record high

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The country of 1.3 billion people has reported more than 75,000 infections for five consecutive days – the fastest growing number of cases of any country in the world.

It recorded 85,687 new Covid-19 infections last Wednesday, the highest peak in the world since the start of the pandemic, surpassing the previous record of 77,255 cases set by the United States on July 16.

The infection rate in India has increased exponentially in recent weeks. It took nearly six months for the country to register 1 million cases, three more weeks to reach 2 million and just 16 more days to reach 3 million.

At this rate, the total number of cases in India, which now exceeds 3.6 million, is on track to overtake Brazil to become the second highest in the world, behind the United States.

But India’s death toll remains relatively difficult compared to its number of infections. India reported 64,469 coronavirus deaths on Sunday – about half the death toll in Brazil – with a death rate of 1.79%, according to its health ministry.As infections skyrocket, the Indian government has continued to lift lockdown measures. On Saturday, the Home Office announced that India would begin a new phase of reopening on September 1 known as ‘Unlock 4’.

This includes the resumption of metro services in the country “gradually” from September 7, according to the ministry statement.

Under the new rules, gatherings of up to 100 people will be allowed at sporting, entertainment, cultural, religious and political events outside sensitive areas from September 21, with the mandatory wearing of a face mask and social distancing measures.

Schools and colleges will remain closed until the end of September, although up to 50% of faculty are allowed to return to campus to teach classes online, and students in Grades 9-12 may return as well. on a voluntary basis.

Facilitate foreclosure measures

A lifeline for millions of people living in the country’s main cities, metro networks were shut down at the end of March when Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a “full” lockdown that forced residents to stay at home and crippled the country.

But the strict lockdown – imposed with little warning or planning – has also exacerbated India’s inequality and economic woes. In urban areas, millions of daily wage earners were left without jobs and food – and many made long and sometimes fatal journeys to faraway states, often on foot.

Under pressure to resuscitate the struggling economy, Modi’s government began to roll back nationwide lockdowns in May. “Corona will remain a part of our lives for a long time, but we cannot allow our lives to be confined only to Corona,” Modi said in a nationwide televised address at the time.

Since then, national restrictions have been gradually relaxed, although some hard-hit areas of the country have imposed their own restrictions. But the number of infections has skyrocketed, from just over 180,000 cases on May 30 to one million by mid-July.

India now has more than 2 million confirmed cases of coronavirus

New Delhi and Mumbai, the two most populous cities in the country, are among the most affected.

On July 27, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the coronavirus had been ‘brought under control’ in the Indian capital, as daily infections fell to around 1,000 from a peak of almost 4,000 in late June.

“Now we need to focus on the next step. While the people of Covid lost their jobs, factories were closed, people suffered losses, it became difficult for people to cope … Now let’s focus on reviving the Indian economy ”, did he declare. “Without reinstating the lockdown, we were able to maintain control… this is essential for improving the economy. ”

However, daily infections have increased over the past week, with Delhi recording more than 2,000 new cases on Sunday for the first time since July 10.

Soaring case

After initially appearing to have curbed the spread of the virus, India, the world’s second most populous country, has struggled to cope with the rapidly expanding epidemic.

Critically ill patients across the country have been turned away from public and private hospitals for lack of beds, staff and equipment. Earlier this month, a minister of state died from the virus while two Indian ministers presented to hospital after testing positive.

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Indian health officials have said part of the reason for the surge in cases is an increase in testing. On Saturday, the country tested more than 41.4 million people, almost double the number of tests carried out in early August.

Still, some experts believe the cases are still underreported. Antibody tests on more than 21,000 people in New Delhi last month revealed that nearly one in four residents may have been infected with coronavirus.

So far, more than 2.7 million people have recovered from the virus in India, according to government statistics. Patients with mild and moderate symptoms in India are considered to be no longer active after 10 days of onset of symptoms if they meet certain conditions. A test to confirm that they no longer have the virus is not necessary. Severe cases can only be released after a negative coronavirus test.

Modi pointed to the country’s widespread testing, high recovery rate, and low death rates to highlight his success in managing the coronavirus. But others say the pandemic has exposed the country’s shortcomings in providing widely accessible basic needs such as health care, education and electricity.

CNN’s Julia Hollingsworth contributed reporting.

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