New Delhi (AFP)
Coronavirus cases in India topped seven million on Sunday, bringing them closer and closer to the United States as the most infected country in the world.
Data from the Department of Health showed an increase of nearly 75,000 cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 7.05 million, just behind the United States which recorded 7.67 million infections.
Experts say the actual number may be much higher, with testing rates in the vast country of 1.3 billion people – home to some of the most populous cities on the planet – much lower than in many other countries.
This is confirmed by a series of studies measuring anti-virus antibodies among the Indian population which indicated that infection rates could be several times higher than officially recorded.
India’s death toll of 108,334 as of Sunday is also lower than in the United States and other countries with a higher caseload.
The United States has recorded 214,000 deaths while Brazil, with two million fewer infections than India, has lost nearly 150,000 lives to date.
Possible factors for this include India’s relatively young population, immunity from other diseases – and underreporting.
The rise in infections in India comes as the government continues to lift restrictions to boost an economy battered by a severe lockdown imposed in March.
Theaters are expected to reopen on Thursday – albeit at 50% capacity – and experts fear the upcoming festival season, when large crowds gather for public celebrations, will make matters worse.
Anticipating a further rise in cases, the government has issued strict guidelines and capped the number of revelers for the two main Hindu festivals of Dussehra on October 25 and Diwali next month.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a mass awareness campaign on Friday, encouraging the public to wear masks, practice hand hygiene and maintain physical distance.
“Our collective efforts have helped save many lives. We need to keep the momentum going and protect our citizens from the virus, ”Modi tweeted.
– ‘Underlying anxiety’ –
The virus first hit major metropolises such as Mumbai and New Delhi, but has since spread to almost every corner of the huge country, including the remote islands of Andaman and Nicobar.
Recently, the daily number of new cases has risen from a peak of nearly 100,000 in mid-September to around 60,000 to 70,000.
But Preeti Kumar, of the Delhi-based Public Health Foundation of India, said it was too early to assume India had passed the top.
“What the epidemic has taught us is caution. These decreases (in number) are real but depend on many factors such as tests, type of tests, effectiveness of interventions, etc. “Kumar told AFP.
Many Indians are also worried.
“Despite the government’s efforts to get things back to normal, this is not the case as there is an underlying anxiety that I may be the next to be part of the virus statistics,” University student Anamika Prasad, 23, said. .
Jayprakash Shukla, 66, a retired government official, said he was concerned about the rise of cases “enormously and out of control.”
“When I go out I see a lot of people without a mask,” he said.
“Maybe they are tired of wearing masks, but if people don’t change their ways, it’s going to be calamitous for our country. “
© 2020 AFP