India’s densely populated cities ordered new restrictions as the confirmed number of coronavirus cases neared 700,000, passing Russia with the third-highest number of infections.
More than 697,400 cases have now been recorded, a rise of 24,000 in 24 hours, the Health Ministry said, while Russia has just over 681,000.
The surge has forced some cities to tighten their anti-virus measures - including the eastern metropolis of Kolkata, which halted flights from other major Indian cities yesterday.
It has set up dozens of containment zones in recent days.
A new lockdown was imposed on Thiruvananthapuram, with public transport shut and only pharmacies allowed to open.
The clampdown came after hundreds of new cases were reported across Kerala, which had been praised for its action to curtail the pandemic.
It passed a law on Sunday making face masks and social distancing compulsory for the next 12 months.
While the United States and Brazil have the highest number of cases worldwide, India’s tally is expected to keep rising for several more weeks.
Experts predict there will be 1mn cases by the end of July.
The first patients were admitted to a sprawling temporary hospital in Delhi on Sunday, and doctors and nurses are being drafted in to help with an expected deluge of cases.
The medical team can cope “even if it reaches its peak capacity,” said Vivek Kumar Pandey, a spokesman for the military force running the 10,000-bed complex.
India has registered nearly 20,000 deaths from the virus, a much lower number than many other badly hit countries.
Its major cities have been worst hit by the pandemic - New Delhi and Mumbai each have about 100,000 cases, with 3,000 dead in the capital and nearly 5,000 in Mumbai.
With yesterday’s data, there was one death recorded roughly every 7 minutes and a staggering 224 new cases every hour in Maharashtra.
But the country’s death rate per 10,000 people is still a low 0.15, compared with 3.97 in the United States and 6.65 in the United Kingdom.
Mainland China stands at 0.03.
Earlier yesterday, an order was issued for all healthcare facilities in Delhi to carry out compulsory rapid antigen detection testing of all individuals of high risk groups who visit their facility.
Though international flights remain suspended, the government has sought to ease a nationwide lockdown in a bid to counter the hit taken by the economy since it started in March.
A number of national monuments opened yesterday, including the Red Fort and Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi.
But the Taj Mahal, one of the world’s biggest tourist attractions, remained closed because of infections in Agra.
Companies that have reopened in recent weeks are facing pressure to take action over rising cases among workers.
Unions have demanded that the Bajaj motorbike company halt production at a giant plant in Maharashtra, after more than 250 workers there tested positive for the coronavirus.
l Former Bharatiya Janata Party state president and ex-Goa health minister Suresh Amonkar, who had tested positive for Covid-19 last week, died yesterday, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said.
Amonkar, 68,was admitted to the state’s designated Covid hospital two weeks back. He is the eighth person to die of Covid-19.
Also yesterday, BJP lawmaker Sukanta Kumar Nayak of Odisha tested positive for Covid-19.
He is the first legislator in Odisha to get infected by the virus.
Brajamohan Patra, Balasore chief district medical officer, said the MLA has been shifted to a Covid hospital and contact tracing has been launched.
The swab samples of the MLA were sent to a laboratory two days ago and the result was received yesterday, he said.
The MLA said that he had attended a number of meetings in Bhubaneswar and his home constituency, including a meeting of women self-help groups.
Odisha reported 456 new Covid-19 positive cases and two deaths yesterday.
The total number of positive cases in the state has reached 9,526.
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