Some state governments are considering imposing new lockdowns. File photo
India now has more than 500,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to government figures released on Saturday that showed a record daily leap of 18,500 new infections.
Authorities said a total of 15,685 people had died after another 385 fatalities were added to the toll in 24 hours.
The government has been criticised over a lack of testing that experts say has hidden the true number of cases in India, which now stands at 509,000.
The pandemic is not expected to peak in India for several more weeks and experts say the number of cases could pass one million before the end of July.
Some state governments are considering imposing new lockdowns. A hard-hitting nationwide lockdown that started on March 25 is gradually being eased because of the damage caused to the economy.
The virus has particularly hit India's densely populated cities and there are now major concerns for New Delhi which has overtaken Mumbai with nearly 80,000 cases.
The city's government has predicted it will have 500,000 infections by the end of July. It is already using railway carriages to house patients and has taken over hotels and banquet halls to relieve the pressure on hard-pressed hospitals.
The country is currently fourth in the world for the number of infections, behind the United States, Brazil and Russia, though it has a much lower death toll.
In a bid to boost tracing efforts, Delhi authorities have called in 33,000 health workers to screen about two million people in sealed off zones across the city of 20 million people.
But cities across the nation of 1.3 billion people are braced for a huge wave of new cases in the coming weeks.
"It is likely that we're going into a state, unless we are able to reinforce a strict physical distancing mechanism or a hard lockdown, where the rate of infection will continue to increase," said Anant Bhan, a leading public health expert.
"Unlike China, where the pandemic was relatively more concentrated around Wuhan and a few other cities, India has a more diffused spread that makes it a bit more challenging for the healthcare system," he told AFP.
Bhan said India might see several peaks in coming months because the spread of the virus "is variable across the country."
Indian Railways was due to resume regular train service on June 30 but said on Thursday that it wouldn't fully resume until Aug.12. Trains were halted when the government declared a nationwide lockdown in late March. Special trains linking main cities have been running since mid-May as part of an easing of the lockdown.
Domestic flights have resumed on selected routes, but a government decision on restarting international flights is expected next month.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to strictly observe social distancing and wear face masks, saying such precautions are the only option available until a vaccine is developed.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region: Authorities in Thailand are expected next week to extend a coronavirus state of emergency that critics say has been used to silence political dissent. The National Security Council declared it will recommend that the emergency decree be extended at least until July 31. The decree allows the government to implement curfews, censor the media and disperse gatherings.
Australia reported 37 new cases, including 30 in Victoria state, where health authorities are scrambling to contain an outbreak. Authorities said they tested 20,000 people after going door-to-door in Melbourne suburbs in their attempts to stamp out the virus. In Sydney, a 12-year-old student tested positive, forcing the closure of his school for cleaning. New Zealand, meanwhile, reported one new virus case from a returning traveller. New Zealand has 14 active cases, all of them returning travellers who remain quarantined.
South Korea reported 39 new cases, mostly from the Seoul metropolitan area where officials have been struggling to stem transmissions. South Korea was considered an anti-virus success story after containing an outbreak during February and March surrounding the southeastern city of Daegu.
China reported a further decline in new cases on Friday, with 13. Eleven were in Beijing, where mass testing has been done following an outbreak that appears to have been largely brought under control.
Japan's capital confirmed 54 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, a level which is raising concerns about the possible need for additional cautionary steps. Japan lifted a seven-week state of emergency in late May, and social and business activity has since largely resumed. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said the daily increase in cases is rather high, but the city's hospitals and medical systems have not been overwhelmed. Most of Friday’s new cases were people in their 20s and 30s, Koike said.
India recorded its highest singe-day spike of coronavirus cases on Saturday, with over 22,000 new cases and 442 deaths, as infections rose in the western and southern parts of the country amid heavy monsoon rains.
Record daily leap of 18,500 new infections; 15,685 people have died after another 385 fatalities were added to the toll in 24 hours.
The Health Ministry added 24,850 confirmed cases on Sunday, bringing the nationwide total to 673,165, making India the fourth hardest-hit in the world behind the US, Brazil and Russia.
Millions of Indians turned out to cast ballots in a state election on Wednesday in the world’s biggest vote since the coronavirus emerged, with booths packed out and many ignoring government advice on wearing masks and social distancing.
Top Turkish officials condemned a caricature scorning President Tayyip Erdogan in the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, calling it a “disgusting effort” to “spread its cultural racism and hatred.”
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan expressed appreciation to this initiative of hosting a simple ceremony, given the current circumstances of COVID-19 pandemic.