People stand in a queue as a healthcare worker checks the temperature of a resident in Mumbai. File/Reuters
India's virus cases surged another 32,695 as of Thursday, taking the nation closer to 1 million and forcing a new lockdown in the popular western beach state of Goa two weeks after it was reopened to tourists.
The new confirmed cases took the national total to 968,876. The Health Ministry also reported a record number of 606 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 24,915.
The actual numbers, like elsewhere in the world, are thought to be far higher due to a number of reasons including limited testing.
The Indian Medical Association, a voluntary organization of Indian doctors, said 99 doctors have died and another 1,302 are infected with the coronavirus. It called for shortening of working hours for health workers following safety concerns.
It also said the fatality rate among doctors was 7.6%, much high than the national average of about 2.5%.
A doctor wearing a protective face shield measures the temperature of a child in Ahmedabad, India. File/Reuters
About a dozen states, including Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Assam, have put high-risk areas under lockdowns, only allowing essential food supplies and health services.
Goa state’s top elected official, Pramod Sawant, announced a three-day lockdown and a night curfew in the popular backpacking tourist destination, beginning Thursday night.
He said people were flouting social distancing norms. Nearly 40,000 people were fined 100 rupees ($1.3) each in the past two weeks for not wearing masks.
India followed WHO guidelines of 140 tests per day per 1 million people.
A two-week lockdown also started Thursday in the eastern state of Bihar, with a population of 128 million and a fragile health system. Bihar is reporting over 1,000 cases a day despite limited testing.
The initial boost that India’s economy received in June after the nationwide lockdown was relaxed is being jeopardized by the localized lockdowns in high-risk areas, experts say.
India’s minister for small and medium businesses, Nitin Gadkari, said last week that experts were predicting a loss of $133.3 billion in the next year.
The Health Ministry said the recovery rate has climbed to 63.24% and the increase in recovered cases is driven by aggressive testing, timely diagnosis and effective management of patients either through supervised home isolation or hospital care.
It also said that India followed WHO guidelines of 140 tests per day per 1 million people.
Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said that with new cases accelerating, India’s strategy must focus on keeping numbers as low as possible and saving as many lives as it can.
The country reported 467 new deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the toll to 20,160. It also recorded 22,252 new infections, increasing the total to 719,665.
The steepest spike of 57,118 new cases in the past 24 hours recorded, taking its coronavirus caseload close to 1.7 million, with July alone accounting for nearly 1.1 million infections.
Pakistan also reported 4,734 new virus cases, raising its overall infections to 93,983. The latest 97 virus-related deaths sees the highest 24-hour increase to its fatalities, as authorities urged volunteers to motivate people to adhere to social distancing regulations to contain the spread of the virus.
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