MUMBAI: India has overtaken Italy as the world’s sixth-biggest coronavirus outbreak just two days before the relaxing of a lockdown.
India’s tally of the Covid-19 surged to 236,657 after 9,887 new cases and 294 deaths, the highest so far, were recorded in a single day on Saturday.
According to the Indian health ministry’s dashboard, there are 115,942 active cases and 114,072 people have been cured of the highly-infectious disease so far.
India now has fewer infections than only the United States, Brazil, Russia, Britain and Spain. However, India’s death toll at 6,642 is smaller compared with other countries.
India is likely to hit the peak of infections sometime in June-July before the curve of daily new cases begins to fall. Globally, 6.7 million people have contracted the respiratory disease and 394,887 have succumbed due to the illness.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is anxious to jump-start an economy crippled by the epidemic and put millions of people back to work with the reopening of malls, restaurants and places of worship.
The government is easing its lockdown imposed in March, which the government said helped avoid an exponential rise in cases. Restrictions will be loosened from Monday but some experts are worried it is too soon. Concerts, sporting events and political rallies are still banned.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said late on Friday India’s lockdown had helped it dampen down transmission of the disease, but there was a risk the cases could rise again.
“As India and in other large countries open up and people begin to move there is always a risk of the disease bouncing back up,” Dr Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies programme, told a news conference in Geneva.
People visiting places of worship will be asked to wash their hands and feet, and there will be no distribution of food offerings, sprinkling of holy water or touching of idols and holy books.