New Delhi, Jan 9 (EFE).- India tightened coronavirus restrictions on Sunday after just under 160,000 new cases were detected in the last 24 hours amid the third wave of the disease fueled by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
The total number of infections recorded in India since the start of the pandemic has now reached 35.5 million, according to data from the health ministry.
The rate at which the disease is spreading in the Asian country is much higher than during the previous waves of the virus, when it took months to cross 100,000 daily cases instead of the fewer than two weeks it has taken this time.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the country’s top medical body, said this week that the virus was spreading rapidly in urban centers and that “the Omicron variant is the predominant circulating strain.”
The R number, which estimates the speed with which an infection spreads in a population, reached 4 this week.
This means that each infected person is infecting four others.
This is almost twice the rate at which the virus spread during the devastating second wave between March and May, when more than 400,000 daily infections and over 4,500 deaths were recorded at its peak.
The authorities’ estimate that between 500,000 and one million daily cases could be recorded during the third wave’s peak.
Several regions across the country have tightened restrictions amid fears that a surge in cases will lead to an increase in hospitalizations and overwhelm the fragile healthcare system.
The Delhi government imposed a weekend curfew that came into force on Friday night and will remain in effect until 5am on Monday.
The state of Maharashtra has banned gatherings of more than five people, ordered the closure of schools and universities, and mandated that only fully vaccinated people will have access to public transport.
“We again stand at a juncture where we are battling a Covid wave. Without discussing how dangerous this new variant may or may not be, let us ensure the safety of one another,” Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray tweeted on Saturday.
Maharashtra, whose capital is the country’s financial hub, Mumbai, has been the worst hit by coronavirus and its inhabitants have been placed under lockdown, curfews and restrictions for much of the last two years.
A total of 483,790 people have died from the coronavirus in India, 327 of them in the last 24 hours.
The authorities’ hope that a high level of immunization of the population along with herd immunity will significantly reduce the number of hospitalizations and serious cases.
More than 631 million people have received two doses of the Covid vaccine since the country’s vaccination drive began almost a year ago while at least 885.6 million have received one. EFE