India’s Covid-19 cases pass 1 million amid alarming rise in virus spread

New Delhi, July 17 (efe-epa).- The number of coronavirus cases in India passed a grim milestone of one-million mark on Friday after nearly 35,000 fresh infections, its biggest single-day spike so far, according to the health ministry data.

The data put the total number of cases recorded in the country at 1,003,832 with 25,602 deaths, including over 680 fatalities since Thursday morning, which is also a new daily record since the first case was detected on Jan. 30 in the southern state of Kerala.

India, the second-most populous country with more than 1.3 billion people, has now become the third nation to cross the one million mark of the coronavirus cases after the United States (3.7 million) and Brazil (2 million), even as the fatality rates in the two countries is far worse.

The number of cases has particularly witnessed a steep hike after India began relaxing its coronavirus lockdown from June 8 onward when there were a little over 267,000 confirmed infections in the country.

The pace of the spread has been particularly alarming since the first half a million cases in the country took five months while the next half took only 20 days.

The nationwide lockdown imposed on Mar. 25 has been more or less lifted with the second phase of its de-escalation beginning on July 1.

The government has now allowed almost all outdoor activities, except in containment areas where the number of cases is high.

However, no activity is allowed that involves a large gathering of people, like bars, theaters, or gyms.

While the spike has occurred across the country, India’s rural areas and smaller cities are fast turning out to be new hotspots.

It is more worrying since villages and smaller cities house nearly 70 percent of India’s population but have a weaker healthcare infrastructure than larger cities of the capital New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, or Chennai.

Many states, including Tripura, West Bengal, and Bihar, where the number of cases has doubled in the past two weeks, have announced new partial lockdowns to curb the spread.

The coastal state of Goa, known for its vast beaches, on Thursday evening became the latest to impose fresh restrictions and announced a three-day complete shutdown and a nighttime curfew until Aug 10.

With the alarming rise in cases, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Thursday that South Asia, home to a quarter of the world population, was fast becoming the next epicenter of the virus after Europe.

“While the world’s attention has been focused on the unfolding crisis in the United States and South America, a concurrent human tragedy is fast emerging in South Asia,” John Fleming, who heads the health division of IFRC in Asia Pacific Head, said in a statement.

“We need more focus on the new Covid-19 hotspot in South Asia. Lives of people in India are no less valuable than people in other parts of the world.”

The statement said India risked having the largest number of Covid-19 cases in the coming months, citing the latest projections from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers.

But the Indian government tried to focus on the positives highlighting a fact that the nation had one of the lowest coronavirus fatality rates in the word and fewer per million cases than in European countries.

“India ranks 106th with 658 cases per million. Cases per million population in India are 4 to 8 times less than in European countries. Covid-19 cases per million in Russia and the US are 8 and 16 times respectively the corresponding figure in India,” the federal health ministry said.

The ministry also claimed that there has been a continuous decline in the percent active cases. “India’s actual (Covid-19) caseload today is 331,146 only,” it said, highlighting the recovery rate.

“(The) rising recovery rate, from 52 percent in mid-June to more than 63 percent in mid-July, is aiding continuous decline in Covid-19 active cases.” EFE-EPA

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