India eases lockdown even as virus cases rise

NEW DELHI (AP) — With shopping malls, places of worship, restaurants and state borders reopening yesterday, some of the last vestiges of India’s 10-week-long coronavirus lockdown disappeared even as the country reported its highest single-day death toll and experts said things would get worse.

In the capital of New Delhi, shoppers applied hand sanitiser and underwent temperature checks before entering Ambience Mall, where a sign read, “Welcome back to the lifestyle you love.”

The doors were also reopened at New Delhi’s historic Jama Masjid.

The troughs for washing before prayers had been drained, and the carpet was replaced with floor markings encouraging worshippers to practise social distancing on their own prayer rugs.

But a committee of experts warned the New Delhi government that such measures would do little to slow the infection rate.

It would need to nearly double its hospital bed capacity by the end of June as the number of cases needing treatment is expected to surge. With cases doubling every two weeks, “we will require 15,000 beds by the end of June,” the committee’s head, Dr Mahesh Verma, wrote to the government.

About a quarter of New Delhi’s 83 hospitals treating COVID-19 patients were full by yesterday afternoon, according to a government-run online dashboard.

About half of the city’s 512 available ventilators were in use.

The numbers have crossed 28,000 in the capital, stretching limited health resources.

A man performs ablutions before praying at the Jama Masjid in the old quarters of New Delhi. PHOTO: AP