India’s COVID-19 cases rise by 55,342, lowest since mid-August

BENGALURU (CNA) – India’s COVID-19 cases rose by 55,342 in the last 24 hours to 7.18 million yesterday morning, the lowest daily rise since mid-August, Health Ministry data showed.

Deaths from COVID-19 infections rose by 706 to 109,856, the ministry said. India’s coronavirus case load topped seven million on Sunday and the country has added one million cases in just 13 days.

It has the second-highest number of infections, behind the United States (US) which is approaching the eight million mark.

India aims to provide vaccines to 250 million people by July 2021, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said last week. He said that the government was planning to receive 450 million to 500 million vaccine doses and would ensure “equitable access”.

India saw a steep rise in cases in July and added more than two million in August and another three million in September.

A health worker prepares to collect a swab sample from a woman to test for coronavirus at a sample collection centre in Hyderabad. PHOTO: AFP

But it is seeing a slower pace of coronavirus spread since mid-September, when the daily infections touched a record high of 97,894. Health officials have warned about the potential for the virus to spread during the upcoming religious festival season, which is marked by huge gatherings in temples and shopping districts.

A crucial factor will be people wearing masks and maintaining a safe distance.

Nationwide, India is testing more than one million samples per day, exceeding the World Health Organization’s (WHO) benchmark of 140 tests per one million people.

But many of these are antigen tests, which look for virus proteins and are faster but less accurate than RT-PCR, which confirm the coronavirus by its genetic code. With the economy contracting by a record 23.9 per cent in the April to June quarter, leaving millions jobless, the Indian government is continuing to relax lockdown restrictions that were imposed in late March.

The government in May announced a USD266 billion stimulus package, but consumer demand and manufacturing are yet to recover.