India’s total COVID-19 cases cross 9M

NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s total number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began crossed nine million yesterday.

Nevertheless the country’s new daily cases have seen a steady decline for weeks now and the total number of cases represents 0.6 per cent of India’s 1.3 billion population.

The Health Ministry reported 45,882 new infections and 584 fatalities in the past 24 hours yesterday.

The death toll since the pandemic began is over 132,000.

Authorities in capital New Delhi are fighting to head off nearly 7,500 new cases a day while ensuring that the flagging economy does not capsize again. The government hiked the fine for not wearing a mask four times to INR2,000 (USD27) as it considered fresh restrictions.

A municipal vehicle sprays disinfectant to sanitise a busy road in Allahabad, India. PHOTO: AFP

“The next four weeks are crucial. The road is very bumpy,” said New Delhi’s Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences Director Dr SK Sarin.

In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat, authorities announced a weekend curfew which began yesterday in the city of Ahmedabad to curb infections.

It took India 12 days to go from five million cases to six million, 13 days to go from six million to seven million, 18 days to go from seven million to eight million and 22 days to go from eight million to nine million.

A badly-hit economy means that authorities have prioritised opening despite new infections. Markets are still packed with crowds in different parts of the country including New Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Patna as mask and distancing fatigue set in during October-November festival season.

In New Delhi hospitals, the situation is worrying. Government figures showed 90 per cent of the available critical care beds with ventilators and 86 per cent of critical care beds without ventilators for virus patients were full by Thursday. There were less than 500 available critical care beds for virus patients in the capital, a city with a population of 29 million.

Efforts are being made by New Delhi authorities to add 1,400 critical care beds. State Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Thursday that all private hospitals have been asked to reserve 80 per cent of their critical care beds, and over 60 per cent of their other beds for virus patients.