India yesterday reported a jump of more than 6,000 cases of the new coronavirus in the past 24 hours, its biggest one-day surge so far, as the nationwide lockdown keeps being relaxed and domestic flights prepare to resume.
The number of infections rose to 118,447, the health ministry said in its daily morning update. The disease claimed 148 lives in the last 24 hours, taking the death toll to 3,583.
The surge in cases comes ahead of a gradual re-start of domestic flights beginning from Monday.
India’s nationwide lockdown, the world’s largest, began on March 25. While the first two phases saw a complete ban on travel and economic activity, there has been a gradual easing since, with many restrictions lifted in the fourth phase that began on Monday and continues till May 31.
These include inter-state movement of passenger vehicles and buses, as well as the opening of industries, businesses, shops and offices.
However, state governments have to decide on the extent of easing restrictions in their jurisdiction outside of containment zones.
A government spokesman at a daily briefing in New Delhi said the lockdown had achieved its purpose and could not continue indefinitely. He said the fatality rate of the disease had dropped from 3.13% on April 19 to 3.02%, and the recovery rate of Covid-19 patients had been rising since early April.
The pandemic spread had been contained mainly to cities and about 10 states through measures implemented by the authorities, said V K Paul, chairman of a government panel on Covid-19.
Paul said 1.4mn to 2.9mn infections had been averted and 37,000 to 78,000 lives saved due to the lockdown. “The lockdown has mostly achieved its purpose, but it cannot be continued for an unlimited time,” Paul said.
Behavioural change and continued alertness was needed now to contain the spread of the virus, he added.
Maharashtra and its capital Mumbai is at the epicentre of the epidemic in the country, reporting over 40,000 infections and 1,454 deaths so far.
The state government has taken control of 80% of beds in private hospitals as it grapples with increasing number of Covid-19 patients and complaints of exorbitant prices being charged, NDTV news channel reported.
The government will regulate the use of private beds and decide the cost of treatment and how much can be billed to patients, NDTV reported.
Maharashtra has been registering at least 2,000 new coronavirus cases daily over the past three days with the bulk of them in Mumbai.
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