NEW DELHI: India now has more than 500,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to government figures released Saturday that showed a record daily leap of 18,500 new infections, reports AFP.
Authorities said a total of 15,685 people had died after another 385 fatalities were added to the toll in 24 hours. The pandemic is not expected to peak in India for several more weeks and experts say the number of cases could pass one million before the end of July.Some state governments are considering imposing new lockdowns. A hard-hitting nationwide lockdown that started March 25 is gradually being eased because of the damage caused to the economy.
The virus has particularly hit India’s densely populated cities and there are now major concerns for New Delhi which has overtaken Mumbai with nearly 80,000 cases.
The city’s government has predicted it will have 500,000 infections by the end of July. It is already using railway carriages to house patients and has taken over hotels and banquet halls to relieve the pressure on hard-pressed hospitals.
The government has been criticised over a lack of testing that experts say has hidden the true number of cases in India, which now stands at 509,000. The country is currently fourth in the world for the number of infections, behind the United States, Brazil and Russia, though it has a much lower death toll.
In a bid to boost tracing efforts, Delhi authorities have called in 33,000 health workers to screen about two million people in sealed off zones across the city of 20 million people.
But cities across the nation of 1.3 billion people are braced for a huge wave of new cases in coming weeks.“It is likely that we’re going into a state, unless we are able to reinforce a strict physical distancing mechanism or a hard lockdown, where the rate of infection will continue to increase,” said Anant Bhan, a leading public health expert.
“Unlike China, where the pandemic was relatively more concentrated around Wuhan and a few other cities, India has a more diffused spread that makes it a bit more challenging for the healthcare system,” he told AFP.
Bhan said India might see several peaks in coming months because the spread of the virus “is variable across the country”.
Maharashtra has reported the highest number of cases at 1,52,765 followed by Delhi at 77,240, Tamil Nadu at 74,622, Gujarat at 30,095, Uttar Pradesh at 20,943, Rajasthan at 16,660 and West Bengal at 16,190, the ministry data stated.
The number of COVID-19 cases has gone up to 12,884 in Haryana, 12,798 in Madhya Pradesh, 12,349 in Telangana, 11,489 in Andhra Pradesh and 11,005 in Karnataka.
It has risen to 8,716 in Bihar, 6,762 in Jammu and Kashmir, 6,607 in Assam and 6,180 in Odisha. Punjab has reported 4,957 novel coronavirus infections so far, while Kerala has 3,876 cases.
A total of 2,725 people have been infected by the virus in Uttarakhand, 2,545 in Chhattisgarh, 2,290 in Jharkhand, 1,325 in Tripura, 1,075 in Manipur, 1,039 in Goa, 946 in Ladakh and 864 in Himachal Pradesh.
Puducherry has recorded 502 COVID-19 cases, Chandigarh has 425, Nagaland has 371 and Arunachal Pradesh has 172.
Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu together have reported 163 COVID-19 cases.
Mizoram has 145 cases, Sikkim has 86, Andaman and Nicobar Islands has registered 72 infections so far while Meghalaya has recorded 47 cases.
“Our figures are being reconciled with the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research),” the ministry said, adding that 8,023 cases are being reassigned to states.
State-wise distribution is subject to further verification and reconciliation, it added.