India reports another record daily rise in COVID infections

India has reported a record daily increase of 217,353 COVID-19 infections over the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed – the eighth record daily increase in the last nine days.

Deaths from COVID-19 rose by 1,185 to reach a total of 174,308, the health ministry’s data showed on Friday.

With a total tally of nearly 14.3 million, India this week overtook Brazil to become the country with the second-highest number of cases worldwide after the United States.

India’s daily coronavirus caseload has doubled in 10 days, as authorities grapple with shortages of vaccines, treatments and hospital beds.

Having let its guard down with mass religious festivals, political rallies and crowds at cricket matches, India is experiencing a vicious second wave, recording almost 2 million fresh infections this month alone.

After a nationwide lockdown a year ago caused widespread misery and one of the sharpest downturns of any major economy, the government is desperate to avoid repeating the hugely unpopular shutdown.

But many states are tightening the screws, in particular Maharashtra and its capital Mumbai, which this week introduced tougher restrictions for its 125 million people.

This has prompted many migrant workers to flee Mumbai and other cities in the state, in scenes reminiscent of the exodus last year when the government halted all activity almost overnight.

The capital New Delhi on Thursday became the latest to impose a weekend curfew and ordering shopping malls, gyms and spas to stay shut from Friday evening.

The megacity of around 22 million inhabitants recorded over 17,000 fresh cases on Wednesday, its highest single-day tally since the pandemic began.

Late Thursday, the ministry of culture said that all major monuments, including India’s top tourist attraction the Taj Mahal, would be shut until April 15 amid the surge. The marble mausoleum was reopened in September after it was shut to visitors in March last year.

Meanwhile Uttar Pradesh, a northern Indian state with a population of more than 240 million, also imposed curfews in major cities as it scrambled to control a recent surge in cases – with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath admitted to hospital with the virus on Thursday.