NEW DELHI: India overtook Italy as the world’s sixth-biggest coronavirus outbreak after it reported 9,887 new infections cases in one day on Saturday.
With its total number of cases rising to more than 236,000, India now has fewer infections than only the United States, Brazil, Russia, Britain and Spain, according to a Reuters tally.
However, India’s toll of deaths from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, is 6,642, small compared with those other countries.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, anxious to jump-start an economy crippled by the epidemic and put millions of people back to work, is easing its lockdown of the 1.3 billion population imposed in March, which the government says helped avoid an exponential rise in cases.
Restrictions will be loosened from Monday but some experts are worried it is too soon.
Giridhar R Babu, an epidemiologist at the Public Health Foundation of India, in particular, questioned the re-opening of religious places.
“We can survive and sustain the gains without […] opening up religious places for some time,” Babu said on Twitter.
How to handle #postLockdown period?
To begin with, we can survive and sustain the gains without concerts, sporting events, political rallies and opening up religious places for sometime.
Let’s check data after 14 days and take the next step. Can’t we ?
— Dr. Giridhar R Babu (@epigiri) June 6, 2020
Concerts, sporting events and political rallies are still banned.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said late on Friday India’s lockdown had helped it dampen down transmission of the disease, but there was a risk the cases could rise again.
“As India and in other large countries open up and people begin to move there is always a risk of the disease bouncing back up,” Dr Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies programme, told a news conference in Geneva.
INDIA TO REOPEN TEMPLES, MALLS BUT NO SPRINKLING OF HOLY WATER:
India will throw open shopping malls, restaurants and places of worship that typically attract large crowds next week, officials said, even though coronavirus infections are rising at the fastest daily rate than at any time in the past three months.
Hotel guests will be tested for fever, masks will be compulsory at all times, and restaurants will have to set tables apart to maintain social distancing when they reopen on Monday, according to rules issued by the federal home ministry.
Anurag Katriar, president of the National Restaurant Association of India, said dining needed to be made safe but restrictions such as reducing seating capacity to maintain distance between people would be difficult to sustain.
“Very few restaurants are planning to open up on June 8, Financially, the 50 per cent seating capacity doesn’t work at all.”
In places of worship, people will be asked to wash their hands and feet before entering, and there will be no distribution of food offerings or a sprinkling of holy water or touching of idols and holy books.
“In view of the potential threat of the spread of infection, as far as feasible, recorded devotional music/songs may be played (but) choir or singing groups should not be allowed,” the home ministry said on its website.
India’s places of worship especially Hindu temples draw many thousands of people and the premises are usually not big enough to permit social distancing to curb any coronavirus contagion.
The large, wealthy Tirupati temple in southern India aims to keep pilgrims well apart by admitting a maximum of 6,000 per day rather than the 80,000-100,000 it would normally allow.
Tirupati staff will wear protective suits and take random throat swabs from pilgrims, said Anil Singhal, the executive director of the temple’s trust organisation.