- India reported 78,761 new coronavirus cases in a day
- The total number of cases in the country surged past 35 lakh
- The surge is due to to resumption of activities, experts say
India reported 78,761 new coronavirus cases in the preceding 24 hours - the biggest single-day spike in infections in the world - government data revealed Sunday morning, taking the total number of cases in the country past 35 lakh.
The surge in coronavirus cases in India - this is the fourth consecutive day to record over 70,000 new cases and eighth with more than 60,000 - is attributable to resumption of economic and commercial activities, and increased testing, medical experts were quoted by news agency PTI.
Of further concern, one expert told PTI, was disdain in following guidelines, which include wearing of face masks in public places and social distancing.
"With the opening up of the economy... complacency is being seen among people (in) following Covid-appropriate behaviour, which is also contributing to the rise in cases," Dr Samiran Panda, chief of the Communicable Diseases department at the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research), told PTI.
The re-opening of public spaces and economic activities - a step necessitated by the condition of the Indian economy after months of lockdown - continued last night with "Unlock4" - the fourth phase of easing of restrictions.
Under "Unlock4" guidelines metro services - banned because crowded stations and trains make it easy for the infectious virus to spread - have been allowed. Delhi Metro, which claims to transport around 15 lakh people per day, has put out strict guidelines to minimise contact.
Hotels and restaurants, shopping malls, religious places and gyms - all characteristically high footfall and contact areas - have also been re-opened, albeit with restrictions in place, in previous "Unlock" phases.
The focus on "discipline" and adhering to Covid guidelines - a key point as more and more of the country is opened up - was reinforced today by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during Mann ki Baat, his monthly radio address.
"Coronavirus will be defeated only if you follow safety measures. The two-metre distance norm should be strictly followed," the Prime Minister said, although he did not touch upon the surge in fresh cases.
Meanwhile, Dr Panda also pointed out that the increase in cases was the inevitable result of Covid testing being "ramped up exponentially".
India conducted a record 10.5 lakh tests in one day (Sunday), the government said today according to PTI, adding that the total number of tests had now crossed 4.14 crore. The government said the "exponential jump" had resulted in an "upsurge" in the tests per million figure - to 30,044.
That figure, however, is the second-lowest among the ten worst-affected countries in this pandemic, according to news agency AFP.
"Testing per million in India - at 30,000 - remains the second lowest in top 10 (virus-infected) countries. Mexico is lowest at about 10,000," Shahid Jameel, a virologist who heads the Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance, told AFP.
Experts have also warned that while an increase in testing - and India has scaled up testing over the past weeks - is encouraging, more had to be done to capture the scale of the pandemic in the world's second-most populous nation.
The government, which has been criticised by the opposition over its handling of the crisis, has pointed out that India's caseload and fatalities, are among the lowest in the world when viewed against every million of its population.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said the country had made tremendous strides in containing the COVID-19 outbreak, despite being resource-constrained and densely populated.
India is now three lakh cases shy of Brazil on the list of worst-affected nations; the South American country is second on that list, some 21 lakh cases behind the United States in first.
Given the rate at which infections are piling up - there have been more new coronavirus cases per day than any other country since August 4 - India is likely to move past Brazil inside a week.
With input from AFP, PTI, Reuters