Coronavirus: Urban centres push India's case tally past 50,000

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Coronavirus cases in India rose past 50,000, the health ministry said on Thursday, with the pace of new infections showing no signs of abating despite a strict weeks-long lockdown in the world's second-most populous country.

India added 3,561 cases, taking its total 52,952 – behind over 82,000 in China where the virus originated - while the death toll rose by 89 to 1,783, still low compared with the United States, United Kingdom and Italy.

Officials attributed the low toll to the government's move to impose a stay-at-home order on the nation's 1.3 billion people early in the cycle, but noted a spurt in cases from the densely packed economic centres of Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said Maharashtra, the state where Mumbai is located, was an area of particular concern and said the federal government stood ready to help.

"The [government] is ready to help in every way possible — be it manpower increase, capacity building, technical assistance etc or any kind of handholding that is required to manage the situation," he said at a meeting with state health officials.

India this week allowed some economic activity to restart in less-affected parts of the hinterland to reduce the pain for hundreds of thousands of people out of work for weeks and running short of food and cash.

But the spreading contagion will increase the pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to keep restrictions in place so it does not spin out of control and overwhelm the limited public health system.

India has reported an average of about 2,800 cases each day over the past week. By comparison, China has reported new cases in the single digits over the same period.

Infectious diseases experts have also expressed concern that official data in India is not capturing the full extent of the crisis. The infection numbers in India fall far short of the United States, which has 1.2 million cases and is nearing 75,000 deaths despite a much smaller population.

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Coronavirus around the world

Mary Luz Hernandez, 34, a professional seamstress, holds up her spray gun to offer passing cars her disinfecting service, amid the spread of the new coronavirus in Bogota, Colombia. AP Photo

Maria Figueroa attempts to send pictures of her sons’ homework back to their teachers, from the roof of her apartment in the Catia slum of Caracas, Venezuela. AP Photo

Waiters in protective gear carry food at a restaurant which is testing servers providing drinks and food to models pretending to be clients in a safe "quarantine greenhouses" in which guests can dine in Amsterdam, Netherlands. REUTERS

People stand on social-distancing markers at a Mercedes car dealer in Brussels, Belgium. REUTERS

Red Cross volunteers walk in a street during operations in the French capital Paris. AFP

Lillian sweeping the empty streets of the CBD in Nairobi. AFP

Red Cross volunteers carry a pregnant woman, as part of the Red Cross operation in Paris. AFP

A man scoops with his bare hands some rice that fell from food parcels at the Kwa Mai Mai area of the Johannesburg CBD. AFP

A nurse tends to a crying newborn wearing a face shield in Hanoi. AFP

US Vice President Mike Pence stands among television soundmen as he listens to Donald speak in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. REUTERS

US President Donald Trump displays a proclamation in honour of National Nurses Day in the Oval Office at the White House. Reuters

New York City Police officers wake up a passenger on the subway. Reuters

A man wearing a face mask uses exercise equipment at a public park in Beijing. AP Photo

Seen through a bridge glass panel covered in graffiti a man wearing a face mask walks in Sarajevo, Bosnia. AP Photo

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While the federal lockdown is due to end on May 17, authorities in south-central Telangana state decided to extend the lockdown till May 29 in a bid to flatten the curve of infections before opening up fully.

"The people themselves have asked for an extension," said chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao.

India, along with the United States, Russia and Brazil, is among big countries that have not been able to slow the pace of new infections, said Shamika Ravi, a Brookings senior fellow and a former member of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council.

"Their current strategies [contact tracing + testing + containment] are ineffective," she said.

Updated: May 7, 2020 01:58 PM

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