India on Friday added a record number of COVID-19 cases – nearly 35,000 – in the last 24 hours, thus becoming the third country in the world to record one million coronavirus cases after worst-affected countries like the United States and Brazil where infections are rising continuously.
Given India’s population of around 1.37 billion, experts say, one million is relatively a low figure. Although the active cases account for about a third of its total tally but it has been reporting a high recovery rate and a relatively low death rate from the virus. However, the number is bound to rise in the coming months as the testing will increase, pushing the already straining healthcare system to a brink.
The country witnessed a sudden spike in the number of COVID patients in recent weeks, forcing the authorities to impose fresh lockdowns amid a time when the government was practising “phased unlock”.
On Thursday evening, Goa became the latest state to go under lockdown, imposing a three-day shutdown and a nighttime curfew until August 10. Last week, India overtook Russia to take the third spot in the list of nations worst hit by the coronavirus outbreak.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Thursday that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are together fast becoming the next epicentre of the deadly virus.
“While the world’s attention has been focused on the unfolding crisis in the United States and South America, a concurrent human tragedy is fast emerging in South Asia,” the organisation said.
“COVID-19 is spreading at an alarming rate in South Asia, home to a quarter of humanity.”
Though India was quick in responding to the global pandemic in the initial stage by imposing a lockdown by the end of the March till Mid June, the restrictions came at a devastating economic and human cost. After India reopened mostly at the end of June and testing increased, case numbers soared.
Maharashtra is still the biggest hotspot with the highest case count- more than 2,80,000 – followed by Tamil Nadu. However, potential new hotspots are emerging as the states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal record a rapid rise in daily case numbers.
Until now, country’s megacities were the main hotspots, but now the virus has reached towns and rural areas — where India’s 70 per cent of the population lives in a densely packed set up.
Only two other countries are ahead of India — the United States where more than 3.4 million people have been infected so far, and Brazil, where the number is touching two million. Worldwide the highly contagious disease has infected 13.37 million people taken lives of more than 5,80,000.