India has ordered 375million people back into lockdown as the country suffered another record spike in coronavirus cases today.
Health officials announced 29,429 new cases this morning, bringing the total from 906,752 to 936,181 with India on the brink of becoming the third country after the US and Brazil to pile up a million infections.
The death toll jumped by 582, rising from 23,727 to 24,309, with nearly half of all fatalities recorded in the state of Maharashtra which includes Mumbai.
As cases continue to surge, the impoverished state of Bihar yesterday ordered its 125million people into a two-week lockdown, while the IT hub of Bangalore has shut down shops and transport in another week-long shutdown.
Daily cases: India’s infection count rose by a record 29,429 on Wednesday, taking the total from 906,752 to 936,181 as cases head towards a million
Daily deaths: Today’s increase of 582 brought India’s death toll from 23,727 to 24,309. The record spike of 2,003 deaths on June 17 included some earlier cases but authorities did not specify how many of them were new
The lockdown in Bihar comes after the state recorded more than 1,000 cases for the third day running.
‘All city municipalities, district headquarters, block headquarters will stay under lockdown,’ deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi said.
‘There is no medicine or vaccine for corona. We have to ensure that we cover our faces with masks, handkerchiefs or towels,’ the minister said.
Nearly 2.5million migrant workers who had been stranded during India’s initial lockdown have returned to the state after they lost their jobs in large cities.
The lockdown in Bangalore, where tech giants such as Apple and Amazon have their Indian headquarters, means only 50 per cent of staff are allowed on the premises at once.
Transport will be banned in the city except for emergencies, and only shops selling essential items are allowed to open.
Places of worship, public transport and government offices will close again and people will be ordered to stay at home unless necessary.
Schools, colleges and restaurants will remain shut, authorities said.
Bangalore had only around 1,000 cases in mid-June and was thought to have fared better than other parts of India in terms of testing and contact tracing.
But infections had grown to nearly 20,000 by Monday, a spike which has been blamed on the end of the national lockdown.
Bangalore began seeing a surge in infections from late June as both testing and the movement of people picked up, said Hephsiba Korlapati, a senior official in the city’s coronavirus response team.
Emergency: Health workers spray sanitiser outside the home of Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan in Mumbai at the weekend after he tested positive for coronavirus
Orders: A police officer wearing a mask uses a loudspeaker to disperse people in a commercial area in Bangalore, which is entering a new week-long shutdown
A new lockdown has also been imposed in the western city of Pune, which saw its worst daily increase with 1,333 new infections on Monday.
Other states including Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous with 200 million inhabitants, Tamil Nadu and Assam have also introduced new restrictions.
Kerala in the south has also implemented tight controls in a dozen areas including state capital Thiruvananthapuram until July 23.
The state has seen cases shoot up to over 8,000 following the return of people from Gulf countries where Keralites make up a substantial proportion of foreign workers.
Kerala’s government last week extended until July 2021 rules on the wearing of masks, social distancing and limiting numbers of people at weddings and funerals.
Cities as far-flung as Shillong in the remote north-east and Srinagar, the main city of Kashmir in the far north, imposed new curbs on movements to contain the virus.
The Times estimated the total number of people back in lockdown as 375million, more than a quarter of India’s population.
India ordered its entire 1.3billion population into lockdown in March, when the country had only a few hundred cases and a handful of deaths.
But the measures were lifted in May and June after the shutdown of the $2.9trillion economy left millions of people out of work.
Cases have spiralled in recent weeks with the daily record repeatedly broken and 193,764 cases recorded in the last week alone.
Maharashtra accounts for more than a quarter of India’s total cases with 267,665, while Tamil Nadu and Delhi have both seen more than 100,000 infections.
Indian paramilitary soldiers wearing white protective suits and face shields carry the body of an officer who died of Covid-19 to a crematorium in Indian-controlled Kashmir yesterday
People gather outside a shop to make last-minute purchases in Bangalore before the city heads into a week-long shutdown to contain a surge in coronavirus cases
India says more than 300,000 cases are currently considered ‘active’, with more than 100,000 of them in Maharashtra.
In one glimmer of hope, Delhi reported its lowest daily figure for five weeks with 1,246 new infections on Monday.
Delhi has largely seen activity return to normal apart from several ‘containment zones’ and has shelved plans to turn stadiums into coronavirus care centres.
India’s health minister Harsh Vardhan said he expected coronavirus cases to peak in various parts of the country at different times.
More than 280,000 samples are being tested every day in the country, taking the total to nearly 12 million, the minister said.
Jitendra Singh, a minister in Modi’s office, quarantined himself on Tuesday after Ravinder Raina, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) president in Jammu and Kashmir, tested positive for the disease.
Singh visited the region with Raina and several members of the BJP after a party worker was killed last week by militants.
24 BJP workers also tested positive in Bihar’s capital of Patna, according to its chief minister.
The latest curbs have raised questions about prospects for India’s growth, according to Japan’s biggest brokerage and investment bank Nomura.
‘We also find growing evidence that after the initial normalisation in activity, mobility trends have started to plateau and fall lately,’ Nomura said in a note.
‘This implies that growth could remain below pre-pandemic peaks for a prolonged period of time.’