India Covid-19 cases cross one million

India has registered one million coronavirus cases, the third highest after the US and Brazil, according to report of the Health Ministry on Friday.

In the last 24 hours, the country has reported 34,956 new cases, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 1,003,832, reports UNB.

The surge in Covid-19 cases is also prompting concerns about the country's readiness to confront an inevitable surge that could overwhelm hospitals and test India’s feeble health care system.

The Health Ministry also reported a record number of 687 deaths for a total of 25,602 and noted that the recovery rate was continuing to improve at 63 percent.

 The grim milestone comes at a time when several Indian states are imposing focused lockdowns to stem the outbreak amid frantic efforts by local governments to protect the economy.

 So far, three states — Maharashtra, Delhi and Tamil Nadu — have accounted for more than half of total cases. But in India’s vast countryside, which is much less prepared and with weaker health care facilities, the pandemic is clearly growing.

 “The acceleration in cases remains the main challenge for India in the coming days,” said Dr Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, adding that a vast majority of cases were still being missed.

 The continuing surge has forced authorities to reinstate lockdowns in some cities and states.

 In Bangalore, a city that prides itself as the centre of of Indian technology innovation, the government ordered a weeklong lockdown that began Tuesday evening after the cases surged exponentially.

 In Bihar, an eastern state with a population of 128 million and a fragile health system, a two-week lockdown was announced Thursday.

 In Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state with more than 200 million people, authorities have started placing residents under strict weekend curfews, which will remain in place until the end of July.

Other local governments are increasingly focusing on smaller lockdowns that shield the economy. Nearly a dozen states have imposed restrictions on “containment zones” — areas that can be as small as a few houses or a street.

Dr Anant Bhan, a global health researcher, said that India was likely to see “a series of peaks,” as the infection spread in rural areas. He pointed out that New Delhi and the financial capital, Mumbai had already seen surges, while infections have now shifted to smaller cities.

India’s response to the virus was initially sluggish and then it bought time by locking down its entire population of 1.4 billion people when Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a nationwide lockdown for three weeks on March 24.

 “If (the) situation is not handled in these 21 days, the country and your family could go back 21 years,” Modi said then in a televised address to Indians, many of whom were still unaware of the scale of the crisis in the country.

The nationwide lockdown, then extended for five more weeks, came at an enormous economic cost amid an unprecedented humanitarian crisis when millions of impoverished migrant workers were forced to return to the countryside due to job losses and hunger.