India registers 350,000 new Covid cases in a day

It now has the second-highest number of daily cases behind the US

A woman wearing a mask sprinkles water on spinach leaves as she sells them by a roadside in Kerala state, India. AP
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India became the country with the second-highest number of Covid-19 cases on Friday after reporting nearly 350,000 new Covid-19 cases.

Only the US has more cases of the disease than India, where more than 700 people died from the coronavirus in the last 24 hours. Half of the deaths occurred in the southern Kerala state, the health ministry said on Friday.

The spike came a day after the government announced the country is in the grip of a third wave driven by the highly infectious Omicron variant. So far, India has confirmed 9,692 cases of Omicron.

Officials said the country’s positive test rate is hovering around 16 per cent, with some states returning 50 per cent positive cases out of the total tested.

Authorities in the coastal Kerala state are battling an unprecedented surge as they introduce measures including banning gatherings and closing schools.

Kerala reported a record number of 46,387 fresh cases on Thursday with authorities blaming both Omicron and Delta variants for the surge.

The state has clocked some 200,000 cases this month with its positive test rate at 40 per cent.

The state authorities have announced stringent restrictions for Sundays, stopping residents from preforming any non-essential activities in areas where hospital admissions are high.

No more than50 people will be allowed to gather for weddings and funerals and religious places, movie halls, and gymnasiums have been forced to close.

Health Minister Veena George said the state was facing a critical situation and urged people to exercise extreme caution.

“The next three weeks would be critical for Kerala … Omicron variant is highly infectious and the number of patients in ICUs and ventilators can go up any time. Omicron is six times more transmissible than Delta,” she said.

The highly transmissible variant was first detected in South Africa and has been raging across the country since it was first reported in early December.

India’s national capital Delhi has also brought in weekend lockdowns to battle the surge in infections after hitting an eight-month record last week with nearly 29,000 cases.

India begins vaccinating teenagers as Covid case numbers rise

India begins vaccinating teenagers as Covid case numbers rise

Similar weekend restrictions were imposed in northern Jammu and Kashmir where cases rose to nearly 6,000 on Thursday from a low of around 100 earlier this month.

States such as Bihar, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh have also tightened restrictions on public movement.

But Indian health experts say despite the surge in the number of infections, the wave is not severe as hospital admissions and deaths are comparatively low.

“The number of persons infected itself should not be the indicator of how severe the pandemic is at the moment … the hospitalisation and deaths are low … If the majority of the people are getting mild illness then we should not get terribly worried,” K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, told The National.

Updated: January 21, 2022, 3:46 PM