Coronavirus: India overtakes Britain to become fourth-worst affected country

Another record surge in new infections reported on Friday, but country remains 11th in terms of deaths

People wearing personal protective suits wait to cremate the body of their relative who died of COVID-19, in New Delhi, India, Friday, June 5, 2020. The coronavirus pandemic is leaving India's morgues piling up with the dead and graveyards and crematoriums overwhelmed. Like elsewhere in the world, the virus has made honoring the dead in New Delhi a hurried affair, largely devoid of the rituals that give it meaning for mourners. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

India’s coronavirus infections surged by more than 10,000 on Friday to overtake the number of recorded cases in Britain, making it the world’s fourth-worst affected nation.

India recorded 297,535 infections by Friday, compared to Britain's’s 292,860 tally, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University. After burgeoning infections in May and June, India now trails only the United States, Brazil and Russia.

The South Asian nation has one of the world’s lowest testing rates, at 3.78 tests per 1,000 people, compared to the UK with 53.53 tests per 1,000, according to Our World in Data figures produced by the University of Oxford and Global Change Data Lab. This has led epidemiologists to warn that India’s virus tally is likely much higher than the official figures.

Failure to ramp up testing and identify infection hotspots in spite of a stringent nationwide lockdown has cost India, which ranked 154 out of 195 countries in global healthcare access and quality even before the virus. The country with 50 per cent of its population below 25 years of age has recorded higher recovery rates and lower deaths, ranking it below Canada, according to the JHU data.

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Coronavirus around the world

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The 10,956 new cases reported on Friday was India's biggest single-day spike. The death toll rose by 396 to 8,498, according to the health ministry, placing India 11th in the world in terms of fatalities.

Fears of a sharper rise in daily infections increased after India eased its national lockdown on June 8. The nation of 1.3 billion people has restarted inter-state flights and opened cities to buttress a sinking economy that has left businesses broken and impoverished millions.

Asia’s third-largest economy is heading for its first full-year contraction in more than four decades, as much as 5 per cent by some estimates, making rising coronavirus health costs more worrisome.

Covid-19 cases across the country, especially in large cities struggling with shortages of hospital beds and ventilators that include the financial nerve centre Mumbai and capital New Delhi, are expected to peak in July. The capital may need 80,000 additional beds to manage an expected surge of more than half a million infections by the end of next month.

India and its neighbours in South Asia – the world’s most populated region – have reported the world’s fastest growth in coronavirus cases in the past week, according to data of the 20 most affected nations compiled by Bloomberg. Infections have risen by 27 per cent in Pakistan, while the number of cases in Bangladesh spiked by 19 per cent, and by 17 per cent in India.

The spread of the virus is accelerating in countries such as India and Brazil as hot spots shift to developing nations ill-equipped to contain its spread.

As the pandemic eases elsewhere in Europe, Britain remains one of the countries worst hit around the globe, with more than 41,000 coronavirus deaths so far. The prime minister contracted the virus and almost died of it, and his government has faced a cascade of criticism over its response to the pandemic. While the rest of Europe is opening up its borders, the UK is still largely shut down.