Coronavirus: India overtakes Italy in cases amid easing of lockdown

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The spike comes ahead of a further loosening of lockdown restrictions in the country

India has recorded close to 10,000 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, taking its total above that of Italy.

The country now has the sixth-highest number of confirmed cases in the world, 236,657. There have been 6,649 deaths.

The health system in Mumbai is on the verge of collapse while hospitals in the capital, Delhi, are reportedly running out of space.

Meanwhile, shopping centres, places of worship, restaurants and offices will be allowed to reopen from Monday.

For weeks, India’s relatively low Covid-19 numbers had baffled experts. Despite the dense population, disease and underfunded public hospitals, there was no deluge of infections or fatalities.

Although India has the sixth highest number of cases, it is 12th in fatalities, according to statistics from Johns Hopkins University.

Low testing rates explained the former, but not the latter. The hope – which also encouraged the government to lift the lockdown – was that most of India’s undetected infections would not be severe enough to require hospitalisation.

But the number of rising cases shows that the country could simply be witnessing a late peak in cases, experts say.

Many Indians have taken to social media to talk about patients struggling to receive medical attention, with some hospitals saying they do not even have testing kits left.

Critics say the recent spike in cases shows the lockdown, which was meant to give the government time to ramp up medical facilities and came at huge economic cost, has not worked.

But Gautam Menon, a professor and researcher on models of infectious diseases, earlier told the BBC that the country simply had no other choice.

“Beyond a point, it’s hard to sustain a lockdown that has gone on for so long – economically, socially and psychologically,” he said.

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