India has overtaken Italy as the sixth worst-affected country, after another biggest single-day rise in confirmed Covid-19 infections.
India’s health ministry reported 9,887 new cases on Saturday, bringing the official total to 236,657. The country has fewer confirmed cases than only the US, Brazil, Russia, Britain and Spain.
India’s official death toll of 6,642 is relatively low compared with the other countries, but experts say the country is still nowhere near its peak and doctors fear what will happen once the imminent monsoon season begins.
Despite there being no sign the infection curve flattening, the country will begin opening up on Monday after more than two months of the world’s largest lockdown, which has involved 1.3 billion people. Shopping malls and places of worship will open their doors, but no large gatherings, distributions of food offerings, sprinkling of holy water or touching of idols and holy books will be allowed.
Almost half of the country’s known cases have been traced to the four densely populated cities of Delhi, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Mumbai, where hospitals have already run out of beds and patients sleep on floors and share oxygen tanks. As the millions of migrant workers who spent weeks trapped in the cities return home, however, they are spreading the virus to remote rural areas that often have no medical facilities to speak of.
The World Health Organization (WHO) noted on Friday that India’s lockdown had helped it dampen transmission of the disease but said there was a risk cases would rise again as people returned to their ordinary lives.
“As India and other large countries open up and people begin to move, there is always a risk of the disease bouncing back up,” Dr Mike Ryan, the head of WHO’s emergencies programme, told a news conference in Geneva.
Latin America remains a coronavirus hotspot, and the situation deteriorated in Mexico, where the health ministry reported an additional 4,346 cases and 625 new deaths. That brought the country’s confirmed total to 110,026 cases and 13,170 deaths.
Despite the rising infection rate, Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López, continued to insist his strategy had been effective. He dismissed media reports about the escalating death toll, which is second only to Brazil’s in the region, as alarmist and irresponsible.
The death toll also continued to rise in Russia, where 197 people died in the past 24 hours. The country’s official death toll is 5,725. There were also 8,855 new cases, according to officials. This pushed the total number of recorded infections to 458,689.
The official death toll has been called into question after mortality data from Russia’s second-largest city, St Petersburg, revealed it had issued 1,552 more death certificates in May 2020 than in May 2019, a rise of a 32%. It was a strong indicator that hundreds of deaths caused by Covid-19 are not being reflected in the city’s official coronavirus death toll for the month, which was 171.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased in Germany by 407 to 183,678.
China recorded three new confirmed cases, down from five the day before. All were imported from abroad, according to the National Health Commission (NHC). The total number of infections in China, where the virus first emerged late last year, stands at 83,030.
The G20 pledged on Saturday to provide more than $21bn (£17bn) to fight the coronavirus. The group called on all countries, NGOs, philanthropies and the private sector in April to help close a financing gap estimated at more than $8bn to combat the pandemic.
The group said in a statement: “The G20, with invited countries, has coordinated the global efforts to support the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. To date, G20 members and invited countries have pledged over $21bn to support funding in global health.
“The pledges will be directed towards diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics and research and development.”
The airline industry continues to reel from the effects of the pandemic. United Airlines became to latest airline to announce cuts with the closure of cabin crew bases in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Frankfurt.
New Zealand is on course to declare itself free of Covid-19 by next week. It would be the first country among the OECD group of wealthy countries, and the first that has recorded more than 100 cases, to do so.
Hailed for its successful containment of the virus, New Zealand has recorded only 22 coronavirus deaths. The last person known to have contracted the virus domestically left quarantine on 18 May. Scientists said they would be able to declare the domestic elimination of the virus after 28 days of no known cases, which will be on 15 June.
“According to our model, that would put us nearly at the 99% probability of elimination,” said Nick Wilson, a public health specialist from the University of Otago.