India has become the third country to record more than 1m coronavirus infections, following the US and Brazil, as it reported 34,956 new cases in the past 24 hours, taking the national total to 1,003,832.
Amid evidence that the disease was taking hold in poorer, rural areas less well-served by public healthcare, the latest tally prompted renewed concerns about the country’s ability to cope with rising infections.
The figures have been released after a week in which authorities in India were forced to impose new lockdowns, including fresh restrictions on 128 million people in the state of Bihar, which came into force on Thursday.
The continuing and escalating outbreaks, on top of record cases in the US – which passed 75,000 daily cases in the last count – has dampened hopes that the pandemic is anywhere close to being brought under control, even as researchers race to find a viable vaccine.
Three states in India – Maharashtra, Delhi and Tamil Nadu – account for more than half of the total cases in the country so far. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, warned that the vast majority of cases in the country were still being
The continuing rise has forced authorities to reinstate lockdowns in some cities and states.
In Bangalore the government ordered a week-long lockdown that began on Tuesday evening after a rapid increase in cases.
In Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state with more than 200 million people, authorities have begun placing residents under strict weekend curfews, which will remain in place until the end of the month.
Other local governments are increasingly focusing on smaller lockdowns that shield the economy. Nearly a dozen states have imposed restrictions on containment zones that can be as small as a few houses or a street.
Dr Anant Bhan, a global health researcher, said India was likely to experience a series of peaks as the virus spread in rural areas. He said the capital, New Delhi, and the financial capital, Mumbai, had already recorded surges, while infections have now shifted to smaller cities.
India’s response to the virus was initially sluggish, but then on 24 March the prime minister, Narendra Modi, imposed a three-week nationwide lockdown of its 1.3-billion population.
By Friday more than 13.8m infections had been confirmed worldwide and nearly 590,000 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.