India Hits Case Highs Not Seen in Months as Festivals Begin



India, racing to contain a second wave of the coronavirus, recorded its biggest single-day spike since October — 59,118 cases in the past 24 hours.

The uptick, which was especially high in the state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai, comes as more people ease up on public health measures like wearing masks and social distancing.

Officials say the relaxed attitude could be one factor in the increase. Single-day figures sometimes contain anomalies, but the country’s seven-day average of new cases, a more reliable gauge, has been rising sharply since early March, surpassing 41,500 for the first time since late November.

The resurgence of the coronavirus, which was once seemingly in retreat, is prompting health officials and law enforcement agencies to review and adopt more stringent measures to try to stem the spread. Health care workers are particularly worried as people gather to celebrate festivals like Holi and crowd at bazaars.

India has directed regional governments to deploy law enforcement officials to ensure that people are wearing masks and maintaining distance. And the country has also curtailed exports of Covid-19 vaccines, inciting a setback for inoculation drives in other countries, especially in poorer ones that do not have the infrastructure to produce their own.

India is desperate for all the doses it can get. Infections are soaring, topping 50,000 per day, more than double the number less than two weeks ago. And the Indian vaccine drive has been sluggish, with less than 4 percent of India’s nearly 1.4 billion people getting a jab, far behind the rates of the United States, Britain and most European countries.

The latest surge is crippling life in several regions of Maharashtra, which has recorded the highest number of cases in the country — 2.6 million. The state is home to densely populated Mumbai, the country’s financial hub, where millions live, sometimes in very close quarters. The Dharavi slum was sealed off for nearly two months during the first wave of infections.

Even as cases rose in the city, business continued as usual in some pockets. But entire districts of the state have gone back into lockdown, and the government in Maharashtra is imposing a nightly curfew starting Sunday. Malls will also close at 8 p.m.


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