More from news earlier that India has overtaken Italy as the sixth worst-hit country in the coronavirus pandemic after another biggest single-day spike in confirmed infections.
India’s health ministry reported 9,887 new cases on Saturday, bringing the official total to 236,657. It means it now has fewer confirmed cases than only the United States, Brazil, Russia, Britain and Spain.
By comparison, India’s official Covid-19 death toll – at 6,642 – remains relatively low compared to the other countries.
Reuters reports that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is attempting to jump-start the economy, which has been crippled by the epidemic, and put millions back to work. The government is easing its lockdown of the 1.3 billion population imposed in March, with restrictions loosened from Monday but some experts are worried it is too soon.
Giridhar R Babu, epidemiologist at the Public Health Foundation of India, in particular questioned the re-opening of religious places. “We can survive and sustain the gains without ... opening up religious places for sometime,” he wrote on Twitter.
Concerts, sporting events and political rallies are still banned. On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted India’s lockdown had helped it dampen down transmission of the disease, but warned there was a risk the cases could rise again.
“As India and in other large countries open up and people begin to move there is always a risk of the disease bouncing back up,” Dr Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies programme, told a news conference in Geneva.
People visiting places of worship will be asked to wash their hands and feet, and there will be no distribution of food offerings, sprinkling of holy water or touching of idols and holy books.