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 Covid-19 death toll – at 6,642 – remains relatively low compared with the other countries. But experts said the country is still nowhere near its peak and doctors fear what will happen once the imminent monsoon season hits.
However, despite no sign of flattening the curve, on Monday the country will begin opening up, after more than two months of the world’s largest lockdown, of all 1.3 billion Indian citizens. Shopping malls and places of worship will open their doors from Monday. There will, however, be no large gatherings allowed and no distribution of food offerings, sprinkling of holy water or touching of idols and holy books.
Almost half of the country’s known cases have been traced to the four huge, densely populated cities of Delhi, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Mumbai, where hospitals have already run out of beds and patients are kept on floors and share oxygen tanks. However, as the millions of migrant workers who spent weeks trapped in the cities return home, they are spreading the virus to remote rural areas, which often have no medical facilities to speak of.
On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted how India’s lockdown helped it dampen transmission of the disease but warned there was a risk cases could 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 one of the global coronavirus hotspots. The situation worsened severely in Mexico, where the health ministry reported an additional 4,346 cases, as well as 625 new deaths. That brought the country’s confirmed total to 110,026 cases and 13,170 deaths.
However, despite the rising infection rate, Mexico’s president, the leftwing populist Andrés Manuel López, continued to insist his strategy had been effective. He dismissed media reports around the escalating death toll, which is second only to Brazil’s in the region, as “alarmist and irresponsible”.
The death toll 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 8,855 new cases of the virus, according to officials. This pushed the total number of recorded infections to 458,689.
The official death toll has been called into question, however, after mortality data from Russia’s second-largest city, St Petersburg, revealed the city had issued 1,552 more death certificates this May than in the previous year – a 32% rise. 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 also increased in Germany by 407 to 183,678.
Meanwhile, China recorded three new confirmed cases of Covid-19, down from five the day before. All cases 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.
On early Saturday, the G20 group of 20 rich and emerging economies, including the US, UK, France, India and China, pledged more than $21bn to fight the coronavirus. In April, the group called on all countries, NGOs, philanthropies and the private sector 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.”
Even with all the talk of countries gradually opening up to international flights again, the airline industry continued to reel from the effects of the pandemic. United Airlines became to latest airline to announce they will close cabin crew bases in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Frankfurt.
New Zealand, however, is still on course to declare itself Covid-19 free 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 efficient and successful containment of the virus, New Zealand has had 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.
Elsewhere around the world: