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India surges to third-highest number of global coronavirus cases

Medical personnel take temperatures during a Covid-19 health campaign in Mumbai on July 4, 2020.
Medical personnel take temperatures during a Covid-19 health campaign in Mumbai on July 4, 2020. © Francis Mascarenhas, Reuters

India became the country with the third-highest coronavirus caseload in the world on Monday, with authorities forced to convert hotels, wedding halls, a spiritual centre and even railway coaches to provide care for coronavirus patients.

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The Indian government has gradually lifted virus restrictions to help the battered economy but the number of cases has continued to climb, with 24,000 reported in 24 hours to take the total to nearly 700,000 on Monday, overtaking Russia to become the third-hardest-hit nation.

India's tally is not expected to peak for several more weeks and experts predict the one million figure will be passed this month. Critics allege India is conducting very few tests, leaving the true scale of the pandemic unknown.

The country has registered 19,963 deaths from the virus, a much lower number than many other badly hit countries.

India's major cities have been worst hit by the pandemic. New Delhi and Mumbai each have about 100,000 cases, with 3,000 dead in the capital and nearly 5,000 in Mumbai. 

New Delhi has opened a new 10,000-bed temporary virus hospital while other cities are tightening restrictions on movement to head off a new surge in cases. 

The Kerala state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, imposed a new lockdown from Monday with public transport shut and only pharmacies allowed to open. The clampdown came after hundreds of new cases were reported across the state, which had been praised for its action to curtail the pandemic.

One high-profile victim of the global shutdown – the Taj Mahal – will remain closed, it was announced Sunday.

Other countries are also battling a resurgence of the virus, including South Africa, where dozens of military medics were deployed on Sunday after a surge in infections in East Cape province. South Africa imposed some of the strictest stay-at-home measures in the world in late March in a bid to limit the spread of Covid-19, but the number of infections is rising daily as the lockdown rules are gradually eased.

Iran announced 163 new deaths, the country's highest official one-day toll since the outbreak began, while Morocco discovered an outbreak in a fish-canning factory, with 300,000 inhabitants placed under lockdown.

And Latin America continued its grim battle with the virus, with Chile passing 10,000 deaths on Sunday, while Mexico has had 30,000 fatalities.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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