Asia Editor's Picks Latest South Asia Top Stories

India witnesses yet another highest single-day spike as Covid infections surpass 184,000

NEW DELHI India: Health ministry’s data revealed that India’s new coronavirus infections have reached a record of 184,372 in the last 24 hours as most of the South Asian nation battles a second and more vicious surge in cases.

The nationwide tally of infections is 13.9 million, with the data on Wednesday showing deaths rose by 1,027, bringing the death toll to 172,085.

From reporting less than 10,000 cases per day earlier this year, India has been the world’s worst-hit country since April 2 by new daily cases.

The country is currently reporting around double the daily cases of the United States and Brazil, the two other worst-affected countries, though its daily death toll is lower.

India’s total infections rank after only the US, having overtaken Brazil on Monday.

Still, hundreds of thousands of devout Hindus gathered to bathe in the Ganges river on Wednesday, the third key day of the weeks-long Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival.

Sanjay Gunjyal, the inspector general of police at the festival, said around 650,000 people had bathed on Wednesday morning.

“People are being fined for not following social distancing in non-crowded ghats (bathing areas), but it is very hard to find people in the main ghats, which are very crowded,” he said.

More than a thousand cases have been reported in Haridwar district in the last two days, according to government data.

Related story: Covid infections: India overtakes Brazil as world’s second worst-hit country

Similar concerns of a spike in cases were sparked by mass election rallies by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party and opposition groups during polls in four states and one federally run region.

At one rally in the eastern state of West Bengal, a key political prize, Home Minister Amit Shah posted Twitter pictures of meetings with crowds of supporters while unmasked.

The jump in India’s infections, for which Health Minister Harsh Vardhan acknowledged widespread failure to heed curbs on movement and social interaction, has prompted calls for the government to cancel huge public events.

With the situation continuing to deteriorate, many states have announced restrictions to curb the spread of the disease.

India’s richest state Maharashtra, home to India’s financial capital Mumbai and the epicentre of the national second wave, accounts for about a quarter of the country’s cases.

Read more: New Zealand bans entry of travellers from India amid Covid surge

The state-imposed stringent restrictions from Wednesday to try to contain the spread of the disease after Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray ordered most establishments and public places closed in the state for 15 days except those deemed essential, including grocery shops, hospitals, banks and stock exchanges.

“All factories/industries” barring some export-oriented units and those making items needed for essential services “must stop their operations”, a government notification said.