India sees worst single-day rise in COVID cases since December 24

Health ministry reports 23,285 new cases in the past 24 hours as Maharashtra state battles a resurgence.

A healthcare worker holding a rose receives the COVID-19 vaccine at a medical centre in Mumbai [File: Francis Mascarenhas/REUTERS]

India has registered its worst single-day increase in coronavirus cases since late December as the western state of Maharashtra battles a resurgence.

India’s health ministry on Friday reported 23,285 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours. It is the highest daily rise since December 24, according to government data.

India has so far reported more than 11.3 million cases of coronavirus infection, the world’s second-highest total after the United States, and 158,000 deaths.

The cases had been falling steadily since a peak in late September, but experts say increased public gatherings and laxity toward public health guidance is leading to the latest surge.

The increase in new cases is being reported in six states, including Maharashtra, where authorities have announced a lockdown in densely populated Nagpur city.

A weeklong complete lockdown will be implemented next week, officials said. The vaccine drive will, however, continue in the city.

In Thane district, adjacent to Mumbai, a lockdown has been declared at 16 hotspots until March 31 with only essential services to remain open.

Restrictions on opening of markets, movement and closure of schools and colleges and night curfews have been announced in five other districts of Maharashtra.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s party has warned that unless people kept to the rules, more restrictions such as a statewide lockdown would be inevitable.

Government health official Vinod Kumar Paul in a news conference on Thursday said the latest surge, particularly in Maharashtra, was worrying. He advised people not to lower their guard as “the pandemic is not yet over”.

India began its vaccination drive in January and has advanced to the second phase, giving shots to healthcare workers, people older than 60 and people over 45 with significant health risks.

But the programme aiming to vaccinate 300 million people by August is running way below capacity. More than 26 million people have received a shot, though only 4.72 million are fully vaccinated with both doses.

The pace of vaccination has prompted concerns India could miss its targets.

The effort is fraught with logistical challenges in a country with nearly 1.4 billion people, but the drive has added urgency since new infections have begun to increase again after months of consistent decline.

Source: News Agencies