NEW DELHI: India has registered a record new 78,761 coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the worst single-day spike in the world, as the government continues to further ease pandemic restrictions nationwide.
The Health Ministry on Sunday also reported 948 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities to 63,498.
India now has the fastest-growing daily coronavirus caseload of any country in the world, and has reported more than 75,000 infections for the fourth consecutive day.
Sunday’s surge has raised the country’s total virus tally to over 3.5 million and comes at a time when India is reopening its subway networks and allowing sports and religious events in a limited manner from next month as part of efforts to revive the economy.
The crowded subway, a lifeline for millions of people in capital New Delhi, will be reopened in a phased manner from Sept. 7. Schools and colleges will, however, remain closed until the end of September.
The South Asian country has the third-highest caseload after the United States and Brazil, and its fatalities are the fourth-highest.
Even as eight Indian states remain among the worst-hit regions and contribute nearly 73% of the total infections, the virus is now spreading fast in the vast hinterlands, with experts warning that the month of September could be the most challenging.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
— South Korea has reported 299 new cases of the coronavirus as officials placed limits on dining at restaurants and closed fitness centers and after-school academies in the greater capital area to slow the spread of the virus. The 17th consecutive day of triple-digit increases brought the national caseload to 19,699, including 323 deaths. Most of the new cases came from capital Seoul, nearby Gyeonggi province and Incheon, a region that had been at the center of a viral resurgence this month. Churches have emerged as a major source of infections, with many of them failing to properly enforce masks and allowing worshippers to sing and eat together. Clusters have also popped up from restaurants, schools, nursing homes and apartment buildings. For eight days starting Sunday, restaurants in the Seoul area are allowed to provide only deliveries and takeouts after 9 p.m. Franchised coffee shops like Starbucks will sell only takeout drinks and food.
— The Australian state of Victoria has recorded 114 new COVID-19 cases and 11 more deaths. The fatalities bring the death toll from the virus in Victoria to 524 and the Australian total to 611. It follows 94 new cases on Saturday, which was the first day since July 5 that cases had dropped to double digits. Melbourne residents will be subjected to two more weeks of restricted movement, including a nightly curfew. Restrictions across Australia’s second largest city are due to expire on Sept. 13 but will be reduced gradually rather than removed completely. Health officials have indicated that recommendations for face masks could remain in place for several more months.
— The Australian government says it will provide 2 million Australian dollars ($1.48 million) worth of personal protective equipment to the Indonesian military to assist in that country’s fight against COVID-19. The Royal Australian Air Force will deliver surgical gloves, gowns, masks and thermometers as part of existing defense cooperation between the neighbors. Current figures from Indonesia’s Health Ministry show 169,000 cases of COVID-19 and nearly 7,300 deaths.
— Hong Kong has reported 18 new cases of the coronavirus and three additional deaths from COVID-19. The figures by China’s National Health Commission raise the semi-autonomous southern city’s totals to 4,786 cases and 87 deaths. Mainland China on Sunday reported nine new cases, all of them brought from outside the country. It brought China’s total to 85,031 since the virus was first detected in the central city of Wuhan late last year, with 4,634 deaths.