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India presses ahead with reopening as coronavirus burden gets heavier

Amy Kazmin in New Delhi

India is reopening restaurants and religious sites on Monday, even as coronavirus spreads rapidly, with nearly 10,000 new cases a day being detected despite the country’s restrictive testing regime.

India now has the world’s fifth-heaviest coronavirus burden, with more than 257,500 confirmed cases — surpassing hard-hit Spain and Italy for the total number infected. Of those, more than 7,200 have died.

The true number of infections in the population is far higher, as India has one of the most limited testing regimes in the world, which makes it difficult for anyone — even those with obvious symptoms of Covid-19, or who have had contact with people known to be infected — to be tested.

India is also thought to be understating its death toll from the virus, because people who die at home, or shortly after arrival at hospital, are frequently not tested, or counted as coronavirus deaths.

Hospitals in some of India’s worst-hit cities — including New Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad — are also increasingly overwhelmed with the onslaught of coronavirus patients. In recent days, Indian social media has been awash with accounts of families desperately going from hospital to hospital to try to gain admission for critically ill, or highly vulnerable coronavirus patients.

In New Delhi, local authorities have now decreed that patients will need proof that they are residents of the city to visit hospitals in the city.

Despite this evidence of severe strain on the health care system, India is moving aggressively to reopen its economy, and various public spaces, after the hammer blow of the draconian lockdown imposed in late March. The strict measures devastated India’s economy, while doing little to stop the spread of the virus.

Restaurants, shopping malls, archeological monuments and religious sites are reopening in many parts of the country this week.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that Indians must learn to live with coronavirus, though he has left it to the states to determine the pace of reopening



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