NEW DELHI: India reported a record 145,384 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday and the highest number of deaths in more than five months, as it grapples with an overwhelming second wave of infections that has forced the state of Maharashtra to impose a weekend lockdown.
Deaths rose by 794 to a total of 168,436, health ministry data showed. India’s overall case load has swelled to 13.21 million, the third-highest globally, behind the United States and Brazil. India has reported the most number of cases in the world in the past week, breaching the 100,000 mark for the first time on Monday and four times after that. The government blames the resurgence mainly on crowding and a reluctance to wear masks as businesses have nearly fully reopened since February, only to be partially shut again to control the current surge.
Maharashtra, the Indian state with the most cases, has already shut down restaurants, malls and places of worship and barred the movement of most people to control the outbreak that has threatened to overrun medical facilities and created vaccine shortages, officials said. Its weekend lockdown will end on early Monday. In India’s financial capital Mumbai, hundreds of poor migrant workers crammed onto trains this week to flee the city, potentially risking a wider outbreak in smaller towns and villages. The railways department denied people were fleeing cities because of the surge, calling it a usual rush this time of year because of holidays and as workers move to harvest crops. Many states, meanwhile, have complained of a shortage of vaccines.