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India records world's highest single-day rise with more than 78,700 new COVID-19 cases

India records world's highest single-day rise with more than 78,700 new COVID-19 cases

A barber wearing a protective face mask looks at his mobile phone as he waits for customers in the old quarters of Delhi, India, Aug 24, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi)

NEW DELHI: India recorded the world's highest single-day rise of COVID-19 cases on Sunday (Aug 30) with 78,761 new infections.

The spike in new cases, the highest reported by any nation since the pandemic began, surpassed a Jul 17 figure of 77,638 in the United States according to an AFP tally. 

India, home to 1.3 billion people, is already the world's third-most infected nation with more than 3.5 million cases, behind the US and Brazil.

READ: Global coronavirus cases surpass 25 million

A rickshaw puller wearing a protective face mask waits for customers on a street, amidst the spread of COVID-19 in the old quarters of Delhi, India. (Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi)

In his regular monthly radio address on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not comment on the surge but called on Indians to observe health safety measures.

"It is important that every citizen is healthy and happy and we defeat coronavirus completely together," Modi said in Hindi.

"Corona(virus) can only be defeated when you remain safe, when you fulfil the resolve of keeping a safe distance of two yards and wearing masks."

Experts warn that while a ramp up in testing in recent months was encouraging, more needed to be done to capture the scale of the pandemic in the world's second-most populous nation.

The virus has badly hit megacities such as financial hub Mumbai and the capital New Delhi, but is now also surging in smaller cities and rural areas.

Indian authorities on Saturday further eased coronavirus lockdown restrictions on even as cases and deaths surged across the country.

The government faces pressure to free up the economy as millions have lost jobs since nationwide restrictions were first imposed in March.

The Home Affairs Ministry said that gatherings of up to 100 people would be allowed with face masks and social distancing at cultural, entertainment, sports and political events from next month.

LISTEN: The COVID-19 vaccine will be the biggest product launch in history. Can we pull it off?

India has set a global daily record with 78,761 new coronavirus infections. (Photo: AFP/Sanjay Kanojia)

Metro train services will also be allowed to resume "in a graded manner" in major cities.

The coronavirus has badly hit mega cities such as Mumbai and New Delhi, but is now surging in smaller cities and rural areas.

The government has resisted a mass campaign by students to postpone entrance exams for medical and engineering colleges due to be taken by about two million students next month.

LOW TESTING RATES

"Testing per million in India at 30,000 remains the second lowest in top 10 (virus-infected) countries. Mexico is lowest at about 10,000," virologist Shahid Jameel, who heads the Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance, told AFP on Sunday.

"We are still finding one positive in every 11 to 12 tests. This number should be one in 20 simply and means that testing is still sub-optimal and the outbreak is growing."

Doctor Hemant Shewade, a Bangalore-based community medicine expert, added that India also needed to focus on reducing deaths - the fourth-highest in the world according to a tally by John Hopkins University.

The government collects fatality numbers from positive cases but not from suspected infections, raising concerns among scientists that the true picture of the epidemic is not being reflected in the official toll, he said.

READ: Making, distributing COVID-19 vaccine in good time may depend on India's manufacturing might, a commentary

A healthcare worker takes a swab from a police officer for a rapid antigen test at a special testing center for Gujarat Police, in Ahmedabad, India, Aug 17, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Amit Dave FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) takes a swab from a police officer for a rapid antigen test at a special testing center for Gujarat Police, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Ahmedabad, India, August 17, 2020. REUTERS/Amit Dave

"It is a small subset like the tip of the iceberg," Shewade, who has been analysing India's official toll data, told AFP of the government's decision to focus only on positive cases recorded within the official health system.

"We should develop mechanisms to capture suspected COVID-19 deaths ... Even after doing this, a continuous triangulation of data with routine death surveillance should be done at district levels and state levels."

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Source: AGENCIES/nh/zl

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