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India's COVID-19 death toll surpasses 50,000

India's COVID-19 death toll surpasses 50,000

Community health volunteers check the temperature of a man during a check up campaign for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a slum in Mumbai, India, Aug 16, 2020. (REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas)

MUMBAI: India's death toll from the coronavirus crossed 50,000 on Monday (Aug 17), with more than 900 new fatalities reported in 24 hours, health ministry data showed.

India also reported a daily jump of 57,981 infections, taking the total to nearly 2.65 million.

India's death toll from the pandemic now stands at 50,921, an increase of 941 from the previous day, according to the health ministry's website.

The country last week overtook Britain with the world's fourth-highest number of deaths, behind the United States, Brazil and Mexico.

The world's second-most populated country, home to some of the world's biggest cities and largest slums, India is already the third-most infected nation behind the US and Brazil.

Many experts however say the real numbers may be far higher due to low levels of testing and because deaths are often not properly recorded in India's chronically under-funded health system.

Community health volunteers check the temperature of a woman during a check up campaign for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a slum in Mumbai, India, Aug 16, 2020. (REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas)

Despite the rising death toll, the health ministry tweeted on Sunday that India's virus mortality rate was "one of the lowest globally" at below two per cent.

"Successful implementation of testing aggressively, tracking comprehensively and treating efficiently through a plethora of measures have contributed to the existing high level of recoveries," the ministry said in a statement.

Experts say India needs to ramp up testing further to get the virus under control as it spreads to rural and regional areas where healthcare systems are particularly fragile or not easily accessible.

READ: Modi says India set to mass produce COVID-19 vaccine, launches health mission

LOCKDOWN MISERY

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government imposed in March one of the world's strictest lockdowns.

It dealt a heavy blow to Asia's third-biggest economy and caused misery for the country's poor, with tens of millions of migrant workers left jobless almost overnight.

Vast numbers trudged back penniless to their home villages from cities including New Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad, many of them on foot. Some died on the way.

The lockdown has since been steadily eased but many sectors complain that they are severely short of workers.

State and local governments across the country have meanwhile reimposed lockdown measures as the virus has spread to smaller cities and rural areas, where around 70 per cent of Indians live.

In many rural regions however, anecdotal evidence suggests that measures to stop the spread such as masks and distancing are widely ignored.

In addition, a lack of public awareness has contributed to those with the virus being ostracised, making people more reluctant to get tested.

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Source: Reuters/kv

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