NEW DELHI: India reported a record rise in COVID-19 infections on Monday (Apr 5), becoming only the second country after the United States to register more than 100,000 new cases in a day, as hospitals in its worst affected state are overrun by patients.
The country's daily infections have leapt about 12-fold since hitting a multi-month low in early February, when authorities eased most restrictions and people largely stopped wearing masks and following social distancing.
More infectious variants of the virus may have also played a role in the second surge, some epidemiologists said.
With 103,558 new infections, India has now reported 12.6 million cases, the highest after the United States and Brazil, data from the health ministry showed. India has recorded the most number of infections in the past week anywhere in the world.
Deaths jumped by 478, still one of the lowest fatality rates in the world, raising the total to 165,101.
Maharashtra, India's hardest-hit state, reported a record 57,074 new cases overnight.
The state will start shutting shopping malls, cinemas, bars, restaurants and places of worship from Monday evening. Authorities will also impose a complete lockdown at weekends, as experts worried about a shortage of critical-care beds in hospitals, especially in its smaller cities.
India's previous daily high in cases was 97,894, hit in mid-September and after which infections had come down sharply, only to rise again starting late February as the economy reopened fully and new virus mutants spread.
Experts said the surge is blamed in part on growing disregard for social distancing and mask-wearing in public spaces, including public gatherings. Some said the government has been sending mixed messages.
As health officials continue to warn of gatherings in public places, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party leaders continue to hold mammoth rallies in several states where local elections are under way.
Modi's government has also allowed a huge monthlong Hindu festival to go ahead on the banks of the Ganges River in northern Uttarakhand state. The festival draws tens of thousands of devotees daily.
India has intensified its vaccination drive in recent weeks, now administering more than 3 million jabs a day. But the shots have been slow to reach India’s nearly 1.4 billion people.
More than 76 million Indians have received at least one shot, but only 9.5 million of them have received both. Health officials want to cover 300 million people by August, but experts said the vaccinations need to move faster to stop the spread.