India has reported on Monday its worst single-day increase in COVID-19 cases since October, taking the tally to more than 12 million.
A total of 68,020 new coronavirus cases were reported in the last 24 hours, the health ministry said. It was the highest daily rise since October 11.
India’s overall caseload of 12.04 million – the world’s biggest outside the United States and Brazil – had been falling steadily since a peak in late September, but increased public gatherings and travel are causing a spurt at a time when a majority of Indians are yet to be vaccinated.
India has been reporting a spike in cases – above the 60,000 mark – for three consecutive days, though Monday’s rise was still below September’s peak of more than 90,000 cases a day.
Daily deaths rose by 291 on Monday and the virus has so far killed 161,843 people in the country.
India’s richest state, Maharashtra, is considering imposing a strict lockdown this week after recording the highest one-day jump in coronavirus infections of any Indian state since last March, officials said. Maharashtra has already tightened travel restrictions and imposed night curfews.
“In meeting of the COVID-19 task force, it was suggested that very strict restrictions like lockdown should be imposed immediately,” the office of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said in a statement.
A senior official in the state government said the lockdown could take effect “in the coming days” as officials had been asked to prepare to implement it in a phased manner.
Residential areas in Mumbai with five or more reported COVID-19 cases have been ordered to be sealed off.
Cases are also rising in the states of Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh.
In New Delhi, Mumbai and elsewhere, there were bans or restrictions on the Hindu festival of Holi and the Muslim Shab-e-Barat or Day of Forgiveness, which both fell at the weekend and would usually prompt large gatherings.
— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) March 29, 2021
The surge in infections in India coincides with multi-stage state elections in West Bengal and Assam, seen as a test of support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handling of the pandemic and mass protests over sweeping agriculture reforms.
Only about 40 million people, or less than 4 percent of the population, have received at least one dose of vaccine so far, according to official data.
However, 61 million doses manufactured in India have been sent abroad under grants or commercial arrangements.
After widespread criticism, the government said last week it would focus on domestic vaccinations and there would be no immediate expansion of exports.