India’s total novel coronavirus cases rose to 85,940 on Saturday, taking it past China, where the pandemic originated last year, though a strict lockdown enforced since late March has reduced the rate of contagion.
State leaders, businesses and working class Indians have called on Prime Minister NarendraModi to reopen the battered economy, but the government is expected to extend the lockdown, which would otherwise expire on Sunday, though with fewer restrictions.
So far the death rate in India appears far better, according to health ministry data, with 2,752 fatalities reported, compared with China’s 4,600. The toll in the United States, United Kingdom and Italy is much higher.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan was also encouraged by the slowing rate of infection, as it now takes 11 days for the number of cases to double, whereas before the lockdown cases were doubling every 3 1/2 days.
“Clearly the situation has improved due to lockdown. We have utilized this period of lockdown to accelerate public health measures such as case detection, contact tracing, isolation and management of cases,” Vardhan said.
Indian officials say the low death rate could be because a majority of people infected with the virus were either asymptomatic or had mild symptoms and that the vast shutdown imposed early on had helped avoid a major catastrophe.