India's Maharashtra state imposes night curfew after record COVID jump

MUMBAI/ NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s western state of Maharashtra imposed night curfews on Sunday to tackle a surge in coronavirus cases, with the financial capital Mumbai reporting its highest single-day jump since last March.

FILE PHOTO: A health worker uses an infrared thermometer to check the temperature of a passenger amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a railway station in Mumbai, India, March 21, 2021. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File Photo

“We are seeing a higher COVID positive rate in high-rise residential buildings than in slums … to stop the spread only essential services will be allowed (at night),” said Mumbai Mayor Kishor Pednekar, adding that hotels, pubs and shopping malls must observe the curfew.

Residential areas in Mumbai with five or more reported COVID-19 cases have been ordered to be sealed off.

India recorded 62,714 cases of the coronavirus in the space of 24 hours, the Health Ministry said – the highest single-day rise since October – as well as 312 deaths. Just under a 10th of the cases were in Mumbai.

Maharashtra’s Principal Health Secretary Pradeep Vyas said 107,000 of the state’s 357,000 isolation beds were occupied.

“In some districts, beds are not available and the capacity of the facility is falling short,” he added in a statement.

Cases are also rising in the states of Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh.

Gujarat made it mandatory for anyone entering to show evidence of a negative virus test within the previous 72 hours, a senior official there said.

In 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.

The surge in infections coincides with multi-stage state assembly 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.

According to official figures, around 40 million people, or less than 4% of the population, have received at least one dose of vaccine so far.

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.

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