NEW DELHI – The total caseload of coronavirus infections in India crossed eight million on Thursday as health concerns deepen amid fears that the virus spread may increase during an upcoming big festival season and winter months just beginning.
The second worst-affected country in the world logged nearly 50,000 infections in the last 24 hours from Wednesday, taking the overall tally to 8.04 million, according to the federal health ministry data.
The number of new cases marked a significant spike from the 36,470 infections reported on Tuesday, which was its lowest daily count in three months.
The health ministry also reported 517 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising the toll from the infection to 120,527.
Life in India has resumed to near normalcy, with the government allowing almost all business and outdoor activities since it began easing restrictions on June 8, after a strict lockdown imposed on March 25.
People in the country of nearly 1.35 billion people are gearing up for a Hindu festival, Diwali, to be celebrated Nov. 14 this year.
People go for frenzied shopping in crowded market places in the run-up to the festival that involves congregational prayers at Hindu temples and social gatherings.
There are fears that the virus outbreak may speed up during the days of festivities since people have also started lowering the guard against the virus as the mask-wearing and social distancing fatigues have set in.
The health worries have heightened as the winter season has also set in during which people in the country suffer common respiratory illnesses due to rising air pollution, mostly in the northern regions.
“The coming long festive season poses a significant risk that may threaten the improvements made against COVID-19 so far. We should all be vigilant for the next three months,” Federal Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said in a videoconference on Wednesday evening.
The minister urged people to follow “simple COVID-appropriate behavior” to curb the transmission of the virus.
He said people needed to wear masks or face covers, maintain a physical distance, and wash their hands frequently.
The mortality rate due to the virus in the country is lower than other badly affected countries such as the United States, where at least 227,673 people have died due to the virus.
The US is the worst-affected nation with nine million infections. Brazil, with 5.4 million cases and more than 158,000 deaths, is the third worst-affected by the pandemic.