India reopens further as virus cases hit 1.5 million

People wear face masks and move through a street in the rain in Prayagraj, India, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. India is the third hardest-hit country by the pandemic in the world after the United States and Brazil. (AP)
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Updated 29 July 2020

India reopens further as virus cases hit 1.5 million

  • The country of 1.3 billion people is the world’s third-most infected nation

NEW DELHI: India will reopen gyms and end a nighttime curfew from August, but cinemas, bars and schools will remain closed in the vast South Asian nation as the number of coronavirus cases passed 1.5 million and deaths neared 35,000 on Wednesday.
The country of 1.3 billion people — the world’s third-most infected nation — has gradually eased its virus restrictions imposed since late March to boost the flagging economy.
But the latest reopenings from August 5 are limited to gyms and yoga teaching facilities, as well as an end to the curfew, currently from 10 p.m. to 5 am.
Case numbers in India are soaring and more states are reimposing shutdowns to stem the spread of the virus.
Independence Day celebrations on August 15 will go ahead, but with “social distancing and by following other health protocols” such as mask-wearing, the home affairs ministry said.
Metro train services, cinemas, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theaters, bars, auditoriums and assembly halls will remain closed for now, it added.
Schools and other educational institutions will also remain shut through the end of August, at least.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said this week that India was in a “better position that other countries,” and winning international praise.
The health ministry website — which no longer includes total infections as the government puts more emphasis on recoveries — on Wednesday reported almost 50,000 new infections and 768 more deaths.
India, home to some of the world’s most crowded cities and where health-care spending per capita is among the world’s lowest, passed one million cases only 12 days ago.
But many experts have said the country is not testing enough people, and that many coronavirus-linked deaths are not being recorded as such.
A study released Tuesday that tested for coronavirus antibodies reported some 57 percent of people in Mumbai’s teeming slums have had the infection — far more than official figures suggest.
The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research’s Ullas S. Kolthur, who was involved in carrying out the survey, said he was surprised by the results.
“At least in the slums, we think it is largely because social distancing wouldn’t work simply because of the population density,” Kolthur told AFP.
Last week, a similar study indicated that almost a quarter of people in the capital New Delhi have contracted the virus — almost 40 times the official total.
There are, however, doubts about the accuracy of such tests, since other coronaviruses — not just this one — may also produce antibodies that could give a false positive result.
The Mumbai survey also covered a relatively small sample of around 7,000 people.
India now has the third-highest number of cases in the world behind the United States and Brazil, although the official number of deaths in the South Asian nation is far lower.
As a proportion of its population, India also lags behind, with only 1,110 cases per million people, compared to 13,148 for the United States, according to an AFP tally.

Related


Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of attacking settlements in disputed region

Updated 3 min 7 sec ago

Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of attacking settlements in disputed region

  • Armenia’s Defense Ministry said its troops downed 2 Azerbaijani helicopters and 3 drones in response to an attack
  • Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said it launched a military operation along the “contact line”

YEREVAN: Armenia said early on Sunday that neighboring Azerbaijan had attacked civilian settlements in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and urged the population in the disputed region to seek refuge in shelters.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry said that its troops had downed two Azerbaijani helicopters and three drones in response to an attack it said began at 0410 GMT against civilian settlements, including the regional capital of Stepanakert.
“Our response will be proportionate, and the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan bears full responsibility for the situation,” the Armenian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry, in turn, said it had launched a military operation along the “contact line,” a heavily-mined no-man’s-land that separates the Armenian-backed forces from Azeri troops in the region, Russian news agencies reported.
The ministry said that an Azerbaijani helicopter had been downed but that its crew had survived.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Sunday warned the international community of Turkish interference in fresh fighting that erupted between his country and Azerbaijan over the breakaway Nagorny Karabakh region.
"I call on the international community to use all existing levers to prevent Turkey's meddling (in the conflict) which can once and for all destabilise the (Caucasus) region," Pashinyan said in a televised statement.
He added that Turkish "aggressive behaviour causes serious concerns," and denounced Ankara's support for its ally Baku.

Meanwhile, Turkey vowed complete support for Baku and called on Armenia to give up its “aggression.”
“We will support our Azerbaijani brothers with all our means in their fight to protect their territorial integrity,” Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement.
Turkey is a key ally of Baku with close cultural and linguistic ties with Azerbaijan.
Ankara has no diplomatic relations with Yerevan due to a dispute over the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire which Armenia says is a genocide.
“The greatest obstacle to peace and stability in the Caucasus is Armenia’s aggression, and it should give up this aggression which will throw the region into fire,” Akar said.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin “strongly” condemned the clashes and said Armenia “once again violated international law and (has) shown that it has no interest in peace and stability.”
He called on the international community to “say stop to this dangerous provocation” in a tweet.
“Azerbaijan is not alone. It has Turkey's full support,” Kalin added.
The Turkish foreign ministry in a statement went further, promising: “However Azerbaijan wants, we will stand by Azerbaijan in that manner.”
The two former Soviet countries have long been in conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway, mainly ethnic-Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh, and border clashes have intensified in recent months.
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry condemned what it called the “aggression of the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan” and said the Armenian side would deliver an appropriate military and political response.
Ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence during a conflict that broke out as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Though a cease-fire was agreed in 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia frequently accuse each other of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azeri-Armenian frontier.