India, Iran receive tough blows in fight against virus

Updated 06 Jul 2020

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NEW DELHI: A general view of the Commonwealth Games Village Sports Complex that has been converted into a Covid-19 care centre.—AFP
NEW DELHI: A general view of the Commonwealth Games Village Sports Complex that has been converted into a Covid-19 care centre.—AFP

NEW DELHI / TEHRAN: Autho­rities in India reported a record number of fresh cases of Covid-19 on Sun­day, while those in Iran anno­unced a record number of new fatalities.

Tehran said 163 people had died of the disease in the last 24 hours, the highest daily toll recorded so far. India, a nation of 1.3 billion people, said the disease had claimed the lives of 613 persons.

India’s health ministry reported just under 25,000 new cases — the biggest daily spike since the first case was detected in late January. The surge took the country’s total tally to more than 673,000 cases and 19,268 deaths.

The new fatalities brought the total death toll in Iran to 11,571, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on state television. “In the past 24 hours, 2,560 people have tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections to 240,438,” she added.

Official figures have shown a rising trajectory in fatalities and new confirmed cases since Iran reported a near-two-month low in daily recorded infections in early May.

In 24 hours, 163 people die in Iran and 613 in India

India’s capital has now started treating patients at a spiritual centre converted into a sprawling isolation facility and hospital with 10,000 beds, many made of cardboard and coated with chemicals to make them waterproof. About the size of 20 football fields, the facility on the outskirts of the city will treat mild symptomatic and asymptomatic cases.

State government officials fear Delhi, home to 25 million people, could record more than half-a-million cases by the end of the month. The city has repurposed some hotels to provide hospital care. It is also converting wedding halls and has several hundred modified railway coaches standing by.

A strict lockdown in place since late March has gradually been lifted, allowing most activities as the economy nose-dived amid the shutdown. But the number of cases across the vast nation has climbed steeply and is now close to surpassing badly-hit Russia.

Schools, metro trains in cities, cinemas, gyms and swimming pools remain closed and international flights are still grounded.

Authorities have made wearing masks mandatory in public places, while large gatherings are banned and shops and other public establishments are required to implement social distancing.

The western state of Maharashtra, the worst-hit state and home to financial hub Mumbai, recorded over 7,000 new cases while Southern Tamil Nadu state and Delhi recorded more than 4,200 and 2,500 fresh cases respectively.

Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai, Tamil Nadu’s capital, are the worst-affected cities.

The national government claims it has tackled the virus well but critics allege India is conducting very few tests, leaving the true scale of the pandemic unknown.

Precautionary measures

The increase in new infections has prompted the Iranian government to make the wearing of masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces, with some officials and state television anchors wearing masks on camera as part of a campaign to encourage their use.

Authorities have repeatedly urged the public to respect hygiene rules aimed at reining in the outbreak. But footage on state television showed people still travelling without face coverings on public transport, where masks have been obligatory for more than two months.

The Islamic republic has not imposed a full-scale lockdown but has introduced restrictions, including on religious and commercial sites.

But with its US sanctions-strapped economy in crisis, the country had progressively lifted measures from April, as infection numbers had declined. Official figures show that the virus has rebounded since then.

Sima Lari said almost a third of Iran’s 31 provinces were classed “red”, the highest category in the country’s virus risk ranking. Authorities say infections in the nine provinces, all on Iran’s borders, have yet to peak.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2020