PATNA: More than 125 million people in India were put under a new lockdown on Thursday, as international dignitaries gathered in Spain to honour coronavirus victims while infections surged across the world.

Governments in many countries have been forced to re-impose restrictions as Covid-19 refuses to fade, having officially infected nearly 13.6 million people, killed more than 584,000 and crippled the global economy since it emerged late last year.

The virus has been running rampant through the United States and Latin America, and the Red Cross has warned that South Asia is fast becoming the next epicentre.

“While the world’s attention has been focused on the unfolding crisis in the US and South America, a concurrent human tragedy is fast emerging in South Asia,” said John Fleming, Asia-Pacific head of health for the organisation.

After India registered more than 600 deaths in a single day, the 125 million people in impoverished Bihar state, neighbouring Nepal, started a new 15-day lockdown on Thursday.

“We have not faced such a situation in my life before, it is really a horrible experience,” housewife Radhika Singh said in Bihar, where all schools, clubs, temples and non-essential businesses were ordered closed.

Badly-hit Spain honoured its more than 28,000 virus dead at a solemn state ceremony joined by bereaved families and top EU and World Health Organisation figures on Thursday.

The memorial, held barely three weeks since Spain ended its state of emergency, comes as the country fights more than 120 active outbreaks. “Today, we are symbolically saying goodbye to mothers, fathers, children, siblings, friends,” Hernando Calleja, who lost his brother in April, said at the ceremony.

Spain’s King Felipe VI said that “this act cannot heal the pain felt by so many families at not being at the side of their loved ones in their final hours”.

“But what it can do is pay tribute to their lives, to their contribution to our society, to their memories.”

Elsewhere in Europe, Germany was preparing plans for tougher, more localised lockdowns to contain fresh outbreaks.

France meanwhile said it will make mask-wearing compulsory in indoor public spaces from next week after an uptick in infections.

The US has recorded by far the most deaths and infections in the pandemic, setting a record on Wednesday with more than 67,000 new cases in 24 hours.

And the country’s outbreak is showing no sign of slowing down, the virus surging in the south and west, with the latest research indicating the number of US deaths will pass 150,000 by next month.

US President Donald Trump fired his campaign manager for November’s election late on Wednesday after his popularity plummeted over his response to the crisis.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2020

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