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Thursday March 4th, 2021 8:39PM

India's total number of coronavirus cases crosses 9 million

By The Associated Press
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NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s total number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began crossed 9 million on Friday.

Nevertheless the country’s new daily cases have seen a steady decline for weeks now and the total number of cases represents 0.6% of India’s 1.3 billion population.

The Health Ministry reported 45,882 new infections and 584 fatalities in the past 24 hours on Friday. The death toll since the pandemic began is more than 132,000.

Authorities in capital New Delhi are fighting to head off nearly 7,500 new cases a day while ensuring that the flagging economy doesn’t capsize again. The government hiked the fine for not wearing a mask four times to 2,000 rupees ($27) as it considered fresh restrictions.

"The next four weeks are crucial. The road is very bumpy,” said Dr. S.K. Sarin, director of New Delhi’s Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences.

In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat, authorities announced a weekend curfew beginning Friday in the city of Ahmedabad to curb infections.

It took India 12 days to go from 5 million cases to 6 million, 13 days to go from 6 million to 7 million, 18 days to go from 7 million to 8 million and 22 days to go from 8 million to 9 million.

A badly-hit economy means that authorities have prioritized opening despite new infections.

Markets are still packed with crowds in different parts of the country including New Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Patna as mask and distancing fatigue set in during October-November festival season.

In New Delhi hospitals, the situation is worrying. Government figures showed 90% of the available critical care beds with ventilators and 86% of critical care beds without ventilators for virus patients were full by Thursday. There were less than 500 available critical care beds for virus patients in the capital, a city with a population of 29 million.

Efforts are being made by New Delhi authorities to add 1,400 critical care beds. State Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said Thursday that all private hospitals have been asked to reserve 80% of their critical care beds, and over 60% of their other beds for virus patients.

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