India has recorded its 1,000th novel coronavirus death, but the head of a government think-tank said on Wednesday that its 1.3 billion people, strained from weeks of lockdown, were not experiencing the feared exponential surge in infections.
India has now reported 31,331 cases, including 1,007 deaths, according to figures from the Health Ministry. Neighbouring Pakistan has 15,282 confirmed cases amid concerns about worshippers gathering at mosques during the current holy month of Ramadan.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi must decide soon whether to extend the world’s biggest lockdown, now 40 days old, beyond May 3.
Health officials say the shutdown has prevented an explosive surge of infections that would have crippled India’s modest health care system.
“Our analysis finds that the rate of growth in positive cases and fatalities has been consistently lower – linear but non-exponential,” said Amitabh Kant, chief executive of the government thinktank Niti Aayog.
Aayog urged a phased exit from the shutdown, but the government has a difficult decision ahead.
The big cities of Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad – which are also India’s economic growth engines – top the list of cases and there are no signs of the pandemic abating there, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said.
“When I see Delhi’s COVID-19 map, I see only red and orange colours which is extremely worrying.”
Red zones indicate infection hotspots, orange denotes some infection, while green indicates an area with no infections.
Wednesday’s daily increase in cases, 1,897, was the highest in weeks.
Still, the scale of the outbreak is dwarfed by the United States or large western European countries.
In Afghanistan, 46 people tested positive in Kabul prisons, said Farhad Bayani, a spokesman for the prison administration, even as the Afghan government frees thousands of prisoners to curb the spread of the coronavirus.