Indian PM offers free vaccines for all adults, as lockdown eases in some states after cases fall

World

India is easing lockdown in several states after COVID case levels dropped to their lowest in two months.

Shops, restaurants and other businesses are allowed to reopen with limited hours in New Delhi and Mumbai, with some restrictions also lifted in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

The Delhi metro, which serves the city and surrounding areas, has reopened at 50% capacity, but Mumbai’s state rail network remains closed.

Pic: AP
Image:
The Delhi metro system has reopened. Pic: AP

Coronavirus infections peaked at around 400,000 a day in May after a devastating wave hit the country at the start of April.

But on Monday, the number of new COVID cases was the lowest it has been for two months – with 100,636 reported in the past 24 hours.

Despite recorded infections steadily declining, experts fear the virus is spreading unchecked through India’s rural areas – where the majority of its people live.

India is still second to the US in terms of total cases globally – with almost 29 million – but a lack of testing facilities and hospital capacity mean that figure is thought to be a vast underestimate.

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The country’s health ministry said 2,427 new deaths were registered in the latest 24-hour period, taking the total to 349,186.

So far 222 million COVID-19 jabs have been given out across India – with less than 5% of India’s 1.39 billion population fully vaccinated.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is under mounting pressure to speed up the rollout and was due to address the nation for the first time since April on Monday.

India has just ordered 300 million doses of an unlicensed vaccine made by an Indian company called Biological E.

The jab is still in phase three trials, but previous ones have shown encouraging results.

Last month the UK sent 1,000 ventilators to India as cases spiralled out of control, families begged for oxygen equipment and officials struggled to deal with the number of dead.

Pic: AP
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Shops in Mumbai have been allowed to reopen with restricted opening hours. Pic: AP
Pic: AP
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A man gets his hair cut at a barbers in Mumbai. Pic: AP

The Delta variant, a double mutation of the virus that originated in India, has left health systems overwhelmed.

Politicians have been under pressure to the save the economy, with New Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal saying on Monday: “Now the corona situation is under control. The economy must be brought back on track.”

But other states are being more cautious, with the southern states of Jammu and Kashmir and Tamil Nadu extending their lockdowns for at least another week.

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