India has surpassed Russia to become the country with the third-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world after recording a record number of cases for one day.

The health ministry said 23,000 new cases were recorded on Monday, taking India’s total to 697,000 and almost 20,000 deaths. On Sunday India got nearly 25,000 new patients, its highest total for one day.

The increases took India past Russia as the third highest total in the world behind Brazil with 1.6m cases and the United States with 2.88m.

In New Delhi, medical staff started treating patients at a spiritual centre converted into a sprawling isolation facility and hospital with 10,000 beds, many made of cardboard and chemically coated 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 over 20 million people, could record more than half-a-million cases by the end of the month. The city has also turned some hotels into quarantine or hospital facilities. It is also converting wedding halls and has several hundred modified railway coaches standing by to handle any spurt in cases.

A strict lockdown in place implemented all over the country since late March has gradually been lifted, allowing most activities in a phased opening, after the economy nose-dived during the shutdown.

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.

Like India, South Africa imposed some of the strictest stay-at-home measures in the world in late March in a bid to limit the spread of Covid-19, but the number of infections is rising daily as the lockdown rules are gradually eased. The country on Saturday reported more than 10,000 new coronavirus infections, the highest daily jump on record for the country. There have been 196,750 cases and 3,199 deaths in the country so far.

The total global number of cases is 11.4 million, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The virus has claimed the lives of 533,780 people.

In the United States, the Centres for Disease Control reported 52,228 new cases on Sunday, marking the fourth day in a row that new cases have been over 50,000 according to its tallies.

Given India’s population, it is still not a scary situation but the trend certainly portends a tough situation ahead if we don’t ready adequate number of hospital beds and quarantine facilities. The recovery rate in India is much better than other countries and it is still improving, thereby curtailing the death rate. More testing is happening, which is also a reason for the spike in the numbers. Yet, this is not the time to be complescent. We all need to be alert and conscious about our personal hygiene and the dos and don’ts in the social space. A lockdown cannot go on for eternity. People need to come out and work and socialize. The key is thus precaution and awareness. These too are the most potent tools in our hand till the time a vaccine comes out to solve the issue for good.

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