The World Health Organization on Friday said that India’s coronavirus count of over 2 lakh cases was “modest” given its size but warned that the number of infections could explode as the country gradually emerges from the weeks-long lockdown.
“The over 2,00,000 current coronavirus cases in India, a country of over 1.3 billion people, look big but for a country of this size, it’s still modest,” WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said at a press conference. She also emphaised the need to take strict precautions and follow physical distancing norms to prevent a spurt in cases in a densely-populated country like India.
Swaminathan added that all institutions, organisations and industries had to think about measures that need to be put into place before they begin functioning normally.
WHO Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director Michael Ryan, meanwhile, said that India’s lockdown and aggressive containment measures slowed down the transmission of the coronavirus but the risk of a sharp increase in the number of cases still remained. “In South Asia, not just in India but in Bangladesh and...in Pakistan, other countries in South Asia, with large dense populations, the disease has not exploded,” he said. “But there is always the risk of that happening.”
Speaking on the coronavirus situation in India, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said that the crisis could be an opportunity for the country to strengthen the Ayushman Bharat scheme, especially with a focus on primary healthcare.
The number of coronavirus cases in India crossed 2.36 lakh on Saturday. The cases rose by 9,887 from Friday, in the highest single-day increase so far. India now has 2,36,657 coronavirus cases and 6,642 deaths. It has become the sixth worst-affected country by the pandemic and has overtaken Italy, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The sharp increase in coronavirus numbers in India is worrying since the country is now emerging from weeks of shutdown with ‘Unlock 1’. All means of transportation, except metro services and international flights, have opened up. Inter-state movement has also been permitted. From June 8, malls, restaurants and religious places will also be allowed to open.