Faced with collapsing economy, Modi pushes ahead with full reopening


BENGALURU/NEW DELHI (Reuters) -- India's death toll from the novel coronavirus rose past 100,000 on Saturday, only the third country in the world to reach that bleak milestone, after the United States and Brazil, and its epidemic shows no sign of abating.


Total deaths rose to 100,842, the health ministry said, while the tally of infections climbed to 6.47 million after a daily increase in cases of 79,476. India now has the highest rate of daily increase in infections in the world.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, faced with a collapsing economy after imposing a tough lockdown to try to stem the spread of the virus in late March, is pushing ahead with a full opening of the country.


Cinemas were allowed to re-open at half capacity this week and authorities can decide to re-open schools from the middle of this month.


Heading into winter and the holiday season, including the Hindu festival of Diwali next month, the world's second most populous country could see a jump in cases, health experts said.


She said data showed a little over 7% of the population of 1.3 billion had been exposed to the virus, meaning India was still far from any sort of herd immunity.


The number of cases could rise to 12.2 million by the end of the year but the rate of spread would depend on how effective measures such as social distancing were, she said.


"So it will continue like a slow burning coil, that is my hope, and we have to play the long game to stop it from being a wildfire."


The United States, Brazil and India together account for nearly 45% of all COVID-19 deaths globally.


Death rates in India, however, have been significantly lower than in those other two countries, raising questions about the accuracy of its data.


India has, on average, less than one death from the disease for every 10,000 people while the United States and Brazil have seen six deaths per 10,000.


U.S. President Donald Trump, defending his administration's handling of the pandemic in this week's presidential debate, said countries such as India were under-reporting deaths.


Shashank Tripathi, of the Centre for Infectious Disease Research at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, acknowledged there could be problems with the data though India's young population might help explain the lower death rate.

位于班加罗尔的印度科学研究所传染病研究中心的Shashank Tripathi承认,尽管印度的年轻人口可能有助于解释死亡率较低的原因,但数据可能存在问题。

"In India, even without a pandemic, all deaths are not properly registered," Tripathi said.


Representatives of the health ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research did not immediately respond to calls or emails for comment.


Kamakshi Bhate, professor emeritus of community medicine at the King Edward Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, said she didn't expect India's death toll to surge dramatically even as the virus spreads into dense population clusters and across the countryside.

孟买爱德华国王纪念医院社区医学荣誉教授Kamakshi Bhate说,她预计即使病毒在人口密集地区和乡村蔓延,印度的死亡人数也不会大幅上升。