NEW DELHI (AP) — India on Thursday reported 86,821 new coronaviruses cases and another 1,181 fatalities, making September its worst month of the pandemic.
The Health Ministry’s update for the past 24 hours raised India’s total to more than 6.3 million people infected and 98,678 dead from COVID-19. India added 41% of its confirmed cases and 34% of fatalities in September alone.
India is expected to become the pandemic’s worst-hit country within weeks, surpassing the United States, where more than 7.2 million people have been infected.
The government announced further easing of restrictions to start Oct. 15. Cinemas, theaters and multiplexes can open with up to 50% of seating capacity, and swimming pools can also be used by athletes in training.
The government also said India’s 28 states can decide on reopening of schools and coaching institutions gradually after Oct. 15. However, the students will have the option of attending online classes.
International commercial flights will remain suspended until Oct. 31. However, evacuation flights will continue to and from the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, France, Japan and several other countries.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed the world’s stringent lockdown across the country late March, but started easing restrictions after two months to revive the severely-hit economy that contracted an unprecedented 24% in the April-June quarter. The lockdown cost more than 10 million impoverished migrant workers their jobs in the cities.
In other developments around the Asia-Pacific region:
— Malaysia reported its second highest daily increase in coronavirus cases, 260, on Thursday, triggered by an outbreak in eastern Sabah state on Borneo island. Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said the spike is alarming because the outbreak, initially confined to Sabah and another northern state, has spread with new clusters emerging nationwide. The spread correlated with a recent surge in travel to Sabah for a state election on Saturday. The government has locked down several hotspots in Sabah, and announced Thursday it will ban travel between districts in the state until Oct. 16.
Malaysia now has a total of 11,484 cases, including 136 deaths. Noor Hisham said Malaysians need to follow health measures to flatten the curve again. The Southeast Asian nation lifted almost all restrictions in June after a three-month lockdown.