Asia Today: September was India's worst month of pandemic

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A policeman asks workers to leave the area after the Cochin Special Economic Zone that houses several industrial units was closed as part of COVID-19 containment measures in Kochi, Kerala, India, Thursday, Oct.1, 2020. India is expected to become the coronavirus pandemic's worst-hit country within weeks, surpassing the United States. (AP Photo/R S Iyer)

NEW DELHI – 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: