India cases cross 7 million as experts warn of complacency

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Indians wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus wait at a bus stop in Bengaluru, India, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020. India's confirmed coronavirus toll crossed 7 million on Sunday with a number of new cases dipping in recent weeks, even as health experts warn of mask and distancing fatigue setting in. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

NEW DELHI – India’s confirmed coronavirus toll crossed 7 million on Sunday with a number of new cases dipping in recent weeks, even as health experts warn of mask and distancing fatigue setting in.

The Health Ministry registered another 74,383 infections in the past 24 hours. India is expected to become the pandemic’s worst-hit country in coming weeks, surpassing the U.S., where more than 7.7 million infections have been reported.

The ministry also reported 918 additional deaths, taking total fatalities to 108,334.

The number of people who have died of COVID-19 has remained relatively low in South and Southeast Asia — from India to Vietnam and Taiwan — compared to European countries and the United States, said Dr. Randeep Guleria, a government health expert.

“We have been able to keep the curve rise slow, but I do agree that we have not been able to get it to move aggressively down. That’s related to our population density, diversity of our country and socioeconomic challenges in our country,” said Guleria, referring to India’s burgeoning population of nearly 1.4 billion.

Some experts say though that India’s death toll may not be reliable because of poor reporting and health infrastructure and inadequate testing.

India aims to provide vaccines to 250 million people by July 2021, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said last week. He said that the government was planning to receive 450 million to 500 million vaccine doses and would ensure “equitable access”.

India saw a steep rise in cases in July and added more than 2 million in August and another 3 million in September. But it is seeing a slower pace of coronavirus spread since mid-September, when the daily infections touched a record high of 97,894.