India now 2nd worst-hit nation by virus amid financial ache

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India now 2nd worst-hit country by virus amid economic pain

Commuters ride on an almost empty Delhi subway train in New Delhi, India on Monday, September 7, 2020. India's coronavirus cases are now the second highest in the world and only behind the US, as the case load crosses Brazil in one day when urban subways in the capital New Delhi and other states are partially operational again. (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)

India's rising coronavirus numbers made the Asian giant the second worst-hit country in the pandemic after the US on Monday as its efforts to avert economic disasters became more urgent.

The 90,802 cases added in the last 24 hours have put India past Brazil with 4.2 million cases. According to the Johns Hopkins University, India is only trailing the United States, which has infected more than 6.2 million people.

The Indian Ministry of Health also reported 1,016 deaths on Monday for a total of 71,642 deaths, the third highest national toll.

India is the second most populous country in the world with 1.4 billion people and has seen the world's largest daily increase in coronavirus cases for almost a month. Despite over 2 million new cases last month and the virus spreading to the country's smaller towns and villages, the Indian government has continued to ease restrictions in an effort to revive the economy.

On Monday, the Delhi Metro – a rapid transit system serving India's sprawling capital New Delhi and neighboring areas – resumed operations after five months.

Only asymptomatic people were allowed to board the chugging trains, with masks, social distancing, and temperature controls being mandatory.

India is now the second most virus-hit country amid economic troubles
A person is waiting for their Covid-19 test on Monday, September 7, 2020 in New Delhi, India. India's coronavirus cases are now the second highest in the world, and only behind the US, as the case load crosses Brazil in a day when urban subways in the capital New Delhi and other states are partially back on stream. (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)

"We're on our way. It's been 169 days since we saw you!" Tweeted the official Delhi Metro Twitter account.

The metro network in the capital is India's largest rapid transit system. Before closing in March, the fully packed trains carried an average of 2.6 million passengers a day.

The reopening comes after India's economy has contracted faster than any other major nation, by almost 24% in the last quarter.

India's economic pain stems from the local currency demonstration in 2016 and the hasty introduction of a tax on goods and services next year. But the tough virus lockdown that began on March 24 further exacerbated the country's economic troubles.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered 1.4 billion Indians to stay inside, the entire economy was shut down in four hours. Millions immediately lost their jobs and tens of thousands of migrant workers poured out of the cities and returned to the villages for money and fear of hunger. The unprecedented migration has not only undermined the Indian economy, it has also spread the virus far into the country.

India is now the second most virus-hit country amid economic troubles
A health worker will take a nasal swab sample for the Covid-19 test on Monday, September 7, 2020 in New Delhi, India. India's coronavirus cases are now the second highest in the world and only behind the US as the number of cases traverses Brazil on a day that urban subways are partially back on stream in the capital, New Delhi and other states. (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)

Now that cases are on the rise, most of the country, except in high risk areas, has already opened up and authorities say they have no choice.

"While lives are important, livelihoods are just as important," said Rajesh Bhusan, the chief official of India's federal health ministry, at a press conference last week.

Almost 60% of active cases in India come from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India. However, infections are also returning to areas that have managed to slow the spread of the virus, offsetting small gains.

Originally badly hit by the virus, New Delhi appeared to turn the tide with its aggressive patient screening. However, after steadily reopening, the state has reported a recent surge in cases and deaths. Experts fear that the reopening of the underground is likely to worsen the situation.

  • India is now the second most virus-hit country amid economic troubles
    Commuters ride on an almost empty Delhi subway train in New Delhi, India on Monday, September 7, 2020. India's coronavirus cases are now the second highest in the world and only behind the US, as the case load crosses Brazil in one day when urban subways in the capital New Delhi and other states are partially operational again. (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)
  • India is now the second most virus-hit country amid economic troubles
    Commuters ride on an almost empty Delhi subway train in New Delhi, India on Monday, September 7, 2020. India's coronavirus cases are now the second highest in the world, and only behind the US, as the case load crosses Brazil in a day when urban subways in the capital New Delhi and other states are partially back on stream. (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)
  • India is now the second most virus-hit country amid economic troubles
    A health worker will take a nasal swab sample for the Covid-19 test on Monday, September 7, 2020 in New Delhi, India. India's coronavirus cases are now the second highest in the world and only behind the US as the number of cases traverses Brazil on a day that urban subways are partially back on stream in the capital, New Delhi and other states. (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)
  • India is now the second most virus-hit country amid economic troubles
    A Delhi police volunteer watches people sign up for the Covid-19 test in New Delhi, India on Monday, September 7, 2020. India's coronavirus cases are now the second highest in the world, and only behind the US the number of cases traverses Brazil on a day that urban subways are partially back on stream in the capital New Delhi and other states. (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)
  • India is now the second most virus-hit country amid economic troubles
    A subway train from Delhi arrives at a station on the outskirts of New Delhi, India on Monday, September 7, 2020. India's coronavirus cases are now the second highest in the world, and only behind the United States, as the case load continues to cross Brazil on a day that urban subways are partially back on stream in the capital, New Delhi and other states. (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)

The recent surge in cases also highlights the risks of India's strategy of over-reliance on rapid tests that look for antigens or viral proteins. These tests are cheap, give results in minutes, and have enabled India to test over a million patients daily.

But they're also less precise and likely to miss infected people, said Dr. Gagandeep Kang, an infectious disease expert at Christian Medical College in Vellore, South India.

India also says its recovery rate is 77.3% and the death rate has dropped to around 1.72%.

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