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India to ease lockdown despite new daily infections record

COVID-19 infections have jumped by almost 8,000 in a day. Despite warnings that the pandemic is not at its peak, the New Delhi government plans to lift more lockdown rules from early June.

India will lift lockdown measures in some places from June 8, despite a record-high number of cases detected nationwide on Saturday.

Restaurants, malls and places of worship will be allowed to open, announced the Interior Ministry on Saturday. Authorities will be expected to ensure physical distancing rules and staggered business hours.

The ministry said the lockdown would be extended in high-risk "containment areas" until June 30.

India reported a record daily jump of 7,964 new COVID-19 infections on Saturday along with 265 deaths. The latest figures show the country has so far recorded 173,763 positive cases and 4,971 deaths in total.

While the fatality rate has been comparatively low, experts warned that the pandemic's peak has not been reached as
new infections are increasing.

Lockdown measures have been in place since March but the country loosened some restrictions this month.

Read more: Coronavirus weddings: How Indians are tying the knot amid pandemic

India reopens

While curbs on international air travel and city train services remain, permission for intra-state travel has been granted.

The daily nationwide curfew will now begin two hours later at 9:00 p.m. local time (15:30 UTC).

The federal government expected states to make a call on reopening schools and colleges in July.

Cinemas, swimming pools and bars will also remain closed for the time being and sporting events remain on hold, said the ministry.

Watch video 03:49

India – The environment during lockdown

Containment zones still locked down

More than 70% of India's coronavirus cases are concentrated in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, New Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan states.

The ministry ordered state governments and local authorities to identify areas that continue to report high numbers of infections and classify them as containment zones.

Read more: Coronavirus: Indian states abandon labor protection to revive economy

Within these zones, there will be "intensive contact tracing, house-to-house surveillance and other clinical interventions," the ministry said.

There will be no movement in or out of the zones, with exceptions for medical emergencies and the supply of essential goods and services.

Modi asks for 'firm resolve'

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India was on the path to victory in its battle against the virus, in an open letter on Saturday, marking the first year of his government's second term.

He asked the nation to show "firm resolve," as well as acknowledging that laborers and migrant workers had "undergone tremendous suffering" due to restrictions.

The federal government is expected to issue a new set of guidelines this weekend, possibly extending the lockdown in worst-hit areas.

kmm/mm (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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