India re-opens main cities as new COVID-19 infections hit 2-mth low By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Doctor Brajpal Singh Tyagi (L) stands next to Usha Arya, 56, who suffers from mucormycosis, also known as black fungus, after undergoing endoscopic sinus surgery at Harsh ENT Hospital in Ghaziabad on the outskirts of New Delhi, India has can

By Neha Arora and Shilpa Jamkhandikar

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Major Indian cities reopened to business on Monday, with long lines for buses in Mumbai’s financial hub as traffic hit the streets of New Zealand after a devastating second coronavirus wave that killed hundreds of thousands Delhi returned.

The 100,636 new infections in the past 24 hours were the lowest in the world’s second most populous nation since Jan.

“We have to save ourselves from infection, but also get the economy back on track,” said Delhi’s Prime Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Twitter.

He ordered half of the capital’s shops to be open on odd or even days of the month to limit the crowd, but allowed Delhi offices and metro network to operate at 50% capacity.

However, some restrictions have been retained, such as a ban on dining in restaurants and the use of theaters and gyms in a city that is still slowly recovering from an April and May surge that overwhelmed hospitals.

They lacked beds and medical oxygen, and people died in hospital parking lots and houses while crematoriums and morgues struggled with the incessant flow of corpses.

India added 2,427 deaths overnight, bringing the number to 349,186, the Ministry of Health said, up from more than 4,000 a day at the height of the crisis, while the number of infections now stands at 28.9 million.

However, experts assume that both numbers were severely undercounted and could be many times higher than the official number.

Authorities in the western state of Maharashtra, home of Mumbai, allowed operations until late afternoon, employed half of their staff and opened gyms, salons and spas, although cinemas and shopping malls are said to remain closed.

The reopening effort comes as authorities struggle to vaccinate the population of nearly 1.4 billion, which the strategy says is the only way to contain a third wave of infections.

But scarce supplies have resulted in less than 5% of the 950 million adult Indians receiving the mandatory two doses of vaccine.

The pressure to return to economic activity has grown as millions depend on daily wages for food and rent.

“I opened my store in 40 days,” said a tea seller, Monu Yadav, Reuters partner ANI in the northern city of Varanasi, adding that only a fraction of his customers have returned.

Last week, the central bank lowered its forecast for economic growth from 10.5% for fiscal year 2021/22 to 9.5%.

The second wave “affected” but “not erased the incipient recovery that was underway,” said Shaktikanta Das, governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

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