Asia Today: India's confirmed virus cases near 8 million

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An election officer checks the temperature of a voter before allowing voters to pass at a polling station, during the first phase of state elections at Paliganj, in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. With an overall declining coronavirus positive trend, Indian authorities decided to hold the first state legislature election since the outbreak of COVID-19. People began voting Wednesday in the countrys third largest state Bihar with of a population of about 122 million people. (AP Photo/Aftab Alam Siddiqui)

NEW DELHI – India’s tally of confirmed coronavirus cases is moving closer to 8 million, with 43,893 new cases reported in the latest 24-hour period.

The total reported Wednesday includes the highest single-day number of cases for New Delhi, the Indian capital — 4,853.

The Health Ministry also reported 508 fatalities from COVID-19 across India in the past 24 hours, raising the total to 120,010.

India’s caseload is second in the world behind the United States, which has over 8.7 million confirmed cases.

In September, India hit a peak of nearly 100,000 reported cases in a single day, but since then daily infections have fallen by more than half and deaths by about a third.

Voting began Wednesday in India’s third-largest state of Bihar, the first major election in the country since the pandemic. Bihar, with a population of 122 million people, has reported more than 200,000 cases and there are concerns over a surge in infections during the elections.

India’s Election Commission has taken a series of measures to halt the spread of the virus. It has increased the number of polling stations, extended the voting time by one hour at most places, and sanitization of electronic voting machines has been made mandatory. Authorities are also conducting temperature checks at entry points and voters are provided with hand sanitizers, soap and water.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— The Philippines closed cemeteries and memorial parks late Wednesday to prevent an annual influx of millions of Filipinos on All Saints’ Day that could spark new coronavirus outbreaks. Filipinos have been allowed to visit cemeteries in controlled numbers in recent weeks to remember their dead before an Oct. 29-Nov. 4 ban. Marking All Saints’ Day in the largely Roman Catholic country has become unwieldy in some Manila cemeteries with the solemn holiday being turned by some groups into noisy family reunions with blaring music, singing and drinking. Catholic bishops revived a website to allow people to remember their dead online with prayers and virtual candles. The website was launched in the past for millions of Filipinos working overseas. The Philippines has more than 375,000 confirmed infections, the second-highest number in Southeast Asia, with at least 7,114 deaths.

— Authorities in Sri Lanka have closed several museums as a new wave of coronavirus cases is detected in different parts of the country. The government’s Information Department said Wednesday the museums run by the Central Cultural Fund in five cities have been closed until further notice. The government has already closed cinemas, bars, restaurants, casinos, nightclubs, betting centers and spas in an effort to contain the spread from a cluster of cases centered at a garment factory near Colombo, the capital. Health authorities said the cluster has grown to 5,395, while the total number of cases since March stands at 8,870, including 19 deaths. With the surge in new cases, the government has closed schools and key public offices, banned public gatherings and imposed restrictions on public transport. A curfew has also been imposed in parts of Colombo and some areas outside the capital.


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