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India’s daily virus cases slow down after scaling highs

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India reported 72,049 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, dropping from the daily highs of last month in a sign infections were peaking for now, officials and experts said.

India leads the world in the average number of new infections and is expected to overtake the United States over the next several weeks as the country with the world’s largest number of cases.

But since it hit a single-day high of 97,894 new cases on September 17, the country has reported a downward trend with 75,909 daily cases on an average, according to a Reuters tally.

“There is a continuous drop in our daily new cases, which is an encouraging sign,” said health secretary Rajesh Bhushan. The overall tally reached 6.76 million infections on Wednesday while the death toll rose by 986 to 104,555.

Faced with a collapsing economy, the federal government has been pushing states to fully reopen after enforcing one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in March.

Experts said the opening up led to a spike in cases in August and September, which now may have started to stabilise in the big cities.

“The virus is slowing down in the big metros because there are a lot of people already infected,” said Bhramar Mukherjee, a professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Michigan.

A serological survey released by the government late last month showed the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies increased to 7.1 per cent between August 17 and September 22 compared to 0.73 per cent in a previous survey between May 11 and June 4.

Mukherjee said the survey suggested that about 130 million out of 1.3 billion population may have been infected by now.

The government has asked authorities to be vigilant during the upcoming festival period including Diwali in November. It said they should cap on number of people allowed into temples, set up close circuit television to monitor crowds and not allow people to touch idols and religious books.