India has more than 190,000 coronavirus cases, the seventh most worldwide, even as the South Asian country begins to reopen the world’s largest lockdown to contain the pandemic.
More states opened up and crowds of commuters trickled onto roads on Monday in many of India’s cities as a three-phase plan to lift the nationwide lockdown started, despite an upward trend in new infections.
India’s health ministry on Monday said the country had 190,535 confirmed coronavirus cases, exceeding that of Germany and France. With 230 deaths in the past 24 hours, the total death toll stands at 5,394.
The new cases are largely concentrated in six Indian states, including New Delhi, the capital.
More than 60 percent of India’s COVID-19 fatalities have occurred in just two states – Maharashtra, the financial and entertainment hub of India, and Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The lockdown, however, remains in place until June 30 in the containment zones – areas that have been isolated due to coronavirus outbreaks.
Experts, meanwhile, warn the pandemic has yet to peak in India.
The first phase of the easing of the lockdown will restrict curbs to containment zones and gives states more power to decide and strategise lockdown implementation locally.
Reporting from New Delhi, Al Jazeera’s Elizabeth Puranam said, “It continues to be very much a mixed picture here” after four phases of the lockdown first imposed on March 25.
“The government is calling what is happening from Monday the Unlock Phase One, and apart from the lockdown continuing in containment zones till the end of the month, we are seeing more restrictions being eased in the rest of the country,” said Puranam.
Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has announced the capital city’s borders will be closed for another seven days, she said, with with exemptions for essential services.
The government said it would allow the hospitality and retail sectors and places of worship to open from June 8 and expected authorities to ensure physical distancing rules and staggered business hours.
Schools and universities will resume classes after discussions with Indian state authorities, with a decision due in July.
Restrictions on international air travel and city train services have not been revoked but permission for intra-state travel was granted.
Indian Railways began running another 200 special passenger trains on Monday and some states have opened their borders to vehicular traffic.
Maharashtra has allowed shops and offices to open outside containment zones and has given a nod to the resumption of film and television shooting, with some restrictions in place.