Global report: India and Indonesia announce record daily infection figures

Jon Henley
Photograph: Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters

India has reported more than 6,000 new Covid-19 cases, its biggest one-day increase, while China has abandoned setting a GDP growth target because of the “great uncertainty” caused by the pandemic.

The sharp increase in new infections in India came after the government began easing lockdown restrictions and as airlines prepared to reopen selected domestic routes.

“This surge has happened after movement of people was partially allowed,” said Giridhar Babu, an epidemiologist at India’s public health foundation. “But if you see overall, this is a much lower trajectory as compared to the rest of the world.”

Babu said India “seems to have the capacity” to contain the coronavirus, after authorities reported a total of more than 118,000 cases – up 5% from Thursday’s figure - including 3,583 deaths.

India’s lockdown has been extended to 31 May but the rules have been relaxed in regions less severely affected by the pandemic. Roughly 30% of domestic flights are due to resume from Monday.

Infections have surged in Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation, ahead of celebrations this weekend to mark the end of Ramadan, raising questions about the government’s commitment to curbing the pandemic.

The country reported 973 new cases, its highest one-day count, bringing its official total to more than 21,000 – although the real figure is thought to be much higher. Officials have said the public are not taking proper precautions, but only four of 34 provinces and 26 cities have imposed wide-scale restrictions.

The rates of new infections have begun to dip in much of the world, but the disease is continuing its deadly march in Latin America, which was described by the World Health Organization on Friday as “a new epicentre” of the pandemic.

Russia reported 150 new deaths, a record daily number that took the country’s official death toll from Covid-19 to 3,249. Authorities reported 8,894 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 326,448.

China’s 3,000-member National People’s Congress opened in Beijing on Friday with a minute’s silence for coronavirus victims. The gathering was delayed by two months and has been shortened to a week because of the pandemic.

In an apparent acknowledgement of the steep challenges China faces from a stricken economy and increasing international hostility, the premier, Li Keqiang, said “no specific target” would be set for growth this year, for the first time since the country began publishing GDP goals in 1990.

“This is because our country will face some factors that are difficult to predict in its development due to the great uncertainty regarding the Covid-19 pandemic and the world economic and trade environment,” Li said, adding that the government would instead “give priority to stabilising employment and ensuring living standards”.

Singapore said its case total now exceeded 30,000, with 612 new infections, almost entirely in cramped dormitories for the city state’s low-paid migrant workers.

Thailand said it would maintain its state of emergency until the end of June. Shopping centres and department stores in the kingdom opened at the weekend for the first time in almost two months as the rate of infection slowed, but bars, nightclubs, cinemas, playgrounds and some sports remain off-limits.

The WHO said Africa was approaching 100,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases.

The UN said the virus was assumed to be spreading throughout Yemen. Appealing for urgent funding, Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs, said Yemen’s healthcare system “has in effect collapsed”.

He said aid workers were turning people away because of a lack of medical oxygen or sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment in the war-ravaged country. Yemen’s malnourished population has among the world’s lowest immunity levels.

Months before a general election in New Zealand, the leader of the main opposition party was ousted after a poll showed an 84% approval rating for the way the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has handled the pandemic.

In the US, pictures emerged of Donald Trump wearing a face mask during a factory visit in Michigan. The president had earlier been called a “petulant child” by a state attorney general for allegedly refusing to wear a mask during a tour of the plant.

The Czech Republic said the virus remained under control nearly two weeks after shopping centres, cinemas and restaurant terraces were reopened. “The massive easing of 11 May did not affect the epidemiological curve,” said the health minister, Adam Vojtech.

In Spain, the government said the Madrid region and the Barcelona metropolitan area – the two areas hardest hit by Covid-19 – would be able to move into the next phase of lockdown de-escalation from Monday.

The loosening means all of Spain will now be in at least the second phase of the exit plan: people can meet in groups of up to 10, and restaurant and cafe terraces can reopen at 50% capacity. Places of worship will be able to operate at 30% capacity.

The health minister, Salvador Illa, said 47% of the country would move to the third and penultimate stage on Monday, meaning people can visit shopping centres and eat inside restaurants, both of which will operate at 40% capacity.