NEW DELHI – As a new wave of coronavirus infections grips the densely populated region of South Asia, home to a quarter of the world’s population, Bangladesh on Saturday announced a second lockdown and Mumbai officials , India’s largest city, said they were about to be declared one.
Bangladeshi authorities have said the nation of 165 million people will be stranded for a week from Monday to curb the spread of the virus. The country closed its doors for two months starting in March of last year.
Bangladesh recorded nearly 7,000 cases in 24 hours on Friday, the highest since the virus spread in the country last year. The daily death toll was around 50 for the past week, but what particularly alarmed officials was the high rate of test positive, with 24% of viral tests performed coming back positive.
Farhad Hossain, Bangladesh’s minister of state for public administration, told local media that “industries and factories will remain open,” but would operate in shifts and follow strict health protocols. The exceptions appear to be aimed at reducing the economic impact and avoiding the kind of worker exodus that led to a humanitarian crisis in India last year.
Infections have also increased sharply in Pakistan, which has struggled to obtain vaccines for its population, and in India, where a vaccination campaign is only accelerating, although the country is home to one of the largest vaccine suppliers in the world.
Just a few weeks ago, India was a major exporter of the AstraZeneca vaccine and was using it to exert influence in South Asia and around the world. But as infections skyrocketed, the country decided to cut exports and now withhold almost all of the 2.4 million doses that the Serum Institute of India, the private company that is one of the largest producers worldwide of the AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactures each. day.
India on Saturday recorded its largest single-day spike in cases since September, with government officials reporting nearly 90,000 cases and 714 deaths in the past 24 hours. The one-day figures sometimes contain anomalies, but the seven-day average of new cases in the country, a more reliable gauge, has risen sharply since early March.
Almost half of the deaths and new infections in recent weeks have been attributed to the state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai, the country’s financial center.
Uddhav Thackeray, the state’s chief minister, warned in a televised speech on Friday that a lockdown was imminent if people continued with their relaxed demeanor. Even when people are vaccinated, he noted, the protection against infection is not absolute.
“The vaccine is like an umbrella in the rain,” Thackeray said. “But what we’re facing right now is a storm.”
As cases multiply, law enforcement officials across India are adopting strict measures, including fines for offenders who do not wear masks. India has also expanded its vaccination campaign, now administering more than three million vaccines per day.
But the government’s message is sometimes contradictory, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and many senior officials continue to hold big rallies in several states where local elections are underway.
The government also allowed a huge month-long Hindu festival to take place on the banks of the Ganges. One million to five million people are expected to participate in the festivities in the city of Haridwar every day, officials say.