India surpassed 7 million coronavirus cases on Sunday, becoming the only country besides the United States to reach that grim milestone.
With over 7,053,806 cases reported to date — compared to 7,728,603 in the United States — India is on track to soon have the world’s highest tally of infections. The country has been averaging more than 60,000 new cases each day, and added more than 420,000 infections to its caseload in the past week alone.
With just over 108,000 confirmed fatalities, India’s official death toll is the third-highest worldwide but still lower than that of Brazil, which recently surpassed 5 million coronavirus cases. While almost all official tallies of coronavirus infections and deaths are understood to be an undercount, experts have been particularly skeptical of India’s comparatively low number of fatalities. Many believe that the lack of health-care infrastructure in rural areas has meant that people who die of the virus often do not get tested or treated at a hospital.
India instituted a strict lockdown in March but began lifting restrictions months later as the disastrous economic effects of shutdowns became clear. Since then, cases have been rising steadily, though the pace has slowed somewhat in the past month. Health officials worry that trend could soon be reversed as several major religious festivals, including Diwali, approach.
“There is no need to congregate in large numbers to prove your faith or your religion,” India’s health minister, Harsh Vardhan, warned on Sunday, according to Reuters. “If we do this we may be heading for big trouble.”