Asia Today: India's cases keep rising; rallies in Melbourne

NEW DELHI: India has maintained its surge in coronavirus cases, adding 93,337 new confirmed infections in the past 24 hours.

The Health Ministry on Saturday raised the nation's caseload to more than 5.3 million out of the nearly 1.4 billion people. It said 1,247 more people died in the past 24 hours for a total of 85,619. The country has over a million active cases with about 80% recovery rate.

India has been reporting the highest single-day rise in the world every day for more than five weeks. It's expected to become the pandemic's worst-hit country within weeks, surpassing the United States.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has faced scathing criticism from opposition lawmakers in India's Parliament for its handling of the pandemic amid a contracting economy leaving millions jobless.

More than 10 million migrant workers, out of money and fearing starvation, poured out of cities and headed back to villages when Modi ordered the nationwide lockdown on March 24. The migration was one key reason that the virus spread to the far reaches of the country while the lockdown caused severe economic pain. The economy contracted nearly 24% in the second quarter, the worst among the world's top economies.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Australia's death toll from COVID-19 rose to 844 on Saturday with 21 more cases and seven fatalities in Victoria state. The hardest-hit Victoria has had 757 deaths. Its capital city of Melbourne, with a population of 5 million, has been in lockdown for a month and faces nightly curfews in an effort to stem the increases. It appears to be working. The city has a 14-day new case average of 39.3, well below the state's target of 50, despite a few clusters of cases in several southeastern suburbs. It comes as state Premier Daniel Andrews urged anti-lockdown protesters not to gather following reports of more planned protests in Melbourne. It was unclear exactly where the demonstrations would be, with protesters taking caution not to make their plans easily accessible on social media. There have already been a number of rallies over the past several weekends, with police responding with a heavy presence, handing out dozens of fines and making arrests. "People should be positive and optimistic this strategy is working, and therefore, let's not any of us do anything to undermine that," Andrews said.