MUMBAI: India registered some 6,000 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday, the country's biggest jump in 24 hours, as New Delhi eases a nationwide lockdown and airlines prepare to resume some domestic flights.
The country of 1.3 billion people reported a total of over 118,000 confirmed cases on Friday, a roughly 5% increase from Thursday's figures. Included in the total are 3,583 deaths.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has extended a lockdown, begun on March 25, to May 31, but relaxed rules in areas with lower numbers of cases and allowed state governments to issue their own guidelines on some matters.
India's airlines will be allowed to resume flights with about a third of operations as of Monday, but only on domestic routes and under rules that are among the strictest in the world.
"This surge in cases has happened after movement of people has been partially allowed. But if you see overall, this is a much lower exponential trajectory as compared to the rest of the world," said Giridhar Babu, a professor of epidemiology with the Public Health Foundation of India.
"The only question now is: How do you reduce mortality? Do we have the capacity? The answer seems to be yes," Babu added.
India's contagion hotspots include the capital New Delhi, financial hub Mumbai, Modi's home state of Gujarat, and the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
"Our COVID wards have been full for the past week, and we are expanding capacity to enable us to admit more patients," said Dr. Lancelot Pinto, a respirologist at the P. D. Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai.